Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Public safety

Hours-long SWAT standoff ends quietly at Clearwater motel

CLEARWATER — A standoff ended quietly Tuesday morning when an armed suspect surrendered to deputies at a motel on U.S. 19.

The incident began around 1 a.m., Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristen Rensel said, when Yellow Cab taxi driver Robert Stipins heard his cab's alarm sound at the Silk Oak Lodge mobile home park, 28488 U.S. 19 N.

Rensel said Stipins saw David Shaffer, 23, running away with a backpack stolen from the cab. Stipins called 911 to report the incident and told an operator there was a gun in the backpack, then gave chase.

Rensel said the chase ended at the nearby America's Best Value Inn, where Stipins caught up with Shaffer as he entered a motel room with his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kristi Orestas.

As Shaffer disappeared into the room, Rensel said, he told Stipins, "I have a gun, and I will kill you."

Deputies arrived a short time later, Rensel said, and contacted Shaffer by phone inside the motel room. Shaffer told deputies he had a gun and he'd shoot anyone who entered the room, she said.

Negotiators and a SWAT team were called to the scene, and they spoke with Shaffer and Orestas. At one point, Rensel said, Shaffer offered to surrender to deputies in return for seven oxycodone pills, but he eventually left the room and was taken into custody without injury around 8 a.m.

Investigators searched the room, Rensel said, and found a .45-caliber handgun concealed in an air vent.

Jorge Suarez, who worked overnight at the motel's front desk, said deputies stormed in at 1 a.m. and asked him for the name of the man in the room where Shaffer was holed up.

But no man was registered in that room, he said. Only Orestas, who had been a guest for about five days.

Suarez said he evacuated nearby guests to rooms close to the lobby and away from the standoff.

"We didn't know what was happening," he said. "Nothing like this has ever happened before. Not ever."

Kristen Barnett, who is staying several rooms from where the standoff occurred, said the SWAT team knocked on her door at 2 a.m. to let her know what was happening and then knocked again at 7 a.m., forcing her to evacuate.

Her two dogs barked all night as authorities swarmed the area, she said.

"When they knocked this morning, we had two minutes to get out," she said, adding that SWAT team officers were perched gun-ready on nearby rooftops. "Officers were like 'Get out, get out, get out.' "

Shaffer faces an armed burglary charge and is being held at the Pinellas County Jail. Authorities have not filed charges against Orestas.

An investigation remained under way Tuesday afternoon.

Brittany Davis can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or [email protected].

Comments
Police: St. Petersburg suspect, caught on video stealing safe, in custody

Police: St. Petersburg suspect, caught on video stealing safe, in custody

ST. PETERSBURG — It took more than an hour for a St. Petersburg man to break into a restaurant last week and use a hammer and crowbar to wrestle a safe from the wall before freeing in and dragging it through the back and into his car, according to po...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for a 50-year-old North Carolina man who reportedly fell off a Tampa-based cruise ship.The Coast Guard Key West received a call from the cruise ship Carnival Paradise about 10 a.m. saying the man, Brian Lamo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

A Bradenton Bayshore High School student faces charges after he brought a gun on campus on Tuesday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.Around 11:45 a.m., school resource officers were alerted by school staff that the student, a 10th-gra...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Multiple law enforcement agencies have surrounded a Panama City apartment building where an active shooter is barricaded inside.City spokeswoman Caitlyn Lawrence says it’s still an active situation. The suspect has been firing on ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died on Interstate 4 Tuesday when a tire blew out on his freight truck, which veered into the path of a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. crash. A photo shows ci...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida reached a 47-year low in 2017, according to state figures released Tuesday and touted as a "major announcement" by a Republican governor determined to win a U.S. Senate seat. The state’s total crime rate dropped by 6 percent from 201...
Updated: 5 hours ago

FDLE: Pasco couple scammed elderly employer out of $480,000

TAMPA — A Pasco County couple face dozens of charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they stole more than $480,000 from their elderly employer.Chet Alan Ragsdale, 45, was arrested Monday on 28 counts of grand theft, 25 counts of ...
Published: 05/21/18
4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

THE VILLAGES — Four sinkholes have opened up in a fast-growing retirement community in Florida, including one in front of a home that was abandoned months ago because of an earlier sinkhole. A spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says t...
Published: 05/21/18
Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

A Gulf Breeze man walked around a neighborhood naked while carrying a bottle of cooking oil, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies said.The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a homeowner at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 saying home security...
Published: 05/21/18
A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man is accused of attacking a deaf couple and their service dog while they were travelling on a plane headed toward Orlando.The incident happened as Matthew Silvay, 30, and Hazel Ramirez, 21, were on Frontier Flight 1752 as it left Colorado Springs...
Published: 05/21/18