TAMPA — A man with a history of 50 arrests stunned a grocery store manager with a Taser wrangled from a police officer, Tampa police said Tuesday.
Gilbert Morris, a 51-year-old construction worker, was arrested on charges of obstructing an officer with violence, battery on a law enforcement officer and depriving a law officer of protection, among other charges.
At 8:46 p.m. Monday, Gary Washington, the 44-year-old manager of a Sweetbay Supermarket at 805 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., stopped Morris from leaving the store without paying for $229 of groceries, police say.
Morris, who is 5 feet 11 and 203 pounds, began to fight with the store manager, and a police officer parked outside the grocery store came in to help, police say.
Officer April Levine tried to arrest Morris, who then began to fight with her. When she tried to use her Taser to stun Morris, he grabbed it. When the store manager tried to help the officer, Morris stunned the manager in the left leg with the Taser, police say.
Two more Tampa police officers soon arrived, pulling Morris to the ground. One of those officers stunned Morris in the back twice with the Taser.
Neither Morris nor the store manager was hurt, but Levine was taken to Tampa General Hospital because she was exposed to Morris' blood, police say.
Levine, 25, joined the Tampa Police Department less than a year ago, starting in August. Other than being bitten by a dog during an investigation, her first year has been free of incidents, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. Levine has no disciplinary history with the department.
The incident will be reviewed by supervisors, but it appears Levine did everything appropriately in this case, McElroy said.
McElroy said the officer did what she needed to do to protect herself from Morris.
"It is a risk that officers face on a daily basis," McElroy said.
A Sweetbay store manager said Washington was not at work Tuesday and could not comment for this story. He referred a reporter to the company's corporate office.
Morris remained in Orient Road Jail on Tuesday without bail.
State records show Morris, who has used a variety of aliases, has served five stints in state prison since 1987, in addition to jail time. He was incarcerated from Sept. 13 to Jan. 30 on charges of grand theft, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. His other convictions include battery on a law enforcement officer, robbery and cocaine possession, records show.
News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3373.