TAMPA — The Tampa Housing Authority's public safety manager was fired Wednesday amid a police investigation of a report that he pulled a gun unprovoked on two men in a parking lot.
David W. Queen, 53, is a former Tampa police officer who left the force in 1993 and engaged in private security work before joining the housing agency in April.
Queen told the Tampa Bay Times he was following a lead on counterfeit Housing Authority checks June 27 when he stopped two men leaving a private apartment complex near downtown Tampa called Oakhurst Square.
"Nowhere in Mr. Queen's job description does it authorize Mr. Queen to investigate criminal activities," an internal agency memo states.
Only one of the men, Karl M. Long, has a criminal record, last arrested in a 2011 drug offense.
The second man, 29-year-old Amori Newell, is a former Navy combat medic who served four years in Iraq and now attends Hillsborough Community College. He and Long share a father. Despite different pasts, they unite over a nephew's baseball games.
Queen admits that he unholstered his gun and held it in two hands, pointing it low as he approached the two. He wanted to talk to Long. His says he mistook Newell for someone else.
Newell recognized a Glock. Queen made them raise their hands and pushed them against a vehicle, Newell said. He assumed Queen was a cop.
Queen says his shirt had a Housing Authority security logo.
Later, after learning of Queen's true role, Newell described his disdain in a written complaint to the Housing Authority and repeated it to the Times.
"This gentleman held me at gunpoint," Newell said. "He held me against my will."
As safety manager, Queen was supposed to supervise three security guards at the agency's West Shore headquarters and oversee contract guards who protect two senior citizen high-rises.
Oakhurst, on North Boulevard a few blocks south of Interstate 275, was not his turf.
Neither was gun-pointing.
"Mr. Queen should have known that he can only pull his weapon to protect his life or the life of someone else," the Housing Authority memo states.
"Mr. Queen should know that pointing the weapon at an unarmed citizen is an assault. Charges can be filed against Mr. Queen individually."
Queen has not been charged.
Tampa police are investigating, spokeswoman Laura McElroy said, unable to elaborate because work is not complete.
Tampa Housing Authority president and CEO Jerome Ryans decided Wednesday to let Queen go.
"We can't tolerate this kind of a situation," Ryans said. "Judging from the report, it's apparent he needs to move on and do something different."
After he got the news, Queen said the rules weren't made clear to him when he took the job. He said he took over a unit that had previously been run by athletic coaches. He tried to train staff to patrol and see security threats. That caused friction, he said.
Queen worked for the Tampa Police Department from 1982 to 1993. He gave up his certification amid disciplinary issues, state records show.
Twenty years later, the Housing Authority memo concluded that Queen's recent action "seemed well-intentioned" but the liability was too great to ignore.
"There are a lot of things I'd do differently, but we can say that every day," Queen said. "I'm not going to Monday morning quarterback the situation."
Newell, studying to become a physical therapist, is glad things didn't turn out worse that June day in the Oakhurst parking lot.
"I am prior military, a prior combat veteran and dealing with some PTSD issues myself," he said. "What if I would have snapped back, done something to this gentleman? I would have lost my life in vain."
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.