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Tarpon Springs Police Sgt. Mike Trill being hailed as a hero

TARPON SPRINGS — Many in this city know him by the nickname "Glovey" or "Gloveman."

In the late 1990s, Sgt. Michael Trill would slide on his black gloves before conducting searches of suspected drug dealers and users. It became his street moniker.

Now, Trill is being called a hero.

He was one of the first officers to arrive at the Publix at 40932 U.S. 19 on Tuesday after reports of a shooting there.

Trill, 40, who was certified as a firearm instructor in August 2006, is a department fire range trainer who teaches others how to deal with the situation he now confronted.

Arunya Rouch, fired by Publix earlier in the day, had returned to the store, and shot and killed co-worker Gregory Janowski in the parking lot, police say. With a 9mm semiautomatic gun tucked into a green Publix shopping bag, she then entered the store.

Trill was not far behind. Rouch fired a shot at him that pierced the gun belt of Officer Stephen Van Schaick, police say. Trill returned fire, leaving Rouch with multiple gunshot wounds.

"He saved a lot of lives yesterday and to us, yes, he's a hero," said Lt. Barb Templeton, Tarpon Springs police spokeswoman. "We believe she fully intended to shoot other employees. But because of the actions of Sgt. Trill, that didn't happen."

Trill's attorney, Joseph Ciarciaglino, agreed that his client was a hero.

"I'm a combat veteran of Vietnam, and I ought to know what one is," he said.

Since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, many law enforcement agencies have abandoned the theory of arriving at the scene of a shooting, setting up a perimeter and waiting on a SWAT team to take action.

"We train all our officers tactically to go into a hostile situation (immediately) and basically eliminate any kind of deadly threat so more people will not be killed," said Capt. Bob Kochen, Tarpon Springs' acting police chief.

"We are not going to wait any more," Kochen said. "We are going to go in and try and save lives. And I believe that's what happened yesterday."

Both the Clearwater and St. Petersburg police departments say they also train and use the so-called "active shooter" theory, in which a person with a gun is sought and engaged by the first officers on the scene.

Trill and Van Schaick are on paid administrative leave, which is the protocol whenever an officer is involved in a shooting.

Trill's undercover narcotics work won him a commendation in 1997 and helped him earn a promotion to sergeant in 1999. He is regarded as a department leader who helped the city crack down on drugs.

Trill has been in the news in the past.

A former Tarpon Springs officer told Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators during a three-year inquiry into alleged misconduct at the Tarpon Springs department that Trill described himself as "the necessary evil." He also said Trill was the ringleader of a group of officers the FDLE scrutinized during the investigation. The inquiry ended in 2006 and none of the officers were charged.

"It was all false accusations," said Ciarciaglino, who represented Trill during that time. "It was disproven."

Times staff writer Rodney Thrash contributed to this report.

Tarpon Springs Police Sgt. Mike Trill being hailed as a hero 03/31/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 9:25am]
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