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Tragedy averted after felon grabs for Hillsborough deputy's gun

TAMPA — It had the makings of one of those awful traffic stops that ends in top-of-the-page headlines, crime scene photos and gut-wrenching goodbyes.

This time, the deputy went home.

Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Richard George was conducting surveillance around E Bearss Avenue and Pinecrest Road Sunday evening when he noticed Paul Michael Hall drive past.

Hall, 31, is known by deputies in that area, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. The brown-eyed, 5-foot-11 felon has a criminal history that includes three prison stints, the last of which ended in June.

When George spotted Hall around 7:20 p.m., driving a 1995 Pontiac, it had been only 29 hours since Hall was released from Orient Road Jail.

Hall had been picked up on Friday on the very same offense that caught George's attention: driving the same 1995 Pontiac without a valid license.

George activated his patrol lights and siren.

Hall "could have stopped" several times after George started following behind him, according to the arrest report. But he drove more than a block before pulling over. As George prepared to arrest Hall, the man bucked backward violently, the arrest report says.

Hall and George tumbled to the ground. Hall grabbed George's radio out of his duty belt and tossed it from the deputy's reach — keeping him from being able to call for backup.

Just then, according to the sheriff's report, Hall grabbed for George's gun.

Still on the ground, the deputy rolled to his side to protect his weapon, continually ordering Hall to stop resisting.

A woman with Hall began to scream, "Run, Paul, run!" the arrest report says.

Deputies who were working the surveillance detail with George saw the traffic stop turn bad. At least three of them raced to the scene and helped take Hall into custody, despite his continued resistance.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said the incident is a reminder that anything can happen during a routine traffic stop.

"It could have escalated and gotten a lot worse," Carter said. "(George) did everything right."

Hall is charged with one count of battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of obstructing or opposing an officer, two counts of depriving an officer of a means of protection, driving without a license and felony fleeing to elude.

He is being held at Orient Road Jail on $40,000 bail.

George, who has been with the Sheriff's Office since 1998, returned to his shift Monday evening, Carter said.

Tragedy averted after felon grabs for Hillsborough deputy's gun 03/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 10:58pm]
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