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Fired Brooksville police officer was being investigated on a stalking allegation

BROOKSVILLE — With his finger on the trigger, Bryan Drinkard walked into the lobby of the Brooksville Police Department and placed his loaded .45-caliber Glock on the counter.

At that time, on Feb. 28, Drinkard was the subject of an internal affairs investigation and had been suspended, then ordered to turn in his badge and his gun. The now-fired patrolman, authorities say, would later acknowledge that he was so drunk he couldn't remember dropping off the firearm. It sat, unnoticed and unsecured, for more than four minutes.

The details of the internal affairs inquiry were released Wednesday, and another startling detail emerged: Drinkard was being investigated because he had allegedly harassed and stalked his former girlfriend, co-worker Tiffany Still. Normally, Still sits in the receptionist's chair behind a sheet of glass on the other side of the counter on which Drinkard left his gun.

At that moment, she wasn't there.

Chief George Turner terminated Drinkard the next day for what he called "gross negligence." He had worked at the department since 2007.

Drinkard, 44, had a history of problems at other agencies. In 2003, he resigned from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office while being investigated for violating agency policy.

After being fired from the Brooksville agency, Turner suspended the internal affairs investigation and released the record.

Drinkard, the report said, had at different times stalked Still, taken jewelry and a checkbook from her home, and in one case arranged for a fellow officer, Joseph Nelson, to help him follow her.

When Nelson realized what Drinkard wanted him to do, authorities say, the officer told Drinkard that he wanted nothing to do with the plan and he left. Nelson later reported the incident to a superior.

Because none of the alleged incidents occurred within Brooksville, Turner said his agency would not pursue criminal charges. He informed Still that she could contact the Hernando County Sheriff's Office if she wished to pursue the case.

Drinkard's attorney, Jimmy Brown, said his client was prepared to fight the accusations, and he was disappointed that Turner had made the investigation public without allowing them the chance to respond. Brown said he was prepared to present evidence and numerous witnesses who would have proven that Drinkard had done nothing wrong to his former girlfriend.

"They closed it halfway through the investigation but then released (the record)," Brown said. "At halftime, how do you know how the game ends?"

Brown, however, said Drinkard acknowledged that he shouldn't have left his loaded weapon in the agency's lobby last week.

"It was the wrong thing to do. It was not safe," Brown said. "He recognizes that."

The firing will likely end Drinkard's law enforcement career, Brown said, adding that he believed his client should have been allowed to resign.

Turner disagreed.

"There's no right to resign," the chief said. "The conduct involved such gross negligence on his part that I would have never allowed him to resign."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@tampabay.com.

Fired Brooksville police officer was being investigated on a stalking allegation 03/07/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 8:04pm]
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