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Largo gets bad rap over jailed grandmother incident

Theresa Collier holds a photo of her 18-year-old granddaughter, Felicia, with whom she fought.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Theresa Collier holds a photo of her 18-year-old granddaughter, Felicia, with whom she fought.

LARGO — After Theresa Collier was arrested last month for slapping her 18-year-old granddaughter in a fight over discipline and unfinished homework, the story of the 73-year-old's night in jail was picked up by news outlets nationwide.

CNN producers called. MSN ran the story briefly on its home page. Tampa-based radio host Bubba the Love Sponge Clem's satellite radio listeners, from San Francisco to New York, learned of the story after the shock jock's show ran a segment featuring Collier and her granddaughter, Felicia.

The charges against Collier were dropped by the State Attorney's Office less than a week after her arrest, but the incident left a lasting impression with the grandmother of four — and perhaps with those who heard about the story and learned where it took place.

Besides local residents, who voiced their outrage on message boards and with phone calls to the city, several out-of-state residents also lodged their grievances via e‑mails to the city. Many said they had never been to Largo and, as a result of the story, will not be visiting any time soon.

One man from California named David Kirk wrote: "I, like most I bet, had never heard of Largo before. Now you're the international buzz. (Laughingstock except no one is laughing.)"

Another out-of-state resident, Ray Jordan, wrote: "I'll make it a point to drive well around the city of Largo when I visit my family in Florida."

Another man, who identified himself as Dan M., e-mailed that he had been left with a bad impression of Largo: "We were planning a trip to your area this summer. Wanted to check it out, possibly purchase a home and retire there in 2 or 3 years. Not now!!!"

Mayor Patricia Gerard said that in this case, not all press is good press. She said she hopes anyone considering Largo will learn more about the city, rather than allowing one story to cement their opinion.

"I don't like that kind of press," Gerard said. "It's easy to criticize from afar."

She said that while the arrest was unfortunate, the officers were following the rules and doing their job — though the situation could be a learning experience.

"The Police Department's looked into it. Will our police officers think twice before arresting a 73-year-old grandmother? Maybe," Gerard said. "But they'll still do what is appropriate."

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Largo gets bad rap over jailed grandmother incident 05/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 14, 2010 3:52pm]
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