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Pasco deputy fired over traffic stop in Pinellas

Pasco Deputy Jose Berrios was clocked driving 98 mph in Tarpon Springs last month and admitted he had been drinking.

He was never investigated for driving under the influence, but now the incident has cost him his job.

Sheriff Bob White fired the 25-year-old deputy Friday. Hired in March, Berrios was still on probation at the Sheriff's Office and has no rights for appealing his termination.

Pasco spokesman Kevin Doll said White decided to fire Berrios because of the totality of the events that morning: driving erratically, speeding and weaving through traffic.

"There was no finding of DUI by any law enforcement agency," Doll said. "However his actions that night were enough that the sheriff lost confidence in his abilities to do his job as a Pasco sheriff's deputy."

Berrios had been on desk duty since the Sept. 21 stop on Keystone Road. About 1 a.m., according to reports, a Pinellas sheriff's sergeant spotted a Dodge Charger speeding and weaving around other cars in a no-passing zone. By the time Sgt. John Daniels caught up, the Charger was stopped at an intersection and the passenger was standing outside the door urinating.

Berrios, who was in the driver's seat, had glassy eyes and smelled like booze, Daniels wrote in his report. He identified himself and his passenger, Kurt Hentschel, as Pasco deputies. Berrios said they'd been out drinking and were on their way home.

Daniels asked Berrios if he wanted to take a portable breath test. Berrios declined, and Daniels didn't press it. Nor did Daniels initiate any field sobriety tests.

Instead, he let the deputies call for a ride home without even writing a speeding ticket.

Daniels also called a Pasco lieutenant, who asked him to write a report of the incident and fax it.

Pinellas officials, after initially saying they would not follow up, opened an investigation into Daniels' handling of the incident.

Sgt. Jim Bordner said Tuesday it's still ongoing.

Hentschel, 24, who remains on regular duty, is being investigated by Pasco. That case is pending too.

Doll declined to comment further on the incident because of that investigation.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco deputy fired over traffic stop in Pinellas 10/28/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 2, 2008 6:39pm]
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