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Pasco deputy loses job over conduct at a McDonald's

ZEPHYRHILLS — Just before 3 a.m. on June 25, a man drove a blue pickup truck past the McDonald's drive-through window three times, blowing the horn.

Then he banged on the doors of the restaurant on Gall Boulevard. The maintenance man, who was scrubbing floors, told him they were closed.

It wasn't just an irate customer, but someone flashing a badge from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Carlton E. Wells banged his wrists together in a gesture meant to indicate handcuffs, and he told Samuel Garcia, "Do you want to go to jail, b----?"

At one point, Wells, 29, was a left-handed pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He had been among the most promising prep baseball players in Florida and was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 43rd round in 2000.

Now, Wells is out of a job.

• • •

Wells was born in Montgomery, Ala. He later moved to Florida, where he graduated from Tampa's King High School in 1998.

After high school, Wells went to Hillsborough County Community College for two years until he joined the Diamondbacks in June 2000. He was assigned to the Lancaster (Calif.) Jethawks. In a Tampa Tribune article, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound pitcher was described as throwing a "heavy two-seam fastball with excellent sinking action generated by his sidearm delivery."

However, Wells did not crack the major leagues. He returned to Hillsborough Community College, where in 2006 he earned a police certification degree.

Wells then took a job as a welder from December 2006 until he applied with the Pasco Sheriff's Office in August 2007. He was hired in October 2008.

In an essay about why he wanted to be a law enforcement officer with the Sheriff's Office, Wells wrote: "I choose to be a police officer because I believe. I believe in right and wrong and I choose right. I believe in good and evil and I choose good."

• • •

An evaluation that reviewed Wells' work from Oct. 1 until April 11 found him to be a consistent worker.

He met the agency's standards for categories such as professionalism, interpersonal skills with the public and problem solving, according to his personnel file.

His supervisor called him "professional." Wells wrote, "I'll continue to work hard and be a positive influence in Pasco County."

On June 25, a surveillance video captured Wells stopping three times in the drive-through area of the McDonald's — at 2:55 a.m., at 2:56 a.m. and at 3:02 a.m.

Each time, Wells remained in the drive-through for periods ranging from 10 seconds to 90 seconds.

After the third time, the video captured him banging on the window.

Wells informed Garcia that the sign outside said the restaurant was open 24 hours, but Garcia told Wells that meant on the weekends, according to information released by the Sheriff's Office.

Wells displayed his badge. For the second time, according to the report, he cursed Garcia: "B----, you want to get arrested?" Wells then made the handcuff motion and drove away.

A few hours later, at 6 a.m., Zephyrhills police Officer David Dixon stopped by the restaurant. Garcia told him what happened earlier with Wells.

Dixon reviewed the surveillance video and traced the pickup truck's tag to Wells' house in Zephyrhills. Dixon stopped by and spotted a Sheriff's Office patrol car next to the truck.

Wells didn't answer the door, according to the report, but called Dixon later to say he had been in the shower getting ready to go to court.

He told Dixon, "Things didn't go so well out there last night."

Wells said he worked nights and went through the drive-through while off-duty to get breakfast.

He told Dixon he pulled out his badge and showed it to Garcia because Garcia was getting loud. Wells told Dixon he wanted Garcia to calm down, or he would go to jail. Then, he told Dixon, he left the restaurant.

That day, the Sheriff's Office began an internal investigation that alleged Wells had violated one of the department's general orders: conduct unbecoming an officer.

At 5 p.m. the next day, Wells met with human resources officials and resigned.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

Pasco deputy loses job over conduct at a McDonald's 07/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 9:42am]
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