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Pasco Fire Rescue captain's retirement came amid investigation

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco Fire Rescue Capt. Louis Herrero submitted his resignation this week on the day an investigation into a New Year's Eve incident with law enforcement was set to begin.

Herrero, a 27-year-veteran with the agency, was told of the impending internal investigation last week, Pasco Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Cynthia Holland told the Times on Thursday. Holland said Herrero's decision to retire Tuesday was his own.

"We don't force anyone to retire," she said.

The incident happened at Herrero's home in Lutz. He was "clearly intoxicated and quite agitated" when he called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office twice on Dec. 31 to ask deputies to arrest his wife for taking his car keys, a report states. Herrero, who is 47 and made $71,774 a year, berated the deputies, asking if they knew who they were dealing with, that he was a captain and the deputies didn't make as much money as he did, the report says.

"I informed Louis I was not impressed with his tenure nor the amount of money he made," Pasco Deputy Royce Rodgers wrote. "I suggested he go inside the house and remain quiet."

No one was arrested.

Herrero told the Times on Thursday that the investigation had nothing to do with his decision to leave.

He said he retired to spend more time with his wife and children, ages 20, 17 and 8. He said he suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder from the decades of responding to 911 calls and seeing the horrific side of life: dead children, mangled corpses, the screams of people pleading with responders.

He said he has a problem with alcohol, which he used as a Band-Aid for the PTSD. He said he has back and knee problems from the physical grind of the job. He said he worried that one more big fire might disable him for life.

Since leaving, he said, "I feel like the weight of the world has been taken off my shoulders."

Herrero said his PTSD was the cause of his highly publicized breakdown in December 2011, when he had a four-hour standoff with a SWAT team. Authorities said Herrero was intoxicated and armed when a friend called for help.

At one point, Herrero raised his shotgun toward law enforcement, prompting a detective to fire three shots at him. Herrero was not injured and he didn't fire his gun.

"Without the restraint of the Pasco County SWAT team, I wouldn't be here today," he said.

He's not sure what he's going to do in retirement, but he knows he wants to tell his story to first responders so he can help them.

"We are expected to be immune to the things that we see," he said, "and that's just not the case."

Pasco Fire Rescue captain's retirement came amid investigation 01/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:37pm]
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