Friday, June 22, 2018
Public safety

Firefighter-paramedic suspended after he's charged with selling prescription painkillers

A Pinellas Park firefighter and special weapons and tactics paramedic accused of selling prescription drugs has had his medical license suspended and has been placed on paid leave, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, city officials said.

James A. Comer, 38, who has worked since September 2008 for the city, was arrested Saturday on 16 counts of dealing or possessing drugs. He's paid about $47,400 a year.

Officials from Pinellas County's emergency medical services also collected controlled substances and logbooks held by the Pinellas Park Fire Department for a review of all medications and an audit of records and logbooks after Comer's arrest.

"Our initial review appears that EMS medications were not affected," said Craig Hare, the county's director of emergency medical services. Hare said the county issued new controlled substances, logbooks and lock boxes to the department.

It is unclear if the county is also auditing logbooks belonging to Paramedics Plus, the private company that provides ambulance service under the name Sunstar. Comer worked for Paramedics Plus full time from 2006 to 2008 and part time from 2008 to 2012.

Comer also works part time in the emergency room at Northside Hospital in the unincorporated Lealman area. His status with the hospital is unclear.

Narcotics deputies arrested Comer at about noon Saturday in the Northside Hospital parking lot after receiving a tip. Pinellas County sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Comer had about 184 prescription pills. Among them were OxyContin, morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone — opiate medications normally prescribed to patients with intense pain — and alprazolam, an antianxiety pill that causes feelings of euphoria when abused.

He was charged with eight counts of the sale of a controlled substance and eight counts of possession of a controlled substance. Comer was taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where he remained late Monday.

Barreda said the investigation is continuing.

Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.

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