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Tampa officer resigns after Internal Affairs inquiry finds he lost prisoner

TAMPA — A five-year officer with Tampa police resigned Friday after an internal affairs investigation revealed he was unaware a prisoner escaped from his car until another officer told him.

Prentice K. Shellman, 42, arrested a man suspected of public urination in an alleyway in Ybor City on July 5.

According to internal affairs, here's what happened next:

The man ran but Shellman caught up to him, cuffed him and took him back to his patrol car.

With only cash and a cell phone in his pockets, the man was allowed to call his girlfriend to bring his identification. He called himself "Amillo Hicks," and talked to her out of the rolled-down rear window of the car.

She didn't bring his ID and Shellman never rolled the window back up because, he said, the man was sweating profusely, the report said.

As Shellman drove his suspect to the transport van at Fire Station No. 4 at Interstate 4 and N 22nd Street, he heard a loud bang but didn't look back.

When he got to the van, another officer looked in the car and asked if someone else was bringing the prisoner.

Shellman said the prisoner was there, but when the officer shined his flashlight, he only saw two sandals in the back seat.

In disbelief, Shellman got out and looked himself, then said, "I'm blown," got back into his car and sped into on-coming traffic on N 22nd Street.

He didn't immediately radio dispatchers that the man had escaped, and didn't give accurate information when he was talking to dispatchers, the report said.

He later told his superiors he was "like in a daze" as he searched for the missing man.

A sergeant on duty at the time said Shellman seemed agitated, confused and flustered as he tried to relay basic information about the escapee.

Despite a hunt that included a helicopter, the escapee eluded capture that night. Shellman went home early without filing an escape report. When he found out he had desk duty the next day, he went home again without writing the report. At that point the escapee's identity was still a mystery.

The same night, he looked at a photo and identified a man who was already in the Florida State Prison as the escapee.

Detectives later identified the suspect as Alfred J. Davis, who had warrants for his arrest, and picked him up on July 7 near Shellman's home.

When Shellman came out to ask what was going on, a sergeant told him they caught his escapee. Shellman then denied ever having an escapee, according to the report.

The internal review found that Shellman failed to roll up the window, didn't put on the prisoner's seat belt, and didn't radio in the escape or complete a report in a timely manner.

This wasn't Shellman's first discipline with the Tampa police. He was suspended for 12 days last year following an internal investigation that found that he had two bottles of malt liquor in his trunk on Oct. 29, 2008, and had watched pornographic movies on his department laptop 16 times — eight while on duty.

Assistant Chief John Bennett said the department will submit its report to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, which certifies all Florida officers.

"We have an obligation to the law enforcement industry to send his review to a committee at the state level," Bennett said. "That protects the industry would he … try to apply to another agency, if he stayed a police officer."

Tampa officer resigns after Internal Affairs inquiry finds he lost prisoner 12/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 10:49pm]
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