CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Police Department is investigating an incident in which a 17-year-old girl from Mexico suffered a head injury Sunday at the Church of Scientology’s international spiritual headquarters.
Chief Dan Slaughter said church staff reported the teenager slipped on stairs and hit the back of her head, which appears to be accidental.
Church staff did not call an ambulance but drove the girl four miles to Largo Medical Center for treatment, bypassing Morton Plant Hospital, which is one mile from the Flag building.
"I don’t have the answer on why they did that," Slaughter said. "I’m not so sure it would be that uncommon if a parent or somebody else in the public didn’t feel it needed 911."
She was then taken to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she remained Thursday in stable condition, Slaughter said. The parents were in Mexico, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said an accident sustained by a minor is not newsworthy. He stated the girl’s parents are with her at the hospital.
Gualtieri said the Child Protection Investigation Division received an anonymous complaint about the case on Monday. The CPI investigator, which handles the child welfare component, contacted Clearwater police on Thursday to cover the criminal investigation portion. Slaughter said Clearwater police are lining up interviews with Scientology staff, who are cooperating.
Investigators have also requested surveillance video that is thought to have captured the incident.
"This is kind of like a check-and-balance to make sure any kid that’s being abused doesn’t slip through the cracks," Slaughter said. "Our job is to make sure this isn’t a case of abuse reported as something else."
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.