CLEARWATER — They are roofers, landscapers and cleaners, but all told Hispanic outreach officer Raymond Croze the same story: Their bosses owed them pay.
Within the past three months, the Clearwater Police Department has received nearly a dozen reports of undocumented workers accusing their employers of withholding wages ranging from $400 to $1,200.
Hiring undocumented workers is illegal and punishable by fines of up to $16,000 per worker. But under federal labor laws, every employee, regardless of their immigration status, must be paid....
CLEARWATER — A man who died early Wednesday after shooting himself and crashing his car while fleeing Pinellas sheriff's deputies had tried to run from police in the past, authorities said.
At least two other times in the past two years, James A. Smith sped away from Clearwater police. Officers first tried to stop Smith, 22, on Feb. 25, 2013, when he failed to brake at a stop sign. Smith sped away and drove in the center of Druid Road, a two-lane street, forcing some drivers to pull onto the shoulder to avoid being struck, police said....
09/18/14 Public Safety
BELLEAIR — Police Chief Thomas Edwards resigned from the department this week after the release of a scalding report that details the deep divide between him and some of his officers.
His resignation comes more than one year after Detective James Howard, the agency's union representative, met with Town Manager Micah Maxwell in July 2013 to express concerns about Edwards' leadership style, including officers being yelled at in public, favoritism, and failing to update the department's outdated policy manual....
09/17/14 Public Safety
The family of a man killed outside the Brown Boxer Pub & Grille in Clearwater Beach is suing the restaurant.
David McTamney, 51, was asked to leave the restaurant at 483 Mandalay Ave. on Oct. 14 for acting "intoxicated and disorderly," Clearwater police said last year.
Moments later, Paul Clarence Stucker, who was working as a bouncer at the Brown Boxer, grabbed McTamney and dragged him to the exit, according to records. Once outside, Stucker got on top of McTamney and maintained him in a chokehold for several minutes, records say....
09/04/14 Public Safety
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has cautioned his deputies about what they share online after learning about a detective's racially charged Facebook posts.
Gualtieri sent out an agencywide email after being told of Detective Thomas Swetokos' posts by a Tampa Bay Times reporter.
"It has been noticed that some members are posting things on social media," he wrote, "using profanity and making statements that may be interpreted as derogatory or in some cases even discriminatory."...
At first, Mark Smith called every few days.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. The calls to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office became fewer and seemed more fruitless.
Today marks 25 years to the day that Smith's brother Gary and sister-in-law Sally were killed in their home. It is the Sheriff's Office's only unsolved double murder....
08/31/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — David Caras enjoys biking, swimming, and running triathlons. He cares for puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs during the weekends and travels often for his job as an avionics instructor.
But his active life came to a sudden halt Thursday when Caras of Seminole was struck by a sport utility vehicle while jogging during a business trip in Utah.
He lost his right leg, fractured a hip and broke several ribs....
08/29/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Deputy Chief Sandra Wilson is resigning from the Clearwater Police Department.
Wilson's resignation comes about a month after City Manager Bill Horne chose Dan Slaughter, previously the patrol major, as the agency's new chief when Tony Holloway left to lead the St. Petersburg Police Department.
"It was more of a mutual thing. I wanted to kind of create my own staff," Slaughter said. "It's not a situation where there are any negative issues, or anything like that. … We discussed it and, ultimately, it was her decision."...
LARGO — Hours before he was scheduled to appear in court to face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, Larry Kobielnik killed himself.
Deputies found him hanging by a shoelace early Thursday in the shower of his single cell, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Kobielnik is the third inmate to commit suicide in the Pinellas County Jail this year, the second to kill himself after being convicted....
CLEARWATER — A teenager accused of robbing and killing a 41-year-old woman along the Pinellas Trail last week told detectives a series of stories to explain why the victim's wallet turned up inside his home, according to court records released Wednesday.
Before Dewayne Xavier Jones, 18, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge Tuesday, he was questioned by two detectives at Clearwater police headquarters Sunday night, a day after Lydia Ann Tross was found in a ditch north of Fairmont Street....
CLEARWATER — After a disagreement with her boyfriend, Lydia Ann Tross left their second-floor apartment on Highland Avenue and went for a walk.
She never returned.
Four days later, her body was discovered in a grassy ditch north of Fairmont Street near the Pinellas Trail, more than a mile from her home.
Detectives determined that Tross, 41, was killed by a stranger as she walked alone on the trail. Dewayne Xavier Jones, 18, faces a first-degree murder charge in connection to her slaying, police announced Tuesday....
CLEARWATER — Detectives were still investigating Monday the suspicious death of a 41-year-old woman whose body was found Saturday in a grassy ditch near the Pinellas Trail, police said.
"The bottom line is we're still trying to piece together a time line," said Clearwater police spokesman Rob Shaw. "We are seeking to hear from any member of the public who may have come across her, whether it was at a convenience store, or on the trail, or just anywhere."...
08/04/14 Public Safety
Two Pinellas County sheriff's deputies resigned Thursday amid allegations that they had falsified records related to two separate arrests, internal affairs records show.
If Deputies Chad Earl and Jesse Munoz-Calene had not resigned, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday, he would have fired them.
"My feelings about this with people who lie and engage in that kind of conduct is that they're done," he said. "They won't be working here — period."...
Since the crackdown on prescription drugs dwindled the number of operating pill mills and overdose deaths in Pinellas County, authorities are now seeing a resurgence in an older, familiar drug: heroin.
The number of heroin cases processed at the Pinellas County forensics lab doubled during the first six months of this year. The medical examiner's office has also reported three overdose deaths caused by heroin, compared with four reported all of last year....
08/01/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Dan Slaughter dreamed of building planes, maybe even working for NASA. An aeronautical engineering major in college, he wanted to know how things worked.
But when a close friend decided to join the police academy, Slaughter reconsidered his career path.
"I didn't want a job where I was going to be in an office at a desk. I was interested in kind of being mobile, being active," he said. "I thrive at the phone ringing at 2 in the morning and kind of getting a complicated, chaotic problem on my plate."...