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Peter Jamison, Times Staff Writer

Peter Jamison

Peter Jamison writes general assignment and enterprise stories with a focus on the criminal justice system. A sixth-generation Californian, he worked at newspapers in San Francisco and New Hampshire before joining the Times in 2012.

Phone: (813) 226-3337


Twitter: @PeteJamison

  1. Times exclusive: Confidential informer blows whistle in fatal Tampa SWAT raid


    By Peter Jamison

    Times Staff Writer

    The scene beaming from the bedroom television wasn't special, another drug bust in a decaying north Tampa neighborhood. Ronnie "Bodie" Coogle squinted at the screen. He recognized that street, lit by ghostly pulses of red and blue.

    "Bodie," his wife said, lying beside him. "You see this?"

    Coogle turned up the volume as the 11 o'clock news cut to cops in black ballistic vests, standing amid the inky silhouettes of sabal palms. After a minute he sat up and grabbed his cellphone....

    Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said that after talking to FBI agents about Coogle she had “decided that further investigation is unwarranted.” She said she would answer no further questions about Coogle. “My agency has nothing else to share about this case,” she wrote.
  2. Student struck by car while walking home from Tampa school


    TAMPA — An intoxicated driver ran over a teenager walking home on the sidewalk from school Monday afternoon in Seminole Heights, pinning the girl under the car and leaving her with serious burn injuries, police said.

    Monesha McDuffie, 18, was transported to Tampa General Hospital. McDuffie is an 11th-grader at D.W. Waters Career Center, a public alternative school that offers vocational training. Her injuries were not life-threatening, police said....

    The car that hit a teenager walking home from the D.W. Waters Career Center in Central Tampa was struck by a car near 1209 E Osborne Ave. Monday afternoon. A man was being detained after he lost control of his vehicle ran up on the sidewalk striking the girl and dragging her with the car. She suffered serve burns when the oil from the burst oil pan went on her as she was being drug.
  3. Internal review: Tampa SWAT team acted properly in fatal pot raid

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — A Tampa Police Department internal review has concluded that SWAT team officers acted appropriately when they fatally shot a 29-year-old Seminole Heights man during an unsuccessful drug raid.

    The review, documented in a 415-page file provided to the Tampa Bay Times in response to a public records request, found that police Cpl. Eric Wasierski and Officer Edwin Perez "feared for their lives and the safety of others" when they shot Jason Westcott to death in his home on the night of May 27....

    Jason Westcott, 29, was killed in a raid at his small home.
  4. Judge orders prosecutors to release records about Tampa police informer


    TAMPA — Overriding the resistance of law enforcement officials, a judge has ordered prosecutors to disclose a broad range of records documenting the work of a scandal-plagued Tampa police informer.

    The order comes in the criminal case against Rita Girven, an informer who is now at the center of a federal corruption investigation involving the Tampa Police Department. Girven and three former TPD employees are suspected of conspiring to commit tax fraud....

    Informer Rita Girven is at the center of a federal investigation involving the Tampa Police Department.
  5. Informer, not neighbor complaints, led up to fatal Tampa pot raid


    TAMPA — Before the sirens and stretcher arrived on a hot night in May, there had been only one call to police about 906 W Knollwood St. It came from the house's renter, Jason Westcott, and he was looking for help.

    A man who had partied at Westcott's home was plotting to rob him. An itinerant motorcycle mechanic, Westcott didn't have much — two televisions and a handgun that once belonged to his brother were perhaps the most valuable possessions in his 600-square-foot house in Seminole Heights — but he was terrified by his would-be intruder's threats to kill him....

    Tampa police officers gather near the intersection of North Boulevard and W Knollwood Street in Tampa after Jason Westcott was killed during the May 27 raid on the home he rented with Israel Reyes. Police found 0.2 grams of marijuana.
  6. 911 call captures final words of man shot on I-4


    TAMPA — As he drove his Ford Mustang east on Interstate 4 on a Saturday afternoon last summer, with an enraged stranger waving a gun through the open window of a car behind him, Fred Turner Jr. was bewildered and afraid.

    He was about to die that way.

    "I have no idea who this guy is, and I know I didn't do anything to upset him like cut in front of him," Turner told a 911 dispatcher. ...

    Jerome Hayes is accused of pursuing and shooting Fred Turner in a case of mistaken identity.
  7. Informer Rita Girven's arrest, ties to Tampa police might taint cases


    TAMPA — Rita Girven was one of the Tampa Police Department's most prolific informers, helping investigators crack anywhere from 50 to 150 cases, according to the still-uncertain estimates of her attorneys and former police handlers.

    Now, as she finds herself enmeshed in a corruption scandal that has led to a federal grand jury investigation involving at least three former Police Department employees, Girven's abundant cooperation could turn into a liability for law enforcement....

    Rita Girven
  8. At hub of Tampa police scandal, informer especially close to officers


    TAMPA — There are snitches. And then there is Rita Girven.

    Girven, 31, took her job as a police informer so seriously that she listed the city of Tampa as her employer on her Facebook page. A small-time scammer who had been arrested more than 30 times, she helped put away dozens of other criminals and was the go-to source for leads on crime in the violent streets of east Tampa.

    But her help didn't come free....

    Girven, seen with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, said she never feared for her safety as a police collaborator.  Buckhorn said he didn’t know who Girven was before her name arose in the Eric Houston investigation, doesn’t know when the photo was taken and poses for photos with lots of people, many of whom he doesn’t know. “If I had a nickel of me for every picture that has been taken of me with someone else, I would be a very wealthy man,” he said.
  9. Charge dropped against former Hillsborough detective in road-rage case


    PLANT CITY — A former homicide detective who punched and pulled a gun on a schoolteacher during a road-rage incident will avoid criminal penalties through a deal with prosecutors finalized Thursday.

    Thomas Pettis, 55, a veteran Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, will have a battery charge against him dismissed in exchange for his participation in an intervention program that includes 16 hours of community service, anger-management classes and a few hundred dollars in fees, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office announced. ...

    Evan Rees and wife Cindy Vervuurt voice frustration after Thursday’s hearing.
  10. Avila killer was at center of securities fraud scandal


    TAMPA — To neighbors and acquaintances, Darrin Campbell was the picture of unassuming prosperity, a businessman whose only apparent fault was a touch of obsessiveness about his home's Christmas decorations.

    Last week, when Campbell executed his wife and children before burning down the family's Avila home and shooting himself in the head, that picture dissolved. Those who knew the Campbells, and many who did not, were bewildered. What transformed a 49-year-old executive into a methodical killer?...

    Darrin Campbell
  11. Sheriff's Office: Darrin Campbell shot family, torched Avila mansion, killed himself



    A Tampa executive "systematically" executed his wife and two teenage children in their bedrooms before splashing gasoline throughout the family's mansion, shooting himself in the head and burning down the house, authorities said Friday.

    The official — albeit still incomplete — account of the inferno that consumed the $1 million home in the exclusive Avila community north of Tampa this week confirmed what was widely suspected: Darrin Campbell, 49, was responsible for the deaths of his wife, Kimberly Campbell, 51, and children Colin Campbell, 18, and Megan Campbell, 15....

     At 2:00 p.m. today, Colonel Donna Lusczynski will brief the news media with the latest updates reference the Avila house fire.nThe briefing will be held at the Lake Magdalene entrance of Avila.
  12. Sheriff's Office: All four found dead in torched Avila mansion had been shot


    TAMPA — All four people found dead this week in a burning mansion north of Tampa were shot, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday evening.

    Investigators also found a gun registered to Darrin Campbell, the 49-year-old man who leased the house with his family, and discovered Campbell had bought gas cans and what one official called an "exceedingly large" number of fireworks in the days before the blaze....

    Colin Campbell
  13. Ten candidates vying for four spots on Hillsborough Circuit Court bench


    TAMPA — The lines have been drawn in a series of contested judicial elections in Hillsborough County — and it appears that voters excited by the rare prospect of a challenge to a sitting judge will have to wait.

    Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, a longtime jurist known for presiding with pith and occasional severity over the courthouse's sex crimes division, had faced a challenge from defense attorney William Knight....

  14. Deputy to avoid jail, criminal record in road rage case, attorney says


    TAMPA — A former Hillsborough County sheriff's detective who pulled a gun on a schoolteacher during a road rage incident is poised to avoid jail time or a criminal record through a deal offered by prosecutors, the deputy's attorney said.

    Thomas Pettis, 55, has been approved by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office for its misdemeanor intervention program, according to his attorney, Norman Cannella Sr. of Tampa. As a result, a misdemeanor battery charge against him will be dropped if he completes community service with the Salvation Army, Cannella said....

    Evan Rees was injured in the scuffle that took place after his car was rear-ended on I-4.
  15. Light punishment for deputy who pulled gun during off-duty road-rage incident


    TAMPA — The crash shattered the rear windshield of Evan Rees' Honda sedan. Sitting in the back seat, Rees, a 44-year-old teacher from Sebring, gaped through the empty window frame at the truck that had rear-ended his family on Interstate 4 east of Tampa.

    He didn't have long to stare, as a man jumped from the truck's driver-side door and stormed toward the Honda. Rees, who had spent the afternoon at the Florida State Fair with his wife, sister and niece, stepped out to meet him. As a shouting match erupted, the man grabbed him, and the pair tumbled to the ground....