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Zachary T. Sampson, Times Staff Writer

Zachary T. Sampson

Zack covers crime and breaking news in the St. Petersburg office. He joined the Times in September 2014 and previously worked for the Boston Globe and the New Bedford Standard-Times in Massachusetts.

He was raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Northeastern University, where he studied journalism and sociology.

Phone: (727) 893-8804


Twitter: @zacksampson

  1. Teen in stolen car hits three trees but escapes violent wreck in Clearwater


    CLEARWATER — A 16-year-old boy fleeing police Thursday crashed a stolen car on Park Place Boulevard, caroming between trees before pulling himself from the mangled vehicle and running.

    The boy faces charges including grand theft auto and fleeing and eluding. The Times is not naming him because of his age.

    THE SERIES: Click here to read the complete "Hot Wheels" series...

    A 16-year-old boy crashed a stolen Nissan Maxima in Clearwater. [Photo courtesy Clearwater Police Department]
  2. Police: Woman threw milk shake across Denny's; elderly couple couldn't enjoy their meal

    Public Safety


    Police: woman who threw shake scared denny's patrons

    A 27-year-old St. Petersburg woman threw a milk shake in a Denny's on May 25, shattering a cup, spilling liquid across the floor and scaring an "elderly couple" who then could not enjoy their meal, according to an arrest report.

    Sandreya Monique Love, whose nickname is Cocoa, faces a charge of disorderly conduct. Police say she had an issue with her bill and was upset when she flung the milk shake inside the restaurant at 4999 34th St. N....

  3. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    His voice spills over the yellow grass outside Raymond James Stadium. He sounds hoarse, almost desperate, trying out new lines, anything to pull people into his white tent. Steve-O, whose proper name is Steve Raymond, plunges his hand into a long cooler, pushing aside ice to grab another half pint....

    An unnamed male is searched after a private drug detection dog team indicated on him at the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. (LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  4. Hillsborough commissioners request report on juvenile car theft from sheriff


    Hillsborough commissioners, distressed by a Tampa Bay Times report about the juvenile auto theft epidemic in neighboring Pinellas County, ordered the sheriff to provide a rundown of the crime in the Tampa area on Wednesday.

    Commissioner Sandy Murman asked the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to draw up a report on kids stealing cars and potential solutions. She said deputies have seen some teens come from Pinellas to Hillsborough in stolen cars or to break into cars....

    The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s “Eagle” helicopter unit tracks a car from the air with its infrared camera.
  5. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on juvenile auto theft: "People are dying because of what's happening here."

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — Local leaders said Monday evening that juveniles stealing cars is the number-one public safety threat in Pinellas County and needs to be addressed immediately.

    At a meeting convened by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, city and county officials pointed to the Tampa Bay Times' "Hot Wheels" series, which they said drew attention to the dangerous epidemic and brought the problem to the forefront....

    From left: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Congressman Charlie Crist, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway during a meeting Monday evening with community leaders to discuss the ongoing car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth and how law enforcement, elected officials, and community organizations can work together to put an end to this dangerous trend. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  6. Officials plan to take action after Times series about juvenile car theft in Pinellas County


    U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist is planning to bring community leaders together to discuss the dangerous car theft epidemic perpetrated by juveniles across Pinellas County.

    The mayors of St. Petersburg and Clearwater said they would like to be involved and emphasized the need for action.

    Crist said that Pinellas needs to find "a better path forward, to put an end to this madness" after reading "Hot Wheels," a two-part Tampa Bay Times series that documented the dangerous crashes and gunplay that threaten the region when juveniles as young as 10 steal cars left unlocked....

    Tyron McKinnon, 13, looks up toward Judge Sherwood Coleman while pleading guilty to grand theft auto. Known as T-Man, McKinnon was first arrested on a grand theft auto charge four days before his 11th birthday. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  7. When the car comes back, but the thief keeps the key


    It's bad luck to have your car stolen once. But a handful of drivers across Tampa Bay have been repeat victims. Their cars were recovered, but not the keys. So young thieves came back for another joyride.

    One St. Petersburg woman had just gotten her car back when it was taken again two days later, still coated in black fingerprint powder.

    When police recovered a car stolen from a hospice patient, the 15-year-old suspect laughed and said, "There's about six more (spare keys) out in the streets." ...

    Lakesha Johnson's car was stolen twice by teenagers. The first time, she said, they got her key from her unlocked car while she slept after a chemotherapy treatment.

 [Courtesy of Lakesha Johnson ]
  8. A St. Pete street, a teen car thief, and the most unlikely victim


    Coming back late from a weekend away at a wedding, Robert Vincent and his wife wanted to go to sleep. They unloaded the car in the driveway of their home in St. Petersburg's Fossil Park neighborhood. Call it haste, or exhaustion, but either Vincent or his wife forgot to lock the Subaru Outback.

    In the middle of that November night in 2015, while Vincent and his wife were sleeping off their trip, teenagers found keys in the center console....

    Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent's unmarked cruiser was stolen from his driveway along with police gear and keys to every door in the Gulfport police station. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]

  9. How state leaders are trying to fix the juvenile car theft problem in Pinellas

    Public Safety

    How can a system allow dozens of kids to be arrested twice for felony grand theft auto, and still go on to steal another car?

    Florida's juvenile justice system has undergone drastic reform in the last decade, shifting from locking up kids to giving them counseling, curfews and community service. Many young car thieves are sent home from court, told to follow the rules and stay out of trouble....

     "We recognize that the kids have changed, times have changed," says Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary 
Christina Daly. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
  10. This is the easiest way to have your car stolen

    Public Safety

    Delivery drivers, don't leave your cars running when you make a stop.

    A teen in Clearwater stole a Chevy Impala driven by a Domino's Pizza delivery driver, then ditched the light-up sign and her purse in a trash bin.

    One boy ordered Chinese food, then hopped in the delivery driver's Toyota Corolla when the man walked to the door.

    "I used to get people like that," said Luis Herring Jr., 16, now in prison for carjacking. He would order food to a random address, from a phone number obtained on a computer app....

    Bob Scheuerer, left, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, greets a recipient during his delivery in Gulfport and St. Petersburg. Scheurer's car wasstolen when he left it running while dropping off meals. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
  11. Seminole teen set box spring on fire after argument over messy room, deputies say



    An 18-year-old Seminole man set fire to the box springs under his mattress after arguing with his mother and stepmother about not cleaning his room, deputies said.

    Tristan Boudreau faces a charge of arson in the first degree, according to an arrest report. He set the fire about 8:30 p.m. March 27 in his home on 79th Avenue N, deputies said.


  12. Families of three St. Petersburg girls who drowned in pond plan to sue Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

    Public Safety

    LARGO — One year after authorities said three teenage girls drove a stolen car into a cemetery pond and drowned, lawyers for their mothers announced that they still plan to sue the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

    "We are going to fight, fight, fight," Kunde Mwamvita, the mother of Dominique Battle, said Friday, the one-year anniversary of her daughter's death. "Fight for justice, until justice is served."...

    Ciara Butler (left), mother of Ashaunti Butler, during a press conference at the Pinellas County Justice Center in Clearwater Friday morning (03/31/17).  On the one year anniversary of when three girls drowned in a pond inside a stolen car, they announce they will  file an intent to sue notice that claims the sheriff's office was negligent in the the drownings.
  13. Police: Drunk man pushed horse in face in St. Petersburg



    A 21-year-old Maryland man pushed a police horse in downtown St. Petersburg on March 18, according to an arrest report. Alexander Luke Fahmy was kicked out of Yard of Ale on First Avenue N about 1:45 a.m. He pushed a bar security guard and took a "fighting stance," an officer wrote. The officer, part of St. Petersburg police's mounted unit, positioned his horse in between Fahmy and the security guard to prevent a fight. That's when Fahmy pushed the horse in the face, police said. When an officer tried to detain him, Fahmy refused to put his hands behind his back, according to the report. He faces charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence....

  14. Couple accused of passing out after smoking 'spice,' leaving 6-month-old baby unattended


    ST. PETERSBURG — Deputies said Thomas Edward Machuta and Mary Lynn Flack were having a "picnic" with a 6-month-old baby Oct. 21 when they smoked synthetic marijuana, also known as "spice," and passed out in the grass.

    The baby sat in a stroller crying at a mobile home park at 64th Street and 54th Avenue N, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. After deputies arrived, according to an arrest report, Flack and Machuta conceded they should not have smoked around the child. Witnesses reported trying to wake the pair before authorities responded about 2:30 p.m....

  15. Hurricane Matthew leaves a mess in north Florida, but it could have been worse


    CRESCENT BEACH — The two lines of sand bags the Lynch family left on the back porch were no match for the churning wall of surf that Hurricane Matthew drove off the Atlantic Ocean this weekend.

    Security camera video showed the storm surge rush in white and frothy under a steel sky. It pushed about four feet of water against the sliding glass doors, then filled the house and left rocks in the living room....

    St. Augustine: Joan Galasso, co-owner of the Matanzas Innlet Restaurant, is shocked by the magnitude of damage to her business, which was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.  “My girls are going to be upset when they see this. They are going to be out of a job,” Galasso said on Saturday.