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Deputy in arrest dispute resigns

After a career in which he was commended for heroism, Pasco Sheriff's Sgt. Kurt A. Gell resigned Friday in the midst of an internal affairs investigation over an unusual traffic incident this week.

Early Tuesday morning, a Hernando County deputy pulled Gell over, took him to jail on suspicion of drunken driving _ and then released the fellow deputy after consultation with Hernando sheriff's su-pervisors.

The Pasco internal affairs investigation focused on whether Gell, a 15-year Sheriff's Office veteran and the agency's officer of the year in 1983, had acted in a way unbecoming to a deputy, misused alcohol off-duty and broken the law.

"I hereby submit my resignation, effective March 6, 1992, for personal reasons," Gell wrote in a brief memo to his supervisors. "I have enjoyed working for this department and regret having to resign."

Once Gell decided to leave, there was no reason to continue the internal affairs investigation, according to Pasco sheriff's officials.

Earlier this week, Hernando Sheriff Tom Mylander decided not to punish Deputy William Steele for his decision to "unarrest" Gell early Tuesday morning. Steele's two immediate supervisors, Sgt. Lanny Corlew and Lt. Robert Henning, were reprimanded for implying that Steele should not arrest Gell.

Steele saw Gell's Ford Bronco weaving across the double yellow line on Spring Hill Drive about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to a report Steele wrote after the incident.

Once he stopped the Bronco, Gell, 41, stepped out of the car and "stumbled into the traffic way, with his badge case in his hand," Steele wrote. He added that he smelled alcohol on Gell's breath when Gell asked him not to arrest him as a "professional courtesy" to a fellow law enforcement officer.

In the Pasco internal affairs investigation, Gell said he did not request any special treatment.

Once Steele took Gell to the Hernando County Jail, Steele's supervisors discussed the circumstances of the stop. They left the decision up to Steele, but one suggested that Steele consider releasing Gell. Gell's wife picked him up, and a jail employee whited out a line on the jail booking log showing that Gell had been inside the building.

Before this week, Gell's record carried virtually nothing but commendations for doing his job well. He was named officer of the year in 1983 after single-handedly arresting a bank robber on U.S. 19.

Four years earlier, Gell was recognized for saving the lives of a mother and her daughter even though he was seriously wounded in the rescue.

Responding to a home in Hudson, Gell and another deputy heard shots from a bedroom where the mother's ex-husband was holding the woman at gunpoint. Gell burst through the bedroom door and was shot in the stomach and chest before the gunman was disarmed.

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