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South Pasadena will keep sheriff

Gushing with praise for the quick response and arrest of a suspect in the killing of a Subway restaurant manager, the South Pasadena City Commission decided it wants the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to keep patrolling its streets.

Public Safety Commissioner Dick Holmes, who earlier had urged the commission to seek a competing bid from the St. Pete Beach Police Department, announced he had already begun re-negotiating renewal of the city's contract with the sheriff's office.

Holmes said he had changed his mind "in light of the tragedy and the outpouring of support" for the sheriff's office.

"I feel the sheriff and I will be very successful in negotiating a contract for the coming year," he said.

The sheriff's office has been serving the city for some 25 years under an annually renewed contract. Currently, the city is guaranteed two deputies to patrol the city 24 hours a day at a cost of $466,406 a year.

Sheriff Everett Rice, who attended the meeting, told the commission their discussions with St. Pete Beach had been a "wake-up call" and that some of the issues raised by the commission "were valid."

Rice said he is working on installing a direct action line for South Pasadena residents to use for non-emergency calls, stressing they must still use 911 for emergency assistance.

"Eleven minutes is too long," Rice said, referring to the time it took recently for deputies to respond to a citizen's call. However, that call was not made to 911, but rather the direct line to the sheriff's office. Rice stressed that such calls are not given "priority."

The sheriff said he was happy with the response time on the recent murder _ citing the one minute between the time the 911 call came in and when a deputy was dispatched and the less than two minutes it took for the first deputy to arrive at the scene.

Ann Marie Sherman, 24, was shot and later died during a daytime robbery April 23 at the Subway restaurant at 980 Pasadena Ave. Within an hour of the shooting, Sheriff's Cpl. James Cavagnaro spotted and stopped the driver of a gold Infiniti on the interstate approach to the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Robert Anthony Pasquince, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested and later charged with first-degree murder, possessing marijuana, driving with a suspended license and two counts of armed robbery. A second suspect has not yet been arrested.

"I knew you could do the job from the beginning," said Commissioner Dottie Wade. "I can't praise you enough about what you can do and will do."

Rice also told the commission he will consider establishing a "business crime watch" organization and will assign a "senior supervisor" to attend city commission meetings.