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A man who police say threatened his girlfriend, a student, with a BB gun is arrested after a search.
Published Feb. 13, 2008

Police locked down St. Petersburg College for about a half-hour Monday as officers searched for a man authorities said threatened his girlfriend with a BB gun.

Sean Maness threatened his girlfriend as he drove her to school at the college's Clearwater campus Monday, according to Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts.

When they arrived on campus, he kept her car keys and cell phone. The girlfriend, student Krista Loutitt, 18, of Clearwater went to the administration building and called police at 2:27 p.m.

In response, more than a dozen officers, some with high-powered weapons or shotguns, surrounded the school and closed entrances to the college.

Authorities recovered the BB gun from Loutitt's car.

Police locked down the campus about 3 p.m. with the help of four campus security guards and 10 maintenance workers who stood at the entrances to the buildings. A helicopter was put into the air to look for Maness, who is not a student at the school.

Shortly after 3 p.m., Maness called police from a building on campus to surrender, college spokeswoman Amelia Carey said.

Maness was taken into custody at the northwest corner of the campus. Asked by a St. Petersburg Times reporter whether he had threatened anyone, Maness said, "Leave me alone."

Maness, whose age and address were not released by Clearwater police, faces charges of aggravated assault with a firearm, possessing a weapon on school grounds and tampering with a witness, police said.

The campus was reopened shortly before 3:30 p.m.

Jonathan Abel, Times staff writer


Option to purchase parkland kept alive

The City Commission is keeping open its option to buy J.C. Weaver's waterfront property.

Commissioners have voted 4-1 to approve a contract with Florida Communities Trust, which awarded the city a $4.5-million grant in November.

Approving the contract means the trust, a state land acquisition program, can order appraisals of the land. It does not mean the city must purchase the property.

The grant, which the city would have to match, is for the first of two phases to turn about 6 acres that Weaver owns on Bayshore Boulevard into a park. In the past, Weaver has asked $18-million for the land.

The major unanswered question is how much the land is worth.

"We can't make that actual purchase decision until we have the additional information that's necessary, primarily the appraisals," said Mayor Bob Hackworth.

Until the appraisals are done "we're flying blind," Vice Mayor Deborah Kynes said.

Tamara El-Khoury, Times staff writer


Now you can drink to downtown's health

The anticipation of a first-born is always exciting, and the thrill is not lost on Tony Falso, who just opened the Oldsmar Tap House.

He beams with fatherly pride knowing his pub is the first retail establishment to open doors in Oldsmar Galleria, a stylish wedge of stores, offices and condos that city leaders hope will rejuvenate downtown Oldsmar.

"I wanted to be the first person open," said Falso, 48. "I just thought it would be a cool thing to do."

The pub features specialty wines, Boar's Head sandwiches, and a whopping 35 taps for craft-brewed beer.

As luck would have it, Falso began planning the 1,753-square-foot bistro at 300 State St. E exactly nine months ago.

"It's the first time Tony's been in labor," joked Karen Falso, his wife and mother of their two teenage daughters.

Terri Bryce Reeves, Times correspondent


Save the oak trees, vice mayor tells utility

About three dozen oak trees growing under power lines on Dunbar Avenue wait on death row.

Progress Energy officials say the trees could catch fire or topple onto the high-voltage lines and cause a communitywide power outage.

So they must go, the utility says.

That won't do, says Vice Mayor Suzanne Vale.

"It's not acceptable to the people of Oldsmar that these trees come out," she said this week. "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."

She urged power company officials to find a way to preserve the trees, some estimated to be 30 to 35 feet tall.

The issue first arose during a City Council meeting earlier this month. Progress Energy officials gave a presentation about their plans to replace 9 miles of existing high-power transmission structures and lines. Most of the structures, lattice towers or H-shaped poles, will be replaced with a single concrete pole.

The project begins at the former Higgins power plant, connects to the Oldsmar substation on Tampa Road and ends at the Curlew substation on Wynford Drive in Palm Harbor. Work begins this month and should be completed in January 2009.

Terri Bryce Reeves, Times correspondent