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Pinellas school guardian pawned his gun and body armor, deputies say

Those allegations came to light after his arrest on charges of domestic battery and false imprisonment. He was fired by the Pinellas County School District.
Former Pinellas school guardian Erick Russell, 37, is accused of pawning the Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol, body armor and two magazines he was issued to protect students, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. He told deputies he needed gas money. [[Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]]
Published Sep. 19
Updated Sep. 19

A former Pinellas County school guardian is accused of pawning the Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol he was issued to protect students, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Erick Russell, 37, also pawned the body armor and magazines he was issued, deputies said.

Those allegations came to light after Russell was arrested Sept. 5 on charges of domestic battery and false imprisonment. That arrest led to his termination from the Pinellas County School District, spokeswoman Lisa Wolf-Chason said.

Then on Wednesday he was arrested on five counts of false verification of ownership for pawning the handgun and other sheriff’s equipment.

RELATED STORY: Florida lawmakers approved arming teachers. So who tracks them?

Russell is accused on Sept. 5 of keeping a woman inside a room of a Palm Harbor apartment against her will and pushing her when she tried to leave, according to the arrest report. He was freed from jail on Sept. 15 after posting $7,500 bail.

During that investigation, deputies discovered Russell had pawned his sheriff’s-issued Glock and two magazines on three occasions during a one-month period from July 2 to Aug. 1. He also pawned his sheriff’s-issued body armor.

The items were pawned at Value Pawn, 29661 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater and have since been recovered.

Russell admitted to pawning the items while he was being questioned Wednesday evening, according to the Sheriff’s Office said. He told detectives he needed gas money. He is now back in jail, held without bail.

He started working for the school system in April 2014 as a classroom assistant, the district said. Later that year, he became a family/community liaison and clerk at Lake St. George Elementary. Then, from October 2018 until April, he worked as a plant operator at Cypress Woods Elementary.

Russell transitioned to a role as a school guardian on April 20, Wolf-Chason said. Russell completed guardian training at the end of May.

RELATED STORY: Florida House passes bill allowing teachers to be armed, sending it to Gov. DeSantis

Citing privacy laws around school guardians, the district spokeswoman said she couldn’t divulge where Russell worked as a guardian. But Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri confirmed that he was stationed at Cross Bayou Elementary School, 6886 102nd Ave. N in Pinellas Park.

Gualtieri added that his agency screened Russell, as they do for all guardian applicants. He had no prior criminal history before the domestic battery arrest. He worked as a military police officer in the Army and was honorably discharged in 2013. Before that, he was a manager at a Home Depot.

Between his management, military and school district experience, Gualtieri said he seemed like a good fit for the job of guardian.

“This guy was down on his luck is all it is," the sheriff said of his arrests.

This isn’t the first time a Florida school guardian has been charged with pawning a service weapon. In October 2018, Duval County guardian James Johnson was accused of pawning his issued firearm on two occasions. His wife was an elementary school principal in the Duval school district.

RELATED STORY: Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri now supports armed teachers to stop school shooters

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