A Pinellas sheriff’s deputy was suspended for one pay day for engaging in a dangerous high-speed pursuit on busy Gulf Boulevard that violated agency policies, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The incident took place on Feb. 23 when Deputy Zoe Gambel saw a car driving with a broken license plate light in North Redington Beach. What happened was detailed in a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office disciplinary memo released Thursday:
The deputy tried to pull the car over near Gulf Boulevard and 171st Avenue. The car made a U-turn and quickly accelerated toward Madeira Beach.
“It was at this time you engaged in pursuit of the vehicle which drove recklessly by weaving in and out of traffic, passing vehicles in the shared center turn lane, and eventually traveling into lanes of oncoming traffic,” the sheriff’s memo said.
The 2-mile pursuit lasted 1 minute, 38 seconds. The deputy drove through heavy traffic in the center turn lane, the memo said, reaching a top speed of 97 mph in a 35 mph zone on Gulf Boulevard. The vehicle’s spotlight was also on “either aimed toward opposing traffic, or the suspect vehicle, during the pursuit.”
The chase went south through Redington Beach, entered Madeira Beach and went over the Tom Stuart Causeway.
A supervisor twice told the deputy to end the pursuit, the memo said. But the deputy didn’t slow down until a coworker called to say the pursuit likely broke agency rules. A high-speed pursuit can only be authorized if someone’s safety is threatened or if the crime is a forcible felony, the memo said.
The deputy admitted fault in this case — and could have been fired, the memo said. The original suspension was for 40 hours but was reduced to eight hours due to re-training.
Gambel could not be reached for comment. The memo did not say if the reckless driver was eventually found or what sanctions they may have faced. The suspension will occur on Aug. 18.