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Two Pinellas deputies suspended for brawl, botched investigation

Published Apr. 5, 2016

Two Pinellas sheriff's deputies were each suspended for 40 hours without pay this week after one of them got into a fight on Christmas Eve and the other closed a crash investigation without noting a driver's impairment.

According to internal affairs records released Monday, deputy Jeremy Kurella was involved in the investigation of a November 2014 fatal pedestrian crash on Madeira Beach. Joan Patrick, 75, of Ontario, was walking across Gulf Boulevard near 147th Avenue outside of a crosswalk when she was struck by a Nissan Altima, driven by Nicole Biggs, now 30, of Seminole.

Investigators requested a blood withdrawal from Biggs. Kurella received the results, yet "failed to recognize" that the blood alcohol percent exceeded 0.08, the level at which a driver is presumed impaired in Florida. Kurella closed the case as "solved non-criminal," records state.

Although Biggs was not at fault in the crash, she could have been charged with DUI, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday. She does not face any charges due to a statute of limitations.

The error came to light when an attorney involved in a civil case regarding the crash pointed out the discrepancy in the lab report.

Kurella, 37, has worked at the Pinellas Sheriff's Office since 2005.

In another case, Deputy Logan Tromer, 34, was intoxicated when he sparred in downtown Dunedin while off duty last Christmas Eve, according to records.

"You rushed a subdued subject and punched him in the face," records state. "This caused his head to strike and break a window of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce."

Tromer, hired in 2013, was not charged because the victim was uncooperative, Gualtieri said.

Tromer and Kurella will serve their suspensions within the next two months.