No joke: Toy bomb in mail costs Pinellas deputy his job

Patrol Deputy James Piper packed a box with a toy bomb and a handwritten sign that said “boom,” the agency said. He resigned on Tuesday after 35 years with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
A Pinellas County Sheriff's Office patrol deputy has resigned after the agency said he admitted to mailing a fake bomb to a lieutenant as a joke that resulted in the administration building being evacuated, officials said. [PCSO]
A Pinellas County Sheriff's Office patrol deputy has resigned after the agency said he admitted to mailing a fake bomb to a lieutenant as a joke that resulted in the administration building being evacuated, officials said. [PCSO]
Published January 8
Updated January 8

SEMINOLE — A deputy’s 35-year career ended Tuesday when the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said he sent a toy bomb through inner-office mail to a colleague that resulted in the evacuation of the administration building.

Deputy James Piper, 59, resigned after telling his supervisor that he was responsible for sending the toy bomb in a box that when opened showed the word “boom” written on a piece of paper, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Beneath the plastic packaging was a red cylindrical-shaped object and protruding wires.

The package was sent to Lt. Joseph Gerretz, who opened the box at his desk at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, the agency said, then immediately left his office to tell his supervisor about the package.

Portions of the building were evacuated and the Tampa Police Department bomb squad was called in.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri later sent an email to the entire agency notifying all sheriff’s employees that the device was determined to not be a threat.

After Piper saw the email, the agency said he immediately contacted his supervisor and informed him that he had sent the package to the lieutenant as a joke. Piper also resigned.

A patrol deputy, Piper worked for the Sheriff's Office from 1982 to 2015 and was rehired in July 2017.

Contact McKenna Oxenden at [email protected] Follow @mack_oxenden.

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