Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Public safety

St. Pete police employee fired after personal rifle ‘accidentally’ fired inside HQ

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — Scott Hughes, a St. Petersburg police forensic technician, wasn’t allowed to bring his personal Colt AR-15 semiautomatic rifle into headquarters. Nevertheless, the civilian employee did so for years, according to the department.

Then on June 17, while Hughes cleared the gun of ammunition inside the forensic services office, police said a round was "accidentally" fired. The bullet flew out of the building at 1300 First Ave N, shattering a window and crossing the street.

No one was injured, and no vehicles were damaged. Still, a disciplinary review board met Monday and decided Hughes violated two department general orders, two city rules and a state law.

St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway then fired Hughes, ending his 10-year career with the department.

"Everyone needs a reminder once in a while, but it should be self-explanatory that you should not be bringing a weapon to a workplace," Holloway said. "Especially a weapon like that."

At the meeting, the chief said Hughes told them that he had been discretely storing the rifle in his locker for years, since his previous supervisor gave him permission. That supervisor retired about two years ago, spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said, and the new one didn’t know Hughes was storing his personal weapon inside the building. Still, a supervisor cannot give an employee permission to violate city regulations.

The command review board determined that Hughes violated a city rule forbidding all civilian employees from bringing firearms onto city property. A second city rule came into play because it was a serious infraction.

The board also decided Hughes broke two Police Department general orders. The first requires employees to be "competent in their assigned duties," and the second mirrors a state law that prohibits civilians from bringing firearms into police stations, sheriff’s offices and highway patrol stations. Hughes will not face criminal charges, however.

"In this particular situation, because of the investigation, (police commanders) felt it was most appropriately handled as an administrative internal issue rather than a criminal issue," Fernandez said. She said the board took into consideration that Hughes’ former boss had once given him permission.

The chief said Hughes would bring the weapon into the building in a gun case and remove it from the case before placing it in his locker. There are no security screenings for employees entering the police station. It also would not have been uncommon for Hughes to be seen with firearms. He regularly brought in guns confiscated from crime scenes into the building for analysis.

Fernandez, though, could not say why Hughes felt the need to bring his rifle into police headquarters, or how often he did so.

The incident marked the first time in 27 years — since the department began keeping electronic records — a civilian accidentally discharged a weapon on police property, the agency said. Sworn officers have occasionally discharged their weapons by accident. They are usually reprimanded for that, Fernandez said, and not fired.

Hughes was represented in the meeting by an attorney from the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association. He will be allowed to appeal Holloway’s decision, and Hughes can take the case to arbitration if he doesn’t like the outcome.

Holloway said the incident left him "pretty upset." But the incident has provided the opportunity to remind civilian employees and sworn officers about department rules and gun safety:

"They’re being made aware of general orders to make sure they’re storing their guns correctly, loading their guns correctly and also taking their guns apart correctly."

Contact Josh Solomon at jsolomon@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

Comments
Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

PORT RICHEY — Crews from Pasco County fire rescue were battling a fire Wednesday morning that sent smoke pouring through the roof at the Brass Flamingo adult club, 9034 U.S. 19.The fire forced the closing of U.S. 19 but traffic was flowing again by 6...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeas...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER — The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Published: 11/21/17
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Published: 11/21/17

28-year-old man shot dead in Spring Hill home, deputies say

SPRING HILL — A 28-year-old man was shot and killed inside a Spring Hill home Monday night, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies responded to at least two separate 911 calls about 8:15 p.m., in which callers reported shots being...
Published: 11/21/17
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Published: 11/21/17

Crash involving bicyclist closes EB lanes on W Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — Eastbound lanes on W Kennedy Boulevard were reopened by 6:30 a.m. at S Parker Street in downtown Tampa after a bicyclist was struck early Tuesday morning.The crash occurred in front of the University of Tampa, according to broadcast reports.W...
Published: 11/21/17
In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

TAMPAKenny Hoffa surprised everyone when he made the seven-hour drive from Charleston, S.C., to Tampa’s Seminole Heights to attend a dinner set up to thank police for working hard to solve a string of recent killings.For Hoffa, it was an easy decisio...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Another teen fights for his life following reported stolen car crash

Another teen fights for his life following reported stolen car crash

ST. PETERSBURG — Another teenager is fighting for his life after a crash involving a car that was later reported stolen, according to police.The 15-year-old was a passenger in a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro that hit a tree in the 4000 block of 11th Avenue S...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

Before he crashed, Roy Halladay flew within 75 feet of houses and skimmed the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report published Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.The report, which did not address the cause of the crash, ...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17