Seminole mall is safe, officials assure shoppers after shooting

Published February 14, 2007

The day after an off-duty sheriff's deputy shot a man accused of armed robbery in the parking lot, officials assured shoppers that Seminole Mall is safe.

"We don't like to see things of that nature to occur, but it's not a direct reflection on the mall," Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson said Tuesday. "As far as the overall picture, the mall is extremely safe."

Pinellas County sheriff's spokesman Jim Bordner agreed with Johnson's assessment.

As more details about Monday's incident have been discovered, it has became increasingly clear that the mall served only as a convenient meeting place, Bordner said.

The incident, he said, apparently stemmed from a debt that Charles S. Tarr, 18, owed to Derek Erskin, 22, both Seminole residents. Erskin and two teenage girls used the mall as a meeting place to attempt to collect the money from Tarr, he said.

Deputy Scott Reid shot Erskin twice, interrupting what he initially thought was an attempted carjacking, Bordner said. Erskin is now accused of robbing Tarr at gunpoint, taking a gold chain and $100 in cash.

Monday's shooting was the second violent incident at Seminole Mall in February. Earlier this month, a 68-year-old Seminole woman was dragged about 20 feet by a purse snatcher when her arm became tangled in the strap. The woman sustained slight injuries.

Pinellas sheriff's records show there have been 114 incidents at the mall since Feb. 1, 2006. About half of them, or 55, were for shoplifting.

However, also among the calls were four reports of assault, three about indecent exposure, two stolen cars and one carjacking.

Recent statistics show the city of about 18,500 is relatively safe from violent crime:

-Batteries accounted for the highest number of violent and sex crimes in January, with 15 reported incidents. That's four more than reported in December 2006.

-Spousal battery was the next most reported, with six calls in January, four more than in December.

-Other violent incidents reported in January were two aggravated assaults, two aggravated batteries and one sexual battery.