tampabay.com

Brothers held after takedown at tax office

One was a felon acting as a bail bond agent and the other allowed him to do it, police say.

By MOLLY MOORHEAD, Times Staff Writer
Published January 17, 2008


NEW PORT RICHEY - The bail bondsman and his brother who took down a man in a busy government office last week are now under arrest themselves.

New Port Richey police on Wednesday arrested Donald Ray Lowman, 44, of Gulfport, on charges he is a felon who acted as a bail bond agent. His twin brother, David Lee Lowman of Clearwater, is charged with knowingly allowing a felon to act as a bail bond agent. Both charges are felonies.

They were each being held in the Land O'Lakes jail Wednesday in lieu of $5,000 bail.

On Jan. 8, the men waited outside the Pasco County Tax Collector's Office on U.S. 19 for John Darlington, a Pinellas man facing grand theft charges. David Lowman told the Times last week that Darlington's mother had paid his bond but wanted it revoked.

She lured him to the tax office on the promise she would transfer the title of her truck to him, Lowman said.

About 1 p.m., the Lowmans followed Darlington, 45, and his mother into the lobby of the office. David Lowman said he approached Darlington, showed his badge and told Darlington he was under arrest. But he said Darlington pushed and fought, prompting Donald Lowman to jump into the struggle.

The three men fell to the floor, and police said Darlington pulled a gun as customers nearby ran for cover. Darlington was eventually subdued, handcuffed and taken to jail.

But police say David Lowman's characterization of Donald's involvement doesn't jibe with surveillance video or with what both Lowmans said the day of the incident.

"It's clear to us that they acted in unison and made somewhat of a tactical approach when they confronted Mr. Darlington," said New Port Richey police Lt. Jeffrey Harrington.

Later the same day, a caller to the Tax Collector's Office alerted officials that one of the men involved had a felony record and no bondsman's license.

According to Florida law, only licensed bail bond agents and law enforcement officers can arrest people. Further, the law says no one with a felony record can obtain a bondsman's license.

State records show Donald Lowman pleaded guilty in 1998 to selling cocaine.

David Lowman acknowledged last week that his brother is not a licensed bondsman. He said Donald was only along that day to give a ride to David, whose car wasn't working, and was a bystander until Darlington put up a fight.

"He basically walked in there just in case something did happen," David Lowman told the Times last week.

Again, that's not what he told police.

"That was never discussed with us," Harrington said of the broken-down car.

The Florida Department of Financial Services, which issues bondsmen's licenses, also is looking into the incident. Officials there have requested the surveillance video, Tax Collector Mike Olson said Wednesday.

Olson has been vocal about the actions of the Lowman brothers, which he called "incredibly stupid." He has contacted local lawmakers and suggested a state law about how bondsmen can make arrests in public might need to be changed.

He said he's pleased that the case is being pursued.

"I think this has shined a spotlight on a situation or an activity that could be broader than this one incident at my office. It could be anywhere at any time," Olson said.

"You go down to renew your auto registration or driver's license, you don't expect to be caught up in a scuffle and a gun come flying out."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or 727 869-6245.

 

On the web

See the takedown

To view surveillance video of the takedown, visit pasco.tampabay.com.