Deputy punished for gun incident
By CHRIS TISCH
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2001
A detention deputy has received a one-day suspension for a December incident in which he was accused of chasing two men around a Countryside Mall parking lot with a loaded gun.
Richard Reed, 24, who has been a corrections deputy since August 1999, served his one-day suspension Tuesday after an internal investigation was completed into the Dec. 27 incident.
Reed was accused of pulling a gun on two men in the parking lot of the Clearwater mall, 27001 U.S. 19 N., after one of the men slapped his black Isuzu pickup as the pair walked by. Three witnesses reported seeing Reed chase the men with the gun drawn.
Clearwater police investigated the incident, then sent the information to the State Attorney's Office to determine if a criminal aggravated assault charge should be filed against Reed.
One of the men Reed was accused of chasing later told investigators he and his friend initiated the confrontation with Reed, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett.
Prosecutors decided no crime had taken place and no charges were filed.
Sheriff Everett Rice suspended Reed for a day after an administrative investigation determined Reed violated use of force guidelines by chasing the men, an action that went beyond his scope of authority as a detention deputy. The investigation determined Reed discredited the department.
He could have faced a suspension of up to five days for those violations, according to sheriff's records.
Reed has no previous disciplinary problems at the Sheriff's Office, though one of his supervisors described him to investigators as "very immature and dangerous." The supervisor said colleagues had "safety concerns about working with him," sheriff's documents state.
Another sheriff's employee said Reed's stepmother had told him the "(sheriff's) star appears to be going to his head," and that he should not have taken the detention deputy job because of his temper. She feared he would kill somebody or be killed, according to sheriff's documents.
Detention deputies are not issued firearms, although state law allows them to carry guns. The gun Reed drew was his own. Reed told police he had the gun inside his waistband while he had been in the mall.
Police officers who were called to the Dec. 27 incident, which was near Sears, received conflicting stories about the confrontation between Reed and the two men -- 19-year-old Daniel Whitmore Jr. and 18-year-old Daniel Baker.
Witness Christina Early, who was sitting outside Sears, said she saw Whitmore "tap" Reed's truck. Reed then exited his truck.
"Early said she saw Reed pull something from his waistband and heard Whitmore say he did not want any trouble," the police report states. "Early said Reed then began chasing Whitmore through the parking lot. Early advised she saw the gun and went inside and called police."
Witness David Early said he saw Reed "point the gun into the face of Whitmore," a police report states. "He said Reed then chased Whitmore around the parking lot with the gun in his hand."
Whitmore told police he "stroked" Reed's truck. He said Reed pulled the gun first. He said he then pushed Reed, police reports state.
Both Whitmore and Baker had the smell of alcohol on their breath. Tests showed Baker had a blood-alochol count of 0.14, while Whitmore's was 0.25. Baker was arrested on an outstanding warrant and police drove Whitmore home.
In a memo to a supervisor written the next day, Reed said one of the men hit to the back of his truck loud enough that he heard it over his radio. Reed, who was waiting for his girlfriend, exited the truck.
Reed said the men were the aggressors, asking him "Do you want to go?"
He said one of the men pushed him as he tried to retreat from them. He said he almost lost his balance at one point. Then the men advanced on him, saying "We're going to kick your a--," he said in the memo.
Reed said he then drew his gun, identified himself as a sheriff's deputy and ordered them to the ground. One of the men ran away, while the other started walking away. Reed said he then put the gun in his right front pocket and ran after the man who was running. Reed said he "was in fear that he would get in a vehicle while intoxicated and become a threat to others," according to his memo.
Reed said he then called 911 on his cell phone. He denied in the memo that he chased the men with his gun drawn.
Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said the incident "was handled quite routinely.
"There was no special treatment," he said.
Reed was placed on paid administrative leave the day after the incident while an investigation was ongoing. He was removed from leave Jan. 25.
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