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    Sword-wielding man charged in threat

    A county animal services officer tried to issue the man a citation for failure to keep one of his pets quarantined after it scratched or bit a neighbor, according to police.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- What should have been a routine call for an animal services officer Tuesday turned out to be anything but, as a man pulled a sword on the officer and threatened to burn and kill him, according to police.

    The incident ended with the man's arrest and a virtual barnyard of animals -- 19 cats, two dogs, four rabbits and a hamster -- being seized from his home.

    The bizarre string of events began about 8 a.m. when Officer Mark Laubaugh came to the mobile home of Patrick Thomas Olzewski, 32, to cite him. Olzewski became upset and went into his home, 2520 Sunset Point Road, Lot 80.

    Laubaugh then put the citation on Olzewski's door, prompting him to come outside and threaten to kill and burn the officer, according to a police report.

    Olzewski threw Laubaugh's clipboard on the ground. The officer retrieved the clipboard and headed to his vehicle. Meanwhile, Olzewski went into his home, fetched a large sword and "exited holding the sword above his head in a threatening manner," according to the police report.

    Laubaugh called police, who arrested Olzewski on a charge of corruption by threat against a public servant. Olzewski was being held at the Pinellas County jail Tuesday night on $5,000 bail.

    Animal control officers then seized the animals from the home. The animals were taken because their owner was in jail and could not care for them, said Welsh Agnew, assistant director of Pinellas County Animal Services.

    Agnew said officers thought two of the rabbits were dying from starvation, while the cats were in a small room "with a very strong odor and a lot of excrement," according to Agnew.

    The Humane Society was caring for most of the animals Tuesday night, while animal services was caring for the dogs and three cats, Agnew said. If the rabbits are close to dying, they could be euthanized for humanitarian reasons, he said.

    Animal services officers went to Olzewski's home a few days ago after a neighbor complained that Olzewski's cat bit or scratched him. An animal services officer visited Olzewski's home Monday, but left after he intimidated her, said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor. The officer left and Laubaugh went to the home Tuesday morning, he said.

    Agnew said Laubaugh was citing Olzewski for failing to quarantine the cat for 10 days so it could be determined if the cat had rabies.

    Agnew said this is the second recent incident in which a Pinellas County animal services officer has been threatened; an officer was threatened with a knife in St. Petersburg about two weeks ago.

    "There's a risk because you're talking about people's pets," Agnew said. "And in some cases we have to go out and impound or confiscate (the pets). So it's a highly charged environment. And, of course, they (the officers) are unarmed."

    - Crime and public safety reporter Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156.

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