Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s Angry Response To Media About “Irresponsible Rhetoric” of Social Media

by Scott Creighton

Uh, when those deputies go into that water, up to their knees and it’s all sludge and weeds.. uh… they don’t need to die over it” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

When I moved my mother into my apartment on April 2 of this year, I was talking to a neighbor (who helped us with his van) about a local story regarding 3 teenagers who were killed when the stolen car they were driving crashed into a retention pond in the middle of the night after fleeing from police. All three of those children drowned.

Drowning is a horrible way to die.

My neighbor, a good Christian man who attends church services several times a week, said it served them right. They got what they deserved for stealing a car.

I asked him if he knew that two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One on is right, one on his left. He didn’t seem to understand the point I was making.

We don’t commit thieves to the electric chair in this country. We should when they are thieves of the Goldman Sachs caliber, but we don’t. Instead, apparently some of our politicians attend various functions of theirs and get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of some of that stolen money for giving them a little speech. That’s how it works here.

My neighbor was adamant… they should have been at home in bed instead of out stealing cars and none of this would have happened.

Kids. That’s the Christian proclamation on the big story of the month down here in Florida land. They stole a car and got what they deserved.

Of course, they were all girls. Teenage girls. Black, teenage girls to be more specific. Did I mention that part?

As the story unfolded in the press, it turns out that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office claims they did everything possible to rescue those girls from the sinking stolen vehicle.

Well, they did everything possible short of getting their shirts wet. After all, “they don’t need to die over it”, right sheriff?

According to Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, some of his officers stripped off their utility belts and some of their uniforms and went in after the children in the dark murky water that night. He said they made a heroic effort to save them and pointed to the officer’s official statements as proof of that claim.

Then a video surfaced which appeared to show no one actually going into the water as officers noted they could hear screaming coming from the car. Later, the screaming stopped and another officer said they were dead.

This has ignited a firestorm on Facebook and Twitter. People are angry that professional public servants did nothing to assist those teenage children as they drowned not 30 feet from them in the pond that early morning.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave a press conference the other day on the 22nd in which he scolded the “irresponsible rhetoric” of social media and some press outlets for promoting the story that the officers did nothing and that his office lied about their initial response. He was visibly angry.

And in that anger his statements make it very clear. There is no photographic or video evidence of any of the Pinellas County officers getting into that water in order to save the lives of those Pinellas County residents.

What he does make clear if you listen to his statement (video below) are four things:

  1. some officers stripped off their equipment and started into the water but as they waded in, it was too muddy and the water too dark for them to feel they could safely continue
  2. the sheriff actually says the dive team member who was there said it the conditions were too bad to go any deeper
  3. the sheriff is angry that we don’t all take whatever the police say in their reports as the gospel truth
  4. he clearly believes the black teenage children got what they deserved for stealing a car

Essentially what happened was, they got their shoes wet or they went in up to their knees perhaps, before turning around and giving up.

That’s kind of a legalese if you ask me. Yes, they stripped off their equipment and went in… but not really.

Remember, these are public servants there to serve and protect (or have we given up on that fairy tale by now?) and these are screaming children, drowning in a car. And a decision was made en masse that it was too risky to attempt a rescue.

Frankly I don’t think that grounds to sue the PCSO or the attending officers.

I would like to think one or more of them would have jumped in up to his neck, trying valiantly to save those kids, regardless of how they got there and the personal risks to the officer. But then again, the world has changed since I grew up and officers are told everyday that priority one is going home at the end of their shift.

I would like to think I would have done something in that situation but honestly, I don’t know if I would have. No one does. So no one should judge them for their efforts or lack thereof.

But what we can do is judge the Pinellas County sheriff for providing deliberately misleading information to the press at the outset of this story.

You see, he clearly knew the legalese trick he was attempting to pull off by saying his officers ‘went into the water after the girls”… sorry, going knee-deep and a decision to turn around for your own safety doesn’t constitute the heroic sounding story he tried to pass off at first.

As you can tell from the video below, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has a lot of pent up hostility toward social media and the press that just isn’t buying what he’s selling and he’s incensed that the people don’t just take his word for it and move on.

Goddamn those people on social media sharing information and thinking for themselves! How can I run a county like this!

I also think you can judge him for trying to obfuscate by turning the story into what he says is an epidemic of young people stealing cars in his county. He spent the last few minutes reciting stats and specific cases about various young people who stole cars recently and stole more in their past.

He says that’s the real problem people should be talking about.

How do we keep those darn (black?) kids from stealing our shit?!?

ಠ_ಠ

Actually, um, no. That’s not quite the problem here.

Say what you will about cops standing there listening to three young people drown to death in Pinellas County that night, the real problem is a sheriff who thinks everyone better damn well believe whatever bullshit he tells them.

You know… maybe if the sheriff had told his deputies not to get into high speed chases with children in stolen cars, that car would be back home by now and so would those three children.

Maybe part of the problem is the high number of high speed chases taking place one county from me over something as stupid and replaceable as a car.

You know, they do have insurance on those things, don’t they?

Oh wait. Right. If they reclaim the car, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay and after all, who do the cops work for anyway? that’s right…

There are all kinds of socioeconomic issues that could be brought up right now regarding young people not having jobs and stealing cars because they realistically don’t expect to have a future in our lovely free-market world.

And I’m sure the Good Sheriff and his buddies might be want to cast blame toward various societal trends even, if that helps (damn rap music)

But in the end we do have a problem. We have a police force that is perhaps too cautious when it comes to putting themselves on the line for their fellow citizens and we have a number of young people who are desperate enough, or bored enough, to take extremely risky chances with their lives and those of others around them. And this is not a good combination.

As far as the scourge of “irresponsible rhetoric” coming from social media… well, that only really threatens people with something to hide most of the time. And you can usually tell those people by how mad they get at social media in press conferences.

Here’s an idea sheriff… no more high speed chases over something as petty as a stolen car. How’s that?

35 Responses

  1. I live in San Luis Obispo county, in California. SLO county was incorporated in 1850, and since that time exactly two of our ‘uniformed heroes’ have died on the job. One was a car crash back in 1929, and another in the mid-fifties- I don’t recall the circumstances but it warn’t nuthin’ heroic, you can be sure of that.
    Being a cop here is one of the safest possible occupations, and very well paid. I know one cop who was making $750,000 per year- for answering the phone.

  2. My experience is that most people who claim to be Christian are not.

    The rest of the story leaves me speechless, except to say, you’re right – there’s a reason the sheriff is angry about not being believed.

    p.s., excellent rejoinder regarding the two thieves, a story that brings tears to my eyes every time.

  3. Cool little tidbit: The good thief is actually known as Dismis in the Orthodox tradition. He is said to have encountered the Christ child, along with His mother and earthly father, while they were fleeing to Egypt. Dismis, who was with a band of thieves and intending to rob the family, saw the newborn Christ and said something to the effect of, “If God were a child, then this is He,” and ended up sparing the family. Out of gratitude, Christ’s mother said to Dismis, “You will be repaid for your mercy today.” Turns out she was right, as Dismis was the first to join Christ in heaven. Just thought I should share that.

  4. ” no more high speed chases over something as petty as a stolen car. ” -you’re right,why pursue when you can just let the little scamps go-I mean,it’s only a car,right? Personal story-very good friend of mine who happens to be a state cop attempts to pull a speeder over who decides to run because of warrants due to robbery charges. Friend pursues,guy finally abandons his car,hides behind a wall waiting for the cop with a loaded gun.As the cop rounds the corner,criminal sticks the gun in his face and pulls the trigger. There was no bullet in the chamber-cop unloads 3 bullets into his chest,killing him. Thankfully there was surveillance video of the whole thing(the perp was mexican).I then had to listen to some of my apologist friends say that if the cop never would have pursued the “sweet boy” would still be alive. Second guessing is easy…

    • talk about a straw-man argument. Are you suggesting those three girls could have been cop killers, just waiting to unload on the officers as they broke through the windows of the sinking car trying to save them? that’s ridiculous. Like saying we should keep weed illegal because a methhead once killed a guy while robbing his store.

      If you find a stolen car, light them up, attempt to pull them over, if they run, let ’em go. What if those kids crashed into a guy driving home from work and killed him? How many lives do you need to put at risk for the value of a stolen car? And that is too say nothing of the lives of the police officers which are being put at risk… like your friend for instance.

      Look at it this way, drunk driving is illegal because it puts lives at risk. Right? Drunks don’t always kill people in accidents, but it happens, so it’s illegal because of the POTENTIAL to do harm to innocent people. Why don’t we see high speed chases for petty crimes (theft of property) in the same way?

      I can tell you this much… had they stopped that pursuit, those kids would be alive today and they would have parked that car and never gotten back in it. You can bet on that.

      Property can be replaced. Lives cannot. Cop lives. Bystander’s lives. Kid’s lives. They all have value GREATER than that of a car.

      I know a certain level of criminal must be pursued. I’m not arguing that. And I doubt even the Pinellas County deputies would engage in a risky high speed chase for a shoplifter. They already have a set of standards in that regard I am sure. My thing is that autotheft should be included in those crimes they will not put public lives at risk for. that’s it.

      and oh yeah, they should probably have gotten their shirts wet.

      • Talk about missing the point. It was the “shoulda woulda” aspect of stopping or pursuing.So does the fact that the guy my friend chased was a “more dangerous” criminal justify a high speed chase? Is the possibility higher of teenage girls running from the cops crashing or killing someone than a robber or meth head? I wasn’t comparing the crimes,only the decision whether or not to pursue.As far as the rescue attempts go,how do we know what the conditions were-once again,second guessing and arm chair heroes….

        • the police reports describe the conditions, the dashcam video makes it pretty obvious for those disinclinded to read and of course, the Pinellas County sheriff describes the conditions… that’s how we know the conditions. As far as your claim about “arm chair heroes” goes… I think I made it pretty clear in my article, that though I would like to THINK I would have gone in after them, I can’t say I would have with any accuracy because… I wasn’t there. I don’t think that qualifies me as an “arm chair hero”… but again, since you like straw-man arguments, you go right ahead with that.

      • The Pinellas County Sheriff has a no pursuit policy and it was followed that night. They can turn on their lights but if the suspect does not stop in 45 seconds, they abandon the stop. This is what the first deputy did. A second deputy in an unmarked car spotted them about twenty minutes later. Without turning on his flashing lights he followed them at normal speeds and at a distance. At a red light, a sheriff’s deputy in a marked car pulled up from the opposite direction. The girls saw him and fled through the red light. They were being followed at a distance and at legal speed. No flashing lights. They were the ones speeding. When they entered the cemetery they were going 40 miles an hour. It was at that speed that they entered the pond. The deputies were not right there. When they did attempt to enter the pond, they sunk in to their knees making it impossible to move. The car was in fifteen feet of water and it was pitch dark. They girls didn’t know to open the doors when they first entered the water making it all but impossible to save them. I am horrified by their deaths, but it was the result of youthful negligence on the girls’ part, not the actions of the Pinellas County sheriff.

  5. “, I can’t say I would have with any accuracy because… I wasn’t there”-EXACTLY. So your (once again) assumptions and automatic indictments of the police trump my “straw man” arguments….

    • do you even understand what you’re writing? I said I couldn’t say I would have done anything different, but I WOULD LIKE TO THINK I WOULD. How is that an assumption? I would like to think I would. I would also like to think the cops would. That’s not an assumption, that’s a statement of how I FEEL about the subject.

      • Maybe you’re the one confused by what you’re writing-my assumption remark was referring to the jist of the entire article you wrote-that the cops were at fault ONCE AGAIN-not whether or not you would have waded into water.Christ,twist words much?

        • ah. I see. Reading comprehension is your problem because I think what I wrote was pretty clear:

          “I would like to think I would have done something in that situation but honestly, I don’t know if I would have. No one does. So no one should judge them for their efforts or lack thereof.

          But what we can do is judge the Pinellas County sheriff for providing deliberately misleading information to the press at the outset of this story.”

          … Say what you will about cops standing there listening to three young people drown to death in Pinellas County that night, the real problem is a sheriff who thinks everyone better damn well believe whatever bullshit he tells them.

          The article is about the Pinellas County sheriff and the policy about who to chase and for what. So “ONCE AGAIN” it’s not about the cops being “at fault” which of course you would understand, if you bothered to actually read the article BEFORE jumping to a conclusion.

          and yeah, at least one of em probably should have gone in shirt deep at least to try to help those kids. but that’s not what the article is about

          • ” Say what you will about cops standing there listening to three young people drown to death”-yeah,you’re right,I must be having trouble comprehending. Now that I read it over again it doesn’t sound like placing blame at all….smh.

            • don’t like it, do you? but that’s what they did. and there’s a video showing them do it. now, you can draw your own conclusions about whether it was right or wrong, but that is what they did and it wasn’t the focus of my article. but I guess you prefer talking about that than what I really wrote about, don’t you? that’s called a straw-man and we are back to where we started, aren’t we?

              • “you prefer talking about that than what I really wrote about,”then maybe you should have just stuck to the rant about the sheriff and left other asides out of the article. Sorry,I thought all the opinions contained within were fair game-I should have stuck to the subject YOU wanted me to.

                • So tell us, pig-

                  how much money are they paying you to troll here? I’m curious because I was wondering how many Millennials have to slave away at their 29 hour a week dead-end jobs in order to support one worthless lying parasite such as yourself.

                  • So I’m a troll because I have a difference of opinion-what a GD fan boy idiot. Been posting on and off here for years-even Scott will tell you I’m just a guy who posts occasionally.Two sides to everything dumbass….

    • The choice of whether or not to pursue has nothing to do with second guessing. It’s not like it’s a heat of the moment moral choice, it would be police policy. The article suggests police policy should be changed, not that the police officers specificaly were wrong for chasing the stolen car.

      As for your point “Is the possibility higher of teenage girls running from the cops crashing or killing someone”. No, but the chance of them getting out the car and killing someone is lower. I think the “certain level of criminal” Scott was refering to would be someone who poses more threat to people lives once they get out the car then when they are being chased. Which didn’t apply to the teenage girls.

  6. Scott, I share your sentiments and opinion in this matter. The issue of police in American pains me a lot. We know that we are dealing with not the smartest or most sensitive human beings. They have to be controlled and taught another set of behaviors because they are not easily influence by their conscience. Most importantly the rules of engagements must be modified. Instead of being trained by “experts” from Israel they should be trained by police from, say, Scandinavian countries. I doubt it will happen. I think Americans seem to be OK living in a country that gives the feel of being an occupied territory.

  7. Just because you don’t “chase them down”,doesn’t mean you”let them go”.Arrest them later.They I.D.’d the car,right?How about radioing ahead and blocking them at an intersection? Also,automobiles can be tracked,yes?Satellites,helicopters,drones,to name a few of the aerial methods..As an example of how easily tracking a car can be here is a device sold to the general public.http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/02/spy-tech-goes-cheap-track-your-car-kid-or-enemy-for-10-a-month/And what about all these fucking cameras that are at every intersection,every business establishment,every parking lot,now days? http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/16/technology/security/fbi-facial-recognition/ I realize the police might not have had access to these things,in this case.I’m talking ideals here.We are spending so much on “spy shit”(to use a technical term).I just have to ask if a high speed,Hollywood style apprehension is necessary in every case of a stolen vehicle.

  8. Sorry I screwed up the first link.The word “And” was supposed to start the next sentence. here it is http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/02/spy-tech-goes-cheap-track-your-car-kid-or-enemy-for-10-a-month/

  9. For all of you taking the police to task for chasing these suspects, they weren’t, it’s against their policies. They can follow at safe speeds but even the deputy doing that was in an unmarked car and well behind. He didn’t think they knew was following. What triggered the girls running a red light was seeing a deputy approaching an intersection from the opposite direction. They sped through a red light and shortly thereafter drove into the cemetery thinking they could access the interstate. The deputies were never close enough to determine there was more than one person in the car, or the gender of that person. They made a fatal mistake when they missed a sharp turn on a road not designed to be driven on at high speed.

    • so… the cops were there in a pursuit that wasn’t “really” a pursuit and the girls were speeding along for no apparent reason? nifty

      • ” the girls were speeding along for no apparent reason? nifty”-If you were a teenager and stole a car for a joyride,yeah,you might be speeding for “no apparent reason”. Wouldn’t think you’d steal a car and then take a leisurely drive down to the local mall….come on man….
        Reply

        • did you completely miss the part of her comment that stated the sheriff’s office already had a “no-chase” policy in place? the kind of policy you poo-pooed on not that long ago in this discussion? follow me on this: they were speeding (according to the NEW official story) and the cops were following them… meaning… THEY had to be speeding as well, right?… and you think the girl driving the stolen vehicle didn’t NOTICE the speeding car following their every move? So they drive faster.. and… well, you can fill in the rest. Instead of calling it a high-speed chase, they called it “following a speeding car”… and of course, you buy that without question, right?

          • So if her post is true and if I understand (although I am somewhat thick) the deputies started following in earnest after the girls ran a red light.So at what point do we follow or not follow a suspect vehicle? Once they determine the age,gender and race of the suspects?Yeah,yeah I know I’ve heard it ad nauseum already-just let ’em go we’ll nab ’em later-after they abandon the car because of a crash or not. Man,I’m gonna take up the stolen car trade. I’ll have those cars in Mexico repainted and ready for sale.AND as I’m not black OR teenaged,the police won’t pursue me at all…

  10. One of the most ignorant post I’ve ever seen. Unfounded accusations and assumptions. Why not throw in the assumption that morgues, funeral parlors, overpopulation conspiracist and maybe even the car manufacturers are all in on it. YOU are the racist one trying to put racial issues in this arguement. The sheriff did not even mentioned it. You think social media companies or news organisations have nothing to gain from distorting the facts, idiot? How about don’t fucking steal a car and run from the police? If they were not speeding, you think the police would be chasing at high-speed? The full video is out there for everyone to see. This is exactly the same shit like those people protesting the deaths of criminals on the street. I hope you never need the services of the police.

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