Thursday, February 22, 2024

School Guardian Pawns Firearm and Body Armor Vest Issued by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Detectives arrested 37 year-old Erick Russell, a former School Guardian, after it was discovered he pawned his issued firearm and equipment multiple times between July 2, 2019 and August 1, 2019.

Detectives say on September 5, 2019, Russell, who deputies said was intoxicated at the time, was arrested by deputies for Domestic Battery and False Imprisonment at an apartment in Palm Harbor.

During the arrest, deputies learned Russell was employed as a School Guardian and collected his issued equipment that was provided by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The issued equipment included a Glock 17 9mm handgun with two magazines, a Body Armor vest, and additional items that were issued for the sole purpose of performing the duties of a School Guardian.

Through the investigation, detectives were informed that Russell had previously pawned his issued firearm, magazines and vest, on multiple occasions, at Value Pawn located at 29661 US 19 North in Clearwater.

Detectives were able to confirm Russell pawned his issued Glock 17 9mm firearm on July 3, 2019 for $200.00, and on July 17, 2019 for $60.00. Russell pawned two issued Glock 17 9mm magazines on July 2, 2019 for $10.00, and on August 1, 2019 for $15.00. Russell also pawned his issued Body Armor vest on July 26, 2019 for $200.00. Russell would then re-purchase the pawned items on later dates.

On September 18, 2019 at approximately 5:35 p.m., detectives interviewed Russell at the Sheriff’s Administration Building located at 10750 Ulmerton Road in Largo. During the interview, Russell admitted to pawning the issued firearm and equipment due to needing gas money.

Detectives arrested Russell and charged him with five counts of False Verification of Ownership. Russell was transported to the Pinellas County Jail without incident.

The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was established in 2018 through the Marjor Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In its initial report, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission found that having Guardians in schools is the best way to ensure highly trained personnel are in place to respond immediately in the event of a school shooting. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri served as chair of the Safety Commission.

Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian. Guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings, and successfully complete a minimum of 144 hours of training.

The 2019 Legislature expanded the Guardian program to include Class D and G licensed security guards as well as certain school district or charter school employees who volunteer to participate in the program.

State funds are granted to participating Sheriff’s Offices to cover the screening and training costs for each Guardian. Also, Guardians receive a one-time stipend of $500 for serving in the program.

For schools in need of Guardians, but located in districts that do not have a Guardian program, those schools may arrange for training with another sheriff’s office that has established a Guardian program.

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