Pinellas County, FL – A Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy was arrested on a felony charge shortly after he resigned for sending a toy bomb to his lieutenant at the sheriff’s department.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was evacuated on Jan. 8 after veteran Deputy James Piper sent a fake bomb to his lieutenant as a joke.
Investigators said Pinellas County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Joseph Gerretz opened a package at his desk that he’d received through inner-office mail at about 3 p.m. that afternoon, WFLA reported.
When Lieutenant Gerretz opened the box, he found the box was insulated with plastic packaging and carried a note that said “boom.”
Beneath that, there was a red cylinder-shaped object with protruding wires, according to WFLA.
Lieutenant Gerretz immediately left his office and notified his department of the threat.
The sheriff’s office evacuated parts of the building while they investigated the package and called in the Tampa Police Department Bomb Team, WFLA reported.
A K9 bomb detection dog also was called to the scene to investigate.
The dog did not alert on the package in the lieutenant’s office, and the bomb squad ultimately determined the device was a toy, according to WFLA.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent out an agency-wide message about the fake bomb and the ensuing evacuations after the threat had been resolved.
When the Deputy Piper saw the communique from the sheriff, he immediately notified his own supervisor of what he’d done.
Deputy Piper told his boss the fake bomb had been meant as a joke, and the information was sent up the chain of command.
Shortly thereafter, Deputy Piper, who had been with the sheriff’s department for 33 years, submitted his resignation to the agency, WFLA reported.
“It’s ridiculous that a guy with his age and his experience thought this was okay,” Sheriff Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s pathetic really.”
On Jan. 9, he was arrested and charged with planting a hoax bomb, which is a second-degree felony, WFLA reported.
Former Deputy Piper was booked into the Pinellas County jail and released on a $5,000 bond.
The former deputy had served for 33 years as a Pinellas County deputy, from 1982 to 2015.
He returned to the department and had been rehired in 2017, according to WFLA.
“This is a 59-year-old man who has been a cop for over 30 years and I guess thought this was okay to do and thought it was funny in some respects and it’s not,” Sheriff Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s why it’s a second-degree felony.”