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Florida Deputy Mails Fake Bomb to Coworker, Evacuates Building, Resigns

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 09, 2019 2:34 PM

In what other state in this great nation would a sheriff's deputy package toy dynamite in a box, insert a note saying "Boom," and use interoffice mail to send it to his lieutenant as a prank? Former Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputy James Piper, a 59-year-old with 35 years on the force did just that, leading to the evacuation of the administration building and his own resignation.

Apparently not everyone thinks fake bombs are funny.

Blowing Up Your Career

Piper, who worked as a patrol deputy for the Sheriff's Office from 1982 to 2015, and was rehired in July 2017, sent the package "as a joke" to Lieutenant Joseph Gerretz, according to a press release concerning the incident:

Lieutenant Gerretz opened the box at his desk. The box was insulated with plastic packaging and contained a red cylinder shaped object with protruding wires. A handwritten note with the word "Boom" was included inside the package.
Upon opening the box, seeing the handwritten note and the wires, he immediately vacated his office and made notification of the potential threat.
Portions of the Sheriff's Administration Building were evacuated and a handler with a K-9 bomb detection dog was called to the scene. The K-9 did not alert to the suspicious package.

The Tampa Police Department's Bomb Team confirmed that the device was not a threat, and after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent out an agency wide communication regarding the evacuations Piper apparently contacted his supervisor, informed him that he sent the package, and immediately resigned.

Truly a Dud

As we're sure the former deputy is well aware, "hoax bombs" are illegal under Florida criminal statutes, and anyone who "manufactures, possesses, sells, delivers, sends, mails, displays, uses, threatens to use, attempts to use, or conspires to use, or who makes readily accessible to others, a hoax bomb" could be charged with a second-degree felony. That's fifteen years in prison, another fifteen years of probation, and a possible $10,000 fine.

So maybe Piper got off light with the resignation.

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