Florida deputy charged after sending toy bomb to colleague ‘as a joke’
A former Florida deputy is facing charges after sending a toy bomb to his colleague, which he says was meant “as a joke” but led to an evacuation of the sheriff’s office.
The deputy, James Piper, resigned on Tuesday after admitting to sending the package, authorities said.
On Wednesday, he was charged with the planting of a hoax bomb, considered a second-degree felony.
ABC affiliate WFTS reports the box had been addressed to Lt. Joseph Gerrentz and was insulated with plastic packaging and contained a red cylinder-shaped object with protruding wires and a handwritten note with the word “boom” on it.
Gerrentz immediately left his office on opening the package and notified everyone of the potential threat.
Part of the building was evacuated as a result, and a K-9 bomb detection dog was brought in but did not find the package dangerous. A bomb squad also responded and confirmed it was a toy bomb.
Piper realized what had happened after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent out a communication to the whole office, prompting the then-deputy to contact his supervisor.
He resigned that same day after being with the office from 1982-2015 and then being re-hired in January 2017.
NBC affiliate WFLA reports he was arrested on Wednesday and charged.
While Gualtieri would not comment on the joke, WFLA reports that he has been vocal about the issue following several threats received by area schools in 2018.
“There’s nothing funny about this, especially when it comes to guns or any type of weapon or any type of threat,” he said in February.
Some people in the community expressed shock over the deputy’s joke.
“I think it’s stupid. I think it’s ridiculous that a person who spent all this time on the force, given the current environment, would do something like this,” said resident Rose Rowland.
According to the Pinellas County jail’s website, Piper was released on a US$5,000 bond.
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