A Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy was terminated for stealing prescription pills and pawning a service gun.
Steven Smith, 32, was fired and arrested for keeping Oxycodone for personal use after residents turned the prescriptions in to have them destroyed.
He had been with sheriff's office since 2012.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference, that Smith’s ex-girlfriend informed them he stole the drugs and had been keeping them at home to use.
“This is a situation unfortunately that is caused by drug addiction and one that we see far too often as it ruins lives and careers,” he said.
Smith was assigned to narcotics division from 2013 to 2015 until he began showing performance issues such as not turning in reports on time, not appearing for court and low productivity.
“He was a good deputy, he was a productive deputy. He was doing his job and did it well,” Gualtieri said. “We started seeing the decline and when you start seeing that kind of decline the first thing you want to do is find out why.”
Smith was moved to narcotics to patrol where he continued to have performance issues and was suspended after an internal affairs investigation.
Gualtieri said they held an intervention but couldn’t find anything until the tip from Smith’s ex-girlfriend. After going over surveillance, Gualtieri and other sheriff's office officials saw Smith putting a bag of prescription pills into his car on Sept. 24.
The investigation is ongoing, but Gualtieri thinks Smith could have taken up to 300 pills.
“He did have a long-term back injury and had become addicted, which he admitted to,” Gualtieri said.
He added that Smith hadn’t shown up to work under the influence. He told Gualtieri that he purposely didn’t take the pills at work because he wanted to “double down” when he got home. It was discovered that Smith had been crushing pills to snort them because his stomach was injured from swallowing them.
When Smith was fired, Gualtieri learned he had pawned his agency-issued gun at Silver Dollar Pawn on State Road 54 in Pasco County.
“He’s broken and he said that he just didn’t have any money and needed to pay bills and it was his way of dealing with being backed into a corner,” Gualtieri said. “He had nothing.”
Smith was charged with one felony count of possession of a controlled substance and two felony counts of grand theft. He’s been referred to the state attorney’s office for charges of dealing in stolen property and false verification of ownership since the pawn occurred in Pasco County.
He was released on bond.
Gualtieri said that this incident shows that officers are vulnerable to addiction but that they should still be held accountable.
“He was a good deputy, he was a good cop and just deteriorated over time and frankly I wish that in our conversations with him and discussions and interactions with our supervisors that we were able to figure this out, that we were able to get him help.”