Sheriff’s deputy resigns after sending toy bomb in mail

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy resigned Jan. 8 after sending a toy bomb to a lieutenant as a joke. 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.

LARGO – A 59-year-old patrol deputy with more than 33 years of service at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has resigned effective Jan. 8.

Deputy James Piper claimed responsibility for mailing a toy bomb to a Sheriff’s Office lieutenant as a joke causing an evacuation at the Sheriff’s Administration Building, 10750 Ulmerton Road in Largo.

According to investigators, Lt. Joseph Gerretz, 46, was in his office at the Sheriff’s Administration Building about 3 p.m. Jan. 8 when he receive a package through inner-office mail. Gerretz then 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. After opening the box, Gerretz left his office immediately 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. Members of the Tampa Police Department Bomb Team responded and confirmed that the device was not a threat. The device was determined to be a toy bomb.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent agency wide communications regarding the partial evacuations and that the device was not a threat.

After seeing the Sheriff’s communication regarding the suspicious device, Piper contacted his supervisor and told him that he sent the package to the lieutenant as a joke. The supervisor notified his chain of command. Piper resigned effective immediately.

Piper was an employee for the Sheriff’s Office from 1982-2015 and was rehired on Jan. 17, 2017.