Crime

Deputies say a school guardian took the gun they gave him to protect kids — and pawned it

Police gave an Army veteran a gun so he could help keep children safe. Instead, police say he used it to make some extra cash.

Erick Russell, 37, was arrested Wednesday and charged with pawning the Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol he was given to protect students as part of the “School Guardian” program, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. They say he also pawned magazines and a body armor vest.

This is his second arrest of the month.

He was also accused on Sept. 5 of hitting and keeping his wife in an apartment bedroom against her will, according to the arrest report. When she tried to leave, he pushed her back into the room.

He was charged with one count of domestic battery and two counts of false imprisonment for the incident, according to the sheriff’s office.

That arrest is what led to his termination from the Pinellas County School District a day later, according to Lisa Wolf-Chason, a district spokeswoman.

He was freed from jail Sunday after posting $7,500 bail for the Sept. 5 arrest— only a few days before he was back in cuffs, accused of pawning the sheriff’s equipment.

The domestic battery investigation is what led deputies to discover Russell had pawned his sheriff’s-issued Glock, two magazines and body armor multiple times at Value Pawn, 29661 US 19 North in Clearwater, between July and August.

Russell said he pawned the gun and equipment for gas money, according to the sheriff’s office. He would then go back and re-purchase the items on a later date.

The agency reportedly screened Russell, as they do for all guardian applicants, found no prior criminal history and said he seemed to fit the role.

He worked as a military police officer in the Army for 15 years and was honorably discharged in 2013, Fox 13 reports.

He began working at the school district in April 2014, according to Wolf-Chason. During his time with the district, he worked as a classroom assistant, family/community liaison, front office clerk, plant operator and security guard. He transitioned into the guardian position in April.

“This was never a situation where he was selling anything. What he was doing is trying to put gas in his car and food on the table,” Gualtieri told News Channel 8. “It’s really a very sad situation for somebody that is down on his luck ... You know, people have hard times in their lives and sometimes do desperate things.”

Besides the domestic battery and false imprisonment charges, Russell is now also facing five counts of false verification of ownership for pawning the handgun and other sheriff’s equipment.

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Real Time/Breaking News Reporter. There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and I cover it. Graduated with honors from Florida International University. Find me on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
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