Crime

St. Pete Beach 'out of control,' residents complain

PINELLAS COUNTY -- Cell phone video of a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy breaking up a fight on St. Pete Beach has gone viral. Residents say the video is proof the situation on the beach has been getting out of hand for a while.

The video captured Sgt. Bryan Bingham tussling with two men on St. Pete Beach on Sunday. According to a report, the two men were part of a brawl that dispersed when the deputy, who was working an off-duty detail at the Postcard Inn, arrived on the scene.

As the deputy tried to arrest one man, the other man can be seen trying to stop it. During the incident, the deputy ends up trying to control both men at the same time.

Resident Jason Bleistein said he witnessed this fight from afar with his two daughters. Bleistein said he's been warning the city for almost a year about the lack of enforcement when it comes to drunk rowdy behavior and litter on the beach.

"Everybody knows this is the place to go if you want to party on the beach with no rules and what ends up happening is it attracts the lowest common denominator and you saw that Sunday,” Bleistein said. “And that's the result of allowing people to get away with anything."

Bleistein said the deputy was lucky he didn't get hurt.

"He was by himself," he said. "There was a crowd 10 people deep and if they decided to turn on that officer, he would've had no chance."

Mayor Maria Lowe said the city has completed a private and public property line that will help deputies issue citations. The mayor says the city is also looking at revising its alcohol beach ordinance and said visitors should take personal responsibility.

"I think there is a great deal of personal responsibility that has to be put on the individual consumer consuming the alcohol and the peer responsibility of those around those individuals,” said Lowe said.

Bleistein said that's not happening and the city needs to move faster before things get more out of control on the beach.

"We've been vocal for almost a year now with the mayor and the city. The mayor promised me personally that something would be done about this a long time ago," he said. "Beach towns like Clearwater Beach have this type of situation well under control."

The two men seen tussling with the deputy on the video are from St. Petersburg. Both 25-year-old Joshua McMahan and 24-year-old Justin Lewis were arrested and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer as well as disorderly conduct.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says they're still analyzing the video and the sheriff will answer questions about the incident Wednesday.

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