A former Pinellas County drug detective's dramatic fall to rock bottom finished Thursday. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says he fired Deputy Steven Smith for trying to pawn his department gun and stealing painkillers on the job.
“You have a guy that has been destroyed because of his addiction to oxycodone,” said Gualtieri.
Gualtieri says drugs are what Deputy Smith had worked to get off the street as a narcotics detective, but painkillers are exactly just ended his career.
“He was trying to mask it and hide it, but we knew there was a problem,” Gualtieri said.
Smith was hired by the sheriff's office in 2012, and his personnel file shows his downward spiral: missing court hearings, missing filing reports and shifts, leaving his shotgun in his squad car, two crashes and 34 cases as a drug detective without proper paperwork.
The sheriff says when written reprimands and suspension didn't work, Smith landed on desk duty at the North substation in Dunedin. That's where a woman dropped off oxycodone pills after her sister's death, but the sheriff says instead of Smith destroying them, he was caught on camera swiping an estimated 300 pills.
“Smith admitted to us he has a drug problem. He was pill-crushing, because his stomach was so messed up from taking so much of it. He was taking pills, crushing and snorting it,” Gualtieri said.
PREVIOUS BREAKING COVERAGE:Deputy arrested
An addiction the sheriff says started with a back injury spiraled out of control. Gualtieri believes Smith may have been living out of his squad car, and desperate for money. He says Smith sold his department-issued Glock at Silver Dollar Pawn in New Port Richey for $250.
“(The addiction) is expensive," said Footprints Beachside Recovery Center Founder John Templeton. "Your tolerance builds up, and you have to lie to cover it up,”
It’s an epidemic Templeton says he treats too often in the community.
“It’s a sad story of someone who fell so far and is in such an honorable position. You're a police officer, you feel like you're the last person that should have this problem, but what he probably should have done a long time ago is ask for help,” said Templeton.
Smith's now facing grand theft and drug possession charges. Investigators arrested him Wednesday night. He bonded out of jail hours later.
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