Medic's drug arrest shocks those who know him

Largo, Florida -- An employee of Northside Hospital is jailed after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said he sold nearly 200 pain pills to an undercover detective, and investigators are checking where he got the medications.

James Comer, 38, of Largo, has also been a full-time firefighter with the Pinellas Park Fire Department since September 2008. The father earns $47,000 a year at that job.

Arleen Niketas, a close family friend, said the allegations against him are out of character for him.

READ: Arrest affidavit in the case

"Jim has worked tirelessly to get to where he is today he is an incredible paramedic," Niketas said. She also says he's a wonderful man and father and that they are stunned over the allegations. "It's been very difficult for us to comprehend this and for us to try to get to the bottom of it."

Niketas said they're relying on their faith. "A lot of prayers, a lot of support and a lot of unanswered questions."

Cecilia Barreda, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, said the agency received a tip about Comer on Friday. The next day, the sheriff's office sent an undercover narcotics detective to Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg where he works as a part-time emergency room paramedic.

Barreda says that's where Comer tried to sell the detective more than 180 prescription pain pills including morphine, hydromorphine, oxycontin, and xanax, Barreda said the drugs have a street value of $600. Comer faces 18 charges of sale and possession of the medications.

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Aimee Bennett, a spokeswoman with Northside Hospital, said Comer doesn't have access to medications in his job there where he assists registered nurses and physicians. Bennett says his job consists of taking vital signs, drawing blood and starting IVs.

But at the center of the investigation are three questions including: Where did the pills come from? Were they meant for patients? Was Comer selling pain pills before? Barreda says all of that is under investigation.

Meanwhile, Comer, has been suspended with pay from his firefighter job.

Bennett released the following statement on behalf of the hospital: "This weekend a part-time paramedic was arrested on hospital property. He has been suspended until further notice. We are working closely with the authorities to aide in their investigation."

Niketas says family and friends are trying to bail Comer out of jail. They have hired an attorney, too. She adds, "We're all praying for him ... and that this is resolved and that he's back home where he belongs."


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