PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is out of a job after he continually acted "weird" and "creepy" toward a new female coworker, inappropriately touched her and then lied about his conduct, according to the sheriff's office.
Deputy Timothy Lafave, 48, was fired for violating the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's policy that prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination, the agency said in a release.
During an investigation, investigators learned it all began in April 2022. Lafave was working as part of the Judicial Operations Bureau (JOB) Detention Court Squad when a "young, new female agency member" began her training as a Criminal Justice Specialist.
As her two-week training period was ongoing, the agency says the woman noticed Lafave was inappropriately staring at her. She reportedly told investigators he "liked to be closer" to her and appeared to have "a fond(ness) for staring" at her. The sheriff's office reported other employees also noticed Lafave staring at her and that she described him as "weird" and "creepy" during conversations with others.
When this all initially happened, no one reported Lafave's actions, the agency said.
Fast forward to fall 2022, Lafave bought hockey tickets for a group of employees, including himself, for an upcoming game. The sheriff's office said this was not an agency-sanctioned event. Another employee asked Lafave to get a ticket for the woman so she could go, too.
On Oct. 18, Lafave was working escorting inmates from the jail to the courthouse. After he finished doing that, he went to the x-ray/scanning area of the Pinellas County Justice Center entrance where the woman was working and doing safety screenings.
According to investigators, Lafave went up to the woman and "inappropriately" put his left arm around her and hugged her from the side. He then reportedly asked her about the hockey tickets and asked if she still planned on going. After they were done talking, Lafave left. Investigators said this inappropriate touching also wasn't reported at the time it happened.
The next day, a very similar interaction occurred — Lafave reportedly walked up behind her and placed both hands on the woman's shoulders and began to massage them. He then moved to her left side while keeping his right hand on her shoulder and leaned in for a hug.
While Lafave was trying to hug her, the report says she made an "obvious effort" to lean away from him. Lafave still had his hand on her upper body and started to rub her back. The woman told investigators Lafave called her "babe" as he started talking about payment for the hockey ticket.
This time, a deputy saw the interaction and reported Lafave's inappropriate conduct to supervisors. An internal investigation then began.
"Deputy Lafave's actions toward the female agency member were wrong and in violation of PCSO policy," the agency said in a release.
His misconduct made the woman feel "uncomfortable" and "embarrassed," the sheriff's office went on to say.
The agency stated that while the "staring incidents" back in April were not captured on video, surveillance video from the courthouse showed the inappropriate touching that happened in October.
During interviews, Lafave reportedly admitted to giving the woman unsolicited hugs on both days, as well as massaging her shoulders and rubbing her back. However, he tried to explain he was acting from a "fatherly standpoint" when he touched her, the sheriff's office said.
When asked why he was staring at the woman during her training, Lafave stated "she was new, I'm just trying to get a feel for her as a person, as a
coworker" and went on to say he was trying to make her "feel welcome."
The sheriff's office said Lafave's "attempted justifications" for his actions were "lies" to excuse his misconduct.
During his final interview, the sheriff's office said Lafave admitted his actions toward the woman were not appropriate or professional. He also admitted to violating agency policy.
The 48-year-old was hired on with the sheriff's office in June 2009. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri made Lafave's termination effective on Jan. 23.