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Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Varn

Kathryn Varn covers public safety in north Pinellas County and news in the city of Largo. She is from the Jacksonville area and graduated from the University of Florida, where she studied journalism.

Phone: (727) 893-8913


Twitter: @kathrynvarn

  1. Police chase on sands of Clearwater Beach lands on Facebook Live

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — It was just another day on Clearwater Beach Thursday for Stephanie Ball and her 14-month-old son.

    Until they heard the sirens.

    Ball and her friend Emily Keene looked to their left and saw a black Jeep Cherokee barreling down the beach, followed by a swarm of Clearwater police cruisers.

    "We saw them just flying down," Keene, 27, said.

    The driver, whom police identified as 27-year-old Ryan Stiles, streamed the pursuit over Facebook Live, with the video showing him driving over beach chairs and drinking from a bottle of Canadian Mist whiskey. He made it all the way to Caladesi Island before he stopped, faced with a choice to continue into the water or surrender to police, Deputy Chief Donald Hall said at a news conference....

    Beach chairs lay in the sand after they were run over by Ryan Stiles Thursday afternoon. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  2. Largo promotes Joseph Pennino to deputy fire chief

    Public Safety

    LARGO — The city has a new deputy fire chief after Dave Mixson left the post to take a job as chief and director of public safety of the South Pasadena Fire Department.

    Joseph Pennino has worked for Largo Fire Rescue since 2003 and has served in many roles, including lieutenant, assistant chief of training and division chief of operations, according to an announcement from Chief Shelby Willis....

    Largo Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Pennino
  3. Pinellas County approves settlement with Suncoast fire district

    Public Safety

    SEMINOLE — County commissioners on Tuesday approved a settlement with the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, closing out a lawsuit filed last year by the district over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.

    The unanimous vote finalized the agreement the fire district's commission had already approved last week. It mainly guarantees county funding for at least two paramedic positions in the district going forward and makes certain district projects eligible for Penny for Pinellas dollars if voters renew the 1-cent sales tax in November....

  4. Pinellas Sheriff's north district station moving, but likely staying in Dunedin

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County officials are in negotiations to move the Sheriff's Office north district station from its downtown home of 20 years to a building about three miles north.

    The county is in the process of working out a lease agreement with the owner of a former Wells Fargo bank branch on Bayshore Boulevard south of Curlew Road to move the station from its current location in the former Dunedin Police Department at 737 Louden Ave....

    The current Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Dunedin substation. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office substation in Dunedin is moving from this its current location downtown to a former Wells Fargo building at Alt. 19 and Curlew Road. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times

  5. Mother of slain girl, 13, says she sneaked out but 'never stayed gone'


    RIVERVIEW — Janessa Shannon had sneaked out of her mother's Bradenton home before. So Michelle Mosley wasn't happy when she found out her 13-year-old daughter had done it again, winding up at a boy's house.

    As punishment, Janessa was returned to her father's home in Riverview a day early, Mosley said Sunday. It was the last time she would see her daughter.

    The father, Nahshon Shannon, grounded her that night. He checked on Janessa the following day, he said, and found no one in her bedroom at his home at 11219 Cocoa Beach Drive. He reported her disappearance to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on July 3, a Monday....

    A Hillsborough Sheriff deputy puts up crime scene tape Saturday around the home of Janessa Shannon. Sheriff deputies say the body of missing 13 year old Janessa Shannon was found at the Triple Creek Nature Preserve, not far from the home. The badly decomposed body was discovered Wednesday, and detectives along with the Hillsborough Medical Examiners Office determined it was the body of the missing teen on Friday. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  6. Pinellas sheriff's sergeant resigned in wake of sexual misconduct claims

    Public Safety

    LARGO — The relationships between former Pinellas County sheriff's Sgt. Michael Gibson and the young deputies he helped train started out professional.

    They yielded to casual friendships, some text messages here and chatter at work there.

    Then, he crossed a line, according to an internal investigation.

    The recently released report shows that Gibson, a 14-year veteran of the agency, was accused of sexually harassing two female deputies and engaging in inappropriate relationships with two more while he was married. ...

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the policy exists to prevent these kinds of problems.
  7. Pinellas Suncoast fire district commissioners vote to settle lawsuit with county

    Local Government

    SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners unanimously approved an agreement to settle a lawsuit the district filed against Pinellas County over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.

    The independent fire district that covers a cluster of coastal communities won't get back the $5.2 million officials feel they were owed. Instead, the settlement commissioners approved on Tuesday guaranteed money from the county going forward and set the tone for a working relationship between the two governments....

    Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners meet Tuesday at Station 28 in unincorporated Oakhurst to discuss a proposed settlement with Pinellas County.
  8. Pinellas Suncoast fire district commission settles lawsuit against Pinellas County


    SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved settling its 2016 lawsuit against Pinellas County over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.

    The district didn’t get the $5.2 million officials felt they were owed after a series of funding cuts over several years. Instead, the agreement both sides hammered out in mediation will fund new positions for the district....

    Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners meet Tuesday morning at Fire Station 28 in Oakhurst for a special meeting to discuss a proposed settlement agreement on a lawsuit against Pinellas County.
  9. Pinellas Suncoast fire district to vote on settling lawsuit

    Local Government

    SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on a proposed settlement agreement of a lawsuit against Pinellas County over millions of dollars in emergency medical services funding.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: For the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, unknowns abound as the chief says goodbye...

  10. For the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, unknowns abound as the chief says goodbye

    Local Government

    INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Now is a turning point for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District.

    District officials are on the brink of settling a lawsuit over millions of dollars in emergency medical services funding.

    They're also fighting a lawsuit that alleges the district used "ambiguous, deceptive and misleading" ballot language to convince voters to approve a new property tax. ...

    Salvatore D’Angelo cutlines here should be 5 lines deep.
  11. Pinellas deputy fired for social media boast: 'Nothing like almost shooting someone'

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired a patrol deputy on Thursday after a photo surfaced that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone.

    The photo, posted Sunday on the visual messaging app Snapchat, shows deputy Austen Callus, 23, with the caption: "Nothing like almost shooting someone to set your head right lol. God I gate people with knives." The word "gate" appears to be a misspelling of "hate."...

    A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is under investigation after a photo that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone made the rounds on social media. Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Gross on Thursday confirmed deputy Austen Callus' employment and said the agency is "aware of the social media post." [Facebook'
  12. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cellphone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cellphone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned from the agency at the end of February after investigators found the photos, which include images comparing black people to animals, derogatory memes about the Women's March on Washington and photos he took of his genitals while working on duty at the agency shooting range. ...

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  13. Four questions with Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith before he helps lead the St. Pete Pride parade

    Human Interest

    A decade ago, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith was afraid to tell his friends and family he was gay.

    On Saturday, he'll be leading the St. Pete Pride parade as one of four grand marshals, front and center of the largest Pride celebration in the state.

    ST. PETE PRIDE: Everything you need to know to party at St. Pete Pride this weekend...

    Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith will serve as a grand marshal at the St. Pete Pride parade on Saturday. [City of Largo]
  14. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has released a fact-finding report that largely mirrors an earlier investigation that ruled the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza last month was a "justifiable homicide."

    The FDLE findings were similar to those made in a Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office report earlier this month. The State Attorney's report concluded that Tarpon Springs police Officer Scott MacIsaac was justified in using deadly force in that May 6 incident at a charity car show. FDLE does not act on its findings, but will send its report to prosecutors to review....

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.
  15. Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District chief resigns


    Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Chief Salvatore D'Angelo announced Tuesday night he was leaving the department for a new job.

    D'Angelo said after a district commission meeting he accepted a position as the executive director of the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District. Aug. 4 is his last day at Pinellas Suncoast, which provides fire and emergency medical services for Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and the unincorporated Oakhurst area....

    Salvatore D'Angelo, Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District chief, announced his resignation Tuesday night. D'Angelo said he accepted a position as the executive director of the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District.