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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

Email: kvarn@tampabay.com

Twitter: @kathrynvarn

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  1. Largo police active shooter training 'a sign of the times' for participants

    Public Safety

    LARGO — The classroom was full, but the chatter was quiet as the students picked at doughnuts and sipped coffee from paper cups.

    Many were strangers to each other, but the reason they showed up at the Largo Police Department on a sunny Saturday morning was their common ground.

    "It could never happen …" read a cartoon that flashed on a screen at the front of the room. Then, underneath: "Welcome to HERE, your town, USA!"...

    Trainees throw tennis balls and other objects to Largo police Officer Matt Williams, who pretends to be an active shooter, during a training to prepare residents and business owners in the event of an armed intruder. The training, called ALICE - Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate - took place at Largo Police Department on Saturday, November 18, 2017. ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times
  2. Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

    Growth

    LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.

    A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cottages and the Smokin' Rib Shack restaurant is now a flat plot of dirt and grass, the homes demolished and the restaurant relocated.

    The empty lot is now ready for construction to begin next year on the West Bay Lofts project, a pair of buildings on the 500 and 600 blocks of West Bay Drive with 123 apartments and close to 36,000 square feet of commercial space that city officials hope will be a game-changer for the struggling downtown. ...

    The now-vacant 600 block of West Bay Drive, cleared for construction of the West Bay Lofts, a mixed use development project. 158 Ridge Apartment Homes, a complex that opened last month, can be seen north of the block. KATHRYN VARN | Times
  3. Attention Pinellas readers: Stay up-to-date with our new Facebook group

    Human Interest

    We at the Tampa Bay Times know how overwhelming it can be to find the news most useful to you in today's constant churn of information.

    We also know decisions made by your mayor, city council, police chief and other representatives have the biggest potential to impact your everyday life — and that knowledge of those changes can give you the power to make a difference.

    That's why we've created a Facebook group for all things Pinellas County. Consider it a one-stop shop for government and crime to events and features from Tarpon Springs down to Gulfport. Find it by searching Pinellas Community News from the Tampa Bay Times or by clicking here....

    St. Petersburg residents Bethany Hogan, and her husband, Shane Hogan, both 29, enjoy their dinner on a bench overlooking Tampa Bay from Vinoy Park as the sunset casts a pink glow in the eastern sky in this August 2017 file photo. The Tampa Bay Times has created a Facebook group for news across Pinellas County from St. Petersburg, where this photo was taken, up to Tarpon Springs. LARA CERRI   |   Times
  4. Tampa Bay churches grapple with safety, security after Texas shooting

    Public Safety

    Chris DeFayette had just gotten home from a smooth morning of services at Mission City Church in Largo when he saw the news.

    A shooting at a small church in Texas. Multiple casualties. Information was still rolling in, but the death toll would hit 25 people ages 1 to 77, including a pregnant woman.

    A pastor at Mission City texted a news article about it to DeFayette, the church's security director, sparking a conversation about the church's own safety protocols....

    Mission City Church in Largo has decided to hire an off-duty police officer during services. The church’s security director says he’s also considering active shooter training for staff members.
  5. Largo police department offers public training for active shooter situations

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A police department training Nov. 18 for residents to learn strategies to survive in the event of an active shooter is full, but officials are asking interested people to contact the department to potentially hold another class.

    The training, called ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — will cover information about active shooting incidents, physical drills and passive versus proactive response strategies, according to a department flier....

  6. On front lines of opioid epidemic, Tampa Bay cops add Narcan to toolkit

    Public Safety

    The scene has become all too familiar.

    A woman found slumped over in a running car. Police officers breaking through the window to get to her and the two children inside. A used syringe, silver spoon and lighter lying on the floorboard.

    Opioids have infiltrated every demographic of every community across Florida, creating a public health emergency unrivaled since the pill mill crisis. And on that morning in August, one facet of combating the epidemic unfolded....

    A Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter holds up a nasal spray applicator of naloxone, a drug that temporarily blocks the effects of opioid overdoses more commonly known by its brand name Narcan, in this file photo from July 2016. Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies have started supplying officers and deputies with the drug to protect the public and their own employees who may come in contact with powerful synthetic opioids. Andres Leiva   |   TIMES
  7. St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island communities baffled by weekend shootings

    Crime

    UPDATE: Pinellas County deputies say they have arrested two men responsible for a pair of drive-by shootings on St. Petersburg Beach and Treasure Island, wounding one person.

    Brian White strolled down Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island, holding a lit cigar....

     Area around 6200 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach where the weekend shooting occurred. The Beachcomber Resort is on the left.   SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  8. Deputies: Safety Harbor man killed neighbor over yard work money

    Crime

    SAFETY HARBOR — A four-month death investigation ended Friday when deputies arrested a 40-year-old man on a charge of first-degree murder.

    Michael Robert-Jose Harbaugh is accused of killing longtime Tampa Tribune courts reporter David Sommer, 60, during an armed robbery in June, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. He was arrested Friday morning at the Pinellas County Jail, where he was already in custody on an unrelated charge of violation of probation for felony battery....

    Michael Harbaugh
  9. For kids seeking second chances, Pinellas a better place to be than Hillsborough, study shows

    Public Safety

    When it comes to second chances, one side of Tampa Bay is a better place to be a kid in trouble than the other.

    That's according to a report released this week grading Florida counties on how often they use juvenile diversion programs, which send low-level offenders through counseling and community service as an alternative to arrest.

    The "Stepping Up" report — conducted by a St. Petersburg think tank and supported by organizations including the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and The James Madison Institute — named Pinellas County one of the top programs in the state with a 94 percent utilization rate between January and December last year, tied for first with Miami-Dade....

    State attorney Andrew Warren says Hillsborough County has been behind the curve when it comes to civil citations for juvenile offenders. .ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times

  10. Richard Spencer speaks, and Gainesville emerges weary but at peace

    News

    GAINESVILLE — Fists raised, a sea of defiant student protesters at the University of Florida relentlessly shouted down the white nationalist on stage. Richard Spencer paced, irritated, clinging to his chance to talk.

    "Go home, Spencer," hundreds chanted over him. "We won't back down."

    Spencer tried taunts — "you all look like immature preschoolers" — and requests for reason. He tried preaching more loudly about his vision of a whites-only homeland. He tried shouting back....

    Richard Spencer answers questions during a press conference before his speech at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Florida Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.
  11. Shot, killed while fleeing: Is this a case of stand your ground?

    News

    They met after dusk in the parking lot of a bank for what seemed like a routine transaction.

    Louise Ornduff and her son, Kalaeb, were there to negotiate the sale of a 2016 Nissan Rogue with Lasupta Singletary, 18, and Jernalen Dreshaw Coleman, 17, at the Bank of America at Belcher and Belleair roads in Clearwater, according to police.

    But instead of a handover of cash for car, the meeting turned deadly....

    Lasupta Singletary, 18, is dead from a gunshot wound. The State Attorney’s Office is deciding whether to charge Louise Ornduff, who shot Singletary.
  12. Police: Woman shoots, kills teen who carjacked her son in Clearwater

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — They met after dusk in the parking lot of a bank for what seemed like a routine transaction.

    Louise Ornduff and her son Kalaeb were there to negotiate the sale of a 2016 Nissan Rogue with Lasupta Singletary, 18, and Jernalen Dreshaw Coleman, 17, at the Bank of America at Belcher and Belleair roads, according to Clearwater police.

    But instead of a handover of cash for the car, the meeting turned deadly....

    Coleman
  13. Pinellas deputy fired after investigation finds he invited woman he arrested to his home

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired a deputy Monday after an investigation found he offered to pay an 18-year-old woman he had recently arrested and her friend to come to his house while his young daughter was asleep in the home.

    Deputy Brian Britt, 45, was terminated after 17 years with the department. Gualtieri said his behavior was "a betrayal of his oath."

    "It just shows an absolute, 100 percent lack of character, lack of values, terrible decision-making," he said, "and to put your child in that type of a situation is just totally reprehensible."...

    Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired a deputy Monday after an investigation found he paid an 18-year-old woman he had recently arrested and her friend to come to his house while his young daughter was asleep in the home.
Deputy Brian Britt, 45, was terminated after 17 years with the department.
  14. Pinellas sheriff investigating deputies who hit suspect during arrest

    Public Safety

    The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into the arrest of a 25-year-old man after dash camera footage appears to show deputies beating, choking and yanking him by the hair while he lay on the pavement.

    Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Friday that the internal investigation began about two weeks ago into the May 25 incident that resulted in the arrest of Jimarez Donshay Reed outside his girlfriend's home near Pinellas Park. Pinellas-Pasco public defender Bob Dillinger brought it to the sheriff's attention through an internal affairs complaint....

    Dash cam video shows Pinellas deputies’ actions during Jimarez Donshay Reed’s arrest May 25. Watch at video.tampabay.com.
  15. Pinellas deputies arrest Largo father of 1-year-old who died in bathtub

    Crime

    LARGO — The water had risen to the edge of the tub, over the rim and onto the floor before Alan Morris remembered to check on his 13-month-old.

    Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recounted Thursday how Morris went from the bedroom to the bathroom across the hallway of the home near Largo.

    When he got there, baby Liam was floating on his back, water from the faucet pouring onto his face. He was pronounced dead that evening....

    Madelynne Barenbrugge and Alan Morris pose with their son, Liam, for a photo posted on a family member's Facebook page in August 2016. Liam drowned Sept. 28 in a bathtub. A state report said he was left alone for about five minutes.  [Facebook]