ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Two armed security guards who were spotted outside an early voting site in St. Petersburg on Wednesday told deputies they were hired by the Trump campaign, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. But the Trump campaign says that’s not true.
So who are the guards? And who hired them?
“We found out that they are security people from a company called Syotos,” Sheriff Gualtieri said Thursday.
The sheriff says despite the statement the guards made at the scene, there’s no evidence they’re connected to the Trump campaign.
“The only thing I can do is refer you to the company itself out of Crestview,” the sheriff said.
8 On Your Side Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi spoke with Trei McMullen – a veteran who owns the security company. He claims the incident was taken out of context and told us, “we do not have any employees engaging in poll watching.”
According to McMullen, only the female guard works for his company. He says she was off-duty and picking up a relative – the male security officer – when she stopped to have a chat.
“We had an off-duty employee who was picking up a family member who happened to be in the vicinity of a polling location. The employee saw someone they knew near the polling location and had a short conversation,” McMullen said in a statement. “Again, this employee was off duty and was in no way engaging in poll watching.”
McMullen told us he couldn’t answer any questions about the male officer since he’s not an employee.
Sheriff Gualtieri says neither guard did anything illegal because they were more than 150 feet away from the polling place.
But St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman disagreed with the sheriff saying it wasn’t voter coercion or intimidation.
“I can’t say I agree with him on that. There’s zero reason for anyone to be armed – openly-armed – out in front of a polling place,” Kriseman said. “I can’t think of any justification for that.”
LATEST FROM YOUR LOCAL ELECTION HEADQUARTERS:
- ‘A fear factor’: 100 poll workers needed for August primary, Polk election supervisor says
- Florida vote-by-mail opens registration for August primary
- County commission opponents feud over campaign signs in Holmes Beach
- ‘There’s a lot to do’: Redistricting delays concern Polk supervisor of elections
- Election results: Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz projected to win another term