PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy who sent “creepy” texts to vulnerable women he met while on the job has been fired, according to the sheriff’s office.
Brian Overton became the subject of two internal investigations after he was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to women who had given him their numbers for law enforcement purposes, the agency said.
One woman gave Overton her number while he was investigating her father’s death. She said he would send her texts about the investigation, then his correspondence became more personal and sexual in nature.
“Deputy Overton engaged in regular text message conversations with the complainant for days after the investigation, which was not related to his official duties,” the sheriff’s office said.
Overton was issued a written reprimand in August.
In February, Overton responded to a child abuse complaint and got the complainant’s number to inform her of the outcome of the investigation. Deputies say he used a fake number app that lets people generate an alternate number, so they can keep their real phone number hidden, and sent the woman a series of texts, in which he commented on her looks and told her he had a vasectomy.
The woman told investigators the texts were “unprofessional, creepy, and scary,” and she felt sexually harassed, the sheriff’s office said.
“The text messages were not related to the call for service nor were they in the performance of lawful duties,” the agency added.
Overton later admitted the texts were inappropriate, unethical and did not serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose. He was terminated from his job on Monday, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Anyone in a helping profession, they really have a responsibility to work with people in a voulnerable state, understand people are in a vulnerable state and not to take advantage of that situation. It further traumatizes someone already going through a traumatic event,” said Esq. Lucas Fleming, a Criminal Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg.
Esq. Fleming said he’s seen similar cases in the past. “When a person in trust takes advantage of the situation for their own gain, it’s sad,” he said.
As for this incident, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called it “reprehensible”.
“Deputy Overton’s conduct was reprehensible and instead of honoring his oath to help others he tried to take advantage of women in vulnerable situations for self-serving sexual gratification,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “Overton’s conduct is inconsistent with how a deputy sheriff should conduct himself and he has forfeited the privilege of being a law enforcement officer.”
Eight On Your Side called Overton to get his side of the story. A man answered and said ‘hello’ but as soon as we stated who we were and who we were looking for, the phone hung up.
Moments later 8 On Your Side received this statement from Brian Overton that reads:
I am not here to make excuses. Through intensive counseling, use of critical incident stress management resources, and my faith, I have come to know and reckon with how my conduct impacted others. In texting with Mrs. [redacted] and, before that, by calling and texting with Mrs. [redacted], I was looking for affirmation. I understand that these women were strangers who I was supposed to protect and serve. At the time, I was just thinking about me. I did not think about how my conduct would impact them. I know now that I made them feel uncomfortable, and that I likely changed the way that they view and rely on law enforcement. For that, I offer my deepest apologies and sincerest regrets.Brian Overton, Former Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy
“I think that speaks to his family’s background, his family comes from that background where they accept responsibility,” said Esq. Fleming.
According to Fleming, Overton comes from a prominent family in the legal world with his father a former Pinellas County Judge, and his grandfather, a former Florida Supreme Court Justice.