An off-duty Sarasota police officer has been placed on leave after being arrested for battery and trespassing at a local airport.
The incident happened at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport Friday evening. Pinellas County deputies say 51-year-old Derrick Gilbert refused to leave the airport and battered an airline employee as well as his son.
Deputies were called to the Allegiant Airline terminal around 6:30 p.m. after Gilbert was removed from a flight that was supposed to be heading to Greensboro, North Carolina.
When they arrived, deputies say they found Gilbert standing on the terminal ramp with his 18-year-old son and Allegiant employees. An arrest report states Gilbert’s eyes were bloodshot and he smelled like alcohol as he yelled profanities at airline employees and refused to move away from the plane.
Allegiant employees told deputies they noticed Gilbert appeared drunk on the plane. They claim he had slurred speech and glassed-over eyes and was so intoxicated he couldn’t find his seat. Flight attendants told deputies they have zero tolerance for intoxicated passengers and asked Gilbert to get off the plane after they determined he was too drunk to fly.
Employees say he refused at first but was eventually convinced to leave the plane.
As he was getting off the plane, witnesses say Gilbert pushed a 25-year-old Allegiant employee. They say he then violently pushed his son who was trying to convince him to leave peacefully. The arrest report says witnesses also saw him grab his son “by the neck in an angry manner.”
Deputies told Gilbert he had to leave the airport or he would be arrested for trespassing. According to the arrest report, Gilbert refused to leave and told deputies they couldn’t arrest him because he was a police officer with the Sarasota Police Department.
Gilbert was arrested and taken to the Pinellas County Jail. He is charged with trespassing, battery and domestic battery.
Neither the 25-year-old airline employee nor Gilbert’s son was injured. About 133 people were waiting to take off when the incident happened, according to Allegiant staff.
Shortly after his arrest, the Sarasota police department announced Gilbert would be placed on administrative leave with pay as soon as he’s released from jail. An internal investigation is also underway.
“We hold our officers to the highest standard of both professionalism on and off duty,” Chief DiPino said in a statement. “I’ve instructed our Internal Affairs Division to conduct a thorough investigation. We will diligently investigate this incident per our policies.”
A department spokeswoman says Officer Gilbert is currently assigned to the patrol division.