School guardian arrested for pawning issued gun

A former school guardian is facing charges for allegedly pawning the firearm and equipment issued to him by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. 

In an interview with Fox 13 Thursday, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called it a “sad situation.”

"What he was doing was trying to put gas in his car and food on the table,” the sheriff said.

Detectives discovered the transactions after 37-year-old Erick Russell was arrested earlier this month on charges of domestic battery and false-imprisonment. 

During the arrest, deputies learned Russell was employed as a School Guardian and was issued a Glock 17 9mm handgun with two magazines, a body armor vest, and additional items.

"They ran his name in our system, and when they ran his name as part of the domestic violence investigation, they found the pawn records, saw what the items were, and that's how the investigation began into this,” Gualtieri said.

Through the investigation, detectives discovered Russell had previously pawned the items at a shop in Clearwater on multiple occasions between July and August. Deputies say Russell later admitted to pawning the equipment due to needing gas money. 

"The firearm, he pawned it for $60, and a few days later came back and got it and payed $80 for it,” he said.

The school district employee is a former military police officer in the U.S. Army. According to Gualtieri, he served 15 years in that role, and was honorably discharged. He started working for the school district in 2014 as a substitute teacher, then a janitor and maintenance man. He was interviewed by Gualtieri for the School Guardian position in January of this year.

The sheriff insists there was never any time Russell’s work conduct was called into question.

"He never didn't show up without the equipment,” He said. “This was all during the summer when they're off. And he didn't sell it; he was just using it for a loan so that he could literally put gas in his car, and the amounts are consistent with that."

Russell faces five counts of false verification of ownership.