Recognition for One of USF’s Finest

Officer-of-the-Year Winner Corporal Manny Lowe, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (center) with First Runner-up USF Police Detective Greg Givens (right) and Second Runner-up Plant City Police Detective Robert McLellan (left).         

Photos: Courtesy of WFTS-TV

USF Police Detective Greg Givens is honored by ABC Action News’ Taking Action Against Domestic Violence project.

By Barbara Melendez

     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (May 27, 2014) – No one should have to face the terror of becoming the obsession of a stalker – but that is exactly what happened to a USF graduate student. She was also victimized by being turned into the accused based on that stalker’s lies.

Fortunately, USF Police Department action protected her from an escalating series of threats. One detective in particular has won recognition from local television station WFTS in connection with this case.

The young woman in question initially reported a man she formerly dated to police for making harassing phone calls and Facebook posts. She alleges that he also went as far as to Photoshop her face onto a nude photo and then distributed copies throughout her place of employment. Then came death threats in emails. But that wasn’t bad enough.

The stalker made fraudulent accusations about her and was able to secure three Baker Act pick-up orders that resulted in her almost being institutionalized for mental illness on two occasions. The third order was dismissed when authorities connected the details about his claims to the stalking case.

Most chilling however, is that in the course of investigating the case, the police found duct tape and heavy duty knives in the stalker’s car.

But for the diligence of USF‘s Police Department, one can only imagine how far the situation might have gone. Because they were steadfast in their police work to both protect the young woman and finally apprehend the suspect, the efforts of Detective Greg Givens are being singled out for recognition.

Nominated by USF Police Department Capt. Meg Ross for WFTS-TV ABC Action News’ Taking Action Against Domestic Violence Officer of the Year Award, Givens became a finalist and was named first runner-up for the award last Tuesday. Corporal Manuel Lowe of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office was the winner and Plant City Police Detective Robert McLellan was named second runner-up.

Relentless Pursuit

“Det. Givens’ relentless pursuit of the suspect in this case and efforts to provide safety and security to the victim made a powerful difference,” said Ross. “If not for his actions and others at the USF Police Department, the result of this case would not have been so positive. Det. Givens continues to pursue this investigation to ensure the safety of the victim.”

Ross also mentioned the actions of Detective Kevin Boyd, Sgt. Christine Bennett, Ofc. Rick DeLiguori, Lt. Donna Rodgers, Lt. Mary King, Ofc. Rob Owens and Ofc. Steve Fisco in her recommendation.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge this was a team effort and that we are always working for everyone’s safety,” Ross said. “The safety of our community is our top priority, whether we are conducting traffic enforcement at crosswalks, or investigating domestic violence incidents, all of our efforts are to ensure the safety of our community members.”

For his part, Givens said, “I am honored and humbled to represent my agency and all those who helped in the prosecution of this case.” He will be honored at the annual Our Heroes Luncheon Wednesday along with Officer David Pluskota who was named Officer of the Year. This event, sponsored by Sykes® Enterprises, acknowledges outstanding troopers, firefighters, paramedics and officers in Hillsborough County, the city of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City as well as the USF Police Department.

The victim’s lawyer, Dina Sheridan, a former 6th Judicial Circuit prosecutor, expressed her appreciation for how they handled the case, in what she described as “a scary situation” in a letter to then USF Police Chief Thomas Longo.

“Your detectives provided a level of service and protection that goes above and beyond what their call of duty was,” she wrote and observed, regarding her client, that they “were unwavering in their commitment to help her and set the situation right.”

Sheridan was able to obtain a 50-year injunction of protection for her client. However, the stalker violated a previous injunction while the victim was pursuing justice in court. According to police, the stalker left a note on the victim’s car during a hearing which he was supposed to attend but did not.

What ultimately stands between domestic violence victims and their victimizers is strong law enforcement – especially when there is cooperation between the victims and the police. That was the case from the beginning at USF. The victim’s reports established a pattern and they were taken seriously.

She has had to move from her home and is still looking over her shoulder but the young woman can take some comfort in the knowledge that USF’s Police Department is doing all it can to protect her.

Standing Between Victim and Abuser

The USF Police Department suggests that anyone who feels threatened by the actions of an acquaintance or a stranger should make reports to the police. The same goes for concerned family members and friends who see something amiss. There’s no way of knowing whether such actions are the beginning of what can grow into something worse or not.

And there’s always the possibility that such actions are not a perpetrator’s first. Police say the suspect in this case has two felony domestic violence related charges against him from Arizona involving the mother of his child.

Recalling how the career stalker, who changed his name at least four times, played a clever cat-and-mouse game with those protecting the victim, Givens said, “No victim is safe if the stalker knows where you are,” emphasizing the importance of hiding one’s whereabouts. He recommends making immediate contact with USF’s Office of Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention at (813) 974-5756 if there’s even a hint of violent behavior – before it’s too late.

“Domestic violence is a cycle and people get stuck in it,” he said. “In a truly violent situation, you need to take it seriously because it is deadly serious.”

USF Police Detective Greg Givens (right) with (l-r) "Positively Tampa Bay" Reporter Lisette Campos; WFTS VP and Station Manager Rich Pegram; Action News Anchor Wendy Ryan; Officer-of-the-Year Second Runner-up Plant City Police Detective Robert McLellan; Winner Corporal Manny Lowe, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office; Kristin Moore, producer of the annual documentary "Taking Action Against Domestic Violence," and News Anchors Linda Hurtado and Jamison Uhler.

ABC Action News conducts a year-round campaign against domestic violence and has broadcast special reports and programs that are archived online. WFTS, part of the Scripps TV Group, was the sole television station in the country to receive the National Association of Broadcasters’ prestigious Service to Community Award for its work in this arena. According to the station’s website, “Since the launch of the campaign five years ago, the Florida Coalition Against DV has reported a 77% increase in calls to the DV hotline during the six weeks of the 2009 – 2012 Taking Action Against Domestic Violence campaigns.”

The statewide Domestic Violence Hotline number for Florida is 1-800-500-1119.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563