Fla. firefighter fired over accusations of ties to motorcycle gang
Clinton Walker says he was unfairly targeted by an investigation that he says was one-sided
By Samantha Putterman
The Bradenton Herald
TAMPA BAY, Fla. — A Bradenton man was fired from his Hillsborough County fire medic job after an investigation found he refused to hand over evidence related to a motorcycle gang shooting, and that he had “loyalty” to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, a prominent biker gang.
But Clinton Neal Walker, 33, says he was unfairly targeted by an investigation that he says was one-sided.
Walker, who was fired Tuesday, worked for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue as a medic and says he was an Outlaw for a couple of years. The group is considered a criminal gang among law enforcement and one of the most dominant biker gangs in Florida.
At the end of the county’s report, the investigator says that while he could “not conclude definitively” that Walker had continued his involvement with the biker gang, he “continues to show loyalty to the OMC.”
The incident that sparked the report occurred on July 25.
James Costa, a former Hillsborough fire captain and president of the local Outlaws chapter, was shot while riding his bike down U.S. Highway 41 in south Hillsborough near the Manatee County line. Walker and Costa remained close even after Walker says he left the Outlaws group in October 2016 as they bonded while working together, according to Walker.
First responder Jason Vasquez called Walker at his home. Vasquez told him about the shooting and Walker rushed to Blake Medical Center to wait for the rescue unit.
In the report, it says that Walker jumped into the ambulance without permission and put on his uniform to “gain unauthorized access and utilized his position as a uniformed firefighter for personal reasons or gain.”
But Walker says that’s not what happened.
“I asked an officer if I could put on the uniform and help out and I got permission,” he said. “It was just a fire department T-shirt and I threw it on to show solidarity and that brotherhood that you share when you work together in the department. I just wanted to be there for Jimmy. Firefighters do this all the time, and no one had an issue.”
Walker says he was allowed to walk in with them in the back entrance but wasn’t trying to get unauthorized access because he could have walked around the building and go in as a visitor.
While in the emergency room, Walker says Costa, who was awake and responsive, asked him to hold onto his belongings, which included an Outlaws vest, until his wife arrived.
Walker says he obliged and put it in his truck and admitted in the interview that Outlaws items are not to be handled by outsiders, a fact that investigators say help show he is still affiliated with the gang. In response, Walker says he was acting as a friend, taking Costa’s property for safekeeping until he could give it to his wife.
That’s where the report states that Walker refused to hand over crime scene evidence to a sheriff’s deputy who told him she needed to confiscate the vest.
Walker says he didn’t refuse but redirected the deputy, saying he didn’t feel he had liberty to give out Costa’s belongings but that if she asked him and Costa gave permission, he would hand it over.
According to the report, Walker was “hindering” the deputy and interfered with the collection of evidence and that a sheriff’s supervisor had to step in and made an agreement with Costa to take pictures of the vest.
But according to Walker, the situation is being overstated.
“If I had interfered with an attempted murder investigation wouldn’t I have been arrested or charged with something? There was no problem.”
He is the first Hillsborough County employee to be investigated under the county’s anti-gang policy, which Walker says was implemented after he left the group.
“Just because I wanted to see him (Costa) in the hospital doesn’t mean I’m still associated with the club, it just means I wanted to see him on a personal level to make sure he was OK,” Walker said.
The report noted Walker’s previous disciplinary history which includes:
A 10-day suspension without pay after officers say he got in a bar fight in Key West in September 2016 during which a video showed him with a group of Outlaws. The incident occurred before the county’s gang policy was put into effect. He was on paid leave while Hillsborough County officials investigated the fight before he served an unpaid suspension. The criminal investigation is still ongoing.
Walker was also arrested in May 2016 for a downtown St. Petersburg brawl involving a city police officer. But the battery on a law enforcement officer charge against him was dropped after surveillance video revealed he was kicked by the officer and shot with a stun gun. That officer, Ruben DeJesus, retired four months later.
This past November, an incident occurred at the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office. Walker was getting a license when he grew irate and started arguing with the receptionist, according to a sheriff’s deputy, and refused to leave after being asked several times.
Copyright 2018 The Bradenton Herald