Clearwater assistant fire chief facing theft charge
An assistant chief with the Clearwater Fire & Rescue Department is accused of shoplifting a $3 energy drink from a 7-Eleven.
Ronald Gemsheim, who is the agency’s assistant chief of health and safety, is facing one count of misdemeanor retail theft.
The incident happened Monday at 7 a.m. at the 7-Eleven located at 657 Court St. in Clearwater.
Officials say Gemshiem was reporting to duty when he stopped at the convenience store. While there, police say he put a 5-Hour Energy drink worth $3.29 in his pants pocket before leaving the store.
Investigators say he was in uniform at the time of the incident.
“The video does indicate and show that he did walk out of the store with the item,” Chief Robert Weiss said. “So, from that perspective and I do want to compare that to the actual investigative report.”
Gemsheim was confronted by store personnel in the parking lot, and he returned the drink to the front counter before leaving, officials said. Store employees then contacted police.
“He put the item in his pocket and then he walked to the counter and had a discussion with one of the clerks behind the counter and from that point he did turn and walk out of the store and the manager followed him out,” Weiss said.
Investigators say Gemsheim told officers the theft was an accident and that he had forgotten to pay for the item.
This latest incident comes shortly after two Clearwater firefighters were suspended following an investigation into whether they had sex while on duty. Officials say that was the third investigation into sexual misconduct involving Clearwater firefighters since 2012.
Weiss said he doesn’t think Gemsheim’s arrest and the sexual misconduct allegations are signs of a problem with leadership.
“It’s not a problem with leadership,” he said. “It’s a problem with employees that are not following particular rules and when we as a department and as a city, we find these employees who do not follow the rules we discipline up to and including termination.”
Officials say a notice to appear is the preferred way to handle arrest in cases like these, where a defendant has no prior criminal history and is not a threat to the community. Gemsheim’s court date is set for March 22.
By Josh Rojas, Reporter