High Surf Advisory issued January 26 at 3:34AM EST expiring January 27 at 7:00AM EST in effect for: Pinellas
Newly released cellphone video shows former Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office homicide detective Tom Pettis pulling a gun on a driver during an alleged road-rage incident.
In an exclusive interview with ABC Action News, Pettis said he doesn't consider the incident road rage. He acknowledged he failed to stop with traffic, causing what he called a “minor, low-speed collision.”
“The traffic stopped and I didn't stop in time,” he said. “My fault.”
Watch the full interview tonight at 11 p.m. to hear what Pettis thinks caused harsh words to escalate into a fight on the side of Interstate Four.
The crash happened in February in Seffner.
The video shows an escalating fight and captures the panic in the voices of children whose father stopped to help break up the fight.
"Oh my God, get off him!" a teen can be heard screaming.
The video shows Pettis on his back and, at another point, pulling a gun from his ankle holster. He gets up and then immediately puts the weapon down.
"Oh my God, he has a gun tell my dad to get over here he has a gun!" the teen says.
The video is the most crucial evidence in the February incident, but eyewitness testimony conflicted. Driver Evan Rees said he felt threatened by Pettis, who claimed the same thing.
After nearly two months of review, the State Attorney's Office charged Pettis with a misdemeanor, giving him the chance to avoid jail time.
The decision is not sitting well with Rees.
"I think if it was me or anyone else there would be assault charges," said Rees.
Legal expert Jeff Swartz agreed.
"I think if you or I were out there and waived a gun we would not be charged with a misdemeanor. I think there were underlying reasons why they chose a misdemeanor," said Swartz.
The State Attorney's Office stands by the decision.
Spokesperson Mark Cox said, "Pettis absolutely did not get preferential treatment. This did not warrant a battery charge."
Pettis’ attorney Norman Canella said Pettis has been accepted in a misdemeanor program for first offenders and if he complies the charge will be dropped. His next court date in the case is May 15.