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Hillsborough Fire Chief wants a state law banning gang members in fire departments

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jan 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 18:22:31-05

ABC Action news I-Team was first to report that a Hillsborough County Firefighter was fired, after officials say he violated several policies including the county's anti gang directive.

Hillsborough's fire chief is now hoping a new state law he once pushed for can gain new traction.

Following our investigations in 2016, Hillsborough's Fire Chief Dennis Jones pushed for legislation to prevent gang members from being firefighters.


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"Unfortunately it didn't gain traction as it moved forward", says Jones.

Chief Jones and other fire chiefs worked with the state's fire marshal to get a new law.  

Now after having to fire one of his own under the county's anti gang policy, he hopes legislators try again.

Chief Jones says, "I would believe if more fire chiefs had to deal with the things that I've been dealing with, and a few fire chiefs have, it might pick up traction. But at this time it has not gained the interest throughout the state to become a Florida statute. I believe it should be."

Former firefighter Clint Walker was just fired after county investigators determined he interfered with a criminal investigation by withholding evidence to a biker gang shooting.

That evidence was the victims Outlaw Motorcycle Club vest. Walker denies the accusations.

While he was an Outlaw for a couple years, he says he quit around the time the county passed the gang policy.

In our previous interview Walker tells us, "Yes I was loyal to him as a friend, but that does not show loyalty to a club, it does not show affiliation with the club and it does not show membership of a club."

The report goes on to state Walker "exhibited an unwavering act of loyalty" to then Outlaws Chapter President James Costa, the victim who was shot.

Jones says, "It's reasonable to conclude there's still some affiliation."

Chief Jones points out Walker has a history of encounters with law enforcement, including a Key West bar brawl where Walker was caught on video throwing punches with other Outlaws during a bar fight.

Jones adds, "And I think what we see with Mr. Walker is a pattern of behavior. Multiple engagements with law enforcement and it brings embarrassment to the county and erodes public trust. So that's my biggest concern."

The victim that night, then Outlaws Chapter President James Costa, was a Hillsborough firefighter during our first investigation.

Walker says it was something supervisors knew for many years and it only became an issue when Chief Jones joined the department.

Walker says, "For roughly 13 years Jim was an Outlaw and a firefighter. And the fire chiefs, the assistant chiefs, the deputy chiefs, everyone knew about it, it was never a problem. So when I became a member of the Outlaws we didn't foresee that being an issue. Because it hadn't been an issue for years."

We asked Chief Jones if he has more Outlaws or members of other gangs in his department.

Reporter to Chief Jones:  "Do you have a bigger problem here or do you feel it's solved?"
Chief Jones:  "I... I could not even comment on that."

Walker tells us he plans on appealing and fighting his termination as much as he can.


Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning Investigative Reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team. See more of his work here

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