Sarasota County firefighter Aaron Key, 43, is on paid administrative leave after he was arrested on March 10 on a charge of sexual performance by a child.
According to the probable cause affidavit from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Key works at Sarasota Fire Station No. 6. According to the report, during his shifts “Key continuously attempted to arrange meetings with the victim at his place of employment. The sexual nature of the text messages were directed by Key.”
The report states Key met a 17-year-old girl at the Applebee’s restaurant on Dec. 27 and saved his personal cell phone number in her phone. Some time later the girl called Key to ask if he was “OK because he appeared intoxicated while at Applebee’s.”
From that point on the text messages between the two picked up. The report states she sent eight nude photographs to Key, and he sent her texts with sexually explicit language asking her for more photos.
On Thursday, no one answered when an Action News reporter knocked on Key’s door for comment.
A neighbor who lives a few doors down from Key said he has a son but always kept to himself.
“I saw him going in and out, but that’s all,” Kathy Tams said. “To take advantage, totally take advantage (of the victim) and there are people that worship people in uniform or supposedly the hero. That might be glamorous to 16 or 17 year old girl. That’s sad. That's sad.”
The probable cause affidavit describes sexual explicit text messages from Key to the victim starting on Dec. 29 and finally coming to an end on Jan. 16.
The last message the affidavit described was Key asking for a full body nude photo of the victim.
A short time later the victim’s mother gave sheriff's investigators access to the girl's cell phone account to investigate.
Investigators said Key knew the victim he texted was 17 because she told him, “I’m so young, 17.” That was after he said, “Please tell me you are 18.”
Fire officials would not comment on camera but Jason Bartolone with Sarasota County Media Relations department released the following statement:
"We take these types of allegations seriously, as they do not reflect the standards set by Sarasota County for its employees. As stewards of the public trust, we expect our firefighters and all county employees to act ethically, with both integrity and accountability. These alleged actions, if true, directly violate those standards and do not represent the hard work and positive impact that Sarasota County firefighters have on the community.
The firefighter is currently on paid administrative leave, pending the ongoing investigation. In the meantime, Sarasota County will be gathering facts related to this case."