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Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Varn

Kathryn Varn covers public safety in north Pinellas County and news in the city of Largo. She is from the Jacksonville area and graduated from the University of Florida, where she studied journalism.

Phone: (727) 893-8913


Twitter: @kathrynvarn

  1. Clearwater firefighters rescue girl trapped between pipes

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Firefighters rescued a 14-year-old girl who whose leg was trapped between two pipes on Franklin Street on Thursday afternoon, Clearwater fire rescue said.

    The call came in at 4:25 p.m. and crews arrived four minutes later to the stack of pipes in the 1300 block of Franklin Street. It took firefighters seven minutes to free her from the pipes. She was flown via helicopter to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg with a leg injury....

    Paramedics load a 14-year-old girl onto a helicopter after she injured her leg when she was trapped between a few pipes in Clearwater.
  2. Clearwater officer fired after investigation reveals use of unnecessary force on 13-year-old (w/video)

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — When Michael Leonardo and two backup officers arrived at the youth shelter on the morning of April 2, the 13-year-old boy was still simmering from a fight.

    He'd calmed down in the time it took the Clearwater police officers to respond to reports that he was kicking walls and screaming in the shelter after a dispute with a roommate. They arrested him on a battery charge and led him outside with his hands cuffed behind his back....

    Surveillance video shows the events that led to Clearwater police Officer Michael Leonardo being fired for using excessive force while detaining a 13-year-old boy accused of battery.
  3. Investigations into botched Largo Fire Rescue training exercise leads to three suspensions


    LARGO — Three investigations into a fire department training exercise gone wrong determined that human error caused a firefighter's injury, resulting in suspensions for three employees.

    Investigations found that a string of training deficiencies and miscommunications contributed to an accident in which firefighter Nick Pluscht, 30, fell 14 feet to the ground while performing a window bailout exercise, fracturing his spine....

     Largo Fire Chief Shelby Willis.
  4. Man shot by Tarpon Springs police had troubled mental history, family says


    TARPON SPRINGS — Charlie Provenza knew it was only a matter of time.

    In the almost decade since his son, Nick Provenza, was diagnosed with bipolar and schizoaffective disorders, he had been brought into custody under the Baker Act about 25 times because his father, or mother, or a couple of times even strangers, thought he would harm himself or others.

    So when state investigators showed up at the elder Provenza's Palm Harbor home to tell him his son had been shot and killed by a police officer, he was devastated — but not surprised....

    Charlie Provenza, right, was devastated but not surprised to learn of the death of his son, Nick.
  5. Charlie Crist, Women's March Pinellas organizers rally in St. Petersburg to 'save American healthcare'


    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and organizers from Women's March Pinellas joined with about 50 people Sunday for a rally against replacing the Affordable Care Act with a healthcare plan passed late last week by House Republicans.

    Crist spent much of his speech during the "Save American Healthcare" rally at North Straub Park lambasting his colleagues who voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, calling it "the worst piece of legislation" he's seen during his years as an elected official. ...

    Jeanne Marks, 72, holds a sign at the "Save American Healthcare" rally Sunday in St. Petersburg. "I believe everything that this administration is doing ... is against what I think makes America great," she said.
  6. Pasco wildfire largely contained


    Firefighters were poised to begin the cleanup process after bringing a roughly 2,300-acre wildfire in Pasco County mostly under control Sunday.

    Officials said during an afternoon news conference the size of the blaze held all day at 2,275 acres and was 70 percent contained Sunday evening. Firefighters had managed to stop the fire in Starkey Wilderness Preserve about a mile and a half west of the Suncoast Parkway, quelling fears that it would hop the road and consume homes....

    Florida Forest Service senior ranger Milton Shuler checks the stability of a charred tree while extinguishing hot spots in a section of pine flatwoods on Sunday) in the Starkey Wilderness Preserve in Pasco County. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  7. Largo commissioner Michael Smith named St. Pete Pride grand marshal

    Local Government

    LARGO — When Michael Smith came out as gay in 2008, he was "scared to death" for how friends and family would react, he said.

    Almost a decade later, the Largo city commissioner has become an advocate for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His involvement was recognized last month when Smith, 36, was chosen as a grand marshal for the St. Pete Pride Parade this June and awarded Equality Florida's Voice for Equality Award....

    Largo commissioner Michael Smith
  8. Dunedin drive-by shootings baffle residents, detectives


    DUNEDIN — Vish Woods was doing laundry in his garage when he heard the gunshots.

    He dashed through the open door to the driveway. But by the time he made it outside, the Dunedin cul-de-sac where he lives with his mom and brother was quiet again in the waning twilight.

    Neighbors who heard the three shots emerged from their homes just in time to hear four more ring out from a street just north of them. A couple across the cul-de-sac from Woods called police....

    Vish Woods’ car sports a bullet hole in the door after it was struck during one of two recent drive-by shootings in Dunedin.
  9. Clearwater man accused of scam targeting elderly victims


    A 28-year-old handyman is accused of taking money from three elderly people for work he never completed, and Pinellas County sheriff's detectives think there may be more victims.

    Justin Kyle Crist of Clearwater faces charges of felony petty theft and grand theft from a person 65 years or older, as well as an unrelated driving without a valid license charge, the Sheriff's Office said Monday....

    Justin Crist, 28, ripped off at least three people, say detectives.
  10. Odessa wild fire mostly contained after battle with fast-growing flames


    ODESSA — Firefighters beat down a 40-acre, wind-fueled wildfire Sunday that affected traffic on State Road 54 and forced the closure of Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park.

    Authorities said the fire was 90 percent contained Sunday night.

    Motorists were warned to use caution this morning on SR 54 because of smoke lingering in the area.

    Pasco officials said the park would be open for normal operating hours today....

    Pasco County Fire Rescue crews are battling a brush fire that started Sunday morning in a wooded area north of State Road 54 and Gunn Highway. [Howard Altman | Times]
  11. Medical marijuana dispensaries on Largo commission's agenda

    Local Government

    LARGO — Commissioners will consider during Tuesday's commission meeting an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

    The proposed ordinance is in response to the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 that authorized the use of low-THC and medical marijuana, not the Constitutional amendment approved by voters in the November election.

    Development of medical marijuana dispensaries within Largo has been under a 180-day moratorium since December while city officials drafted the new rules. The proposed ordinance, which commissioners will vote on in public hearings on Tuesday and May 16, includes:...

    Largo will take up restrictions on medical marijuana on Tuesday. (AP Photo)
  12. Sheriff's Office: Deputies roll up to house party as intoxicated teen jumps off roof


    Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies said they were already called to the house in unincorporated Largo twice for complaints about a loud party.

    They issued two warnings and told the host, 20-year-old Salvador Andres Contreras, to keep it down, according to his arrest report.

    As they rolled up a third time just after 1 a.m. on April 23, an intoxicated 17-year-old boy jumped off the roof of the one-story house at 13461 Del Prado Drive S. They also saw several people drinking and smelled marijuana inside the house....

  13. About 50 march through downtown St. Petersburg in remembrance of Holocaust

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rabbi pointed to his sign to explain why he and about 50 other people marched Sunday through downtown St. Petersburg.

    "Never forget," it read.

    "This is all about never forgetting," said Rabbi Steven Weiler of Shoresh David Messianic Synagogues, "because if we remember, we won't repeat it."

    The group walked from the Florida Holocaust Museum to North Straub Park holding signs and Israeli flags as part of a worldwide remembrance of the 6 million Jewish people killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during the Holocaust. The march had three goals to keep in mind, Weiler said: never again, never forget and do not be silent....

    About 50 people walked from the Florida Holocaust Museum to North Straub Park on Sunday as part of a worldwide remembrance of the 6 million Jewish people killed during the Holocaust.
  14. Collier County evacuations lifted as brush fires continue around Florida


    Evacuation orders have been lifted in Collier County where a brush fire has been raging over the weekend along with two others in Lee and Polk counties and more than 100 across the state.

    Collier County officials said Sunday the roughly 5,500-acre fire in Golden Gate Estates is about 50 percent contained and the rest close to being secured after firefighters were aided by rain.

    "There was a lot of good work done last night, and Mother Nature gets credit for giving us a little bit of a break," said Dan Summers, director of Collier County emergency services, during a news conference....

    Firefighters were not able to save this large shed type structure during the Indian Lake Estates wildfire.  Aerial view of a wildfire in the Indian Lake Estate subdivision near Lake Wales. Dozens of firefighters battled the 700+ acre wildfire saving dozens of homes with fire approaching within feet of the houses. Fire officials evacuated the hundreds of residents in the subdivision but lifted the evacuation order at 4:00pm on Saturday.[Saturday, April 22, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  15. In Clearwater, a new paramedic unit for medical calls improves response for bigger emergencies

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — The paramedics were in the 7-Eleven parking lot for barely a minute when the first call came in Tuesday.

    Chris Johnson, heading into the convenience store, turned on his heel and got back into the driver's seat of the SUV packed with medical equipment. Within a few minutes, he and paramedic Carlos Rivera were outside a soup kitchen checking the blood sugar of a man experiencing a seizure....

    Paramedics from Clearwater Fire Rescue (in dark shirts) Chris Johnson, 36, left, and Carlos Rivera, 23, help a man who was having seizures outside the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen.