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St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

ST. PETERSBURG — A long-tenured St. Petersburg police sergeant and executive vice president of the local police union is being demoted to the rank of officer after he threw a bullet at another sergeant while on duty, the department said Wednesday.

James D. "JD" Lofton went to the other sergeant’s home and "engaged in a verbal dispute" about 8:30 a.m. Sept. 29, police said. He threw a bullet at the officer during the argument, according to police.

"This was perceived as a threat and possible aggravated assault since Sgt. Lofton had his department-issued firearm in plain view and accessible on his belt," the department said in a statement.

Lofton confronted the other sergeant about text messages the man had sent to Lofton’s wife, who is a detective at the department. According an internal investigation summary, Lofton said he looked at phone records and saw his wife had texted the other man 1,000 times in a month. He asked the sergeant to stop contacting her. The sergeant said they were only friends.

Lofton later told investigators he meant the bullet to be an "attention-getter."

He does not face any criminal charges. He was a leader in the department’s training division but has not held that position since the investigation started.

Lofton joined the department in December 1999, according to police, and his personnel file is full of training certificates and positive performance reviews. His brother, George, is a detective and president of the police union. George Lofton said his brother’s term on the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association’s board is up at the end of the year, and he did not run for re-election.

George Lofton further said the union will contest the ruling.

"The punishment as far as the demotion was extremely harsh and over the top, and we are going to take it to arbitration," George Lofton said.

James Lofton will have to go to anger-management therapy in addition to his demotion, which includes his removal from special units.

He declined to comment.

Also Wednesday, the department announced it suspended Officer Reginald Mitchell, an employee since 1995, after his arrest in June on a charge of soliciting a prostitute. Mitchell was caught by undercover officers, police said, after he tried to flee "at a high rate of speed."

He was suspended for 160 hours.

Contact Zachary T. Sampson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.

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