ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA — Goliath Davis was on the RSVP list of VIPs who said they would attend the Jan. 28 funeral of St. Petersburg police Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger and canine Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz.
His own administrative calendar says that on that day, at 11 a.m., Davis, a top city administrator and former police chief, attended the funeral at First Baptist Church on Gandy Boulevard.
But Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem on Monday spent much of his morning show on WHPT-FM (the Bone 102.5) lambasting Davis because he did not go to the officers’ funeral — yet he did attend Saturday’s funeral for their killer, Hydra Lacy Jr.
“I have very, very good high-ranking sources in law enforcement who validated that he didn’t attend (the officers’) memorial service,” Clem said. “You are the former police chief. You probably had interaction with the officers who were shot. How can you not go?”
Davis, who was police chief from 1997 to 2001, did not dispute speculation that he did not attend the officers’ funeral.
In a story in the St. Petersburg Times Sunday about Lacy’s funeral, Davis explained he attended Lacy’s funeral to support the Lacy family, which includes Hydra’s brother and boxing standout Jeff Lacy — who himself did not attend.
The story added that Davis “also attended the funeral for the slain officers,” but Davis said he did not tell the reporter that.
“I never told (the reporter) that I attended the funeral,” Davis said Monday. “I said I paid my respects to the officers and their family members.”
But did he attend the officers’ funeral?
“I wasn’t inside the funeral to sit with city staff,” Davis said.
Was he outside, where most of the 10,000 attendees gathered to watch the service on monitors?
“I paid my respects to those officers and their families,” Davis said, who repeated that line when asked again if he attended the funeral. Asked how he paid his respects, Davis said: “It doesn’t matter how. (The families of the slain officers) know how. It’s not something I want to publicize. I don’t have to give an accounting of my grief to anyone.”
When asked why he wouldn’t answer whether he attended the funeral, Davis replied: “I don’t need to answer to Bubba the Love Sponge.”
It is difficult to prove Davis — who makes $152,735 as the city’s senior administrator of community enrichment and another $68,317 a year from his police pension — did not attend.
His immediate boss, City Administrator Tish Elston, didn’t return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment about his possible absence or whether she asked him not to attend.
Mayor Bill Foster didn’t return repeated calls seeking comment.
Many city officials who did attend said they couldn’t place Davis at the officers’ funeral.
Police Chief Chuck Harmon responded to the question through an e-mail from his police spokesman. Harmon confirmed that Davis attended the wake for the officers the evening before the funeral, but that Harmon “did not see him at the funeral, so he does not know if he was there or not.”
Besides Harmon, eight officials who attended the funeral and were in the same VIP section that Davis said he’d be at during the ceremony were asked if Davis attended. None of them — state Rep. Darryl Rouson, assistant Fire Chief Steve Knight, Chief Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn, and St. Petersburg City Council members Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner, Bill Dudley, Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse — could place Davis at the funeral.
“Is it a big deal he’s not there?” Dudley said. “I think so. We had police from all over the country attend. He’s the former police chief, and he’s not there? It’s just curious. And he did attend Lacy’s funeral? Well, then, that’s kind of weird.”
Everyone grieves differently, Curran said, and Davis shouldn’t be faulted if he didn’t attend the funeral, especially if he attended the viewing.
“He went to the (Lacy) funeral to support a friend,” Curran said. “From what I know, he and Jeff Lacy are good friends. This has been such a difficult time. It’s a shame it’s gotten to this point. There’s more to be said for all of this then who went to the funeral and who didn’t, and who went to the Lacy funeral and who didn’t. It’s ridiculous.”
Questions raised Monday by Clem should be dismissed, Rouson said, because, among other reasons, “Bubba the Love Sponge is a bumbling idiot.”
Others said that regardless of his attendance at the Jan. 28 funeral, Davis erred by attending Lacy’s funeral.
“I believe attending the cop killer’s funeral is a slap in the face to the fallen officers and their families,” said St. Petersburg Detective Mark Marland, president of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association. “I don’t want anyone to think we’re holding the Lacy family responsible. They’re not responsible for the actions of one individual. But the fact of the matter is, it’s the Lacy funeral.”
Marland said the officers he spoke with didn’t see the former chief at the funeral, either.
“Guys are upset about it,” Marland said. “I haven’t heard from anyone (who saw him at the officers’ memorial). I asked around when the Lacy issue came up. But I can’t get anyone to say if they saw him there.”
Davis had a fractious relationship with the unions during his tenure as police chief, and was the subject of several union lawsuits questioning his decisions.
Clem said he didn’t plan to drop the issue.
“I don’t care if (Davis) was a pallbearer at the (officers’) funeral,” Clem said. “When you go to a funeral, you are paying respects to that human being. This (expletive) is the last person you need to pay respects to. You couldn’t be more disrespectful by attending his funeral. I’m going to make it my mission to expose (Davis) as a fraud.”