Monday, January 14, 2008

Mom Works With Bondsmen To Have Son Arrested

John Darlington went to the county Tax Collector's Office Tuesday afternoon for the mundane task of registering a vehicle.

As he sat among the rows of lobby chairs with his mother, waiting for his number to flash, two men approached.

"John, you need to stand up," one of them told him, displaying a bail bondsman's badge. "You're under arrest."

But Darlington didn't just surrender his wrists to the handcuffs. He pushed and fought until he and the bondsmen fell to the floor. Then, according to bail bondsman David Lowman, Darlington reached into the waistband of his pants and pulled a gun.

Customers ran. Employees ducked behind their desks.

Darlington ended up handcuffed with a bloody face. New Port Richey police arrived and took him to jail.

But one person isn't pleased about the chosen setting for the confrontation.

Said Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Olson: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that this could have been a tragic circumstance. You could be reporting that somebody got shot or killed."

Darlington, 45, of Holiday, is awaiting trial on a Pinellas County grand theft charge. He was released from jail in October after his mother put up 10 percent of his $15,000 bail.

Lowman, who owns Help Bail Bonds of Clearwater, said Darlington had checked in every week like he was supposed to since his release. But recently Nell Darlington told Lowman that her son wasn't keeping his bargain with her. He had left town in her truck, and she wanted it back.

She also wanted his bail revoked.

Nell Darlington decided to lure her son back by promising to transfer title of the truck to him, Lowman said. They agreed to meet at the tax office.

So about 1 p.m. Tuesday, Lowman and his brother Donald waited outside the office on U.S. 19. Darlington arrived but walked quickly into the building.

Lowman said he had no reason to think Darlington was armed.

"We didn't have him out on a gun charge," he said.

Lowman left his own gun in the car, he said, because he knows it's illegal to carry a weapon into a government office.

Lowman said Darlington "just, like, snapped." In the melee, Lowman said, Darlington pressed the gun into Lowman's stomach and cocked it. Then, inexplicably, Darlington started telling Lowman and the officers who arrived to shoot him.

Records show Darlington has a long arrest record, including an armed robbery in 1991.

Reached last night at Darlington's home, a woman who identified herself as his mother but would not confirm her name said Darlington "didn't really threaten the bondsmen. He asked them to shoot him so he wouldn't have to shoot himself."

She said Darlington had talked about killing himself "because he's in trouble." She said she agreed to work with the bondsmen because she wants her son to get help. She declined to say much more about the situation. "Nobody understands it," she said. "I can't."

Darlington was charged with aggravated assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm and grand theft.

Police say the gun, a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun, was stolen out of Pasco County.

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