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Ashton Bardwell

Media Relations, Shield The Badges Inc

1431 E. Gary Road. Lakeland, Florida 33801




Photo Opportunity and Media Announcement


Who:   Lakeland Police Chief, Larry Giddens will be a guest at Lakeland gun store, Derringer Firearms, to announce support for the new 501©3 corporation, Shield The Badges. This new corporation was formed by store manager Ashton Bardwell, who is also the wife of a Lakeland Police officer and daughter of a Polk Sheriff’s Office deputy. 

WHAT:  Shield The Badges (Non-profit 501©3) launches fundraising program to buy an additional layer of protective body armor for Lakeland Police Officers.  These special carrier vests are designed to help protect law enforcement in active shooter situations with high caliber rifle fire.

WHEN: Friday, September 30th at 1:30 P.M.

WHERE: Derringer Firearms Inc. at 1433 E. Gary Rd. Lakeland, Florida 33801

WHY:  Recent attacks against law enforcement, around the country, resulting in deaths and severe injuries moved Mrs. Bardwell to gather information about equipment that might keep her husband and father safer while on the job. 

After recent tragedies targeting police officers in cities like Dallas and Baton Rouge, Ashton Bardwell became more concerned with the safety of her husband, a Lakeland Police Officer and her father, a Polk County Deputy. While talking on social media with friends and family, Bardwell found that many other citizens would be supportive of fundraising efforts to help keep local law enforcement safe. Because her employer had already instituted a program of giving out yard signs and bumper stickers that read "Support Law Enforcement", Bardwell was confident Derringer Firearms owners would also support the cause. Gun store owner, Dan Derringer, was quick to get on board and assisted Bardwell in forming a legal non-profit corporation through the IRS and Derringer's business CPA. 

Bardwell began researching the available options on the market. She reviewed price, quality, weight, durability, ballistic data and the preference of Chief Larry Giddens and administrative staff.  After weeks of meetings, dozens of calls, and hours online, Bardwell completed the task of putting all the pieces together and she was able to determine an initial fundraising goal of $63,000.  The selected vest will be available on display this Friday.

Gun store owner, Derringer said, "Ashton, her husband, and father are all part of our family.  Lakeland police officers are also part of our Lakeland family. This group of a brave men and women deserve this additional layer of safety equipment to help bring them home to their families daily.  Ashton’s hard work and passion for this project is something special.  Of course, we are behind her and share her concerns to keep her husband and father safe." Bardwell said that she hopes to assist other Polk law enforcement agencies after the Lakeland Police Department.

Lakeland Mental Health Counselor Arrested
Lakeland Mental Health Counselor Arrested

On September 12, 2016, the Lakeland Police Department began to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by psychotherapist, Anthony H. Conti, Jr. Conti is a licensed Mental Health Counselor at Tony Conti, M.A. Counseling Center, located at 1962 E. Edgewood Drive in Lakeland. Two victims have come forward with similar reports of improper sexual contact and “groping” by Mr. Conti during recent sessions. Conti had advised both victims that he could perform eastern medicine therapy that included intimate hands on touching.

Both victims have provided sworn statements of being inappropriately touched even after telling Conti they were not comfortable with his practices. On September 27,2016, the victims worked with undercover detectives and made contact with Conti. During this visit, the victim asked Conti about him touching her during the previous therapy session. Conti advised he does this because he is trying to restart the body and help relieve depression.

Anthony H. Conti, Jr. was placed under arrest shortly after the session and charged with:
2 counts of Psychotherapist Engaging in Sex with Client, Felony 2.

Conti was later transported to the Polk County Jail. The investigation is ongoing with the Special Victims Unit and the State Attorney's Office 10th Judicial Circuit, who assisted in the investigation.

The Lakeland Police Department believes there could be more potential victims. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to come forward and speak with a detective by calling 863.834.8977. All victim’s identities will remain confidential as protected by Florida State Law.

Wanted Suspect BRIAN BENDER Arrested

On August 22, at around 3:00 p.m., BRIAN BENDER, who was wanted for Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, Domestic Violence Aggravated Battery and Domestic Violence Simple Battery was arrested by members of our Street Crimes Unit.

Bender had fled from law enforcement officers on August 12th, and managed to get away that night. Yesterday, his luck ran out and he was was spotted in the 2400 block of Chestnut Woods Drive. Once again he fled on foot but this time he was shot with a taser which stopped him in his tracks. Bender was taken into custody and he also had a heroin on him. Tonight, he will be sleeping in the Polk County Jail.

UPDATE – Press Conference on Homicide Case

A press conference will be held at the Lakeland Police Department on August 19th at 11:00 a.m. in the 3rd floor conference room. Members of the Violent Crimes Unit will be present, along with family members of the victim Jonathan “Jay” Charles-Pierre, to speak to the media. Charles-Pierre, age 35, was shot to death inside the residence of 940 Castle way on July 25th. Please keep in mind that this is still very much an active criminal investigation and we will be limited as to what information we can release.

Crime Stoppers has authorized a reward of $8000.00 for information that leads to an arrest in this case. 

Homicide Investigation

LAKELAND, FL (July 26, 2016) – The Lakeland Police department responded to a report of a shooting at 940 Castle Way at 10:55 p.m. on Monday, July 25, 2016. Officers found Johnathan “Jay” Charles-Pierre, age 35, deceased inside the residence with a gunshot wound to the chest.

A witness at the residence reported that the suspect, a black male of unknown age, knocked on the door, pointed a handgun at him and demanded that he call the victim to the door. The victim came to the door with a handgun, but was shot by the suspect. The suspect fled the scene and continued to fire several more rounds before jumping into a vehicle with possibly two other males inside. The vehicle has been described as a green, with four doors and folded temporary attached. No one else was injured during the incident.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are on scene today with members from the State Attorney’s Office canvassing the neighborhood and interviewing witnesses. If you have any information regarding this case, please call Detective Stacey Pough at 863.834.8978 or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1.800.226.8477.

Victim:  Johnathan “Jay” Charles-Pierre

Age:  35

Address:  940 Castle Way

Media inquiries should be directed to 863.583.2357