Target 8: VA brass sends cop to snatch signs promoting suicide awareness

Keith Hansford, a veteran and former Bay Pines police officer speaks to News Channel 8.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) -A police officer with the Department of Veterans Affairs at Bay Pines snatched a sign calling attention to the veteran suicide epidemic sweeping America.

Keith Hansford, a veteran and former Bay Pines police officer speaks with News Channel 8’s Steve Andrews.

Why would he do it?

The sign was not sanctioned by the department and it was on federal property. It had to go.

Three signs promoting a September 11 rally raising awareness about veterans’ suicides were put up in front of the facility by Keith Hansford, a veteran and former Bay Pines police officer.

Hansford suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and is one of many veterans who struggles with suicidal thoughts.

Approximately 20 veterans take their lives each day, according to the government. Others say that number is higher.

When some of the signs he put up disappeared, Mr. Hansford planted a third sign in front of the facility on Tuesday.  He watched with a camera and what happens next was captured on video.

“Out comes a Bay Pines police officer, puts his lights on, walks over and put it in his car and drives off,” said Mr. Hansford.

Hansford called a V.A. dispatcher and asked if police took the signs.

“Then she comes back and said, no, none of our officers have,” he said.

“The signs were removed because again they’re identified on federal property,” explained the department’s public affairs officer at Bay Pines.

According to Mr. Dangle, V.A. engineers and attorneys were consulted before the signs were ordered removed.

Were they really on federal property? A Pinellas County property appraiser map clearly shows the department’s land stops before reaching the area in which Mr. Hansford placed his signs.

For Mr. Hansford this is all extremely personal.  “For awhile when my wife went to work she made me promise her not to kill myself while she was gone,” he explained. “And I would always tell her not today. That was the best I could do, day by day.”

The Florida Department of Transportation is researching who owns what.

At this point, it believes the property from which those signs were lifted is a state-owned right of way.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. You can also contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Follow Steve Andrews on Facebook

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