It took a jury 35 minutes on Monday, October 15 to convict a man of two felonies because two years ago he beat a disabled Army combat veteran with his own walker then robbed him in the parking lot of a St. Petersburg Walmart located at 201 34th Street North.
Harold S. Stewart, 39, of St. Petersburg, heard members of the state attorney’s office ask in court for a 40-year sentence with a minimum mandatory 30 years due to his past criminal history, according to law enforcement press release.
In addition to robbery, a 2nd degree felony, Stewart is also convicted of battery on a person 65 years of age or older, a 3rd degree felony.
Sentencing for Stewart is set for Monday, November 5 at 8:30 a.m. in Pinellas County Courtroom 7, 4th floor, at the Pinellas County Justice Center, 14250 49th Street North, Clearwater.
What Happened in 2016
At 1:04 p.m. on Friday, September 2, 2016, Jeffery Hardeman, then 66, was getting off the bus and was walking toward the store utilizing his walker when Stewart approached him, according to WFTS TV 28 Action News television video and police reports. Police said Stewart asked Hardeman for the time of day.
Next, Stewart put Hardeman into a chokehold, threw him to the ground and then began punching him, police said. Stewart “also used the walker to beat” Hardeman.
Police said Stewart then stole Hardeman’s wallet, $600 in cash that was meant for rent and other personal items. Stewart fled the scene in a blue Dodge Durango. Thanks to tips from the public and surveillance video of the vehicle leaving the parking lot, detectives arrested Stewart in Tampa on September 8, 2016.
After the incident at Walmart, several Good Samaritans in the community came forward to donate money to help Hardeman.
On the evening of September 7, 2016, one man, who identified himself only as “Tom,” left an envelope at the St. Petersburg Police Department with $600 in cash inside. A note in the envelope said, “From 1 vet to another hope this makes things better.”
Joseph M. Abolafia, a retired New York police officer, wrote a personal check to Hardeman for another $600. A third person donated $100 and an anonymous woman donated a walker.
Police presented the money and walker to Hardeman at the Mustard Seed Inn, 2510 Central Avenue, on September 8, 2016. It was also during the presentation that news of the arrest of Stewart was released.
Hardeman told WTSP Ch. 10 News on camera that evening, “It just goes to show that there are people that do care and they don’t even know you and they care.”