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Vertical Ventures’ co-owner sent explicit videos, messages to undercover officer, say St. Pete police

ST. PETERSBURG — The co-owner of the climbing gym Vertical Ventures was arrested Wednesday on charges that he sent sexually explicit messages and videos to who he thought was a 14-year-old girl, according to police.

It was actually an undercover St. Petersburg detective.

Christopher Brown, 41, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on 10 counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor and and one count of the unlawful use of a two-way device, according to jail records.

Brown started messaging the “teen” via an unspecified social media app last month and continued through September, according to arrest reports. He knew he was communicating with a minor, police say, and used his phone to send explicit messages and videos.

He also had “sexually explicit” conversations with who he believed was a 14-year-old girl, police say. He sent pornographic-like videos as a way of suggesting the acts he wished to engage in with the teen, police say.

Vertical Ventures is located at 116 18th St. S and has several different artificial rock walls that patrons can climb. Brown had been a co-owner at the gym since 2006, said another co-owner, Hal Thureson.

He told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that Brown is no longer associated with the gym’s management.

“Since we don’t accept or tolerate this inappropriate behavior we are parting ways with Chris Brown,” Thureson said. “We want to assure our customers and employees that we are open for business and that we do not tolerate this behavior.”

Thureson said did not believe that the allegations involved any of the gym’s staffers or members.

Brown was being held late Wednesday in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $102,000 bail. He could not be reached for comment.

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