February 5, 2016 through February 11, 2016
This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week;
however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.
Please note: The next weekly report will be sent Monday, February 22
and subsequent Mondays thereafter.
Patrol, Protect, Preserve
Officer Nelson observed an individual who appeared to be actively harvesting oysters in Alligator Harbor. Officers Stephens, Walker and Waring arrived on scene to assist. Officers Walker and Waring surveilled the individual harvesting oysters from the location and called Officer Stephens when the individual was packing up and heading towards the boat ramp. Officer Stephens conducted a boating safety and resource inspection of the vessel at the boat ramp. The other officers arrived to assist and the inspection revealed multiple violations. The individual had 3.5 bags of oysters aboard; one bag was found to contain 59% undersized oysters. Additionally, the individual did not have a marine sanitation device aboard his vessel and did not have a separate bilge area, allowing possible contaminants to contact the oysters. The individual was also unable to produce all of the necessary boating safety equipment. The appropriate citations and warnings were issued and the oysters were returned to the water alive.
While returning from an offshore patrol in the Patrol Vessel Guardian, the crew, consisting of Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Nelson, Raker and Robb, observed a vessel and its two occupants on the end of a grassy point. Guardian traveled to the rear of the island out of sight of the individuals and nosed up to the edge of the shoreline. Officers Nelson and Robb got off the vessel and travelled by foot to where they could observe the individuals and watched them picking up their duck decoys. The officers approached the individuals and found them in possession of over the bag limit of redhead ducks. The appropriate charges and warnings were issued to the individuals.
The Offshore Patrol Vessel Guardian received a call for service of a commercial fishing vessel that was disabled and had an injured occupant aboard. The vessel was reported to be approximately 50 miles southwest of Carrabelle, in heavy seas, unable to anchor and adrift. The Guardian and its crew, consisting of Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Hughes, Raker, Rice and Stephens responded to the call for service. Approximately three hours later, the Guardian came on scene to assist the disabled vessel in 7+ foot seas. They assisted with effectively getting the vessel anchored and secured, came alongside the disabled vessel and recovered the vessel captain, a crewman and a K-9. They safely transported the occupants to Apalachicola where one of the individuals later received medical treatment. The commercial vessel was recovered several days later when seas calmed.
Officers Guy and Baber responded to a landowner’s complaint regarding trespass. The landowner told the officers he heard a shot on his property and later found a seven‑point buck that had been shot. Over the next two weeks, the officers investigated the incident and identified two suspects. Both suspects were subsequently arrested for trespass. One of the suspects was also charged with possession of methamphetamine, manufacture of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officers Forehand and Burkhead responded to a complaint at Apalachee Wildlife Management Area (WMA) regarding an individual who had gotten his truck stuck on the management area. When the officers arrived, the person seemed very nervous and evasive with the officers. A records check showed the person was a convicted felon. After an interview, the suspect admitted hiding a muzzleloader in the woods prior to the officers’ arrival. At the direction of the State Attorney’s Office, the suspect was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Officer Burkhead responded to a landowner’s complaint regarding trespass. The landowner located corn and a game camera on his property. Officer Burkhead identified a suspect living at a residence along the border of the landowner’s property. The suspect admitted to trespassing and putting up the game camera. The camera was returned to the suspect and he was charged with trespass.
Officer Forehand received a call at home from a Cottondale police officer who saw a truck shine a light at a field and heard a shot come from the truck. When Officer Forehand arrived, he located a deer that had been shot in the field. Both suspects were charged with night hunting and road hunting. One of the suspects was a convicted felon and he was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. A 30‑06 rifle was seized as evidence.
Officer Jarvis began an investigation on a Derelict Vessel (DV) in the Joe’s Bayou area in Destin. Officer Jarvis identified the owner responsible for leaving the DV in state waters. The vessel owner was provided additional time to remove the DV prior to being issued a citation. The DV was not removed within the agreed timeline. The vessel’s owner was issued a derelict vessel citation.
Officers Pifer and Molnar inspected a campsite on Eglin Reservation WMA which is known to have deer hunters camping during season. The officers made contact with an individual and located some untagged deer meat at his campsite. The investigation revealed some of the untagged deer meat belonged to another individual who was warned by Officer Molnar for the exact same violation in November 2015. The individual was issued a criminal citation for possession of untagged deer meat while at camp.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
While Officers Miller and Land were patrolling Eglin WMA, they located multiple tree stands placed in close proximity to several illegal food plots. The following morning, the officers returned to the area and located two hunters exiting the woods. One of the hunters claimed to be stalk hunting even though he was wearing a harness used for hunting from a tree stand. The second hunter stated that he had been hunting from a nearby ladder stand. The hunters took the officers back to the area where they had been hunting; the same area that had the illegal food plots. After questioning, the two hunters admitted to placing bait within the management area and planting the food plots. Both hunters were issued a notice to appear for placing/hunting over bait on a management area and their Eglin Permits were seized by Range Patrol.
Officers teamed up with other FWC staff to work the Blackwater Hutton Unit Mobility Impaired Hunts over the last two weekends. As they have for the last several years, the officers helped to provide the hunters and guests with a full meal each day, assistance with cleaning their game, and assistance tracking and recovering game. Several members and groups within the community stepped up to donate money, food, and time to help make this a successful hunt. Several hunters bagged deer and all of the hunters enjoyed their hunt. Many thanks to all of the staff that volunteered their time and efforts towards making this hunt one of the best in the state!
Officers Hofheinz, Matechik, Hoelscher, and Nelson were working a night hunting detail in the Apalachicola National Forest. While working the deer decoy, they observed the same pickup pass their location and shine a spotlight towards the location of the deer decoy on different occasions. A vehicle stop was conducted on the vehicle and the occupants were found to be in possession of a loaded .308 caliber rifle and a .22 caliber rifle. They were also in possession of several spotlights which the subjects were using to shine for deer. The subjects were interviewed and admitted to looking for deer. Both subjects were charged with night hunting.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Allen and Officer Forehand were invited by the Hope School in Marianna to participate in the school’s literacy week. The officers read stories to one of the classes and conducted an alligator presentation to the entire student body.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Troiano was on patrol in the Lochloosa WMA when he observed a truck exiting the WMA with the truck bed full of freshly cut tree branches. He made contact with the driver of the vehicle who denied cutting any wood while in the WMA. Officer Troiano released the individual and back-tracked into the management area, where he was able to locate where the individual’s truck had stopped and where the individual had cut several small trees and branches. After making contact with the individual for a second time, Officer Troiano learned he had in fact cut down the trees and was selling them for profit. Appropriate charges will be filed with the state attorney.
Lieutenant Ferguson and Officer Troiano worked a resource case in the area of Watermelon Pond. They did not observe any resource violations but noticed several airboats from a local airboat club. The officers educated the club members on boating safety requirements and safe boating procedure. More than 15 people were contacted who appreciated FWC’s presence at the secluded boat ramp.
Alachua County FWC units, along with several other officers throughout the North Central Region, assisted the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office with a missing person’s search.
Officer Burnsed was following up on a case made earlier in the hunting season in which a hunter was cited for possessing untagged deer meat. A sample of the meat was sent to a DNA lab to test the sex of the deer. The results came back positive for doe deer. It is illegal to take doe deer during closed season. Charges will be filed against the hunter through the state attorney’s office for possession of illegal doe deer during the closed season.
Officer Davenport was on land patrol in Mallory Swamp WMA when he observed three males catching their hunting dogs. Officer Davenport conducted a resource inspection to determine if the subjects had their appropriate paperwork. One of the subjects stated that he was just catching dogs and he did not have a management area permit. A check through FWC License Net showed no management area permit for the subject. A check was made through Florida Crime Information Center & National Crime Information Center (FCIC/NCIC) by FWC dispatch and the subject was found to have a felony warrant out of Pasco County. The subject was arrested and transported to the Lafayette County Jail in Mayo.
Captain Rowe and Lieutenant Zamonis conducted a public speaking engagement at the most recent Cocoa Beach Power Squadron meeting in Merritt Island. There were 53 members of the Power Squadron in attendance. The topic of the discussion was boating safety, the FWC and our mission, as well as a general question and answer session.
Recently, a 45 foot long Right Whale named “Clipper” and her 10 foot long calf were seen entering the Indian River Lagoon through the Sebastian Inlet. Realizing that this was an unusual event, Sebastian Inlet State Park staff notified FWC sparking a multi-agency response that spanned almost two full days. The agencies involved were FWC (Law Enforcement and Florida Wildlife Research Institute Right Whale biologists), NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, and Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute. The multi-agency effort was focused on enforcing the mandated 500-yard safety zone around the whales as well as attempting to provide an environment with minimal acoustic noise pollution as possible. This allowed the whales the freedom to solve their dilemma on their own and they eventually moved back out of the Sebastian Inlet and were last seen moving north along the Atlantic Coast. Thanks to the rapid response and excellent teamwork of both law enforcement and biologists, the event ended on a positive note. FWC members involved were Biologists Tom Reinert, Tom Pitchford, Mary Applegate, right whale observation aircraft and crew, Lieutenants Zamonis and Lightsey, Officers Horst, Matthews, Cybula, D. Humphrey, J. Humphrey, Hadwin and Salberg.
Officer Bertolami concentrated his efforts on shoreline fishermen this week. In the New Smyrna Beach area, he checked an adult male fisherman who had 14 mangrove snapper in his possession, 13 of which were undersized. The fisherman was issued a notice to appear for the violations. At another fishing location, an adult male was stopped for a fisheries check and subsequently arrested for an outstanding arrest warrant for violating his probation on a previous Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge. He was booked into the Volusia County Jail with no bond.
Officer Fogle and Investigator Kusienski, along with an emergency response specialist from the Department of Environmental Protection responded to a complaint of dumping on state lands. The park manager of Cayo Costa State Park reported that someone had abandoned several plastic drums containing an unknown substance in the forested area at the northern end of the island park. The drums had been spotted by a local mosquito control aircraft and the information was then relayed to the manager. As a result of the criminal investigation and field testing of the drums, it was determined that a total of (20) 15-gallon drums had been stashed at that location. Eleven of the drums were full or nearly full of gasoline and nine were empty with only residual amounts of fuel left in them. It is not known when the drums were dumped in the park. There was no evidence of a spill or harm to the environment. There are no known witnesses or suspects at this time. Department of Environmental Protection is coordinating the safe removal and disposal of the drums.
Officers from throughout the Southwest Region participated in a region-wide operation which focused on inspecting wholesale and retail dealers of fresh and saltwater fish. The officers inspected more than 177 businesses, enforcing resource, license and quality control regulations in an effort to increase compliance with laws intended to prevent illegal sales of fish as well as protect the public from consuming unwholesome products. During the operation, 16 misdemeanors and 84 written warnings were issued for violations including possession of undersized stone crab claws, possession of oversized redfish and various licensing violations. Another four misdemeanors and 15 warnings were issued for various quality control violations, including selling shellfish past the terminal sale date (spoiled shellfish such as oysters and clams). Two additional cases were turned over to NOAA for commercial federal reef fish regulation violations.
SOUTH REGION A
Officers Delatorre and Albert were on patrol in the marina area of John Lloyd State Park. They observed a pelican that was in obvious distress with a hook in its mouth and a large piece of monofilament line sticking out of its mouth. Park Rangers relayed that they had tried to capture the pelican for several days without success. Officer Delatorre was able to successfully capture the pelican. The Wildlife Care Center arrived on scene and took possession of the pelican. It was brought to the animal hospital for extraction of the hook and line, recovery and eventual release back to the wild.
Officer Trawinski and Lieutenant Laubenberger participated as Honor Guard members in the honors funeral for Miramar Police Department Officer Veter. They participated at the church memorial service and the interment at a Hollywood cemetery.
Officer McLendon responded to the report of an osprey wrapped in fishing line and hanging from a power line. The local power company was contacted and the osprey was successfully lowered to the ground. The injuries sustained from the fishing line wrapped around its wing prevented the osprey from flying. Officers Greene and Arnold transported the bird to a local wildlife rehabilitation facility. The osprey was examined and is expected to make a full recovery.
Officer McLendon responded to a trespass complaint in central Hendry County. The agricultural land owner advised him that this has been an ongoing issue, even after fencing and posting the property extensively. Officer McLendon encountered two individuals that had driven well over a mile into the property to fish from a structure. They were issued citations for trespassing.
Officers Greene, Mclendon, Deweese, Arnold and Miano along with Lieutenant Steelman worked a duck hunting detail for the last weekend of waterfowl season at STA 5 (Storm Treatment Area). All hunters were checked for licenses and permits along with bag limits for waterfowl. Warnings and citations were issued for all violations.
Officer Toby observed an individual fishing around midnight at the Port Mayaca Lock on Lake Okeechobee. The individual was fishing with a cast net and placing every fish he caught inside his cooler. After conducting surveillance, Officer Toby initiated a fisheries inspection with the individual. The individual had multiple game fish inside the cooler, all taken with the cast net. The individual was issued a misdemeanor citation for taking the freshwater game fish with the cast net and a warning for fishing without a valid freshwater fishing license.
Officers Toby and Kirkland, along with Lieutenant Fillip responded to the Hungryland WMA in reference to a fatal traffic crash. The traffic crash investigation was turned over to the Florida Highway Patrol. FWC Officers assisted in the initial investigation and securing of the scene.
Officer Carroll was on patrol at the Palm City Boat Ramp when he witnessed an individual walking away from the fishing pier with a bucket and cast net. The individual placed the bucket and cast net in the trunk of a vehicle and then entered the vehicle. Officer Carrol approached the vehicle, identified himself and asked the occupant if he had caught any fish, to which the individual replied that he had not. Officer Carroll asked the occupant if he would open the trunk so that he could inspect the bucket and net that he had placed there. The man agreed, but hesitated to exit the vehicle and began looking around the interior of the vehicle and reaching around into the back seat area. Officer Carroll asked the individual what he was looking for and he would not reply. Fearing the man may be looking for a weapon, Officer Carroll ordered the man to exit the vehicle. Once out of the vehicle, the man opened the trunk of the vehicle. Immediately, Officer Carroll was able to identify two snook sticking out of the bucket from under the cast net. Officer Carroll asked the man to remove the cast net from the bucket and place the bucket on the ground. The man then picked up the bucket, ran toward the water and dumped the snook into the water. Officer Carroll advised the man that he was under arrest. The suspect began to walk away and refused to comply with the officer’s commands. Officer Carroll displayed his agency issued Taser and explained to the man that he would be tased if he did not comply. Fearing the prospect of being tased, the man began to comply with the officer’s commands and was taken into custody. The man was transported to the Martin County Jail and booked on several charges including possession of snook, out of season, possession of over the bag limit of snook, taking snook by illegal method, resisting arrest without violence and interfering with an FWC inspection.
Officer Kirkland was dispatched to the Hobe Sound Beach in reference to a report of someone injuring a bird. Upon arrival, she made contact with an animal control officer on scene. The officer relayed information. The bird was a banded royal tern and Officer Kirkland could see the elbow joint of the wing was clearly broken. A witness told her that he had been walking on the beach when he saw a fisherman cast out and the tern go after his bait. The fisherman purposely hit the bird with his fishing pole. Officer Kirkland interviewed the suspect who was not very cooperative; he only told her that the bird flew into his line. Due to the extent of the bird’s injuries she did not believe the wing had been broken due to fishing line. Based on the information from the witness and evidence that was gathered at the scene, the subject was charged for injuring the bird. The tern was then transported to a local wildlife hospital, was evaluated and ultimately had to be humanly euthanized due to its injuries.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Vacin and Matthews responded from Broward County and Officer Spanier responded from Palm Beach County in patrol vessels to 300 yards off the beach in Boca Raton. There were reports of a right whale in the vicinity. Officers Matthews and Vacin arrived on scene, followed shortly by Officer Spanier who also had an FWC biologist onboard. They found a 30-foot long right whale swimming in patterns not consistent with normal behavior for a right whale. The vessels maintained a boating exclusion zone around the mammal. Biologists from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) were on scene documenting the whale’s movements by airplane. The officers left the scene when all vessels left the surrounding area and all biological studies were complete. They will stay alert and respond to any other sighting of this possibly sick right whale.
Several officers responded to a search and rescue call on the Loxahatchee River in Palm Beach County. Two individuals had become lost while kayaking on the river and FWC officers along with deputies from the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office responded. The individuals were located and transported back to the headwaters at Riverbend Park.
Officers Church and Spanier attended a public outreach event hosted by the Juno Beach Police Department. The officers talked to the attendees about both state and federal fisheries and wildlife laws as well as the core missions of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The officers also brought with them a law enforcement patrol vessel for display.
Officers Haynes and Stone were patrolling an STA in Palm Beach County when they saw two subjects fishing. Despite the area being closed on this day, they were also trespassing in a clearly posted area. The area that they were in is never open for the public to fish and was an active construction site. They both received citations for trespassing and entering the area on a closed day. One of the subjects is on federal probation for turtle egg poaching and had a long history of fisheries violations.
St. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Irwin and Investigator Turner responded to a boat crash late Friday night, when it was reported that an approximately 100-foot vessel had struck the South Bridge Causeway in Fort Pierce. Upon their arrival, United States Coast Guard was observed to be on scene. The vessel, which was reported to be at anchor approximately ¼ mile away, had broken its mooring and had drifted due to strong currents and heavy winds. The vessel caused considerable damage to the catwalk on the north side of the bridge, collapsing several concrete sections into the water along with aluminum railings and lighting fixtures. No fishermen were in the area at the time and no injuries were reported. Approximately five hours after the incident occurred, three large tug boats were able to safely remove the vessel from the bridge. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
SOUTH REGION B
While on land patrol, Officers Eaton and Reith performed resource inspections and license checks within the Big Cypress WMA. The officers stopped to check three individuals and found that one of them had an arrest warrant from Franklin County. The individual was placed into custody and booked into the Collier County jail.
Officers Despian, Kleis and Lugg responded to a call of a missing swimmer in the area of Camp Lulu in the Ten Thousand Islands. Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies, officers with the National Park Service, and fire rescue from multiple agencies also responded to assist. After a short search, the missing person was located unharmed. Emergency medical services evaluated and cleared the swimmer and he was able to return to the rest of his group.
Officer Wilkins and Garrison responded to a call of a hit and run boating accident in Sister’s Creek near Marathon. The striking vessel was last seen headed towards Boot Key Harbor nearby. As officers were entering Boot Key Harbor they saw a vessel matching the description of the striking vessel. By the time officers were able to come alongside the vessel, it had docked. Officers quickly noticed that the operator appeared to be intoxicated and began their investigation. The vessel operator’s speech was slowed, slurred and he was stumbling over his words. He stated that he was in Sister’s Creek and that people were accusing him of damaging other boats. Officer Wilkins performed Field Sobriety Tasks and from the results of the tasks, the individual was placed under arrest. While Officer Wilkins was placing handcuffs on the individual, the operator pulled his arm away from Officer Wilkins in an attempt to grab his cell phone so he could “film.” The operator was then transported to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Intox Room. The results of the breath test which was administered 2.5 hours after initial contact was 0.150 and 0.153. The individual was transported to the jail in Marathon. While the individual was inside the jail, he complained to the staff that he was having chest pains. The jail called for EMS and the individual was transported to the hospital. The doctors at the hospital admitted him into the hospital so he could be observed overnight. Due to the hospital admitting him overnight, the jail would no longer accept him. He was issued NTA for BUI over.08, leaving the scene of an accident, resisting arrest without violence and issued a citation for a boating violation.
Officers Pestka, LaRosa and Pino were dispatched to a group of paddle boarders that were in distress offshore of Islamorada. The three paddle boarders were swept out to sea and were unable to paddle back due to the currents and strong winds. The weather conditions were rough, the winds were blowing from the north at 25 to 30 mph and the waves were pushing 3 to 4 feet. After a brief search, the officers managed to locate the paddle boarders, bring them on board their patrol vessel and safely bring them back to shore uninjured.
Officer Steinmetz responded to an overdue vessel call in the early morning hours out of Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo. The vessel had been overdue since 9 p.m. that evening. Officer Steinmetz contacted the wife of the operator and was advised that there were two males in their 70s on the vessel. They were to leave from Oceanside of Ocean Reef Club and head towards Card Sound. Officer Steinmetz began to search for the overdue vessel from where they left the dock to Card Sound. The seas were extremely rough and temps were in the 50s. As Officer Steinmetz was searching the Angelfish Creek area he saw a dim light way up in the mangroves. When the owner of that vessel saw the patrol vessel he shot two flares in his direction. Officer Steinmetz found the entry path of the vessel where it entered the mangroves. The vessel, a 32-foot, 2013 Boston Whaler had gone approximately 150 feet up into the mangroves. Officer Steinmetz secured his patrol vessel and walked through the mangroves to assist the occupants out safely and back to the FWC vessel. Both subjects are in their 70s and were a little shaken up but were uninjured. Officer Steinmetz then took them back to their residence at Ocean Reef Club and to their awaiting family members. The vessel was left in the mangroves until morning for commercial salvage to pull the vessel free. USCG also responded to assist with the search and rescue.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Dube was the guest host on the Weekly “Friday Night Radio Show” with Captain Kelly at Whale Harbor Marina in Islamorada. Officer Dube was asked about the FWC’s “Python Challenge,” crocodiles in the Keys and the FWC workshops on possible changes to mutton snapper and hogfish. Officer Dube also touched on some of the great cases that FWC Officers have made recently along with some of the rescues officers have made due to the high winds during these past few weeks.
Officer Veloz was the FWC guest spokesman in a round table format on the “Pescando La Florida” weekly radio show with Captain Leston on NPR Hispanic radio. The round table consisted of Captain Leston, two Miami-Dade commissioners, Officer Veloz and the Mayor of Miami. Topics discussed were the python challenge and their increase in numbers, manatee zones and changes in their status, Boating Under the Influence, and the upcoming Miami Boat Show.