Law Enforcement Weekly Report February 3 through February 9, 2017
Detectives with Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office went to a suspect’s residence to serve a drug arrest warrant and when they arrived, they found the suspect cleaning a spike buck in his yard. Lieutenant Allen and Officers Guy and Hayes responded to assist. They measured the deer’s antlers at five inches. One count of possession of a deer with less than two points on one side was direct filed against the suspect.
Officer Allgood checked a fisherman as he returned to Sherman’s Cove and discovered the man was in possession of red snapper fillets. Red snapper season is currently closed and it is a violation to clean the fish before it is landed. The individual was issued a notice to appear citation for the violations.
Lieutenant Allen and Officer Guy received a call from a local landowner stating that he had witnessed two suspects illegally hunting on his property. While the officers were en route, the landowner called back stating the suspects had gone and he provided their vehicle description. The officers canvased the area and located the vehicle pulling into a residence. One of the suspects was in the vehicle and initially denied that he had been hunting that morning. After further questioning, the suspect admitted to hunting and dropping the second suspect off at his residence. Officers Burkhead and Little responded to assist with the investigation and went to the second suspect’s residence, where they saw a whitetail doe carcass in the yard. A records check showed that this suspect was a convicted felon. This suspect admitted to being on the landowner’s property but denied having a gun. Upon further investigation and interviews, the suspect admitted that he did have a gun and also admitted to hiding three guns in a wooded area behind his residence prior to the officers arriving. Armed trespass charges were direct filed against both suspects. One of the suspects was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of an antlerless deer during the closed season.
While patrolling federal waters, Officer Morales conducted an inspection on a recreational vessel near the K Tower. During the initial safety inspection, blood and scales were noticed throughout the boat. Crew members said that there were only grunts on board, but during a resource inspection, one of the coolers on board contained six gag grouper, ten red snapper, and one gray triggerfish. Two of the red snapper and five of the gag group were undersized. The owner of the vessel took responsibility for the illegal catch and was charged with harvesting gag grouper and red snapper out of season.
Officer Bartlett was on land patrolling the Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and saw a truck stopped in the middle of Little Silver Road. When he approached the truck, the individuals got into the vehicle and continued down the road. They had discarded litter on the side of the road and a traffic stop was initiated to address the violation. After making contact with the driver of the vehicle, it was discovered that he was in possession of a firearm. The driver was a convicted felon and the firearm was seized as evidence. The individual was issued a citation for littering. A charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon was filed with the state attorney’s office. Officers Pifer and Rockwell also assisted with the investigation of this incident.
Officer Corbin was patrolling the Eglin WMA and saw an individual returning to his vehicle from hunting in the Toms Creek Unit area. The hunter was wearing camouflage clothing, a hunter orange vest, and a camouflage backpack while carrying a muzzle loader. The individual produced an expired muzzle loader permit and after gaining consent to inspect the hunter’s backpack, a prescription pill bottle containing a controlled substance and cannabis were discovered. The prescription pill bottle/controlled substance label was prescribed to another individual. The hunter was arrested and transported to the Okaloosa County Jail. The hunter was charged with a felony for possession of controlled substance without a prescription, possession of cannabis less than 20 grams, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officer Corbin was on land patrol conducting state fisheries/license inspections on the Shalimar Bridge and saw an individual fishing. When he asked the individual for his fishing license, the individual stated another fisherman had his license and gave his name and date of birth. During the process of confirming the validity of the fishing license with dispatch, the individual provided a valid fishing license. The name and date of birth matched what was provided to him, but it was later confirmed that the individual provided a false name and date of birth and presented someone else’s fishing license. The individual was arrested and transported to the Okaloosa County Jail, charged with providing a false name to a law enforcement officer.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hutchinson received information about a hunter who used a high-powered rifle to shoot a deer while hunting the Escambia River WMA during muzzle loading season. While driving towards the boat ramp where the subject’s vehicle was parked, he saw the subject’s vehicle travelling towards him. As the vehicle passed by, he observed a whitetail deer lying in the boat that was being towed by the subject’s vehicle. During a subsequent traffic stop, the subject claimed he shot the deer with a muzzle loader rifle. Officer Hutchinson discovered that he was in possession of only a muzzle loader, but after further questioning and inspection of the deer, the subject admitted to shooting the deer with a high-powered rifle. The subject called a friend to bring him a muzzle loader after he shot the deer. Once the friend arrived at his location, they swapped guns and the subject took possession of the muzzle loader and gave his friend the high-powered rifle to take back with him. Officer Hutchinson issued the subject a notice to appear citation for the violation of illegal method of taking game. The firearm and the deer were seized as evidence.
Officers Hutchinson and Arnette were informed by Lieutenant Golloher and Officer Tolbert about a vehicle that was travelling along several back roads while shining a spotlight into the fields and into tree lines. The officers drove to the area where the subject was seen and Officer Hutchinson saw the vehicle parked at a field while shining a spotlight into the field in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. He conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and discovered a loaded a 12‑gauge shotgun in the front seat. While conducting a search of the vehicle, he also discovered an open container of alcoholic beverage in the front console. The subject was issued a notice to appear citation for possession of a firearm while shining a light in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. He was also issued a citation for possession of an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. The firearm was seized as evidence.
While working a night-hunting detail, officers observed a truck driving in a suspicious manner. The driver was shining a light in specific areas where deer are often seen. Officer Hutchinson approached the truck and watched him shining a light into a field. He stopped the vehicle and discovered a loaded, 12‑gauge shotgun in the front seat as well as an open beer in the front console. The man was issued a notice to appear for night hunting and a traffic citation for possession of an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.
Lieutenant Hollinhead, Officers Letcher, White, Maltais, and Reserve Officer Hahr worked a detail on Eglin WMA targeting complaints of hunting in closed areas and driving in prohibited areas. The detail resulted in 86 hunters checked and citations issued for license violations and driving around gates into areas prohibited to vehicle traffic. Eglin Security Forces personnel issued suspensions from Eglin property for the violations.
Officer Brooks was conducting fishery inspections at Choctawhatchee Bay and Highway 331 when he observed two undersized red drum in a bucket near the edge of the water. He later determined the fish belonged to a subject that was fishing nearby and cited him for the violation.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
FWC officers teamed up with staff from the Division of Hunting and Game Management to assist with the Blackwater Hutton Unit Mobility Impaired Hunts. Working with several volunteers including family and friends of FWC staff, as well as retired officers, they provided lunch each day for the hunters and their guests. Several local businesses donated everything from food and drinks to hunting equipment for prizes to be given away. The hunters had an enjoyable time in the field and were very appreciative of the time and effort put into the events.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Stanley and Troiano saw two individuals fishing in Paynes Prairie State Park on Prairie Creek. Both individuals had entered the park illegally and one was in possession of alcohol. The officers asked for fishing licenses and one was unable to produce any valid license. The officers also saw a cast net that was wet and dirty as if it had been recently used. The officers escorted both individuals back to their vehicle where they found 15 bream inside the cast net box. None of the bream had hook marks and they all had misplaced scales. One of the individuals admitted to catching all the bream in the cast net. Citations were issued for taking game fish by illegal method and no valid fishing license. Warnings were issued for the state park violations.
Officer Stanley saw two individuals fishing on Orange Lake and when they returned to the boat ramp, he checked their catch and asked to see their fishing licenses. One of the individuals said he left his at the house. Dispatch reported his license had been suspended and that he was on the “Do not sell” list. Officer Stanley issued a citation for fishing with a suspended license.
Officer Johnston was working from a concealed location in the late evening hours when he overheard the distinct sound of glass being shattered as well as two individuals talking in the darkness. The sounds came from a local church and he quickly responded, believing a burglary was in progress. Upon arrival, Officer Johnston observed shattered glass all over the highway near the church and noticed two individuals walking away from him. One subject was carrying what appeared to be a scoped rifle and the other was carrying a screw driver and hammer wrapped in a towel. Both subjects complied with verbal commands and were detained in handcuffs. Post Miranda warnings, both subjects admitted to burglarizing a vehicle and church earlier in the night. The rifle was later determined to be a scoped wooden stock pellet rifle. The subjects admitted to stealing the pellet rifle and ammunition from the toolbox of a pickup truck after entering a completely fenced in private property to get to the truck. After burglarizing the vehicle, the subjects admitted to burglarizing the dining hall of the church where they stole glass bottles and smashed them on the highway. Both subjects also admitted to bringing the hammer and screw driver from home so they could break into cars. The victims in this case were located by Officer Johnston the following day and provided written statements stating the wish to prosecute. Both locations have been burglarized in the past and no suspects were ever located. Charges are being filed on the two juveniles for burglary of a conveyance, trespass, burglary of a structure, three counts of petit theft and possession of burglary tools.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Lieutenant Ferguson, Officers Troiano, Stanley, Reith and Harris worked the Watermelon Pond WEA area to help maintain compliance. With several warm days, fishing and boating activity had increased. Several citations and warnings were issued for resource, license and boating violations.
GILCHRIST AND OTHER COUNTIES
During an arrest made by FWC Officer Wiggins in July 2016 in reference to a subject illegally taking alligators, a multi-state investigation including Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia was initiated. Florida investigators obtained search warrants on several social media accounts and learned that the subject was hunting in three states (Florida, Georgia and Ohio) without required hunting licenses. After a six-month investigation, it was determined the subject had illegally killed 19 whitetail deer, several turkeys and a bobcat in Browns County, Ohio, during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 hunting seasons. Seven other subjects (five from Florida) were also identified during the investigation as illegally hunting in Ohio. All five subjects will be charged in Ohio for multiple violations including license violations, night hunting, road hunting, exceeding bag limits, illegal methods, antlerless deer violations, protected species and aiding and abetting a known violator. Twelve whitetail deer antlers, a turkey beard and spurs were seized and shipped back to Ohio by DNR Investigator Joel Buddelmeyer as evidence for prosecution. Georgia and Florida violations are still pending.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
FWC officers and K-9 Officer Wiggins assisted state park officials at Paynes Prairie with the annual star gazing event. The expected turnout was expected to be more than 1,500 for a night out viewing the stars and listening to a band. Due to weather conditions, they had fewer than 1,500 but there were several food vendors, a fire and lots of hot chocolate to help pass the night.
Recently, patrols were conducted on the St. Johns and Merritt Island Wildlife refuges in coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officers. Lieutenant Bonds, Officers Hadwin, Lejarzar, Eller, K-9 Officer North and USFWS Officers Whaley, Amoroso and Brierley all contributed through the use of marked and unmarked vehicles and kayaks, plain clothes and uniformed officers, with special help from K-9 Max. These cooperative efforts resulted in 14 citations and 32 written warnings for charges including trespassing on federal property, racing in areas closed to the public, hog hunting, no valid hunting license, no hunter safety class, insufficient PFD, use of alcohol while hunting, possession of a center-fire rifle, driving on closed roads, no self-issued hunter card, possession of lead shot while hunting waterfowl, over the 25 shell per person refuge limit and fishing in a closed area. These charges resulted in the seizure of more than 200 rounds of ammunition.
Officer Rice responded to a call of someone possibly shooting an American Robin with a BB gun. Upon arrival, Officer Rice observed several dead birds that had apparent gunshot wounds. Officer Rice located individuals outside a residence nearby and questioned them about the dead birds. One of the individuals admitted to shooting a pellet gun earlier in the day and stated that he was shooting at birds. Officer Rice inspected the property of the subject and located a total of 25 dead birds. There were 23 American Robins and two Great Tailed Grackles. Post Miranda, the subject admitted to killing all 25 birds and showed the officer the gun that he used. The pellet gun was seized as evidence as well as all of the birds. The subject was issued a notice to appear for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and willful or wanton waste of wildlife.
Officer Teal was on patrol during the youth waterfowl season when he saw six individuals waterfowl hunting for 20 minutes before making contact. During a resource inspection, one of the adult hunters was found to have an unplugged shotgun. Other violations among the supervising adults were no hunting license, no state waterfowl permit, no migratory bird permit and no federal duck stamps. Appropriate citations were issued.
Officer Malicoat was on water patrol in New Smyrna Beach areas known to hold oysters and other shellfish, but closed to harvesting oysters and shellfish due to water quality issues. She located an adult male harvesting oysters from his boat along the shoreline. He was issued the criminal notice to appear citation for this violation.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Public Information Officer (PIO) Weber and Officer Morrow attended a career day event at Treadway Elementary in Leesburg. The officers brought the wildlife exhibit trailer and spoke with the students about FWC and the importance of not feeding wildlife.
Officers Morrow, Scrambling and PIO Weber participated in a reading program at a couple of elementary schools in Lake County. They each read a story from a book to a classroom of students and also educated them about the FWC and conservation.
PIO Weber, Officer McGuire and Reserve Officer Baugh attended the annual Birdapalooza event at Magnolia Park in Orange County. The event focused on Florida’s native wildlife and birding trails. The officers interacted with approximately 750 people.
PIO Weber and Officer McGuire attended the Touch a Truck event hosted by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Sanford, near Lake Monroe. The officers spoke with children about the importance of Florida’s wildlife and displayed an alligator for the children to learn about.
Officer Hardgrove was on patrol at the Punta Rassa Boat Ramp when a boat with a group of fishermen arrived at the dock. A resource inspection was conducted and an undersized amberjack was discovered. The operator was issued a citation.
While on patrol at the Punta Rassa Boat Ramp, Officer Hardgrove conducted three fisheries inspections on vessels returning to the dock. During these inspections, Officer Hardgrove discovered two undersized spotted seatrout, an out-of-season gray triggerfish, three undersized sheepshead and an undersized mangrove snapper. All three operators were issued a citation for the violations.
While on water patrol, Officers Berg and Gaudion stopped a commercial vessel with nets deployed to conduct a commercial fisheries inspection. During the inspection, the officers found multiple infractions and charged the defendants with a total of nine misdemeanors.
While on water patrol in the area of City Island, Officers Ridgeway, Brown and Hughes noticed an individual collecting marine life in Sarasota Bay not far from the Ken Thompson Boat Ramp. During a resource inspection, they found that the subject was in possession of numerous sea urchins and had well over the five living organisms per person limit for marine life. The subject was given a criminal citation and will have to appear in court.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officer Price assisted members of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in a manatee rescue at Manatee Park. The manatee, which was unable to submerge for extended periods of time, was captured and taken to Lowery Park Zoo to be cared for and rehabilitated.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Stasko, Birchfield and Morrison worked a directed patrol in several different locations throughout the county, focusing on Slow Speed Manatee Zone violations. Over two dozen vessels were observed in violation and operators were warned and cited accordingly.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Price and Lieutenant Ruggiero participated in a fishing demo at Manatee Elementary in Fort Myers. The officers taught kids to tie knots, cast polls, and throw a cast net. Multiple bass were caught by the kids, and there was a guest appearance from a small alligator. The officers wrapped up the day by having lunch with the students in the cafeteria.
SOUTH A REGION
Lieutenant Laubenberger and Officer Ryan responded to a call about a large African Spurred Tortoise that was walking in traffic, causing a public safety hazard. The tortoise was recovered and placed at a facility pending further investigation. Captive Wildlife Investigator Corteguera was able to determine the owner of the facility from which the tortoise escaped. When he inspected the facility, the tortoise was returned and a misdemeanor citation was issued for the escape of a non-native species. Investigator Teems, Officer Delatorre and Officer Banks assisted with the investigation.
Captive Wildlife Investigator Corteguera received a complaint regarding a social media post that offered a free raccoon to a good home. The subject was identified before the raccoon could be re-homed, and the investigation revealed that the raccoon was taken from the wild as an infant and was being kept as a personal pet. The subject received a citation for the possession, and three warnings for other captive wildlife violations relating to the raccoon. The raccoon was then taken to a rehabilitation facility. Officers Ryan and Sadilek also assisted with the investigation.
Officers Toby and Alford responded to a call at the Fisheating Creek Campground in reference to a campsite that had been left with a large amount of litter on the ground. An investigation revealed that the subject who rented the site had been warned twice about camp violations by the general manager before checking out and still left an abundance of garbage behind. The investigation is ongoing.
While conducting fisheries inspections, Officer Morrow made contact with a subject as he was returning to his vehicle from the beach. Prior to inspecting the subject’s cooler, Officer Morrow asked the subject how many fish he had, to which he replied “ten.” An inspection of the cooler revealed that the subject was over the recreational bag limit of ten. The subject then advised that he had evidently miscounted. A dispatch inquiry revealed that the subject had no prior violations. The subject was then issued a written warning.
Investigator LaFoy and Officer Allen were on land patrol at the S65D Lock on the Kissimmee River and saw two subjects actively fishing in an area clearly posted “No Trespassing.” After making contact with the subjects, a records check was obtained from the dispatch center which revealed that one of the subjects had a previous trespass warning for the same location. The other subject did not have a valid freshwater fishing license. Investigator LaFoy issued the appropriate citations which will require a court appearance.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officers Fretwell, Arnold and Investigator Turner conducted a fisheries inspection on a vessel approximately one half mile offshore, on the St. Lucie/Indian River County line. Four individuals were actively fishing and explained that they were keeping their own harvested fish in separate coolers. When the individual coolers were inspected, the group was found to be in possession of one undersized sheepshead, two undersized mutton snapper, six undersized black sea bass and twenty-one lane snapper over their forty-snapper limit. The subjects were issued citations appropriate to their individual violations.
Officers Fretwell, Arnold and Investigator Turner conducted an inspection of a commercial fishing vessel. They observed a single occupant, the operator of the vessel, picking fish out of a cast net. In the rear of the vessel, there were approximately six more cast nets that were all full of Spanish mackerel. When asked how many nets he was using, the subject stated that he had fished ten nets in all and was now picking them. The subject was advised that only two nets could be fished from a vessel at any one time. The subject was shown in statue and on the commercial fishing handout where it states that only two cast nets can be fished at one time and was issued a citation for the violation.
Investigator Patterson conducted a fisheries inspection on a subject in the vicinity of Orange Avenue and Knight Road in Fort Pierce. During the inspection, a records check revealed the subject had an active arrest warrant in St. Lucie County. After confirmation of the warrant, Investigator Patterson transported and processed the subject into the St. Lucie County Jail.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Hankinson and Godward patrolled the area of the Lake Worth Inlet focusing on diving safety and marine species violations. Numerous vessels and divers were checked for compliance. The officers found several violations and addressed them accordingly.
St. LUCIE COUNTY
Investigators Patterson, Turner, Officers Fretwell and Arnold participated in a Targeted Enforcement Action Detail. The objective was to inspect, enforce, and educate permitted establishments in St. Lucie County that handle seafood for public consumption, pertaining to seafood quality control and accompanying Florida Administrative Codes. During the detail, three misdemeanor citations were issued, and three warnings were given for seafood quality control violations.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Cobo and Morrow attended the annual Police Night Out, hosted by the Juno Beach Police Department. While at the event, officers answered questions from the public and displayed equipment utilized by the FWC Division of Law Enforcement.
SOUTH B REGION
In response to Stan’s Mullet Fest 2017, Officer Lugg put together a boating safety and BUI detail in the areas of Goodland Bay and Coon Key. Officers Arbogast and Kleis, as well as Collier County Sheriff’s Officers Darren and Cornelius participated in the detail. A total of 12 vessels were stopped, 6 Uniform Boating Citations were issued and 13 warnings were given.
Officer Kleis and Investigator White were on water patrol on the Marco River where they stopped a vessel to complete a boating resource and safety inspection. During the inspection, they observed signs of impairment from the operator. The operator consented to complete field sobriety tasks where he exhibited sufficient behavior to indicate impairment and was subsequently arrested. Officer Johnson met the Officers on land and transported the subject to the Naples Jail Center, where he refused to provide a breath alcohol sample.
While working at night near Port of the Islands and overlooking an area managed by the South Florida Water Management District, Officers Arbogast and Kleis conducted surveillance from a concealed location. The officers observed multiple individuals trespassing on Water Management structures, as well as fishing with rod and reels. Also, one individual was throwing a cast net. After watching the subjects for approximately 30 minutes, it appeared that the group was about to leave. Officers made contact with the group to address the trespass violation and to conduct a resource inspection. The inspection revealed multiple buckets of legal fish and an undersized redfish that was hidden in the bed of a pickup truck. One individual claimed responsibility for the fish and was issued a notice to appear for possession of the undersized redfish and was cited for fishing without a license. The other members of the group were issued appropriate citations and warnings for trespassing on Water Management structures.
Officers in Miami-Dade County worked an operation targeting boating safety and BUI in the waters of Biscayne Bay. During the operation, FWC Officers checked approximately 300 users and cited 7 misdemeanors, 37 UBCs (uniform boating citations) and 32 written warnings.
Officers were on water patrol on the southwest side of Monument Island in Miami-Dade County and noticed a 23-foot boat with three individuals on board. The vessel had fishing rods and tackle laying on the deck of the boat slightly hidden from view, instead of in rod holders. Finding this suspicious, the officers stopped the vessel to check safety equipment and conduct a saltwater resource inspection. The vessel was found in compliance with all required safety gear and after inspecting the fish in the ice chest, the officers asked if there was any other fish on board and the vessel operator stated the “only fish they have are in the ice chest.” The officers then asked permission to search the vessel and were granted permission by the vessel owner/operator. While searching inside the cabin, the officers found a small, hidden compartment under the seat cushions in the bow and tucked inside was a plastic grocery bag containing 4 undersized mutton snappers, 3 undersized yellowtail snapper and 1 undersized hogfish. The owner/operator claimed possession of the undersized fish and was charged with a total of 4 misdemeanors.
Several officers from the Upper Keys responded to a residential area in Islamorada where bail bondsmen were trying to take a bail skipper into custody. The subject was working with a tree service when the bondsmen approached, and he took off on foot into a heavily wooded area nearby. Officers assisted in the K-9 track through the woods on an expanded perimeter with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and checking the surrounding shoreline by water. After an hour of searching, the track was called off. The subject was taken into custody a short time later in the same general area of the original call. Besides the Miami Dade traffic warrants, the subject also had warrants for multiple counts of uttering forged instrument, several counts for grand theft 3rd degree and violation of probation.
Officer Baumgartner and USCG Islamorada teamed on a special detail to target several live-aboard basins in the Upper Keys. While conducting a safety inspection on a sailboat, Officer Baumgartner ran the registered owner’s information through the database as well as dispatch. The registered owner came back with three warrants for failure to pay the fines associated with several uniform boating citations. The individual was taken into custody and booked into the Monroe County Jail.
Officer Johnson responded to a Marine Emergency Response Team (MERT) call in response to a capsized vessel occupied by two adults and three children approximately seven miles west of Gordon’s Pass. Once on scene, Collier County Sheriff’s deputies, Marco Island Fire Department and Tow Boat US recovered the occupants from a Good Samaritan vessel and returned the vessel to a nearby boat ramp.