Environmental Investigator Hughes was contacted by a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Manager and a Solid Waste Compliance Inspector to discuss a complaint involving ads placed online advertising clean fill materials that could be deposited on-site free of charge. An additional ad advertised the disposal of yard trash debris onsite for $20 per ton. The location of the complaint was determined to be private property in Escambia County. Investigator Hughes was informed the site location was not permitted by DEP to receive solid waste materials. During a two-week period, crew members of the commercial land clearing / tree trimming company disposed approximately 11 truckloads of yard trash debris and 3 loads of mulch from various job sites at the unpermitted facility. Investigator Hughes issued the property owner a written warning and a manager of the commercial land clearing / trimming company a notice to appear citation for disposing solid waste at an unpermitted facility.
Lieutenant Hahr was on foot patrol in the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area when he saw two men and a woman who appeared to be smoking cannabis. When he met them in the parking area, he smelled the odor of cannabis and addressed the group. One of the subjects attempted to discard a bundle of cannabis and methamphetamine. The man was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of not more than 20 grams of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Investigator Molnar observed an individual walking down the road dressed in a wet suit, carrying dive gear, a spear gun, a red drum and several gray (mangrove) snapper. Upon contacting the individual, he stated he speared the red drum and was aware it was a violation. When asked, the subject did not have any identification on him but gave a name and date of birth. Through law enforcement databases, Investigator Molnar determined the subject gave a false name and positively identified the subject. The subject was arrested and booked into Okaloosa County Jail for giving false name to law enforcement and spearing red drum. The subject, post Miranda, stated he gave a false name because he did not want a citation issued.
Investigator Molnar concluded a single vessel boating accident investigation involving property damage that occurred in March 2017. An arrest warrant was issued for the operator for BUI resulting in property damage. The subject was also issued two infraction citations for violation of U.S. Coast Guard Navigational Rules related to improper lookout and safe speed.
Officer Wilkenson and Lieutenant Clark responded to a boating accident that occurred just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Two personal watercraft (PWC) were operating just outside the East Pass. One of the operators jumped a wave and upon landing was ejected off the PWC. The other operator went to the fallen individual to check on his welfare and to provide assistance. As the operator was maneuvering the PWC to the fallen swimmer, the PWC struck the individual. One individual with injuries was transported to a local hospital in Fort Walton Beach.
Officer Wilkenson was on land patrol conducting state resource protection when he observed an individual he recognized as having a felony warrant out of Okaloosa County. The individual was charged by Investigator Hughes for felony littering related to dumping a floating structure on private land/state waters. The individual was arrested under the warrant and transported to the Okaloosa County Jail.
Officer Jarvis responded to a boat fire in the Choctawhatchee Bay near Crab Island. A 35‑foot “go-fast” boat was heading to Crab Island when smoke started coming out of the engine compartment. The operator had his two passengers put on life jackets and move to the front of the boat away from the fire. A Good Samaritan on a nearby boat saw the smoke coming from the boat and went over to help. All three passengers safely boarded the Good Samaritan’s boat away from the fire. The “go-fast” boat was quickly engulfed in flames and drifted to the shoreline about one quarter mile west of U.S. Coast Guard Station Destin. The Destin Fire Rescue boat and Niceville Fire Rescue boat worked together to fully extinguish the fire. The owner had the boat removed from the water the same day.
Officer Wilkenson received information from the U.S. Coast Guard Destin (USCG) that three intoxicated individuals were boarding a pontoon boat at Crab Island. Officer Wilkenson went by land to the USCG station and accompanied Coast Guard personnel in response to the complaint. The officers located the pontoon and conducted a boating safety inspection. During the safety inspection, the operator showed signs of impairment and agreed to perform field sobriety tasks (FST) for Officer Wilkenson. The operator showed strong indicators of impairment from FSTs performed and was arrested for BUI. The operator refused to provide a breath sample and was transported to the Okaloosa County Jail where the intake process was completed.
Lieutenant Clark contacted Environmental Investigator Hughes regarding a working barge previously used for advertisement located at the base of the Shalimar Bridge in Niceville. The working barge was described as dilapidated and grounded on private property. Officer Wilkenson and Investigator Hughes conducted a site inspection of the working barge and found the barge to be aground and partially in the water. A warrant was issued for the arrest of the barge owner for felony commercial dumping.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Captive Wildlife Investigator Nelson charged an individual for unlawful possession of a Class II serval without a permit and the unlawful importation of the serval into the state.
Officer Lewis responded to a complaint that a couple were smoking marijuana at a popular swimming area in the Blackwater State Forest. When he arrived, he spotted the couple in the parking area. After smelling the odor of cannabis, he found both to be in possession of cannabis and paraphernalia. Both were given notices to appear for the violations.
Lieutenant Hollinhead and Officer White identified multiple vessels in the Hogtown Bayou area that are in derelict condition. Information from the vessels was documented to locate the owners. Lieutenant Hollinhead located one of the owners of a vessel that is partially submerged. The owner was charged with leaving a derelict vessel on state waters. The owner received a warning previously for leaving his vessel in derelict condition upon the waters of the state and still had not removed the vessel.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Schulz was mentoring with Captive Wildlife Investigator Holmes and during an inspection, several violations were observed at a private licensed venomous reptile location. The violations included substandard materials used in a venomous reptile enclosure, no identification label on a venomous reptile enclosure and multiple enclosures with unsanitary conditions.
Environmental Investigator Terrones found a 20-yard roll-off dumpster overflowing with used truck parts and garbage abandoned on a remote back road in Jacksonville. The dumpster had no markings on it but items in the container led to a nearby property whose owner advised that he had paid an employee of a waste disposal company several hundred dollars to haul the items away. The waste company employee was doing this activity without the knowledge of his employer and GPS records from the employee’s work phone verified he was at both the location where the dumpster was picked up and where it was illegally abandoned. With Environmental Investigator Starling’s assistance, the suspect was interviewed but he invoked his rights and refused to cooperate. An arrest warrant was obtained charging the suspect with commercial littering.
While working in the early morning hours, Officer Reith observed several hunters on Newnan Lake. After several stops, Officer Reith found that one of the hunters was hunting before his allotted date. The subject was issued a citation for the violation.
Lieutenant Farmer, Investigator Bing, Officers Stanley and Johnston responded to a vessel running in circles on Newnan Lake without an operator. With the assistance of Alachua County Sheriff’s Office dive team, the deceased operator was located late Tuesday afternoon. Investigator Bing will be investigating the boating incident.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
FWC officers are working area lakes for boating and resource compliance. Officers are also working area waterways to ensure compliance of gator season regulations.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Ferguson and Officer Cooper attended the UF Criminology Class. Nineteen students viewed specialized equipment and ask questions about FWC.
Officer Humphrey was patrolling the St. Johns River when she observed a light sweeping in a manner consistent with alligator hunting. Later, from a discreet location, she observed two subjects casting large snatch hooks at an alligator. At 2:30 a.m., she checked the subjects revealing that they were hunting five days outside of their permitted harvest period. The subjects were cited accordingly.
Officer Loeffler was investigating a complaint on the illegal take of snook out of season near Melbourne Beach. The subject of the complaint was located on the beach fishing, and after a short field interview, the subject retrieved a 33 inch snook from his vehicle. The subject was cited for possession of snook out of season.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
While on patrol, Lieutenant Lightsey observed a known violator’s vehicle parked near the Indian River. As violations were observed, Officers Platt, Dubose and Kearney were alerted and arrived on scene. The man was alerted to their presence and began to throw numerous illegally harvested fish back into the water despite commands to stop. After detaining the man and observing all violations, the man was arrested for possession of snook out of season, possession of undersized black drum and failure to allow inspection by a state officer. Additional charges are being filed for destruction of evidence, violation of probation and an enhanced penalty for committing more than three resource violations within a ten-year period.
While on late night patrol, Lieutenant Lightsey stopped to provide routine assistance to an Indian River County deputy on a traffic stop. The officer observed fishing poles and a cooler inside the stopped vehicle. After the deputy concluded his stop, Lieutenant Lightsey asked the man for consent to check his cooler. After receiving permission to search the cooler, the officer found numerous types of crabs. A full resource inspection revealed the man was in possession of twelve egg-bearing blue crabs and six out of season stone crabs in whole condition. A citation was issued for the offenses and the crabs were returned to a local waterway.
Officer Marroquin was working an alligator targeted enforcement detail when he observed a pickup truck pulling an airboat leaving the boat ramp. Officer Marroquin initiated a traffic stop to address careless driving and to perform a resource inspection. The operator showed signs of impairment during standard field sobriety tasks. He was arrested for driving under the influence and transported to jail where he provided a breath sample of .162 blood alcohol content, twice the legal limit. The operator was also charged with possession of alcohol by a person under 21 and an open container.
K-9 Officer Simpson was on patrol in Lake George Management Area when he observed a truck coming out of a closed road. A traffic stop was made on the vehicle at which time one subject fled from the bed of the truck. Upon investigation, it was found that three subjects were illegally picking palmetto berries on state property. Two subjects were charged with unlawful harvest of palmetto berries and one was charged with driving without a valid license. The third subject could not be located.
Officer Bernard was on patrol when he observed a truck matching the description of a vehicle that ran through a gate in May at Dunn’s Creek State Park. Due to the vehicle still having front end damage, Officer Bernard observed two subjects occupying the vehicle. Upon investigation, it was found that both subjects were present during the time and admitted to damaging the gate. Both subjects were charged with criminal mischief of state property.
Officer Bernard was on patrol in the Ocala National Forest when he observed a vehicle with two occupants standing outside on the side of the road. Officer Bernard stopped to talk to them when he observed they had been picking palmetto berries illegally. Both subjects were charged with unlawful harvest of palmetto berries from a wildlife management area.
Lieutenant Eason was on patrol on a private landowner’s property with a known littering (possible commercial dumping) problem in Deland. He observed an older model GMC Jimmy parked past two posted no trespassing signs just off Leavitt Road. He attempted to conduct a stop and the vehicle proceeded south for approximately 200 feet before coming to a stop. Lieutenant Eason observed two white males who could not provide identification. The passenger was identified through dispatch, however the name provided by the driver did not produce any results. Ultimately, it was determined that the driver had provided a false name and had two active felony warrants for battery and grand theft. A misdemeanor warrant was also active for driving while the subjects license had been suspended/revoked. The subject was transported to jail. Additionally, the subject was charged with providing a false name to law enforcement and for criminal driving while license suspended/revoked.
SEARCH AND RESCUE
ST. JOHNS COUNTY
Officers Miller and Greenier were dispatched to a call of an individual who had called 911 several times and stated he was going to drown. The individual’s location at the time of the call was pinged and mapped. Officers Miller and Greenier responded by vessel to the area which was approximately 1.5 miles northeast of St. Augustine Inlet. County fire rescue located the vessel approximately a half mile away with no occupants on board. The officers continued to the area of the last known GPS location. Officer Greenier spotted the men waving and screaming for help, the officers approached and quickly realized the men were too exhausted to get on the patrol vessel themselves. Officer Greenier threw a life ring and began pulling one man on board and Officer Miller jumped in to assist the other man who was struggling to keep his head above water. Both men were recovered to the safety of the patrol vessel. The vessel was transported to Vilano Boat Ramp for recovery.
Officers Gonzales and Berg were on land patrol around Williams Park Boat Ramp. While on patrol, the two officers performed a boating safety and resource inspection on a vessel returning to the ramp. During the inspection, the officers found that the two subjects on the vessel had caught and kept two out of season snook. Both fish were also undersized. The men were given citations for their violations and must appear in court.
Officers Gonzales and Berg were on land patrol around Cockroach Bay Boat Ramp. While on patrol, the two officers performed a resource inspection on a vessel leaving the boat ramp. During the inspection, the two officers discovered that the captain of the vessel had caught and kept several undersized spotted seatrout. The captain was issued a citation for possession of undersized spotted seatrout and must appear in court for his violation.
Officer Price was on land patrol near a popular fishing spot when he observed several people park a vehicle and enter a construction area. Officer Price positioned himself in a concealed location and watched them enter some of the construction machinery. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) was called to assist. After the LCSO completed their investigation, they arrested the four individuals for felony trespassing in a construction area.
Officer Hardgrove was on patrol at Pineland Marina when he checked two subjects returning from a fishing trip. Both subjects were asked if they had caught anything and stated not much. Once they were informed that Officer Hardgrove planned on checking their cooler, one subject stated that they did have fish. When Officer Hardgrove checked the cooler, he located 10 seatrout, putting them two over the bag limit, and five of the seatrout were under the size limit. Neither subject had a valid fishing license. Both subjects were charged with over the bag limit and undersized trout, and were issued a notice to appear in court. Both subjects were also issued warnings for no fishing license.
Officers Gonzales and Berg were on land patrol in the South Skyway Rest Area. While on patrol, the two officers performed a resource inspection on an individual that had been cast netting fish in Tampa Bay. During the inspection, the officers found that the individual had cast netted two undersized and out of season snook, one undersized red drum, several undersized mangrove snapper and several undersized sheepshead. The subject was cited appropriately and must appear in court for his violations.
While on patrol, Officer Pettifer observed an individual fishing with a cast net under the 4th Street Bridge. Upon conducting a resource inspection, the individual stated he had only caught mullet. Officer Pettifer inspected the man’s cooler and after searching through several mullet found an undersized snook at the bottom of the cooler. The individual admitted to catching the snook with the cast net post Miranda. The individual was cited for possession of an undersized snook during a closed season and given warnings for no saltwater shoreline fishing license and illegal method of taking a snook.
While on land patrol near the Skyway Bridge, Officer Bibeau encountered two individuals and performed a resource inspection. While conducting the inspection, Officer Bibeau found a 9-inch gag grouper attached to a stringer. One of the individuals admitted to catching the gag grouper and keeping it because he was unsure what it was. The individual was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of an undersized gag grouper.
SEARCH AND RESCUES
Officer Infante received a call from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Agricultural Deputy asking for assistance with searching in a wooded neighborhood for an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. After arriving on the scene with his ATV, Officer Infante was briefed by the deputies of the situation and the last sighting. Soon after, Officer Infante found the woman lying under a tree in a wooded area a few roads over from the woman’s residence. With the help of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer, the woman was carried out of the woods to the closest cross street to wait for EMS. The woman had apparently been lying there for approximately three hours, but was okay, sustaining only a few minor cuts and scratches.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Price and Winton conducted speed enforcement in the panther protection areas of Lee County to reduce speeding and increase protection for the species. During their enforcement, the officers issued seven traffic citations and two written warnings for speed related violations. They also issued a couple of misdemeanors for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. The highest recorded speed was 88 miles per hour in the 45 miles per hour posted speed limit.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Grant was on patrol in the north jetty of Port Everglades. She observed two juveniles exit the water with spear guns and snorkeling gear. She contacted the two individuals and they were also in possession of three speared snook. The officer completed the juvenile process paperwork with charges of possession of undersized snook, possession of snook out of season and illegal method of taking snook. The juveniles were released to the custody of their parents and await contact by the Broward Juvenile Assessment Center.
While Lt. Laubenberger and Officer Grant were on patrol in Mizell – Johnson State Park, they received a radio call about a boat on the beach at the southern end of the park. They arrived on scene and observed a family of five on the beach along with their rented 21-foot vessel. One male family member was treated by EMS on scene and released. The rental company responded to the scene and was successfully able to push the boat back into the ocean.
Officer Brock responded to the City of Plantation about a report of an individual catching a large snook. Officer Brock took information from the complainant and went to a house in the area. Contact was made with an individual who produced a snook carcass and head. With information gathered, Officer Brock will file the case with the Broward State Attorney.
Lt. Brown received information that a subject was in possession of American Alligator eggs at his residence. The subject, who was already under arrest for a domestic violence charge, admitted to having the eggs during an interview. Several American Alligator eggs were located on the property inside a container. The State Attorney’s Office will be filing 17 felony counts of unlawful possession of American Alligator eggs.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Captive Wildlife Investigator Howell responded to a complaint regarding the possible illegal possession of a coyote. Upon arrival, he verified an individual was in possession of a coyote without the required license. Investigator Howell cited the individual for this violation, and issued several warnings for other violations related to the illegal possession. Captive Wildlife Investigator Alford, Environmental Investigator Booth, Officers Merizio, Moss and staff from Busch Wildlife Sanctuary assisted with this incident.
Captive Wildlife Investigator Howell responded to a complaint regarding the possible illegal possession of an artic fox. The complaint stemmed from of an image of the fox posted on social media. Investigator Howell arrived at the location and verified an individual was in possession of an artic fox without the required license, and was cited accordingly. Several warnings were issued for other violations related to the illegal possession. The fox was placed at a licensed facility. Officer Moss assisted on this incident.
Officer Spradling was on land patrol in an FWC unmarked patrol truck at the Lake Worth spillway due to numerous calls from the public regarding two subjects illegally taking snook. The complainant advised that the two subjects were catching snook during closed season and throwing them into the trunk of a car. While performing surveillance, Officer Spradling saw two male subjects running from the north side of the Lake Worth spillway towards the parking lot. One of the subjects had a large snook in hand while the other was carrying multiple fishing poles. The subject with the snook in hand jumped the fence to the parking lot from the spillway and was about to open the trunk of a vehicle when Officer Spradling pulled up in his patrol vehicle and activated his emergency lights. As Officer Spradling approached the subject, he put down the fish and stated “you got me.” Due to the snook still being alive, it was quickly measured (38”) and pictures were taken before it was released back into the water. Since snook season is closed and the legal slot limit is 28-32 inches, both subjects were issued misdemeanor citations for possession of a snook over the legal-size limit as well as possession of a snook during closed season.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officers Payne and Fretwell were conducting license and resource inspections at a popular boat ramp in Fort Pierce. While there, they observed a vessel returning to the ramp with diving equipment on board. During a resource inspection, a subject was found to be in possession of two undersized sheepshead, two live conchs and one speared Florida spiny lobster. The owner of the vessel stated that he had speared the lobster and claimed responsibility for the fish and other saltwater resource. The subject was issued a citation for the violations.
Officers Fretwell and Miano were on land patrol in the Savannas State Park Preserve. The area is well known for its palmetto berries and during the time of year when the berries are mature, individuals will illegally enter the property and pick them to be sold for profit. These individuals cause considerable damage on the property. They create new trails by destroying plant matter with machetes. They occasionally make illegal camps that create litter. While in the area on patrol, Officer Fretwell observed a parked U-Haul vehicle. The tag was checked and it returned as a stolen vehicle. The two subjects with the vehicle were detained for further investigation. The driver / operator was found to be the leasee, who had failed to return the rental and continued to use it without making the proper payments. When the vehicle was not returned on time, it was then reported as stolen. The second subject was permitted to leave. The driver was arrested for grand theft with additional charges for drug possession and drug paraphernalia.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officer Grant responded to the Dania Beach pier about an injured seagull. She arrived at the pier and took possession of the seagull from a Good Samaritan. One of the bird’s wings appeared injured. She transported it to the Wildlife Care Center in Ft. Lauderdale for treatment.
Officer Banks responded to the City of Weston due to a report of an alligator in the road. The Officer arrived on scene and discovered a 2-foot long alligator in the roadway. She captured the alligator and released it into the Everglades.
SOUTH REGION B
Officers Plussa and Johnson responded to a report of a possible abandoned vessel that had sunk and was leaking fuel into the water at the Isles of Capri area near Marco Island. Officers spoke to the subject who stated the vessel was his and he was working on a solution. Officer Plussa explained the environmental hazard, however the subject appeared very indifferent to his vessel’s threat to the environment. When the subject was asked to present his identification, a records check revealed the license was suspended and that a notice of suspension had been served one month prior. The license was seized and a citation was written for possession, display and use of a suspended license. Officer Plussa told the subject he would return for follow-up and encouraged expeditious removal. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and USCG National Response Center were notified. The subject had the vessel removed by Sea Tow, signing over the title as a salvage operation thus eliminating the hazard.
An officer received information about a possible resource violation from CBP Agents in Miami-Dade County. After conducting a fisheries inspection on a vessel coming from the Bahamas, the officer found a subject to be in possession of nine queen conchs and four undersized dolphin. The subject was charged accordingly.
An officer while patrolling boat ramps conducted a fisheries inspection on a vessel arriving at Black Point Marina in Miami-Dade County. The inspection revealed two undersized nurse sharks on board the subject’s vessel. The subject was charged accordingly.
Pilot Willman observed a vessel with an electric fishing reel inside of the East Hump MPA. Pilot Willman directed the Interceptor to the vessel in question. Once onboard, the subject admitted to deep-dropping with an electric reel in the area. The electric reel still had hooks and a weight attached, and was not properly stowed. The subject was educated on the MPA regulations and the federal violation was documented accordingly.
Investigator Hein was on state land patrol in the Islamorada area. At approximately 2300 hours, he noticed several individuals diving at night with flashlights. After some time, they got out of the water and began walking toward their truck. One of the subjects was carrying a bag full of lobster. A resource inspection was conducted and both explained they each got six lobster. Investigator Hein had the two men separate their catch. Upon closer inspection, one man was in possession of six undersized spiny lobster and the other man was in possession of four undersized spiny lobster. Both men were cited accordingly.
Officer Garcia was patrolling around mile marker 91 on Highway US1. While conducting work on his state issued laptop, Officer Garcia noticed a Be on the Lookout (BOLO) message for a Florida registered white Kia. The message instructed law enforcement to detain the vehicle and contact a Monroe County Sheriff Office (MCSO) detective. Officer Garcia observed a vehicle matching the description heading northbound on Highway US1. The vehicle’s tag matched the one on the BOLO message. Officer Garcia conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and detained the driver. Officer Baumgartner assisted in the detention of the driver. MCSO was contacted and deputies took the driver into custody. The driver was later charged with attempted murder, false imprisonment, sexual battery and battery. He was booked into jail.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officer Plussa responded to a call for service involving a bear and multiple cubs loitering in a neighborhood in North Naples. Upon arrival, an adult black bear and cubs were going through food trash from a tipped over trash can. Officer Plussa scared the cubs into the woods and deployed adverse conditioning techniques to the adult which subsequently left the area. He then spoke with the home owner about the presence of food trash outside, served her with a regulatory letter of non-compliance and advised that repeated or continued incidents could result in law enforcement action. The home owner stated she understood and knew of the regulation, but did not think “one night” would have attracted them. She removed the trash and placed it inside her closed garage accordingly.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers from Collier County participated in a weekend detail targeting resource violations and boating safety in the canals of Golden Gate Estates. During the detail, numerous boaters and fishermen were checked and numerous violations were addressed, including the removal of a discovered derelict vessel.
Officers Richards and Foell onboard FWC offshore patrol vessel Interceptor were offshore on an East Hump MPA detail with FWC Pilot Willman flying above. Over VHF 16, the Officers heard USCG Sector Key West receiving a call of a possible Cuban migrant vessel 28 miles south of Marathon. Pilot Willman quickly located the Cuban migrant vessel, which consisted of three male subjects onboard a Styrofoam raft. Officers Richards and Foell on the Interceptor were the first patrol vessel on scene. The Officers kept a perimeter while waiting for USCG and CBP to arrive. Once on scene, the three subjects were put onto the USCG vessel.