Officer Clark received information that an individual posted a picture of himself on a social media website holding an alligator snapping turtle at his residence. After speaking to the individual, he found that two other individuals had also been in possession of the turtle. One of the individuals caught the turtle and then brought it home to take pictures. The turtle was reportedly taken back to the spot where it was first located and released. The individual was cited for possessing and transporting a species of special concern. The other two individuals were given warnings and educated on the laws concerning that species.
Officer Pettey received an internet complaint that showed an individual in possession of what appeared to be an oversized redfish. The individual was located and found to be in possession of a 38‑inch redfish. A citation was issued for the violation.
Officers Pettey and Allgood responded to a trespass complaint that occurred on a hunting club in the Walnut Hill area. Earlier in the week, several trail camera photographs of an individual walking through the club holding a gun were provided. The officers located the subject walking in the area near the club, interviewed him and when he was shown some of the photographs, he admitted to trespass while hunting on the property. A criminal history check revealed the subject is a convicted felon and is not allowed to possess firearms. A warrant was obtained the next day for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Officer Allgood received information that some fishermen were harvesting over the bag limit of sheepshead at the Fort Pickens fishing pier. When he arrived on the scene, there were three men with several buckets and a cooler filled with sheepshead. The fishermen were in possession of 59 sheepshead and given notice to appear citations for over the bag limit.
While off duty, Lieutenant Clark saw a vehicle pulling a trailer full of waste tires on Highway 98 in Gulf Breeze. He contacted Officer Allgood and advised him that there was no placard or permit displayed on the side of the vehicle as required. Officer Allgood saw the vehicle approaching his location and confirmed the vehicle was not displaying a placard and conducted a traffic stop. The driver confirmed he did not have a permit to haul waste tires and was issued a notice to appear for transporting waste tires without a permit.
Officer Matechik was on patrol in the Cash Creek area when he saw a subject in a vessel working a net. He could see a large pile of net in the vessel and approximately 200 pounds of mullet in the vessel. When asked how many nets he had, he responded that there were four nets on board and two of the nets were tied together. The subject said the nets would probably be more than 500 square feet. Due to the nets being wadded up, they were seized for further investigation. Officer Richardson responded to assist and they were able to stretch the nets out at the Carrabelle field office. The first nets that were tied together measured 4,096 square feet. The second net measured 1,260 square feet. Charges are being filed against the subject.
Officer Matechik was on patrol on St. George Island when he saw a vessel and a subject working a net. When he got closer, he saw that it was the same subject he cited the week before for oversized nets. During his inspection, the subject told Officer Matechik that there were nets tied together and told him where they were tied together. In all, there were four nets tied together and another net in the vessel. The subject had approximately 100 pounds of mullet on board along with miscellaneous fish. Officer Richardson responded to assist and the officers seized the nets and transported them to the Carrabelle field office to better inspect them. The total square feet of the first nets tied together was 4,619. The second net in the vessel measured 342 square feet. Charges are being filed on the same subject for multiple net and fishery violations.
Officer Pifer conducted an Individual Fishing Quota inspection (IFQ) of a federally permitted commercial fishing vessel which had landed the night before and was offloading the next morning. Upon arrival, the vessel was already in the process of offloading its catch. An inspection of the fish inside the wholesale dealer’s truck revealed three undersized red snapper and one undersized vermillion snapper. Since the majority of the catch had already been offloaded, A thorough inspection of the vessel’s catch was conducted at the dealer as it was being sorted and packaged for resale. With help from Officer Corbin, a total of five undersized red snapper and fourteen vermilion snapper were found. Officer Pifer returned to the commercial vessel and obtained a sworn written statement stating that the fish were harvested from federal waters. The captain was issued a federal citation for the violation and all information was forwarded to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This was the captain’s third IFQ violation within a six‑month period.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hutchinson was patrolling the Blackwater State Forest when he saw a vehicle driving carelessly, almost striking his patrol vehicle. After stopping the vehicle, he discovered that the passenger had a warrant for his arrest from Santa Rosa County. The subject was placed under arrest and transported to the Santa Rosa County Jail. The driver of the vehicle was issued a written warning for careless operation.
Officer Lewis was on forest patrol in Blackwater River State Forest when he detected the odor of cannabis emanating from a tent. He heard people inside the tent and asked them to come outside and speak with him. One of the men admitted to smoking a cannabis cigarette and consented to a search of the tent. Drug paraphernalia and a baggie that appeared to contain methamphetamine were located. A field test of the substance in the baggie was positive for methamphetamine. The man was arrested for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of cannabis not more than 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was transported to the Santa Rosa County Jail and the drugs and paraphernalia were seized as evidence.
Officer Lewis saw a vehicle swerving all over the roadway and stopped the vehicle. He detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the vehicle and on the driver’s breath. During field sobriety tasks, the driver showed obvious signs of impairment. The driver was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and transported to the Santa Rosa County Jail where he blew a .163, more than twice the legal limit. The subject was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or above.
Officer Lewis was on patrol at the Webb Landing campsite in the Escambia River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when he saw a man and woman camping. As the man was taking items out of his vehicle, a box commonly used to store drug paraphernalia was in plain sight. He asked the man about the box and the man admitted that there were pipes he used to smoke weed in the box. The man consented to a search of the vehicle and three pipes with cannabis residue were found in the box. He also found another box that contained a glass pipe and a small baggie of methamphetamine. Officer Jernigan arrived to assist. The officers located a large water bong used for smoking cannabis. The subject was arrested for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia and for an outstanding warrant out of Pinellas County.
Officer Bartlett was on land patrol at a local marina in Freeport inspecting vessels for titling requirements. An owner of a 28‑foot Bayliner cabin vessel failed to transfer the vessel’s title into his name within 30 days. The new owner was given a written warning. More than a month later, the officer followed up and confirmed the owner had still neglected to transfer the title to his name. The owner was issued a notice to appear citation.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Bartlett and J. Rockwell attended an outreach event at Crestview High School. The officers talked about the core missions and what it takes to become an FWC officer. The officers displayed a patrol vessel and, with the upcoming boating season right around the corner, relayed the importance of boating safety. There were a total of 72 students in attendance for the event.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
The Resource Protection Service Squad coordinated with uniform patrol to conduct a targeted enforcement detail focusing on blue crab commercial fisheries. Violations were found for gear and trap requirements, quality control, boating safety and navigation hazards. Nine citations and 22 warnings were issued in a two-day period, and several violations are still waiting to be addressed when contact can be made with the fishermen. At the end of the second day, commercial fishermen on one boat stated that they heard blue crab fisheries enforcement had been stepped up in the area, and they had gone over their vessel and equipment to ensure compliance.
Officer Weber responded to a call in progress of a person illegally dumping in the Ocala National Forest. The subject was located and cited for littering. The subject promptly cleaned up the area and properly disposed of the trash.
Officers Ward and West responded to a local farmers’ market to investigate a complaint about a man selling saltwater products without the proper licenses. An inspection revealed that the seller did have a retail license. However, he was offering oysters and clams for sale that had passed the terminal sale date and he did not have any paperwork proving where he purchased the oysters. Citations were issued for the violations.
Officer Bertolami was checking shoreline fishermen in the New Smyrna Beach area when he found an adult male in possession of a goliath grouper and several grey snapper smaller than the allowed size limit. The subject was issued a criminal notice to appear for possession of goliath grouper.
Officer Bertolami witnessed an adult male operating a moped who failed to stop at an intersection’s red light and almost struck another vehicle which had the right of way. After stopping the moped, a DUI investigation ensued. The subject was arrested for DUI and the Ormond Beach Police Department (OBPD) placed him into their patrol vehicle. The suspect manipulated the handcuffs to the front of his body and escape from the patrol vehicle’s back seat, attempting to run away. Officer Bertolami and OBPD officers immediately re-captured him and he was charged with escape. He was transported and booked into the Volusia County Jail.
Officers Zampella, Stasko and Norris followed a suspicious vehicle traveling east during closed hours in the Webb WMA. The vehicle would stop at every area that held water, shine a flashlight, and the driver would sometimes get out of the vehicle. A vehicle stop was made at Tucker Grade and Road 7. The subjects were cited for being in the WMA during closed hours, knowingly driving on a suspended driver’s license and open container (passenger).
While on land patrol near the Tampa Bypass Canal, Officer Baker saw a subject loading large rocks into his truck from Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) property. The subject had 25 rocks in the bed of his truck. These rocks are used by SWFWMD to prevent erosion along the canal. The subject was cited for petit theft.
Officer Stanley stopped a vessel returning from the Gulf of Mexico to Fort Myers Beach to conduct a marine fisheries inspection. During the inspection, an out-of-season and undersized gag grouper was discovered. The fish measured approximately 20 inches and the legal requirement during the open season is 24 inches. The closed season is January 1, 2017, through May 31, 2017. A notice to appear was issued for out-of-season gag grouper and a warning was issued for undersized gag grouper.
While on patrol at the Pineland Boat Ramp, Officer Hardgrove encountered two individuals as they pulled their vessel up to the ramp after returning from fishing. During a subsequent resource inspection, he discovered several filets with the skin still on that were identified as sea trout, in addition to the two whole fish. The two spotted sea trout that were still in whole condition were both legal sized, but the fillets appeared to be from much smaller fish. The owner and operator of the vessel took responsibility for the fillets and were issued a notice to appear for sea trout not in whole condition.
While patrolling Lehigh Acres in response to a citizen complaint and at the request of East County Water Control District (ECWCD), Officer Price made contact with two trucks along a canal. Officer Price asked both drivers if either had been previously warned about being on ECWCD lands. Both drivers advised that they had not. A quick check revealed one of the drivers had been issued a trespass warning for being on ECWCD lands. The previous warning location was approximately 100 yards from the spot where Officer Price saw the trucks. The individual was written a notice to appear for trespassing after warning on ECWCD lands. The other driver was issued a trespass warning.
Officer Collazo was on patrol in the CREW WMA when a hunter in the area noticed him. The hunter had shot and killed two hen turkeys and feared the officer would find out, so he turned himself in to the check station attendants. Officers Collazo and Furbay responded to the area and interviewed the man about the incident. A K-9 tracked and located the area where the hunter shot the turkeys and found two spent shell casings which were used to kill the turkeys. The turkeys were seized and the hunter was charged with two misdemeanors for illegally taking hen turkey and for over the bag limit of turkey in the CREW WMA.
Officer Pulaski was stopped at a traffic light on State Road 54 when he was flagged down by a woman in the neighboring parking lot. She was seeking his assistance in relation to two men who were fighting. She stated they had metal poles and a gun, and that “someone was going to be shot.” Officer Pulaski pulled into the parking lot and apprehended the two individuals which were fighting. Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) deputies arrived a short time later because they had received a 911 call on the incident. The individuals were turned over to the PCSO for the investigation. Possible charges are pending.
Officers Brown and Stasko were on land patrol in the eastern part of the county when they heard what appeared to be a single gunshot in the distance. They walked in the direction of where they thought the shot came from and came across a man in a white Ford pickup truck who appeared to be cleaning an animal. From their vantage point, the officers could not tell what kind of animal the man was cleaning. During a subsequent resource inspection, the man admitted to the officers that he had killed a 5-foot alligator while he was fishing. The officers recovered the meat and the carcass of the alligator before charging the subject criminally for possession of American alligator. The man must appear in court for his violation.
Officers from Lee, Manatee, Sarasota and Collier counties responded to a call for assistance from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office when a series of brush fires raged out of control in Lehigh Acres. The fires were moving at speeds up to 20 miles per hour through residential neighborhoods, fueled by high winds. The officers assisted with evacuations of people, pets and livestock. They also aided with traffic control until the fires were brought under control after dark.
Officers Cason, Cocke and Gaudion responded to an overdue sailboat that departed from Pasco County and headed towards Manatee County. Family members advised the operator had called and said he was having numerous mechanical failures, and that they could no longer reach him due to the inclement weather. The officers searched into the morning with the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the search was picked up by Lieutenant Van Trees and Officer Ferguson. The USCG sent a C130 airplane to continue the search and found the subject 18 miles offshore of Pinellas County. The man was rescued in good condition by a USCG helicopter and rescue swimmer.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officers Perry, Hardgrove, Lieutenants Spoede, Ruggiero and Captain Carpenter assisted FWC biologists with the capture of a manatee trapped in a freshwater lake in a housing development in Fort Myers. The manatee had become trapped in the lake during an extreme high-water event several months earlier and had been unable to return to the river. Officer Perry and Lieutenant Spoede, along with FWC biologists, deployed two small vessels by hand in the lake. They were then able to herd the manatee into a large net set by the remaining biologists and law enforcement officers. Captain Carpenter, Lieutenant Ruggiero and Officer Hardgrove, working in conjunction with FWC biologists and volunteers, pulled the manatee to shore where it was safely carried to a waiting transport vehicle. The manatee was successfully released later that afternoon into the Caloosahatchee River.
Officer Stanley and Lieutenant Spoede assisted FWC biologists with the capture of an injured juvenile manatee near Captiva Island. The manatee was approximately seven feet long and suffering from an injury preventing it from submerging. Officer Stanley maneuvered his patrol vessel to herd the manatee away from docks and toward a large net that FWC biologists had set off the beach. The manatee was successfully captured, then carried safely to a waiting transport vehicle so it could be taken to a rehabilitation facility for treatment and recovery. FWC law enforcement and biologists, Tween Waters Resort staff and volunteers all assisted in the capture and transportation.
Officers Polaszek, Sierra and Lieutenant Gerkin assisted personnel from the FWC Marine Mammal Rescue and Mote Marine with the rescue of an adult manatee that appeared to be having complications due to red tide. The manatee had beached itself on an oyster bed in Dona Bay in Venice, Florida. Rescue personnel got the manatee onto a stretcher, attached the stretcher to the patrol vessel, and attempted to tow the manatee to the North Jetty Fish Camp. Approximately one minute into the tow, the manatee decided it did not want to make the trip and successfully escaped. The manatee was monitored for about one hour and seemed to be doing well. The rescuers could not get close enough for a second attempt.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Fagan, Wolff and K-9 participated in an outreach for the Cub Scouts. There were approximately 100 scouts and family members in attendance. Officer Fagan talked to the scouts about the job of a FWC officer, and provided an educational experience with the aid of an American alligator. Officer Wolff spoke with the scouts about the K-9 program in FWC and provided a K-9 demonstration.
Officers Dearborn, Alvis, and Boogaerts participated in the 2017 News Channel 8 Outdoor Expo and Boat Show at the Florida Fairgrounds. This is a big outreach event that is well received by the public with more than 15,000 people in attendance each year. FWC officers were on site to help answer questions as well as staff from the FWC Office of Boating and Waterways to promote the “Wear It Florida Campaign.”
Officer Salem spoke at the Old Bridge Yacht Club where he educated approximately 60 people about boating safety and fishing regulations. The event gave the group an opportunity to ask questions about local manatee zones, fishing regulations unique to the area and meet one of the local officers face-to-face.
FWC officers joined with members of the Lee County Marine Law Enforcement Task Force to work an informational booth at the Bonita Springs Boat Show. The officers provided valuable information to new and experienced boaters alike.
Officer Bell was invited to speak to the Girl Scouts Troop 451. They were very excited to see a baby alligator, brooks king snake and bearded dragon. Officer Bell educated the troop about boating safety, resource protection and about being an FWC officer.
SOUTH A REGION
Lieutenant Steelman saw a vehicle shining two spotlights out of the passenger side of an SUV on a rural road. They continued to shine the pastures to the south of the road for 45 minutes. The vehicle traveled approximately nine miles in that 45 minutes, stopping several times to shine the pastures. When headlights from other vehicles would appear, they would stop shining their spotlights. When the vehicle was stopped, both passengers had 22 rifles on their laps. The subjects stated they were hunting and looking for rabbits and deer. All three subjects were issued appropriate citations with a court date and the evidence was seized and placed in a secure facility.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Payne was on late-night patrol when he received information from another officer that a subject at the Belcher Canal Spillway was bragging to people about cast netting snook the previous night. The officer responded to the location but found no vehicles or subjects. He then decided to go check the spillway at Taylor Creek to see if anyone was fishing at that location. When he pulled up to the small parking area, he saw a subject known to him from previous stops and various resource violations. The subject had in his possession an oversized snook that was tied to the end of his cast net. Further investigation revealed an additional snook of legal size in his backpack. The subject had no fishing rods and admitted to using a cast net to harvest the fish. The two snook were returned to the water alive. The subject was arrested, transported and booked into the St. Lucie County Jail for the resource violations. He was charged with possession of snook over the bag limit, possession and harvest of an oversized snook, and harvest by illegal method. The cast net was seized as evidence. It was later discovered that the subject’s saltwater fishing privileges had been revoked for a two-year period by the court due to a prior resource violation conviction. An additional charge of fishing with a revoked license will be filed.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Toby, Nasworth and Investigator Doricchi participated in the “National Read Across America Day” for Dr. Seuss week at two elementary schools, one in Palm Beach County and one in Hendry County. During this event, they played interactive games with the children to educate them on the difference between “wildlife” and “pets.” The officers then read Dr. Seuss books to the children to promote literacy and education. The children asked great questions and were very eager to meet the officers. Prior to leaving, the officers passed out FWC coloring books, bookmarks, lanyards, and “Junior Officer” stickers to the children. Overall, the officers were able to engage and interact with approximately 200 children between the two elementary schools with a very positive outcome.
Officer Nasworth spoke to youth hunters at the DuPuis WMA about the Florida sportsman youth alligator hunt. He spoke to the youth hunters about the duties of an FWC officer, how to practice safe hunting and how to report violations if they observe them.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Cobo assisted Department of Environmental Protection park personnel at MacArthur Beach State Park in West Palm Beach for the annual nature-scaping event. More than 800 people attended the free outdoor festival which included art and music, nature walks, kids’ activities, native plants for sale, kayaking and food trucks. No security issues were reported.
SOUTH B REGION
An officer was on patrol recently at Watson Island Boat Ramp concentrating his efforts on returning personal watercraft (PWC) operators and the appropriate laws associated with use of such craft. His approximate two-hour enforcement effort resulted in the issuance of eleven boating citations to multiple violators for various violations. One subject received three citations for not possessing the requisite boater education card, operating a PWC after dark, and operating a PWC with an expired registration. Enforcement actions and education such as this will hopefully prevent a future tragedy.
Officer Mattson was leaving John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo when he saw a motor scooter operating on the bike path that specifically states “no motor vehicles.” The scooter did not have a tag on it. When asked for his driver’s license, the man provided a Pennsylvania ID card. The man said he left his license at home and he was only trying to move the scooter from his work place to his house. A records check revealed the man had a suspended driver’s license and a non-extradition warrant out of Ohio. Officer Mattson arrested the man for knowingly operating a vehicle with a suspended license. His belongings and scooter were turned over to his girlfriend. He was taken to Plantation Key Jail and was written two traffic citations in addition to the misdemeanor arrest.
Officers Araujo and Curbelo were asked to assist Lee County officers with a serious forest fire in Lehigh Acres located off State Road 82. The fire was moving very quickly through residential areas. FWC officers worked together with multiple agencies including Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Forest Service, and local fire departments to evacuate citizens. The strong winds and dry weather conditions made containing the fire very difficult and dangerous. The officers went door to door to houses that were in the path of the fire, assisting residents with evacuation.
At the request of Collier County Emergency Services, Lieutenant Sushil and Officers Arbogast, Johnson, Lugg, Miller, Osorio-Borja and Plussa responded to assist with Collier County’s largest wildfire in recent years. An estimated 4,000 acres of Picayune Strand State Forest and areas east of Naples and S.R. 951 burned into the night and the next morning. In addition to the specialized wildfire containment equipment and aircraft from Florida and the U.S. Forestry Services, firefighting equipment and personnel from local jurisdictions as far away as north Charlotte County responded to assist in containing the blaze. Responding FWC officers provided traffic direction, incident command management, and crowd control services to augment Collier County Sheriff’s Office units through the night and into the early morning hours. Additionally, these FWC officers used their knowledge of the areas surrounding the forest fire and their specialized large patrol trucks to transport and rapidly reposition mobile traffic sign trailers, barricades, and other traffic control devices as the fire quickly spread and changed direction throughout the incident. No major structures were lost and no injuries were reported.
Officer Dube responded to a 911 call of a vessel in distress after it capsized offshore of Islamorada. A passenger of the small vessel managed to swim ashore after the vessel he was on sank due to the rough seas and high winds and called 911. The two remaining passengers stayed with the vessel until Officer Dube arrived. The two passengers were clinging to the overturned vessel’s hull as it was drifting with the wind and current. The men were brought on board the patrol vessel and taken to shore. All three men were cold and sore, but uninjured. The men were very thankful for the FWC’s efforts and expressed their gratitude multiple times.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Investigator White and Lieutenant Mahoney conducted plain-clothes foot patrol within the Big Cypress WMA with a primary focus on the feeding of alligators. Upon arrival, three subjects were fishing from a bridge which is posted as “No Fishing from Bridge.” They saw a juvenile catch a fish and dangle it over the water to entice the alligators located near the bridge. The juvenile teased the alligators for a while before feeding them the fish attached to the end of his fishing line. The juvenile was educated and warned about the dangers of feeding the alligators. Additionally, one of the adults was cited for not possessing a valid freshwater fishing license. Additional patrols were conducted along the Turner River. No feeding violations were seen and additional freshwater fishing license tickets were issued.
The crew of the Offshore Patrol Vessel CT Randall conducted turtle excluder device (TED) inspections on the shrimp boat fleet operating out of Fort Myers Beach over a three-day period. Lieutenant Shea, Officers Miller and Thurkettle inspected a total of 33 TEDs on 12 shrimping vessels. They found 14 TED violations, which were corrected dockside by the crews of the vessels. They also addressed a state violation involving the possession of Bahamian starfish, a prohibited species to possess, on board one of the shrimping vessels. The crews, captains and owners of the shrimping fleet vessels were all very appreciative of the dockside inspections to ensure that all their TEDs were in compliance.
Operation “Clean Sweep” targeted the area of Watson Island anchorage over the past month, with more than 30 derelict vessels being removed or brought back into compliance by the owners. Officer Ingellis, the City of Miami Marine Patrol officers, and J. Ricisak with DEP Resource Management, took part in the month-long cleanup of the area. The Dinner Key anchorage will be the next area targeted for derelict vessel removals.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Dube was asked to be the co-host again with Captain Bill Kelly on his Friday Night Radio Show in Islamorada. Officer Dube spoke about recent arrests/cases that FWC officers have made and the recent rise in boating accidents and fatalities in Monroe County. Captain Kelly and Officer Dube had several guest speakers on the show promoting their various events and fishing tournaments.