|March 10, 2017 through March 16, 2017
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.
Patrol, Protect, Preserve
Officers Wicker and N. Basford were working night shift at St. Andrews State Park during spring break. While patrolling in the campground, they noticed a strong odor of cannabis coming from a campsite. The officers announced their presence and asked the subjects to come out of the tent. The subjects opened the tent door and cannabis smoke bellowed out as they exited the tent. The officers asked about the cannabis and the subjects produced a glass jar with a bag of cannabis inside it. The subjects stated that the cannabis belonged to all of them and one of the subjects gave the officers a pack of rolling papers. All four of the subjects were charged with possession of cannabis less than 20 grams and the subject that produced the rolling papers was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officers Ramos and McHenry were conducting saltwater fishing license and marine resource inspections on Pensacola Beach and saw a man, who was actively fishing, begin to behave suspiciously. When asked, the man provided a false name to the officers. After establishing the man’s name, an active warrant was found for violation of probation/DUI. The subject was booked into Escambia County Jail for the outstanding warrant and issued a citation for not having the required non-resident fishing license.
A resident called FWC Dispatch with a complaint of rifle rounds whistling through his trees over his home. An officer responded and heard shots coming from the west near the Shoal River. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office responded and assisted in stopping two vehicles exiting a road near the area. Five subjects were detained and admitted to shooting within the past half hour. An AR-15 rifle, shotgun and .45 pistol were used to target the wooded shoreline across the river. The firearms in the vehicle were cased, record checked and legal to possess. The subjects were released and educated on proper firearms use.
An FWC officer patrolled a parking lot on the University of Florida extension (UF REEF) on Poquito Road, leased from the Eglin Air Force Base. A subject was “drifting” with his vehicle between the light poles on the wet pavement after hours. A trespass warning was issued for one year. Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office responded to assist and the facility manager was notified.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jones was on patrol in the early morning on the Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and found a fresh set of vehicle tracks going through a closed range gate and into an area closed to all public access. He followed the tracks to an area where he saw flashlights working off in the distance. He followed the lights on foot and found a man and a woman standing near a parked vehicle. The two subjects were in possession of hundreds of spent brass ammunition shell casings. They were charged with numerous violations including entering a closed area, entering Eglin property during closed hours, no Eglin permit and theft. The male subject was also charged with resisting arrest without violence.
Officer Jernigan concluded an investigation into a boat that was found abandoned in the Blackwater WMA. He contacted the last registered owner who referred him to another man to whom he gave the boat. The officer finally contacted a subject who admitted to finding the boat in what appeared to be an abandoned state. He took the boat but later thought that it might have been stolen, so he hauled it to the nearby forest where he disposed of it. The man was charged with littering and the boat was returned to the registered owner.
Officer Hutchinson received information about a man who had a small alligator as a pet at his residence. The subject did not have the proper permits to possess the alligator and the officer found that the man was keeping the alligator inside an aquarium. The man admitted to catching the alligator in Yellow River at the end of the 2016 alligator hunting season. He said he caught two small alligators and took them home, but one later died. He kept the other one as a pet. The alligator was seized and the man was charged for possession of an alligator without a permit.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Lieutenant Berryman and Officers Hoomes, Roberson and Cushing responded to a request from the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) of a reported distress call from a vessel somewhere in East Bay/Blackwater Bay. After searching the area for three hours in rough seas and inclement weather, the search was called off due to lack of additional information on the possible location of the vessel.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
FWC officers responded to a concerned citizen’s request to find a challenged sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico near Destin Pass. Lieutenant Clark and Officer Maltais located the turtle more than a half mile offshore, common for this time of year. The officers attempted a rescue but did not have the equipment on board, as the turtle would dive when approached. Three staff members from the Okaloosa Island Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, along with Officer Jarvis, arrived at the USCG Destin to assist Lieutenant Clark with the rescue. Upon return, the turtle was located again, captured and turned over to the Gulfarium team where they anticipate a successful rehabilitation of the sick female turtle.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hutchinson helped coordinate an after-school function for S. S. Dixon Elementary School. The event’s theme was camping, fishing and nature. FWC Wildlife Biologist Almario, Wildlife Technician Jernigan and Officer Hutchinson participated in the event. They set up a wildlife display that involved hands‑on wildlife identification games as well as other displays. They answered many questions and interacted with the students and their parents. Approximately 300 people attended the event.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
A subject hunting with his son harvested a turkey within several yards of a game feeder. Officer Stanley issued the subject a citation for taking turkey over bait and explained to the youth the importance of hunting within the laws.
Officer Burnsed was checking some private land for illegal hunting activity when he saw two subjects standing in a food plot holding a freshly killed turkey. Turkey season had not yet opened and one of the subjects admitted to killing the turkey just before the officer’s arrival. The subject took the officer back to the location where they had shot the turkey and the officer determined the turkey had been taken over a baited site. The subject was cited for taking turkey during closed season and for taking turkey over a baited area.
Officer Burnsed was working a turkey hunting detail on youth weekend on a baited site that had cracked corn broadcast on the ground. At daylight, a hunter and juvenile approached a ground blind overlooking the bait site. The adult began calling turkeys once in the blind. Officer Burnsed made contact with the adult hunter who admitted to placing the bait out to attract turkeys. The subject was cited for attempting to take turkey over a baited site.
Lieutenant Huff was working a turkey hunting detail on youth weekend when he saw an adult hunter holding a shotgun and calling turkeys with a small child. The adult was hunting with a 12-gauge, 3½-inch shotgun with heavy turkey load. He admitted the child was too small not only to shoot the shotgun, but also unable to carry one. The hunter admitted that the shotgun was his and was cited for an adult hunting turkey during the youth season.
Officers Drew and Johnston were on patrol in a rural area outside Lake City known for illegal dumping, trespassing and other criminal activity. The officers saw several fishing poles, rifle ammunition, a gas can, and other articles scattered along the side of a rural road. Believing the items were most likely stolen, the officers began to canvas the surrounding area looking for additional clues and saw a suspicious vehicle nearby hidden in the woods. The registration to the vehicle revealed the vehicle was reported stolen the same day out of Columbia County along with several firearms, including a .308 rifle. After backup arrived, the vehicle was cleared and determined not to be occupied. The firearms were not found, but the officers did find high-end fishing equipment along with several rounds of .308 and 12-gauge ammunition. The items were recovered and returned, along with the vehicle, to the rightful owner. The case was turned over to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
Officer Johnston was on land patrol at Lake Desoto in Lake City when he saw a vehicle being driven in a reckless manner. A pickup truck pulled out in front of him at a high rate of speed and began driving in a designated pedestrian lane around Lake Desoto. The driver nearly hit a pedestrian and had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The subject slowed down for a moment and once again rapidly accelerated away while driving in front of Officer Johnston in his marked patrol vehicle. The pedestrian who was nearly hit began pointing at the vehicle as Officer Johnston drove by her. Officer Johnston activated his emergency lights and siren. The operator took an abrupt turn while accelerating causing a computer modem to slide out of the bed of his truck and onto the highway. Officer Johnston had to swerve to avoid hitting the computer modem. The driver stopped shortly after Officer Johnston activated lights and siren. Upon contact, the driver was displaying a variety of indicators consistent to that of someone under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. The driver stated his erratic driving was his way of removing leaves from the bed of his truck. The subject refused to participate in field sobriety tasks and refused to provide a breath sample. He was arrested and transported to the Columbia County Jail where he was booked for reckless driving and DUI.
The Duval County Health Department contacted Environmental Investigator Terrones for assistance after finding bio-medical waste behind a tattoo business in Jacksonville. The waste was in several areas on the ground and in an unapproved, open dumpster co-mingled with regular trash. Used piercing needles, tattoo needles, bloody gauze and bloody aprons were some of the items that had been disposed of, none of it in red bags or sharps containers. The business owner took full responsibility and was cited accordingly. The health department ordered the business to hire a contractor to remove the bio-med waste and will follow-up with administrative fines.
Officers Drew and Johnston were on land patrol in a rural area near Mallory Swamp WMA when they saw a vehicle approaching on their side of a dirt road. The passenger of the vehicle was hanging out of the window. The driver noticed the officers and quickly maneuvered back onto his side of the highway. The officers pulled alongside the vehicle and engaged the driver in a conversation. When the officers asked the driver if there was anything illegal inside his vehicle, he became nervous. The officers exited their patrol vehicle and could see several pieces of flint in plain view on the floorboard of the suspect’s vehicle. Suspecting artifacts may have been taken from state land, the officers asked for consent to search the vehicle. A methamphetamine pipe with a crystal-like substance was found as well as a plastic bag containing suspected methamphetamine residue. The residue and crystal substance both yielded a positive test result for the presence of methamphetamine. The driver was arrested and transported to the Lafayette County Jail for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. At the time of the arrest, the subject was on felony probation for meth-related charges.
K-9 Officer Gill and Reserve Captain Lee received information of illegal poaching of deer that was occurring at night during Thanksgiving week. The original complaint was that shots were fired off the highway in the vicinity of a licensed deer pen. The officers contacted Investigator Hoyle for assistance after several suspects were identified. During the three month investigation, it was discovered that the suspects killed several deer at night, including two large antlered deer out of the deer pen in question. After gathering all the information, the suspects were interviewed. The investigation resulted in numerous felony and misdemeanor charges to be direct filed, including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, felony trespass, grand theft of livestock, breaking/cutting fences, taking of doe during closed season and illegal taking of deer at night on multiple occasions.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers in Alachua County were busy throughout the weekend watching multiple turkey bait sites. The youth weekend turned out to be a great weekend for young hunters. Several birds were harvested including a 10-inch bearded gobbler turkey taken in the Newberry area by one young lady and later posted on social media.
Officers continue to work area lakes for speck, bream and bass fishing along with boating safety violations. Officer Harris issued several boating inspection stickers for those in compliance with safety gear.
Officers Balgo, Hallsten, and Eller were conducting fisheries inspections on commercial king mackerel vessels coming into Sebastian Inlet. While boarding a vessel for a fisheries inspection, Officers Balgo and Eller counted 57 king mackerel on board the vessel. The legal commercial bag limit for king mackerel is 50. A citation was issued to the operator of the vessel for over the commercial bag limit. Other commercial vessel stops on the same day resulted in warnings for commercial safety gear, no Saltwater Products License (SPL) in possession and one king mackerel over the bag limit.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
While on vessel patrol at night on the Indian River, Officer Kearney saw a commercial fishing vessel engaged in commercial fishing activities. After stopping the vessel to conduct a fisheries inspection, he found the fisherman was in possession of several undersized sheepshead and a pufferfish. Upon further inspection, it was revealed that the man did not possess his commercial license as required and had been issued citations within the last six days for the exact same violations. The officer issued the subject citations for the various violations.
While on routine patrol, officers located several areas that had been baited with cracked corn and bird seed on a hunt club near Samsula. On the opening day of the youth turkey season, Officers North, Malicoat, Ward and West entered the club before daylight and monitored the baited areas to ensure that hunters remained at least 100 yards from the bait. Two adults were cited for allowing minor children to shoot turkeys over bait. Both turkeys were shot at less than 15 yards while they were standing in the bait.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
Area officers participated in a community outreach event at the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. The annual Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch BBQ event draws a large crowd from the community. FWC officers provided a display including an airboat, ATV, patrol vessel and robo-deer.
Public Information Officer (PIO) Weber taught hunter safety to approximately 18 students at the Gun Shop in Leesburg.
PIO Weber and Officer Sapp attended an outreach event at the Starlite Baptist Church in Winter Springs. The officers had an alligator and two snakes on hand for display and answered several questions pertaining to conservation and fish and wildlife laws.
Officers Peterson, Pulaski and Canfield were on water patrol in federal waters offshore of Hernando County inspecting vessels for fisheries compliance. During the patrol, the team located a commercial fishing vessel engaged in fishing. A fisheries inspection revealed the two fishermen were in possession of four gag grouper. Additionally, an inspection of the required fishing gear revealed the vessel monitoring system was not functioning. The officers also discovered their federal Gulf reef fish permit had expired. A case package will be prepared and forwarded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the violations.
FWC officers and investigators responded to a boating accident that occurred on Dinner Lake. They discovered only a dog on board, but one subject was discovered deceased in the lake nearby. This is an ongoing boating accident investigation.
While on patrol at Pineland Boat Ramp, Officer Hardgrove encountered a subject as he was passing the Pineland Boat Ramp and heading into the marina on his vessel. When asked if he had caught anything, the operator stated that he had caught some sheepshead but had thrown them back because he hated cleaning them. When a resource inspection was initiated, the operator appeared to be hesitant and stated that there weren’t any fish on board. The resource inspection revealed a shopping bag with fish fillets sticking out of it. The fillets still had the skins on and consisted of three sheepshead, eight mangrove snapper and four gag grouper. The operator was issued a notice to appear for undersized fish, failure to land in whole condition and possession in a closed season.
Officer Hardgrove and Lieutenant Spoede initiated a stop on a 17-foot skiff near Pine Island and performed a resource check after noticing there were several fishing poles on board. A resource inspection revealed that all of the subject’s fish were under the legal minimum size limit of 15 inches total length to harvest. The operator was issued a notice to appear for possession of undersized spotted seatrout.
While on and patrol near the South Skyway Fishing Pier, Officer Davidson performed a fisheries inspection on an individual fishing from the pier. The subject had caught and kept a 13-inch gag grouper and a 10-inch sheepshead. The subject was cited criminally for possession of gag grouper out of season and issued warnings for undersized gag grouper and undersized sheepshead.
While on land patrol around the South Skyway Fishing Pier, Officer Dalton performed a fisheries inspection on an individual fishing from the pier and found that the subject had caught and kept a 20-inch gag grouper. The subject was cited criminally for possession of gag grouper out of season and given a warning for undersized gag grouper.
Officer Martinez and Lieutenant Van Trees responded to and assisted with a capsized vessel around the Dick Meisner Bridge. Three subjects had gone out on the water during extreme weather conditions on a 16-foot vessel and realized they would not be able to make it much further. When they turned around, the vessel started taking on water and capsized. Fire Rescue, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Eckerd College, and FWC arrived and all three occupants were retrieved and brought safely to land. The officers helped Eckerd College with the retrieval of the vessel as well.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Bibeau and Gaudion were presented the Florida Guides Association Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher Officer of the Year Award at the 2017 Outdoor Expo, held at the Florida State Fairgrounds. This award will also be presented at the Commission Meeting to recognize officers who were instrumental in coastal resource protection.
SOUTH A REGION
Officer Vacin conducted a marine fisheries inspection on a vessel returning from offshore into Dania Beach. The vessel contained one undersized sailfish and the subject was issued a criminal notice to appear for possession of the undersized sailfish. The sailfish was seized as evidence.
Officers Ryan and Sadilek were on night patrol in Dania Beach and stopped a vehicle for running a red light. The officers suspected the driver was under the influence and conducted field sobriety tasks on the driver,who was subsequently placed under arrest for DUI. Officer Brock arrived on the scene and transported the driver to the Broward County breath alcohol test facility and from there to the Broward County Jail.
Officers Ryan and Sadilek responded to the Mizell-Johnson State Park about a person finding what he thought could have been a human bone. The officers took possession of the bone. Officer Tarr brought the bone to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office where it was confirmed that it was not a human bone.
Investigator Coffin was on land patrol in an area in western Broward County when he encountered two subjects trapping small birds. The subjects were using six wooden traps which they were hanging on trees in a nearby wooded area. Five of the traps contained an indigo bunting in each and the sixth trap contained a painted bunting. All six birds are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and are illegal to trap and possess. Both subjects were charged with possession of non-game migratory birds and for trapping wildlife on South Florida Water Management District lands.
Officer Nasworth responded to the property of United States Sugar area 6 and Collins Slough Road for a trespass complaint. Officer Nasworth arrived on the scene and spoke to a security guard who advised him that a subject was trespassing on cultivated private land. The subject was advised that he was trespassing on private property. The subject acknowledged that he knew he was trespassing. The subject was charged with trespassing and issued a court date for the offense.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Toby saw an individual fishing near Lake Okeechobee at the Canal Point Structure and conducted a fisheries inspection. The individual was in possession of undersized black crappie and made multiple efforts to hide the fish once the inspection began. The individual was on felony probation with a clause of “no illegal fishing” in the terms, stemming from an incident when the individual was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer while stopped for fishing illegally. The individual was arrested and transported to the local jail for the violation of probation. Additionally, the individual was issued a misdemeanor citations for possession of undersized black crappie and obstructing an FWC officer.
Officer Nasworth responded to the Jolly Roger Marina in Clewiston for a boating accident investigation. The owner of the marina advised Officer Nasworth that a gentleman had rented a boat earlier in the day and returned it damaged. The boat sustained heavy damage to the right pontoon and skeg of the motor and the person that rented the vessel had left the marina prior to the damage being discovered. The investigation is ongoing.
FWC investigators and patrol officers responded to a boating incident at the Burt Reynolds East Boat Ramp. An individual jumped off the US1 Bridge and made contact with a vessel passing underneath before he entered the water. The subject was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital. The incident is still under investigation.
Investigator Booth responded to a residence to assist Palm Beach Police Department (PBPD) and Palm Beach County Animal Control. While there for unrelated matters, the PBPD discovered approximately 100 deceased snakes. Two dogs, two tortoises, two parakeets and two snakes were still alive, but were being kept in poor conditions. Palm Beach County Animal Control took possession of the living animals. After numerous attempts to locate the owner of the animals, Investigator Booth, assisted by Officers Spradling and Godward, located the subject who was then cited for abandonment of animals.
Officer Cobo responded to a vessel fire near the Intracoastal Waterway in Jupiter. The ski-type vessel had an inboard engine and four persons on board. During a recreational cruise, the Captain noticed smoke coming from the engine compartment and quickly turned the vessel around and headed back to port. He then directed all of his passengers, who were in their late 70s, to put on their life vests. As the smoke increased in intensity, he had all passengers abandon ship and jump into the water. Thanks to the safety equipment on board and the quick thinking by the Captain, all of the passengers were able to swim to a nearby dock along the shoreline and make it to safety. The vessel became completely engulfed in flames and was a complete loss.
Officers Ryan, Tarr and Sadilek were on patrol in western Palm Beach County and conducted a fisheries inspection on individuals that had been fishing. After the inspection, two individuals were criminally cited for over the bag limit of black bass and possession of oversized black bass. Twenty-one black bass were seized as evidence.
Multiple FWC officers and investigators responded to a call for assistance at Sandsprit Park regarding a kayak incident. Preliminary information indicated a subject needed immediate medical assistance and CPR was in progress. Upon the arrival of responding FWC personnel, it was reported that the subject had been transported from a sandbar near the Sandsprit Boat Ramp and then to the Martin Memorial South Emergency Room. Preliminary information indicates the subject experienced a medical issue, collapsing in the water while walking a kayak back to the ramp in the water. The female subject assisted the male subject until assistance arrived. Subsequently, the male subject was pronounced deceased at the hospital. The incident is not being investigated by FWC as a boating accident fatality.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Brevik and Hankinson responded to a search and rescue in the J.W. Corbett WMA. Two hikers were lost off of trail 3. The hikers had a low supply of water and one had an injured foot. The officers were able to find both hikers with limited information. Once found, Officer Brevik provided them with bottled water and transported the hikers to the North Check Station where their family was waiting.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROL
BROWARD/PALM BEACH COUNTIES
Port investigators and all three port K-9s participated in a three-day detail at various port facilities around Broward and southern Palm Beach counties. The detail targeted violations related to the shipping of wildlife and saltwater products. Various violations were found including improper package labeling, improper securing of wildlife, overcrowded containers of wildlife, restricted species shipping violations and license violations.
SOUTH B REGION
Officer Arbogast and Investigator White were at a local boat ramp conducting a follow-up investigation to a boating accident involving a PWC livery. The livery inspection revealed that the livery did not have the necessary personal watercraft insurance as required by Florida Statue 327.54(5). This company had been warned a few weeks prior regarding their lack of proper insurance. While at the ramp, the officers discovered a second livery company operating out of the same area without proper personal watercraft insurance. Both company owners were issued notices to appear.
FWC officers concentrated enforcement actions on the Key Biscayne Regatta held over the weekend. A total of 105 vessels were inspected and 337 users checked. The FWC officers issued 39 boating citations, 55 warnings, 4 misdemeanor arrests (resource and livery), 1 DUI, 1 BUI, and handled one boating accident. In addition, an overdue PWC with two persons on board was located by FWC officers. The PWC was escorted back to the marina safely without incident.
Officer Sapp was on water patrol near Key West when he received information from Recruit Hettel, currently in training at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Tallahassee, regarding ongoing poaching activities near Key Haven. Using the information, Officer Sapp responded to the area and began searching for a 39-foot Contender. A vessel matching the description was located, with no registration numbers and a vessel stop was initiated. While checking the vessel’s safety gear, two spear guns were observed. When asked if he went spearfishing that day, the operator replied “yes.” A marine fisheries inspection revealed one out-of-season black grouper, and one undersized mutton snapper. The subject was cited and issued a notice to appear.
Officer Johnson responded to a vessel taking on water approximately one half-mile offshore near Wiggins Pass. Once on the scene, Officer Johnson was joined by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and the USCG. Two of the occupants of the vessel were unable to swim. All five of the subjects were safely removed from the sinking vessel and returned to shore.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officer Araujo responded to a panther depredation call in Golden Gate Estates. The complainant reported a panther had killed goats and geese on her property. She also feared that the panther was still hiding inside the goat pen. Officer Araujo confirmed that the animals were killed by a panther and it was no longer in the area. FWC’s local panther biologist has responded to previous panther depredations at the location advised that there is a panther in the area. Officer Araujo explained to the complainant that a more secure enclosure would help to avoid future panther depredations.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officer Plussa and Florida Highway Patrol troopers conducted traffic enforcement patrol in the Collier County Panther Zone portions inside the Collier-Seminole State Park boundary. The daytime speed limit is 60 MPH and the nighttime speed limit is 45 MPH. Throughout the evening, Officer Plussa stopped numerous motorists and issued multiple citations, with many violators driving over 70 MPH in the 45 MPH zone. In addition to citations and warnings for unlawful speed, Officer Plussa took appropriate enforcement actions issuing a combination of citations and warnings for expired vehicle registration, no auto insurance, failure to transfer driver’s licenses, no headlights at night, no taillights at night and other violations.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Araujo attended an FWC-sponsored youth fishing clinic at the Naples Pier. He spoke to children about how to be a responsible angler, respect the environment and how to practice catch and release fishing. After the demonstrations, the kids got a rod and reel and learned to fish, some of them for the very first time. Officer Araujo showed kids how to bait their hooks, assisted in landing fish and how to safely hold them. During the clinic, Officer Araujo was also able to demonstrate how to successfully release pelicans when one became hooked.