FWC Law Enforcement Weekly Report
NORTHWEST REGION – NORTH CENTRAL REGION – NORTHEAST REGION
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
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jones received a complaint directly from a citizen who witnessed two people dumping a truck load of litter on the Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near the community of Holley. Officer Jones was too far away to respond at the time so he had the witnesses obtain the tag number of the vehicle. The following day, Officer Jones and Reserve Officer Bonta responded to the scene, confirmed the violation and collected evidence. The officers met with the witness, collected a statement, and correctly identified the suspect. The officers then went to a local residence and interviewed the suspect. After meeting with the Santa Rosa County State Attorney’s Office, Officer Jones issued the suspect a notice to appear in Santa Rosa County Court for a misdemeanor charge of littering.
Officer Jones responded to a complaint of a bear on the back porch of an elderly woman in Navarre. When he arrived, neighbors directed him to the bear which was now feeding on the contents of a freshly destroyed bird feeder in the woman’s backyard. Officer Jones fired two shots at the bear using non-lethal shotgun ammunition from his bear aversion shotgun, driving it from the area. He then talked with the resident and family members about bears and avoiding future visits from the bear by eliminating attractants such as bird feeders and properly securing garbage.
Officer Johnson was on vessel patrol when he was dispatched to a complaint regarding a missing man on the Blackwater River near Quinn Bayou. Upon arrival to the area, Officer Johnson made contact with a female in a kayak. The female was upset and crying. After calming the female, Officer Johnson determined that she was a friend of the man he was searching for. She advised she and other witnesses had last seen the man the night before swimming in the bayou. When he did not report for work and failed to answer telephone calls, she became worried and returned to the area to look for him. The man was located submerged a short distance away. Lieutenant Berryman and Officers Hoomes and Lewis arrived and assisted with the recovery of the victim. The victim was positively identified and turned over to the Medical Examiner. The Milton Police Department has the lead on the death investigation.
Officer Nichols was on patrol at Rocky Bayou State Park’s Campground area when he observed a male walking from a tent on a campsite with what appeared to be a bong, a device typically used for smoking of marijuana. Officer Nichols stopped and made contact with the camper, who at first attempted to hide the bong behind his back and then placed it into the bed of a truck that was parked on the site. Officer Nichols recovered the plastic bong and a total of 4.9 grams of cannabis from the subject. Officer Nichols charged the subject with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis. He was also issued a written warning for allowing a dog to run loose off a leash.
Officer Arnette responded to a landowner’s property after receiving information of shots being fired along a roadway. When Officer Arnette arrived, he located two deer that had been recently shot near the roadway. One of the deer was an eight-point buck. Officer Arnette concealed himself and sat in the rain to see if anyone would return for the deer. A short time later, a vehicle slowly traveled by his location and two subjects quickly exited the vehicle, ran to the deer, and started dragging it to their vehicle. Officer Arnette announced his presence and stopped them on foot. One of the subjects admitted to driving his vehicle while his friend shot the deer. The shooter asked three other subjects for assistance with retrieving the deer, but they were not present when the deer were shot. A shotgun and two deer were seized. Charges for taking deer/ possession during the closed season and trespassing will be direct filed on three of the subjects.
Officer Wicker responded to St. Andrews State Park concerning a naked man in the women’s restroom. Officer Wicker arrived and found the subject to have mental problems and had also been off of his medications. The male was transported to Emerald Coast Behavioral where he was committed under the Baker Act.
Officer Ramos was patrolling offshore when he stopped an inbound Alabama vessel. The boating safety inspection revealed that the operator had failed to apply registration numbers to the vessel and had insufficient flares. The fisheries inspection revealed four greater amberjack measuring 22, 26, 27, and 28 inches in length. Officer Ramos interviewed the two individuals, which resulted in two citations issued for undersized greater amberjack and warnings for over the bag limit of greater amberjack, improper display of registration numbers and insufficient number of flares.
Officer Allen was on water patrol in Apalachicola Bay when he noticed what appeared to be a boat commercially harvesting oysters in a prohibited area. Officer Allen set up surveillance and observed one individual tonging for oysters. He watched the subject harvest the oysters for a period of time and then conducted a resource stop. The fisherman was found to be in possession of commercial quantities of shellfish and was cited for harvesting oysters in a prohibited area. The oysters were returned to the water.
Officer Hoomes spoke to the Hunting and Fishing Club at Pace High School. He addressed hunting and fishing regulations as well as answered questions. There were approximately 30 people in attendance and Officer Hoomes addressed the group for approximately 30 minutes.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Larosa and Tim Shearer were working on a possible stolen vessel case when they discovered the vessel near where it was reported stolen. The operator of the vessel was identified as a mechanic employed by the owner of the vessel and it was determined that the vessel was not stolen. The mechanic, however, showed signs of impairment which were confirmed with field sobriety tasks. The man was arrested and a breath test resulted in a reading of .299 percent breath alcohol. He was booked into Duval County Jail.
Investigator Bing, Lieutenant Kiss and Officer Hoyle received information from park staff at O’Leno State Park of a vehicle burglary that occurred earlier in the day. Apparently a vehicle had its window broken out and a purse containing personal effects was stolen. The victim called park staff after she left the area and returned home to Ocala. Two days later, park staff contacted Investigator Bing and Officer Hoyle to advise them they found a purse bag that possibly was the one stolen from the vehicle earlier. About 95 percent of the items were recovered and will be returned to the victim. Only a small amount of change, under $5, was taken.
Officer Bryan was working an off-duty security detail on property that borders Black Creek. In the course of his patrol, he observed a female remove and ignite a small smoking pipe. After taking several puffs from the pipe, she immediately concealed it. Officer Bryan approached the female and requested to inspect the pipe which was found to contain marijuana. The female was also found to be in possession of a small plastic bag containing less than 20 grams of marijuana. Officer Bryan seized the contraband and charged the subject accordingly.
Officer LaRosa was dispatched around 10:30 PM to assist the Clay County Sheriff’s office with a lost person. According to information received, a boater with two dogs on board had beached her vessel along the shore of Black Creek. The dogs exited the boat and ran into nearby woods. The female boater proceeded into the woods to search for her dogs and became lost. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit located the female boater a short time later.
ST. JOHNS COUNTY
Officers Klein, Miller, Koble, Pedonti, Hickman and Thornhill teamed up with NOAA Fisheries Special Agent Rich Chesler to conduct a series of Turtle Excluder Device inspections on the local shrimping fleet. The area’s Captain Eason was also participating in this joint-agency operation. After getting underway, the Officers did not locate any shrimp vessels trawling that day off of St. Johns County. The team then adjusted its plans and returned inshore en route to a local wholesale dealer in St. Augustine to conduct inspections of any commercial fishing vessels off-loading catch. The Officers then found a local grouper-snapper bandit rig vessel docked outside of the dealer preparing to off-load its catch of vermillion snapper. Officers Koble and Klein, along with State Attorney Chesler, boarded the vessel and met with the vessel’s captain. The captain claimed that he was going to off-load only a portion of his catch and take the remainder with him to sell elsewhere. The three-officer boarding team then began inspecting the fish hold and found a large haul of vermillion snapper. Upon inspection, the officers found 29 red snapper buried under the vermilion snapper at the bottom of the hold. Once the boarding team discovered the red snapper, the vessel captain then decided not to cooperate with the inspection any longer and became a passive bystander telling the officers he and his mate would not off-load any more catch. The total weight of the red snapper was just under 300 pounds, and the captain was approximately 225 pounds over his trip limit of 75 pounds. State Attorney Chesler seized the excess pounds of red snapper; he will forward an enforcement case packet and evidence of the unlawful harvest to NOAA general counsel for prosecution. The proceeds from the sale of the unlawfully-harvested red snapper were placed in a federal escrow account pending a disposition of the case.
Investigator Bonds was patrolling the St John’s River north of Palatka when he stopped a subject that was hunting for alligators. Upon further investigation, Investigator Bonds found that the subject was using free-floating jugs with bait attached in an attempt to harvest the alligators. The subject was issued a notice to appear for hunting alligators by unlawful method.
Late at night, FWC Officers responded to an overdue boater on the St. Johns River. The individual had launched from downtown Sanford and was headed south. The Officers searched a large section of the river north and south of Sanford. A boater near Lake Harney located the missing individual, but the overdue boater did not have any memory of how he got there. The EMS was called but the individual refused treatment and was turned over to his family.
While on patrol in Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Lightsey conducted a resource inspection on a male that was actively fishing. The male stated that he had caught some fish. A resource inspection revealed that the male had caught and was in possession of seven gray snapper, two over the allowable bag limit. Further investigation revealed that several people near the male had told him to throw the fish back. Officer Lightsey issued the male a citation for over the bag limit of gray snapper.
While on patrol in Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Ash was conducting fisheries/license inspections. She inspected a male who was actively fishing who was in possession of a red drum measuring 27 ¾ inches, which is over the 27-inch limit. Officer Ash issued the subject a notice to appear for possession of oversized Red Drum.
Officer Morgan along with Brevard County Boating and Waterways Derelict Vessel (DV) coordinator Matt Culver testified in court on a restitution hearing. The hearing was to determine if a person convicted of having put a Derelict Vessel upon public waters has to pay restitution to Brevard County for the cost of removing the Derelict Vessel. During the trial, Officer Morgan testified to the environmental impact of the Derelict Vessel in question. His testimony, coupled with the testimony provided by Matt Culver, lead to a judgment made against a local man to re-pay the county $6,500.00 in removal fees.
Officer Buck responded to a boating crash on the St. John’s River near Rose Lake involving a commercial tour airboat and a smaller recreational vessel. The operator of the smaller vessel received injuries requiring medical attention; the aggregate vessel damage was approximately $11,000.
Officer Munkelt conducted a saltwater dealer’s retail license check at Doc’s Bait House in Cocoa. Upon inspection, Officer Munkelt found the bait house to have a retail license which was expired for over 15 months. The owner was issued a misdemeanor citation for the violation.
Officer Rutherford was on Patrol in Sebastian Inlet State Park when he conducted an inspection on a subject fishing. Officer Rutherford asked the subject for his fishing license and the subject responded that he did not have it on him but he had a valid license. Officer Rutherford ran the name which came back “no record found.” After running his social security number, it came back to a different name and date of birth. After further questioning, the subject admitted lying to Officer Rutherford. He gave his father’s name because he thought his father’s fishing license was valid. Officer Rutherford placed the subject under arrest for giving a false name to a law enforcement officer and a citation was issued for not having a valid saltwater shoreline fishing license. The fishing license that the subject was lying about is a free license.
Officer Mendez was dispatched to Three Lakes WMA Canoe Creek for a doe deer that had been harvested in Prairie Lakes. The Information received was that a doe deer had been taken in Prairie Lakes WMA and that the hunter and deer were at the Canoe Creek Check Station. Officer Mendez arrived and interviewed the hunter. The hunter stated that he was hunting off Road 16 and Parkers Slough and that he knowingly shot and killed a doe deer in Prairie Lakes WMA. It is illegal to take doe deer on Prairie Lakes WMA during the archery season.
Officer Sidor attended the City of Sebastian’s “National Night Out” event at Riverside Park. An FWC vehicle and vessel were on display as well as a table set up with many different brochures and pamphlets. During the event, Officer Sidor had approximately 200 contacts with 125 of those being youth contacts. A great time was had by all.
Officer Miller gave a K-9 demonstration and talk for the “Indian River Club” at their clubhouse. There were approximately 200 people present.
Officer Platt taught a hunter safety course in Sebastian. He taught the “Laws and Ethics” portion of the class and answered questions. There were approximately 23 students present.
Officer Arendas attended the Saint Cloud’s “National Night Out” event in downtown Saint Cloud. He had contact and spoke with approximately 86 residents giving out information and answering questions. Twenty-seven of those residents were youths under 16 years old.
Officer Mendez conducted a Hunters Education Course at the St Cloud Fire Department classroom. He taught the “Laws and Ethics” portion of the class and answered questions. There were 25 in attendance with 12 of them being youths.