NORTHWEST REGION COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Captain Sumner, Lieutenant Berryman and Officer Hoomes attended the pre-event meeting for the upcoming Hutton Unit Mobility Impaired Hunt. The hunt is scheduled for two weekends and is a very popular event. Officers met with FWC biologists and wildlife technicians in preparation for the annual event.
Lieutenant Hollinhead and Officer Rockwell responded to the Shoal River to check on a report of a vehicle with occupants that had run off the road into the river. Upon arrival, the officers found the vehicle had entered the water at the Ray Lynn Barnes Boat Ramp and floated down river several hundred yards before submerging. The officers confirmed no occupants were in the vehicle and it was removed several days later.
Lieutenant Hollinhead, Officers Jones, Nichols, and Molnar responded to a hunting incident in the Santa Rosa Sound. When the officers arrived, they learned that a hunter had been shot in the head by another hunter while duck hunting. The investigation revealed the subjects were hunting together from an island and the incident occurred when one of the hunters attempted to shoot at ducks. The victim was flown to a Pensacola Hospital where he was treated and released the next day.
While in a surveillance position in the early morning hours, Officer Cassels observed a vehicle displaying a spotlight into a harvested cotton field from Clark Hill Road. After observing the vehicle long enough to determine a violation may have occurred, he conducted a vehicle stop. The vehicle was occupied by two individuals who had a high-powered rifle on the front seat between them. One subject was taken into custody and, after a brief struggle, the second subject was taken into custody as well. A search incident to arrest revealed both subjects were in possession of narcotics or narcotic paraphernalia. Both subjects were charged with attempting to take deer at night. One subject was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and the other was charged with resisting arrest and possession of methamphetamine. Both were booked into the Calhoun County Jail.
Officer Bell observed an individual taking ducks by illegal method in the Little River area of Lake Talquin. The subject was shooting at waterfowl while the boat was under power and was cited for the violation.
Officer Bunker, Lieutenants Pearce and Wood, and Park Manager Allen participated in a search and assist off the coast of Alligator Point. Officer Bunker was on routine patrol in the area when he spotted a low-flying plane just south of Alligator Point. Upon further investigation, Officer Bunker learned the plane was the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) attempting to guide a distressed vessel into Alligator Harbor. The vessel was a 43 foot Hatteras with reports of an inexperienced Captain. The Hatteras lost an engine during transit, was very low on fuel, and about to run aground. Officer Bunker received a call from the USCG asking to respond by vessel to assist as no other assets were available. Due to winter storm conditions and record low tides, attempts at launching a readily accessible Pathfinder were unsuccessful. Lieutenants Pearce and Wood and Officer Bunker launched a larger vessel from a protected boat ramp. The Officers made contact with the vessel with assistance from USCG aircraft. The operation was successful and the distressed vessel was guided back into a protected marina. Park Manager Allen and the USCG proved to be instrumental in the operation.
Officer Allen was on land patrol in St. George Island State Park at the Scout Camp Boat Ramp. He observed three individuals loading bags of oysters into the back of a pickup truck. The three subjects were identified when a resource inspection was conducted. There were five bags of oysters untagged and unshaded in the back of the pickup and one bag left in the marsh behind the truck, for a total of six bags of oysters. All three individuals stated that someone else had harvested the oysters the afternoon before but left them in the marsh overnight and then told the three defendants where they were and they could haul them out. The three men stated that they were just recreational fishing for the day and not intending to sell the oysters that they had with them. A size tolerance inspection of one bag of oysters showed 94% undersized. There was also a significant amount of bedding shell present in the bag. With the amount of undersized oysters, clusters and bedding shell, the oysters were also unculled. Citations were issued for possession of undersized oysters and possession of unculled oysters. The bags of oysters were photographed and returned to the water alive. Officers Gore and Lipford assisted with the case.
Officer Lipford is continuing to address ongoing oyster harvest-related violations within Franklin County and the Apalachicola Bay. Officer Lipford issued a misdemeanor citation to one of two commercial harvesters for possession of undersized oysters (41% undersized) and was assisted in the case by Officers Allen and Stephens who cited the other harvester. Officer Lipford also issued another misdemeanor citation to a commercial harvester for illegally harvesting oysters from restricted waters. Two bags of oysters were seized and returned to the water alive in this case. Officer Lipford conducted another inspection upon commercial harvesters transporting oysters in the rear of their vehicle. Upon inspection, the oysters were found to be unshaded. The harvester, whose shellfish tags were affixed to the two bags of oysters, was issued a misdemeanor citation and the oysters were seized and returned to the water alive.
Officer Brownell responded to a complaint of people harvesting oysters in prohibited waters of Apalachicola Bay. Officer Brownell was unable to locate the harvesters in the area that he responded to, but did locate two harvesters about two miles away harvesting oysters in a conditionally approved area during a closure. Both harvesters were issued misdemeanor citations and 1 ½ bags of oysters were seized and returned to the water alive.
Decoy deer operations were conducted across the weekend in the Tate’s Hell State Forest. Officer Cook and Lieutenant Wood conducted the operation during which six hunters viewed the illegal deer. Officer Cook issued a misdemeanor citation and seized the firearm of a hunter who shot the illegal deer. The hunter advised the Officers that she knew that what she shot at was a deer, but admitted that she could not positively identify it as being a legal deer for Tate’s Hell State Forest. The five other hunters viewed, but did not shoot at the decoy.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Investigator Thomason and Officer Tommy Reid were dispatched to assist the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department with reference to a subject who left a suicide note. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office requested that FWC provide support with ATVs to help search the wooded area around the subject’s residence. FWC Officers went to the residence and found the subject’s vehicle in the driveway. They verified the tag and when they walked pass the vehicle, they noticed an individual inside the vehicle. They identified themselves and asked the subject his name. He was the subject they were searching for. The Sheriff’s Deputies arrived and took the subject into custody to be Baker Acted.
Officer Humphries received a complaint in reference to a doe deer being killed in the yard of the complainant’s residence. With a description of the subject and the vehicle he was driving, Officer Humphries was able to locate the residence of the subject. While conducting a field interview with the subject, he admitted to shooting the doe deer the previous evening. Officer Humphries seized the doe deer and the rifle that was used for the violation. Officer Humphries also filed citations with the State Attorney’s office for unlawfully taking a doe deer during the closed season and unlawfully taking wildlife from a road right-of-way.
Lieutenant Umhoefer was on patrol in Devil’s Hammock Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when an approaching vehicle was stopped for a resource check due to the late hour and the WMA being closed to public access. The driver immediately stated “Man, I was trying to avoid cops” when Lieutenant Umhoefer approached the vehicle. The driver agreed to field sobriety tasks which produced numerous indicators that the driver was impaired. The driver was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), transported to the Levy County Jail and booked into custody. Multiple misdemeanor charges were filed for resource and traffic violations.
Officer Dishman approached a local hunt camp in southern Levy County and observed two subjects skinning a six-point whitetail buck. The deer was steaming in the cold air, indicating a recent kill. Officers Dishman and Russo had observed the two subjects the night before driving up and down the highway at an erratic rate of speed. On that occasion, the two individuals managed to elude Officers Dishman and Russo. When Officer Dishman stepped out of the shadows and identified himself, the two subjects admitted to having illegally killed the deer at night using a gun and light. Officer Wiggins was called in to assist with the case and the deer was seized as evidence. Misdemeanor charges have been filed with the State Attorney’s office.
Officers Johnston and Jenkins, along with Investigator James, were working suspected oyster harvest violations in Cedar Key when multiple subjects were checked and found to have improperly tagged bags of oysters. When these bags were quality-checked, the percentage of undersized oysters was above 50 %. Multiple misdemeanor charges are being direct-filed through the State Attorney’s office for the tagging and size violations.
A red kangaroo escaped but was soon captured and delivered to its care-taker. Investigator Saunders conducted an investigation regarding the escape and located the animal’s owner. The owner was cited for possession of a Class III animal without a permit, and was issued two warnings for providing conditions which resulted in the escape and not meeting the minimum caging requirement for the animal. The owner has since submitted the proper application for a permit to possess the kangaroo and has begun plans to construct proper caging.
While on night patrol in Osteen, Officer Ransom observed a truck driving slowly down a road where night hunting had been reported in the past. Officer Ransom observed the driver shine a flashlight out of the truck window in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. Officer Ransom followed the truck down several streets and saw the driver shine for deer in several different places. A traffic stop was conducted on the vehicle and a loaded .22 magnum rifle was found tucked between the driver’s seat and center console. The driver was cited for attempting to take deer at night. The front seat passenger in the truck had six active Volusia County warrants. He was arrested and transported to the Volusia County Jail.
While on patrol in the Ballast Point Pier area, Officers Stephens and Baker received a call about four individuals keeping undersized sheepshead. The results of that call yielded 27 undersized sheepshead and the four individuals were issued misdemeanor citations.
While on patrol offshore of Pinellas County, Officers Hart and Burks stopped a commercial stone crab vessel for a safety and resource inspection. A result of the inspection yielded the officers finding 106 undersized stone crab claws. The captain was cited for his major violation.
Officer Goggin responded to a call for assistance from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. When he arrived, the deputy told him that he saw two men shoot a black vulture. Officer Goggin interviewed two men who admitted to initially shooting the bird with a shotgun and then again with a pistol. A black vulture was located with what appeared to be bullet wounds in its chest. Both men were given a notice to appear for the misdemeanor violation.
SOUTH REGION A
On New Year’s Eve just after midnight, Investigator Serphos observed a vehicle swerving and making erratic movements on the Sawgrass Expressway. When Investigator Serphos stopped the vehicle, the driver appeared to be intoxicated; he asked the driver to step out. When the driver got out of the vehicle, the vehicle began driving forward because he did not put it in park. The occupant jammed the car into park and stopped the vehicle. After completing field sobriety exercises, the driver was placed under arrest. After providing a breath sample, he was booked into the Broward County Jail for DUI.
Officer Nasworth was on water patrol in the area of the West Wall Trail on Lake Okeechobee. Officer Nasworth observed a camouflage vessel traveling southbound in the area. Officer Nasworth made contact with the subjects on board to conduct a boating safety inspection. Upon inspection, it was apparent the occupants were duck hunting. Officer Nasworth discovered the operator did not possess a valid federal duck stamp. Officer Nasworth subsequently issued the operator a citation for no federal duck stamp.
Officer Nasworth was dispatched to a boating accident that occurred near the Clewiston Boat Ramp. While en route, dispatch advised that both occupants had been ejected out of the vessel and that one occupant had a laceration on his eye. Upon arrival, Officer Nasworth made contact with the operator who advised that as he was traveling north in the rim canal, he took evasive action to avoid a vessel in front of him and caught the wake from the other vessel causing his vessel to list, ultimately causing himself and his occupant to be thrown into the water. The occupant was transported to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
Officer McLendon and Officer Taylor received a call from dispatch stating that a Sergeant from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office was en route to a reported night-hunting complaint in a rural neighborhood. Officers McLendon and Taylor responded to the call where they encountered a vehicle containing several subjects in possession of a gun, spotlight, and two dead rabbits. The Officers educated the subjects on nighttime hunting regulations and subsequently issued a citation for taking wildlife at night by gun and light and seized the equipment as evidence.
Officers McLendon and Taylor received a call in reference to an ongoing trespass in a privately owned orange grove. Upon arrival at the scene, Officers McLendon and Taylor encountered three subjects in a Polaris Ranger loaded with dogs. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the subjects entered the private property to hog hunt and did not possess permission. Visual evidence at the scene confirmed the subjects entered through a posted gate with the dogs running alongside. The subjects were issued citations for the violations of state law regarding trespass.
Officers Doricchi and Moss, along with Investigator Booth, responded to a single-car accident in the Dupuis Wildlife and Environmental Area. All four occupants of the vehicle appeared uninjured and refused any medical treatment. An accident report was completed.
Officers Doricchi and Moss received information from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in regard to a vessel leaking fuel at Loggerhead Marina. Upon arrival, they observed a massive color disfigurement in the water surrounding one particular vessel. After inspection, it was apparent the vessel was leaking diesel fuel. The USCG was called and the incident was turned over to them.
COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Adams Ranch (St. Lucie County) held their 4th Annual Youth Hunt, sponsored by Adams Ranch and the FWC. Investigator Patterson, K-9 Officer Payne and Officers Pifer and Willems attended the event to help the youth have an enjoyable and a successful hunt. Investigator Patterson and Officer Willems helped the kids’ sight in their rifles at the range and taught them gun safety. Mr. Bud Adams visited and spoke to the kids and welcomed them to the event. Officers Pifer, Willems, Payne and Investigator Patterson discussed state laws, Adams Ranch rules, the rules of the youth hunt, as well as how to become an FWC Officer. They also shared stories with the kids about their own hunting experiences. Investigator Patterson and Officer Pifer, on their own time, returned to the ranch to help get the kids to their blinds safely and in time for the morning hunt. They also helped pick the youth up from their blinds and helped track deer that had been shot. Once back at the camp, they assisted in cleaning the deer. The hunt was a success with 4 out of 5 of the youth hunters harvesting a deer. The hunters and their fathers came from every part of the state ranging from Davie to Ocala, over to Bradenton and as close as Vero Beach. All the hunters seemingly enjoyed the event and learned a lot from the experience. Thanks to the Youth Hunting Program, Adams Ranch and the volunteers who attended, these kids were able to harvest their first deer and spend valuable time in the woods with their fathers enjoying an experience they will never forget.
SOUTH REGION B
Officers Martin and Yanez stopped a vessel for violation of a posted manatee zone. During the vessel safety inspection, the Officers believed the operator of the vessel to be under the influence. Officer Martin conduced field testing and the subject was arrested for BUI based upon the test results. The subject was transported to the Miami Beach Police Department for a breath test, which he refused. Additionally, he refused to sign his citations and was transported to the Turner Gilford Knight Detention Center and charged with BUI and failure to sign citations. He was cited for the violation of a manatee zone and refusal to submit to a breath test.
Officers Conlin and Adams were on patrol in the lower Keys when they received a call from the FWC dispatch center informing them of a suicidal man in the water near Cow Key Channel. The two officers immediately headed into the area and began to search for the subject. After a couple of hours of searching, the subject was located near the Cow Key Bridge floating and unresponsive, but alive. The officers attempted to throw a floatation device at the subject and instructed him to swim towards the ring, but he refused and made no attempt to move. The decision was made that it was in the subject’s best interest for the officers to enter the water and attempt a hands-on rescue. After careful consideration, Officers Conlin and Adams entered the water and managed to secure the subject without incident. The subject was ultimately transported to a psychiatric facility for treatment.
COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Several FWC Officers hosted approximately 30 Canadian Police Cadets from Montreal, Canada at the Miami Office. This was the 12th time that members from the South B Region hosted such a group. The cadets were treated to a K-9 demonstration as well as an in-depth presentation on what FWC Officers do every day.