September 11, 2015 thru September 17, 2015
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.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hutchinson and Lieutenant Hahr completed an investigation involving the illegal take of deer in Illinois. An officer with Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) contacted FWC requesting assistance with a case in which a Florida hunter travelled to Illinois for the opening weekend of archery season. The hunter purchased an antlerless only hunting license which is substantially cheaper than an either-sex license. He posted photos of himself posing with an 11‑point buck later on the opening morning. The Illinois Conservation Officer requested that FWC locate and interview the subject regarding the deer.
The officers located the subject and interviewed him. The man admitted to taking the 11‑point buck, but was adamant that he purchased a license. During the interview, the officers learned that he was accompanied by another man from this area. The interview revealed that the subject also killed an 8-point buck and failed to tag it. Neither of the subjects checked their bucks as required by Illinois law. During the interview, the subject told the officers that he did not know exactly where his buck was, but that he cleaned the skull and was going to make a European mount. He told the officers that he would locate the antlers and his Illinois hunting license and show the officers the next day.
The officers immediately went to the other subject’s home to interview him. They located him and asked him about the trip. He admitted to killing a doe deer and failing to check it as required, but denied taking a buck. He confirmed that the other subject killed an 11‑point.
During the first interview, the subject told the officers that he used a local taxidermist in the past. The officers arrived at the taxidermy shop when it opened the next morning. When they entered the shop, the 11‑point buck was mounted and hanging on the wall. The shop owner stated that the subject dropped it off shortly after hunting in Illinois the previous year, but had not yet paid for it. He told them that the subject had sent him an email the night before telling him that he would be there to pick up his buck later in the week. The shop owner cooperated and provided evidence documenting where the buck came from. The officers seized the buck and other evidence at the shop.
The officers returned to meet with the first subject later that morning. The subject then told the officers that his mother had actually bought him his license and that she was on her way to the bank to get proof of the transaction. He again told the officers that he did not know where the buck was, but that he would turn it over as soon as he found it.
The officers turned over the evidence and statements to the Illinois DNR. Summons for both subjects were issued and sent to FWC for delivery to the two subjects. The subjects were charged with taking or possession of an antlered buck without an either-sex tag and failure to report harvest. Both subjects have mandatory court dates in Illinois.
Officer Pifer was on land patrol conducting saltwater fisheries and license inspections at the Shalimar Bridge when he observed three individuals on the bridge, one of which was actively engaged in fishing. Officer Pifer conducted a fisheries inspection of the cooler and determined that there was one Spanish mackerel, five gray/mangrove snapper and one unregulated fish inside. Four of the five snapper were undersized. The individual was issued a citation for possession of undersized gray snapper.
While returning from Panama City with vessel in tow, Officer Maltais was dispatched to a boating accident with a missing boater in Choctawhatchee Bay near Grass Lake. Officer Maltais launched his vessel and proceeded to the scene of the accident. Officer Maltais coordinated his efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office vessel units. Further, Officer Maltais requested FWC Dispatch to call out additional officers to assist in the search and rescue. Officers Molnar and Corbin responded to assist. The initial report from Dispatch stated that an unmanned vessel was circling in Choctawhatchee Bay. The USCG vessel units had already begun a search pattern. At approximately 0400, the missing boater was located and recovered. Investigator Armstrong has been assigned to investigate the boating accident fatality.
Officers White and Maltais taught the laws and ethics portion of a hunter safety course at the Okaloosa Correctional Institute to 39 student participants.
Officer North received an anonymous complaint regarding a subject who allegedly shot an alligator with a rifle in his backyard. Officer North contacted and interviewed the subject who cooperated and gave a full confession. Appropriate charges are being filed through the local prosecutor.
In a local Wildlife Management Area, Officer Ward located a suspicious vehicle with hunting equipment in it and saw the occupant putting on full camouflage clothing. Officer Ward contacted Officer North who responded with his K-9 partner Max. The officers located fresh tire tracks leading down a closed road. Officer North followed and soon located the unoccupied vehicle. He deployed K-9 Max on a track from the vehicle. The occupant was found in the woods placing a tree stand on a tree. He was issued a citation for driving on a closed road and a warning for placing hunting equipment on the Wildlife Management Area prior to legal time.
Officers Yetter and West were on the water in the area of Ponce Inlet when they made contact with a pontoon boat for a boating safety inspection. During the inspection the operator gave several indicators of impairment. Upon completion of the safety inspection, Officer Yetter began an investigation for boating under the influence. After completing the field sobriety tasks, the operator was placed under arrest for boating under the influence. During the investigation it was discovered that the operator was on duty as a captain provided by the livery and was not a licensed captain. The subject was transported to the Coast Guard station where he refused to provide a breath sample. The subject was then taken to the county jail. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified about the non-licensed captain taking passengers for hire.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Johnston and McDonald worked together to apprehend a suspect involved in a variety of freshwater game fish violations. Lieutenant Kiss was off duty when he noticed a subject throwing a cast net at a local pond in Lake City. Lieutenant Kiss contacted Officers Johnston and McDonald who were patrolling nearby. Officer McDonald utilized his unmarked patrol vehicle to maintain surveillance on the subject. Officer McDonald observed the subject catching fish in a cast net and placing the fish in a bucket. Officer McDonald contacted Officer Johnston who was waiting down the road in a concealed location. Officer Johnston made contact with the subject who was found to have a variety of resource violations which included no freshwater fishing license, taking freshwater game fish by an illegal method, possession of undersized black bass and possession of over the daily bag limit of bream. The subject was found to have 97 bream in his possession. Warnings and notices to appear were issued to the subject.
Officer Phillippi was on land patrol in the area of the Cortney Campbell Bridge. While on patrol he performed a fisheries inspection on an individual fishing from the shoreline. Upon completion of his inspection, he found that the subject had caught and kept a 22-inch snook. The subject was given a criminal citation and a notice to appear in court for possession of undersized snook.
Resource Protection Service (RPS) Officer McColgin received information from a local orange grove manager in reference to two subjects hunting on his property. K-9 Officer Collazo and Officers Raczek, Thompson and Rogers were called to assist with the trespass complaint. Two subjects were caught leaving the property with a catch dog and two bay dogs. The subjects were found in possession of gear that is commonly used to hunt hogs. The subjects were issued citations for the violations.
Lieutenant Hinds IV was on land patrol in the area of Stoze Road. While on patrol, he stopped and performed a fisheries inspection on a kayaker that had been fishing in Tampa Bay. Upon completion of his inspection, Lieutenant Hinds found that the subject had caught and kept an 18-inch snook. The subject was cited criminally for possession of undersized snook and given a court date.
Officer Laskowski was on land patrol working off some information that he received from a local land owner that some individuals were trespassing and illegally hunting on his property. On this particular night, Officer Laskowski caught two separate groups of hunters trespassing and attempting to hunt on the complainant’s property. Three men were cited for criminal trespassing and given notices to appear in a Manatee County Court.
Officer Hinds was on land patrol in the area of the South Skyway Rest Area. While on patrol, he performed a fisheries inspection on an individual that had been cast netting for fish in Tampa Bay. Upon completion of his inspection, he found that the subject had casted 4 undersized snook, 15 undersized mangrove snapper, 2 undersized spotted sea trout and 1 undersized flounder. The subject was given five criminal citations and a notice to appear in a Manatee County Court.
Officer Bibeau was on land patrol in the area of the North Skyway Fishing Pier. While on patrol, he observed two individuals that were spear fishing underneath the fishing pier. After getting the two subjects out of the water, Officer Bibeau performed a fisheries inspection. Upon completion of his inspection, he found that the two subjects had illegally speared and kept 7 undersized snook, 4 undersized sheepshead and 1 redfish. The two men were each given three criminal citations and notices to appear in a Pinellas County Court. The men were also given several warning for other violations.
Officer Bibeau along with Lieutenant Hinds were on land patrol in the area of Pinellas Bayway in Pinellas County. While on patrol, they stopped and performed a fisheries inspection on a group of men that had been wade fishing in Tampa Bay. Upon completion of their inspection, they found that one of the men had caught and kept an oversized redfish. The subject was issued a criminal citation by Officer Bibeau for possession of oversized redfish. The redfish was released alive.
Officer Ferguson was on land patrol in the area of Dunedin Causeway in Pinellas County. While on patrol he performed a fisheries inspection on a subject fishing from the shoreline. After completion of his inspection, he found the subject was in possession of an undersized redfish. Officer Ferguson issued a criminal citation for possession of undersized redfish and several warnings for other fisheries violations.
Officer Laskowski was on land patrol in the area of Whitaker Bayou. While on patrol, he stopped and performed a fisheries inspection on a subject that had been fishing in the bayou. Upon completion of his inspection, he found that the subject was in possession of one Goliath grouper. The subject was given a criminal citation and a notice to appear in court for possession of a prohibited species.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Wright and Trawinski represented the FWC Honor Guard at a 9/11 remembrance ceremony in Palm Beach Gardens. Numerous public safety agencies and honor guards participated in the annual event in honor of Patriot’s Day.
Lieutenants Russo and Fillip, Investigators Sierra and Howell and Officers Irwin, Rogers and Trawinski participated in a multi-agency marine enforcement detail September 12th through the 15th. Several federal, state and local agencies including the US Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and Sheriff’s Offices patrolled the offshore areas of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties. Federal agencies focused their patrols on the interdiction of migrants and narcotics, while FWC focused on state and federal fisheries enforcement and boating safety regulations.
Officers Coker and Brock were on patrol in the vicinity of the 15th St. Boat Ramp in Ft. Lauderdale. They conducted a marine fisheries and boating safety inspection on a vessel near the boat ramp. As a result of their inspection, one individual onboard was found to have harvested a Tripletail in violation of size regulations. The individual was issued a criminal notice to appear (citation). The dead Tripletail was seized as evidence.
Officer Alford and Lieutenant Brown received a call in reference to a subject who was in possession of two deer taken out of season. The officers went by the residence and from the main road could see the deer in plain view in the yard. The subject met the officers in the drive way and offered to show the deer. The subject initially said he took the deer with a bow. Evidence showed the deer was taken with a gun. Lieutenant Brown began looking for a projectile and found a few fragments of lead. After being advised of his rights, the subject gave a sworn statement and admitted to taking the deer with a rifle during closed season. The subject was issued a citation and mandatory court date.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Stone gave a presentation to seniors in the Criminal Justice Academy at Lake Worth High School. The instructor wrote the following statement to the FWC in appreciation of Officer Stone’s appearance.
“Thank you again for allowing Officer Stone to make another excellent presentation to our Academy Seniors. As usual, he informed and entertained our students with his enthusiasm and love for his career with your agency. His presentations always inspire our students to seek a career they will love doing, as he obviously does his. At least four of our students said they want to join FWC after they graduate from college. You have a real asset with him, and we appreciate you sharing him with our students again this year.”
SOUTH REGION B
Officer Boyd was on patrol, on ocean side east of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park when he observed a diver in the water near a vessel with improper display of a dive flag. Officer Boyd conducted a boating safety and marine fisheries inspection; the inspections revealed the operator did not have the registration on board the vessel and was in possession of 2 undersized gray snapper under the 10-inch minimum limit, 1 undersized schoolmaster snapper under the 10-inch minimum limit, and 1 undersized hogfish under the 12-inch minimum limit. Citations were written for the resource violations and warnings for the dive flag size, not being at the highest point of the vessel and not having the registration certificate on board.
Officers Foell and Richards were on water patrol in the Lower Keys when they observed a vessel heading in from the reef line. A boating safety inspection revealed numerous safety and registration violations. While conducting the safety inspection, the officers noticed dive gear and multiple pole-spears used for spearfishing onboard the vessel. A marine fisheries inspection revealed a plastic gallon bag with eight undersized hogfish inside. The subjects onboard were cited accordingly for the violations.
Officers Schroth and Hein were on state water patrol in the Long Key area, when they noticed several individuals fishing from an anchored vessel. Officers Schroth and Hein conducted a boating safety and resource inspection. The occupants said that they did not catch any fish. Upon inspection of their vessel, the officers located several fish. An occupant on board explained they were caught off of a dock the night before and they are probably small. At the conclusion of the resource inspection, the captain was cited for possession of undersized mangrove snapper and possession of undersized mutton snapper.
Several Officers responded to a report of three missing divers roughly three miles offshore of Broad Creek in the southern part of Dade County. They reported that the divers had been missing for at least two hours. Officers Schroth and LaRosa, were on patrol in Monroe County when they received the call. Biscayne National Park officers, the US Coast Guard and Metro-Dade Fire Rescue responded as well to search for the missing divers. Officer Schroth found all three divers, over two miles away from their vessel after a short search. The divers were a little “shook up” but in good spirits and very thankful to our FWC Officers for rescuing them. Officer Schroth returned all three divers to their vessel.
Officer Alexander, while on vessel patrol in the area of Coon Key, came upon a vessel with one occupant taking on water. The occupant forgot to put the plug in and was unable to do so at sea. Officer Alexander escorted him safely back to the dock.
Officers Alexander and Kleis were on foot patrol conducting license and fisheries inspections in the area of Jolley Bridge connecting to Marco Island. During an inspection of one individual, Officer Kleis noticed a noise coming from a cooler. The individual indicated that it was his and Officer Kleis found two live undersized mangrove snapper and one live undersized mutton snapper inside. The individual indicated that he caught two of the snapper and that a second individual caught the remaining snapper. The second individual also acknowledged that he caught one snapper. Both individuals received citations for their respective undersized snappers. All the snappers were returned to the water alive.
While in plain clothes patrol, Investigator Van Trees observed three individuals fishing from a bridge. Investigator Van Trees parked his vehicle and made contact with them. During his conversation with the individuals about fishing, they offered Investigator Van Trees a rod and reel to fish with. After thirty minutes of fishing, one of the individuals caught an undersized snook and a second individual gutted and hid the fish. A few minutes later, the third individual caught an undersized snook and the second individual again, gutted and hid the fish. Investigator Van Trees contacted Officer Despian about what was going on and had him contact the suspects. All three individuals were charged for landing, harvesting and possessing undersized snook.