September 18 through September 24
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.
Officer Corbin was on land patrol conducting saltwater fisheries and license inspections at the ShalimarBridge when he observed several individuals on the bridge, one of which was actively engaged in fishing. Officer Corbin conducted a fisheries inspection of a five gallon bucket and determined that there was 10 Spanish mackerel inside. Eight of the 10 Spanish mackerel were undersized. The individual was issued a citation for possession of undersized Spanish mackerel.
Officer J. Rockwell located a marijuana cultivation site on Blackwater Wildlife Management Area while on ATV patrol. Surveillance was conducted for several days until Officer P. Rockwell observed two subjects enter the cultivation site and water approximately 20 marijuana plants. The subjects placed fishing tackle around their vehicle to distract someone from their illegal actions. Both subjects were placed under arrest once they started departing the area. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Unit was called to process the cultivation site and remove the plants from the management area. Both subjects were booked into the Okaloosa County Jail and charged with cultivation of marijuana.
Officer Brooks checked two subjects in a canoe fishing on the ChoctawhatcheeRiver. A records check revealed one of them had an outstanding warrant for assault from WaltonCounty. The subject was placed under arrest and turned over to the WaltonCounty
Sheriff’s Department. Later in the evening, Officer Brooks stopped to check on the welfare of a pedestrian walking along the roadway and learned the subject had an active warrant. The subject was taken into custody and turned over to Holmes County Sheriff’s Department.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Waltman was on land patrol inside JenningsStateForest when he noticed a subject digging rocks out of a forest parking area. Officer Waltman instructed the subject that it was illegal to take the rocks and should put them back. While talking with the subject, Officer Waltman noticed the distinct smell of burnt cannabis. Officer Waltman asked the subject if he has any cannabis in his possession
in which he stated "yes." Officer Larosa arrived on scene to assist Officer Waltman and was granted permission to search the subject’s vehicle. The officers found and seized cannabis, cannabis pipe and cannabis grinder from the subject’s vehicle. Officer Larosa issued the subject a notice to appear for possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officer Johnston was on land patrol in an undeveloped subdivision in LakeCity when he located three subjects trespassing and attempting to recover their vehicle that became stuck in a mud hole. Officer Johnston requested to see forms of identification and found one subject to have an active warrant for his arrest for violation of probation. The warrant was from an original charge by FWC Pilot Joe Johnston in 2011. Officer Johnston arrested the subject and transported him to the Columbia County Jail where he was booked without incident.
Lieutenant Arkin was on land patrol when he conducted a seafood quality inspection on a seafood business in Jacksonville. The business was selling rotten, unwholesome seafood. The business did not have any receipts for snapper, mullet, porgy, blue crabs and pompano. The blue crabs were left in a cooler with flies all over them because the cooler was not turned on. All the utensils and equipment in the business were dirty.
There were roach droppings all over the floor and none of the fish was iced. Lieutenant Arkin issued the business owner a notice to appear for selling unwholesome seafood. There were no receipts for seafood on premises and for seafood not being protected from contamination of flies, dust and rodents. Written warnings were issued for commercial sale of undersized pompano, insufficient ice and refrigeration and for dirty equipment and utensils. The business owner even tried to conceal some of the rotten fish by hiding them in a sink after Lieutenant Arkin stepped outside the building to obtain a camera.
Officers Boone and Pekerol received information from a local landowner concerning subjects trespassing on private property. The landowner stated that while reviewing game camera photos on his property, he observed 3 adult subjects and one juvenile walking through a food plot. In the photo, one of the subjects appeared to be holding some type of rifle and the juvenile was holding a freshly killed rabbit. Officer Boone recognized two of the subjects, as being involved in a previous case he worked involving the illegal taking of a deer and trespass during the 2014/2015 hunting season. Officers Boone and Pekerol made contact with the subjects depicted in the photos. During the interviews, all subjects admitted their involvement. Appropriate charges will be filed with the state attorney’s office.
Lieutenant Creech received a call from the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office stating that they were receiving reports of vandalism at one of the local private springs along the SuwanneeRiver. The witness reported that while canoeing down the river they observed several subjects exiting private property near Bathtub Springs in SuwanneeCounty. As the witness canoed closer, he could see graffiti that was freshly spray-painted on rocks and trees around the spring. The witness stated that the subjects were carrying camping gear and may be staying overnight at one of the local river camps. Lieutenant Creech contacted Officer Pekerol to assist in evidence recovery, while Lieutenant Creech attempted to locate the group of canoers for questioning. A group of 11 canoers matching the witness’ description were located at a local river camp just north of Branford. During interviews, three subjects admitted involvement with the vandalism and provided a vague description of where they had discarded the paint can. The following day, Officer Pekerol was able to locate a can of spray-paint that was an exact color match used to deface the rock and trees at Bathtub Springs. Appropriate charges will be filed with the state attorney’s office.
Officer Griffis was on routine foot patrol underneath the east side of the Shave Bridge in Fernandina Beach when he conducted a resource inspection on two subjects who were fishing. The inspection revealed an undersized mangrove snapper and a written warning was issued for the resource violation. The subject who was in possession of the mangrove snapper was arrested and booked into the Nassau County Jail for an active warrant out of Duval County.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Norris and Goggin participated in Kids Day America at Sallie Jones Elementary School. The officers brought a live alligator for the kids to see and touch, as well as the FWC Jeep for the kids to see. The officers handed out whistles and regulation books, while answering many questions about hunting and fishing. The organizers estimated about 2,000 children and parents attended the event.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Peterson and Spradlin conducted an outreach program at Forestry’s Tillis Hill Campground, in the Citrus WMA, to a 4x4 club known as the Tampa Jeep Crew. Approximately 130 of their members were present and approximately 100 jeeps filled the parking area. Based on the comments we received, the outreach was very successful in educating the members regarding the use, and rules of the forest.
Officer Raczek was off duty on I-4, when he observed a vehicle accident in the roadway. One of the vehicles was upside down and crashed against the guard rail in the median. He immediately stopped and asked someone to call 911. Officer Raczek was able to secure the area and move the passengers to safety. He then provided first aid by cleaning and bandaging several lacerations until paramedics arrived on scene.
Officer Morrow was dispatched to the area of BlindPass on Sanibel Island to investigate the report of a subject catching several redfish and placing them into a cooler. The incident was called into FWC by a Sanibel police officer, who was still on scene maintaining surveillance on the subject. When Officer Morrow arrived, he met with the Sanibel PD officer who assisted him in conducting a fisheries inspection. Their investigation revealed that the male subject had four legal sized redfish in a cooler, which was off to the side out of view under the bridge. The daily legal bag limit is one per person in the south zone. When questioned, the subject admitted catching all four redfish. He told the officers that he knew the slot limit size; however, he was unaware of how many he could keep. The subject was issued two misdemeanor citations for possession of over the bag limit of redfish and a major violation citation for possessing more than three redfish. The subject was permitted to keep one of the four fish. He was served with a Notice to Appear and given a court date.
Officers Thompson and Rogers were conducting surveillance at the Blind Pass Bridge between Sanibel and Captiva during the late night hours. This popular fishing location has been ripe with snook and redfish over the last few weeks. Through the use of concealment and night vision they were able to observe several subjects fishing without revealing their presence. Eventually the officers contacted two subjects who were heading back to their vehicle. The subjects were in possession of 5 undersized snook that had been harvested with cast nets. Appropriate citations were issued.
Officers Raczek, Rogers and Thompson worked panther zone enforcement on Corkscrew Road. The officers stopped several vehicles for traveling at high rates of speed in the area. The highest rate of speed recorded was 114mph in a posted 45mph panther zone. Altogether, 5 infractions, 2 written warnings and a mandatory court date were issued for the violations.
Lieutenant Hinds was on land patrol in the area of Fort Desoto Park. While on patrol, he performed an inspection on an individual fishing underneath the BaywayBridge. Upon completion of his inspection, he found that the subject had caught and kept 13 undersized grey mangrove snapper. The subject was written one criminal citation for possession of undersized mangrove snapper and given a warning for being over the bag limit of 5 mangrove snapper per person.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Forrest was working in Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 2 during the alligator hunt. Officer Forrest observed a vehicle approaching the check station for the alligator hunt and followed the vehicle which had a Jon Boat in the back with the tailgate down. As she got closer, she could see two alligators in the boat. Officer Forrest inspected the 2 alligators that had been harvested. One of the alligators had the required tag properly secured in the tail. As Officer Forrest inspected the tag on the second alligator, it was twisted in an odd manner and visually appeared to be ‘clicked’ closed. As she touched the tag it came apart. The tag was twisted to provide tension and gently positioned closed but not ‘clicked’ so that it was permanently closed. The tag was also for the phase 1 hunting period. It was currently phase 2, so the unsecured tag was not valid for that phase. The subject was cited for failure to lock alligator harvest tag and taking alligator during illegal harvest period.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Laubenberger, as an Honor Guard Member attended the funeral for Coral Springs Detective Cuchie.
Lieutenant McDonald and Officer Wright assisted with the Hunter Safety Program by teaching the legal section of the Program. There were approximately 60 students in attendance. This program is required to obtain a hunting license in Florida and is accepted in other states in order to obtain a non-resident hunting license in a state other than Florida.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Matthews was on patrol in the vicinity of the El Rio canal in Boca Raton. He observed two individuals catch two obviously undersized snook. Upon contact with the individuals both were issued criminal notices to appear for harvesting undersized snook. The two undersized snook were released back into the water alive.
FWC was notified by the Boca Police Department of a missing free diver off of Boca Inlet. The Boca PD and USCG were on scene and conducted a grid search with air support, at this time the diver was reported to be missing for thirty minutes. The recreational dive consisted of four subjects. USCG had two patrol boats respond. FWCBrowardCounty vessels and two FWC Palm Beach vessels assisted in the search pattern. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team recovered the missing diver and transported the subject to Silver Palm Boat Ramp to be air lifted by USCG. FWC response units consisted of Officer Newman, LeBlanc, Hankinson, Spradling and two FWCBrowardCounty units.
The West Palm Beach Dispatch Center received a call from concerned archery hunters in the Hungryland Wildlife and Environmental Area that subjects picking palmetto berries were interfering with their hunt. Officers Merizio, Norbrothen and Stermen responded to the area. Upon the officer's approach the subjects fled. However, fifteen bags of berries each weighing at least 175 pounds were seized and returned to the resource. A conservative estimate of the value of the berries was placed at $4,500.00. The hunters expressed appreciation for the officers’ response and they were encouraged to call FWC in the future when they encountered violations.
Officer Guerin responded to a call in which a vehicle was stuck in Corbett WMA. When he arrived at the camping area, he noticed a game camera that was tampered with and a camper that had been broken into. He questioned the two individuals that were with the vehicle that was stuck. They admitted to breaking into the camper and destroying the photographic evidence on the game camera. An inventory of their vehicle revealed numerous pill bottles and drug paraphernalia. Both subjects were book into the county jail for burglary to unoccupied conveyance, possession of burglary tools, criminal mischief, possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. A felony drug charge is pending.
Officers Stone and Spradling were checking fishermen at the Lake Worth Spillway. As they were leaving they saw a vehicle parked on the side of the road with a male holding a snook. They drove over to the individual and as they were exiting the vehicle the subject turned as if he was going to flee. Officer Stone drew his Taser and warned the subject to stop or he will be tased. The subject complied with the officers orders and didn’t run or throw the fish in the water. Once the officers completed the fisheries inspection they found him to be in possession of two oversized snook.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Investigator Turner was provided with an internet tip taken from Facebook, regarding the unlawful taking of an alligator out of season. During a two month long investigation, Investigator Turner, with the assistance of Officer Fretwell, was able to identify the crime scene and discover the remains of an alligator. The investigation revealed that the subject had removed the alligator’s head. Due to Investigator Turner’s persistence with witnesses, he was given several photographs and developed probable cause to obtain two arrest warrants for the taking of an alligator out of season. Two subjects were taken into custody and booked into the St. Lucie County Jail. One of the subjects accepted a plea offer and was sentenced to 180 days in the county jail along with a $448.00 fine.
While on routine patrol in HendryCounty, Officer DeWeese received some information regarding a possibly illegally killed buck. Officer DeWeese worked the case and eventually made contact with the suspected poacher later that evening. Officer McClendon assisted Officer DeWeese with the interview late in the evening. The officers decided that through the presented facts, the interviews and the evidence presented to the officers, that the deer was not illegally killed, but was merely the remains of a panther killed buck, on a private ranch in the area.
Officer DeWeese received a call that there was an elderly couple stranded in the OK Slough State Forest and in need of assistance. Officer DeWeese arrived on scene to find a disabled vehicle with an elderly couple inside the vehicle, with the husband whom was handicapped and bound to a wheel chair. After relentless efforts, Officer DeWeese was able to assist these individuals and get them the help that they needed. Officer McClendon arrived on scene to help Officer DeWeese. The individuals were transported to the ClewistonHospital to assess their medical issues. The officers had the vehicle towed and secured in Labelle until the individuals could get their vehicle fixed.
Officer DeWeese and Mullins were on patrol in the OK Slough WMA, when they observed a vehicle that was suspected of driving off trail in the WMA. While investigating the possible violation, the officers found tire tracks and were able to locate the suspect’s vehicle hid in a hammock, approximately a half mile off the designated trail. The suspects drove right past the sign stating "NO VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT". The individuals were issued citations for driving off trail and educated on the WMA rules.
Officer McLendon responded to an alligator attack involving a pet dog near a residence in Moore Haven. The dog’s owner stated the pet had been barking loudly in tall grass by the canal bank when all of a sudden it stopped. After several attempts to call the dog back to the house, the pet’s owner contacted FWC. Upon the officers’ inspection of the thick vegetation along the canal, the remains of a dog were discovered. A licensed trapper was notified and arrived shortly thereafter to remove the nuisance alligator.
SOUTH REGION B
Lieutenant Payne along with Officers Piekenbrock and Martino were on routine water patrol in WaltzKeyBasin north of Key West. Shortly after sunset the officers noticed a small skiff returning from offshore with no running lights. The officers followed undetected until they were in close proximity of the skiff. They activated their blue lights and stopped the skiff. The operator of the skiff claimed to have been snapper fishing. He had two large red coolers full of mangrove snappers on ice. He produced an SPL with no snapper grouper or restricted species endorsements. There was a total of 40 snappers in the coolers 39 of which were mangroves. The operator was cited for 33 mangrove snapper over the recreational limit and warned for several safety equipment violations and no running lights. The fish were photographed and released into the water.
While in plain clothes patrol at the 33rd Street boat ramp, Officer Bulger observed a gray Mercury sedan enter the parking lot. The sedan was occupied by a male and female subject. They stopped in front of the ramp and the male subject exited the car wearing a t-shirt and dark gray pants carrying a short pole, spear and a dive mask. Officer Bulger observed the subject enter the water on the north side of the ramp and submerge several times. The subject then swam to the south side of the ramp where he again submerged several times. After approximately 10 minutes in the water, the subject walked up the ramp towards the waiting sedan, concealing the pole spear inside his pants as he walked. As the male was about to enter the sedan, Officer Bulger approached and identified himself as a law enforcement officer. Officer Bulger asked the subject how many lobster he had gotten to which the subject replied "seven" as he removed seven wrung lobster tails from his pants pockets. The subject was cited for 5 misdemeanor violations that included; undersized lobster, wrung tails, over the limit, illegal harvest method, no measuring device, and 1 infraction for not having a valid saltwater fishing license.
Officer Hein was on state water patrol in the Islamorada area when he noticed several divers in the water that appeared to be capturing lobster. One of the divers got into the boat with a bag of lobster and Officer Hein conducted a boating safety and resource inspection. Officer Hein asked if they had caught any lobster and the occupants said the only lobster they had was in the bag. Officer Hein asked if they had any other fish or lobster on board and they said they did not. While Officer Hein was inspecting safety equipment, an occupant picked up a lobster off the deck and threw it in the water. Officer Hein asked if there were any more lobster and the occupants said "no". Officer Hein searched a cooler which revealed undersized lobster and an undersized speared red grouper. One of the occupants was cited for possession of undersized lobster and the other was cited for possession of undersized lobster, possession of undersized red grouper, and interference with an FWC Officer.
Officer Hein was on state water patrol in the Conch Key area when he conducted a boating safety and resource inspection on a vessel heading into a marina. At the conclusion of the boating safety and resource inspection, the captain was cited for possession of undersized yellowtail snapper and possession of undersized mutton snapper.
Officer Hein was on state land patrol in the Islamorada area when he saw several people under a bridge fishing and one of them was carrying a spear gun. He also noticed another man cutting a schoolmaster snapper into pieces and using it as bait. Officer Hein conducted a resource inspection and at the conclusion of the resource inspection, one individual was cited for failure to land snapper in whole condition, possession of undersized mangrove snapper, possession of undersized schoolmaster snapper, and possession of undersized black grouper.
Officer Hein was on state land patrol in the Tavernier area when he identified several individuals fishing by land under a bridge. Officer Hein conducted a resource inspection and immediately saw a cooler filled with mangrove snapper. At the conclusion of the resource inspection, two individuals were cited for not having the proper licensing and one individual was cited for possession of undersized mangrove snapper and over the bag limit of mangrove snapper.
An investigator and an officer were called to Oleta State Park in reference a vehicle that was stuck. Upon arrival, the officers observed a van stuck on top of a large boulder that had been deliberately placed at that location to prevent access to a restricted area by unauthorized vehicles. The driver stated that he was at the park’s beach when he found a large live rock that he wanted to take home for his saltwater aquarium. When the driver attempted to bring the van close to the water’s edge, he accidentally drove over the top of the "barricade" boulder. The driver then attempted to use a jack and the harvested live rock in an effort to free his vehicle. The driver was cited for harvesting live rock from state waters; the rock was seized, photographed for evidence and then placed back into the water.