This report represents some significant events the FWC handled over the past two weeks; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.
SOUTH REGION A
FWC received a multi-agency request to limit public access to portions of the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Officers Scott Caske, Michelle Lawless, Bill Carpenter, Scott Engstler, and Ken Holt assisted Florida’s Division of Forestry, South Florida Water Management District and FWC’s Division of Wildlife with controlling access to Conservation Area 3A North because of extremely low water levels and fires.
On Friday, April 20, criminal charges were filed by Investigator Maria Forrest against a fishing boat’s captain and mate. On March 11, the investigator received information about a great white shark that had been caught and killed offshore of Fort Lauderdale. The incident had taken place in May 2006 and was well documented on several online fishing forums. Investigator Forrest was able to obtain a video of the incident as part of a thorough investigation.
On Saturday, April 21, Officer Mark Ream responded to a call from the manager of Markham Park about a nuisance alligator. The alligator was on land and approaching nearby campers and children who were playing near the water’s edge. Upon the arrival of the trapper, Officer Ream assisted him in the capture and securing of the eight-foot-plus alligator which had retreated to the water. Numerous children and adults observed and photographed the removal of the alligator which allowed Officer Ream to educate them about the habits of alligators.
On Saturday, April 21, Officer Ream stopped a vessel that was returning to the S8 pump station boat ramp. During its inspection, Officer Ream located a loaded .357-magnum handgun on board. A computer inquiry showed it had been stolen in 2003. Officer Ream seized the weapon and turned it over to the police department for further investigation.
On Saturday, April 21, Officer Patrick Corley stopped a vessel at the S8 pump station boat ramp. After conducting a freshwater fisheries inspection, Officer Corley found that both subjects were in possession of largemouth bass that were over the legal size limit. Citations were issued.
On Wednesday, April 25, Officer Hank Juntunen was summoned to assist the United States Coast Guard with a boat operator who was suspected of being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage (BUI). Officer Juntunen conducted field sobriety tests and placed the operator under arrest based upon the results. Officer Juntunen then used his mobile breath and alcohol testing equipment to complete the process. The boat operator’s alcohol level was found to be well over Florida’s legal limit. The subject was charged with BUI and booked into the local jail.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
This past weekend, Officers James Barrow, David Burnsed, A.J. Maynard, Lee Leblanc, and Todd Nichols participated in a boating safety enforcement detail around the Belle Glade Marina. Canine Officer Ed Brown, Investigator J.W. Armstrong, Lieutenant Travis Franklin and Pilot Lieutenant Joe Martyna also participated by lending their specialized assistance and equipment. Officer Juntenen brought and used the Division’s Boating and Waterways/BUI trailer. A total of approximately 400 users and 20 vessels were checked. Nine citations were issued for boating safety violations, black bass size limits, and fishing license violations. Additionally, seven warnings were issued for similar type offenses.
This past weekend, Officer Lee LeBlanc and Reserve Officer Robert Gutterson encountered a subject operating his van and ATV off-trail in the JW Corbett WMA. The subject was also in possession of and shooting a .22-gauge rifle and 12-gauge shotgun during a non-hunting period. A computer check revealed an active, out-of-county arrest warrant for him. The officers took the subject into custody for the warrant and also cited him for operating the vehicles off-trail and possession of firearms during closed season.
SOUTH REGION B
COLLIER COUNTY – COPS
Officers Doyle Cook and Mark Mahoney attended the Collier County Public Schools Career Fair at Gulf Coast High School in Naples. Approximately 200 juniors and seniors attended the three-hour event. The officers spoke to students about employment, rules and regulations of the agency, and provided handouts and brochures.
Officer Mahoney and Canine Officer Felix Collazo attended the annual Dive into Oceans event at the Rookery Bay Headquarters Educational Building. During the event, they provided tips on fish identification, boating safety, and handed out educational material to over 300 students from numerous schools throughout the county. Other focus topics included manatee, panther, bear, and alligator issues. As a highlight, Officer Collazo provided K-9 demonstrations with FWC K-9 Harley.
Lieutenant Wayne Maahs, Officer John Williamson, and Canine Officer Collazo attended Family Discovery Day at Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples. The annual event promotes Earth Day and is open to the public. The officers displayed an airboat and swamp buggy, a robotic deer, a live alligator, and provided handouts to a large number of attendees. K-9 Harley demonstrated his ability to sniff out weapons.
A boating accident involving two subjects on a rented personal watercraft (PWC) resulted in one fatality. The operator was killed after colliding into an overhanging tree branch. However, the rear passenger succeeded in jumping off just before the impact and was unharmed. The PWC was traveling at a high rate of speed in the submarine pits of the Boca Chica Naval Air Base when the accident occurred.
A privately owned Cessna departing Key West International Airport with three persons on board struck the cable line that anchors “Fat Albert” to a base station on Sugarloaf Key. The wing of the Cessna was sheared and the aircraft crashed into the water, killing one Virginia and two Florida residents. Fat Albert is a lighter-than-air craft that operates a radar station for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The cable that secures Fat Albert is capable of reaching heights of 14,000 feet and the area is marked on navigation charts as a restricted area. Officers Farris Livesay, Kevin Mehegan, and Mitchell Johnson assisted in the search and recovery effort.
FWC Pilot Chris Colon dedicated four air patrol hours to assist U.S. Customs Border Patrol (UCB) during a migrant smuggling incident at Ocean Reef Yacht Club. Seventeen Cuban migrants made landfall while the suspected smugglers took off on foot into the mangroves after running their vessel aground. Pilot Colon’s search and suppression tactics forced the suspects to remain concealed in the mangroves until perimeter patrols were established. At one point, the pilot left to refuel but promptly returned and continued enforcement efforts. After rounding up the migrants, UCB patrol agents left the scene. However, FWC officers were intent on locating the suspects who had escaped into the thick mangroves. One suspect was soon found. Canine Officers Thomas Hill and Brandon Ennis, along with K-9 Jasmine tracked the other suspects’ route. Eventually, Officer Scott LaRosa and Investigator David Roudebush located two additional suspects hiding beneath a bridge. A total of three suspects were arrested and turned over to UCB.
Officer Scott LaRosa’s investigation of a grounding involving the vessel Sea-Land Atlantic resulted in a federal civil penalty assessment of $7,500. Portions of the settlement amount will be given to FWC as compensation for investigative time and costs.
Officer Charlie Mallow’s investigation at Sand Key Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) involving a commercial charter boat operator fishing illegally within the SPA, resulted in a federal civil penalty assessment of $2,500. Portions of the settlement amount will be given to FWC as compensation for investigative time and costs.
MONROE COUNTY – COPS
Officers Erik Steinmetz and Tom Hill, along with K-9 Jasmine, visited Plantation Key Elementary School and Saint James Children’s Center to give presentations to preschool and kindergarten aged children. They brought with them a live alligator, numerous other live reptiles, a juvenile turkey, rooster, and chicken. The officers educated the students on conservation, animal behaviors and habitat, plus each student had an opportunity to handle the animals. The children also enjoyed meeting Jasmine and watching her track and locate a hidden crawfish tail.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, April 15, Officer Robert O’Horo was called out on a search and rescue. Two persons left a local establishment the night before and didn’t travel very far when the motor broke down on their vessel. After spending the night drifting across the Harbor to the westside into the mangroves near Hog Island, they were able to get the motor started after daylight. Officer O’Horo found them in the area of Hog Island and assisted them up the Myakka River to the El Jo Bean boat ramp.
On Tuesday, April 17, Officers Jason Forker and William Holcomb were on water patrol in the area of Boca Bay. They checked a guide fisherman with five clients onboard and the captain was in possession of an undersize snook. He was issued the appropriate citation.
On Sunday, April 22, Officer Adam Resnick was on patrol at the Port Charlotte Beach Complex when he observed a vessel operator struggling to trailer his vessel. He made contact with the operator and observed signs of impairment. The subject was unable to adequately perform field sobriety tasks and was placed under arrest for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol. He was transported to the county jail and his BAC levels were .203 and .195.
On Tuesday, April 24, at approximately 1830 hours, Officer Lauren Schroeder received a request from the Coast Guard in regards to a vessel with possible undersize grouper. Upon arriving to assist the Coast Guard, Officer Schroeder found the four people on board in possession of three undersize red grouper, the fillets of another undersize red grouper, and two legal red grouper along with a few other legal fish. The subjects had been fishing in Federal waters approximately 25 miles off shore. Two subjects were issued misdemeanor citations for undersize and over the bag limit of red grouper along with warnings for expired fishing licenses. One of those subjects was also issued a misdemeanor for failure to land in whole condition. The other two subjects were issued infractions for no fishing licenses.
On Thursday, April 12, Officers Jeff Manson and Damon Pulaski advised a subject at the Hernando Beach boat ramp he needed to modify his recreational blue crab traps to comply with Florida Statutes in reference to degradable panels. They explained all the options as described in the Commission rules. They left the subject, who told them he was going to fix the traps to comply. Later in the shift, Officers Manson and Pulaski saw the traps in the water and pulled them to see if the owner had done what he said he would do. The traps were not in compliance. They found the subject fishing nearby and asked him if he had modified the traps. The subject admitted placing the traps without making any effort to comply, even though he had been thoroughly educated on what to do. Officer Manson charged the subject with no degradable panels in the traps.
On Friday, April 13, Officer Annie Plastic encountered a subject putting a boat on the trailer at the Hernando Beach boat ramp. When she interviewed the subject to find out if his boating safety equipment was in compliance and check their catch, she realized the subject was very intoxicated. The subject could not respond to simple requests for information or show the required safety equipment, although it was in plain sight. After failing several field sobriety tasks at the ramp area, the subject was transported to the county jail. The subject submitted to a breath test and the results were .130 and .132. The subject was charged with BUI.
On Friday, April 20, Officer Sean Smith and Lieutenant Kevin Grover discovered a vehicle parked along US 98 near Hog Pond. Close to the vehicle was a cooler which contained nine bass, five of which were undersize. Officer Smith and Lieutenant Grover waited for the subjects to return. As two subjects dragged a johnboat to the truck, contact was made and they admitted catching and keeping the fish. Citations were issued for the undersize bass and several warnings were issued for boating safety and license violations.
On Sunday, April 8, Officers Rich Dearborn, Wade Hattaway, Alton Still, and Joe Wolff, along with K-9 Gunner were able to track and locate a father, son, and nephew who jumped a fence onto Southwest Florida Management District (SWFMD) property during the early morning hours in an attempt to take turkey. The subjects were charged with possession of firearm on SWFMD property, trespassing, and hunting in a closed area. Warnings were issued for entering at an unauthorized entry point, entry during non-daylight hour, and littering.
On Saturday, April 14, Officer Hattaway was patrolling SWFMD property, targeting spring turkey hunting. In the vicinity of an established blind area, consisting of a tree stand platform and a bait site, different bird calling sounds were heard multiple times. Officer Hattaway approached the platform blind where he observed two subjects making these calls. After interviewing the two individuals, they admitted hunting turkeys within 100 yards of a bait site. They were cited appropriately.
On Sunday, April 15, Officer Rick Scilabro responded to a call from a property owner stating there were three subjects fishing on his property. Upon Officer Scilabro’s arrival, the subjects fled the scene. All three were apprehended and charged with trespassing, resisting without violence, and harvesting game fish with a cast net.
On Friday, April 20, Officer Scilabro was traveling on the Cross Town Expressway when he noticed an individual swerving and driving recklessly. He conducted a traffic stop and detected signs of impairment. After administering field sobriety tasks, it was determined the subject was under the influence. Officer Scilabro transported the individual to jail where he blew a .187 breath sample.
On Saturday, April 21, Officer Ray Sherertz responded to a vessel accident on the Alafia River. An 18-year-old subject was racing a speed boat when he flipped the vessel and ejected himself and four other passengers, including a four-year-old child who was wearing a life jacket. Three of the individuals were transported to the hospital with injuries. Officer Scilabro arrived to assist with the investigation. It was determined the vessel operator was under the influence so Officer Scilabro transported the subject to jail. Officer Sherertz continued the investigation at the scene.
On Sunday, April 8, Officer Adam Small was on vessel patrol in the area of Mullock Creek. While checking fishermen, he encountered a subject without a saltwater fishing license. After checking for warrants, it was found the subject had outstanding warrants from Lee and Collier counties for failure to pay child support. The subject was booked into the Lee County Jail and Collier County was notified as well.
On Friday, April 13, while checking fishermen in the Cape Coral area, Officer Jonathan Ruggerio encountered a subject fishing without a freshwater fishing license. After checking with dispatch, the subject was found to have an active warrant issued from Immigration. After being booked into the county jail on a warrant of removal from the United States, the subject was turned over to Immigration and Custom Enforcement.
On April 13, while patrolling the area of Harnes Marsh in LeHigh Acres, Officer Demian McColgin encountered four subjects fishing. After checking for fish, one subject was found in possession of a 14‑inch snook. He was issued the appropriate citation.
On Friday, April 20, Officer Brian Cazalot was on patrol in North Fort Myers at Bayshore Road when he observed an off-road motorcycle on the county road headed westbound in the eastbound lane. The motorcycle nearly caused a traffic accident and was stopped for the violation. Other subjects approached the scene and Officer Cazalot observed the driver of the motorcycle attempt to pass off an unidentified object. The scene was taken under control and it was determined the driver of the motorcycle attempted to conceal a crack pipe and was in possession of 15 crack cocaine rocks. EMS was called to the scene because the defendant complained of back injuries resulting from the arrest. He was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital and was released a few hours later. He was taken to jail and charged with possession of crack cocaine with the intent to sell, possession of paraphernalia, and driving a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license.
On Thursday, April 12, Officer Jean Paul Hernandez responded to a complaint concerning a person keeping undersize gag grouper at the South Skyway Fishing Pier. Officer Hernandez located the person and inspected his catch. The subject was in possession of two undersize gag grouper and was cited appropriately.
On April 12 Officer Hernandez was patrolling along I-75 and I-275 when he noticed a person cast netting from a boat in a small pond. Safety and fisheries inspections were conducted. Three largemouth bass were found in his catch and the person admitted catching them with the cast net. The subject was issued citations for taking fresh water game fish by illegal method and no lifesaving devices. In addition, several written warnings were issued for other boating safety violations.
On Sunday, April 15, Lieutenant Joe Allen observed a vehicle parked at the Oak Creek Campground parking lot. During foot patrol of the nearby safety zone, in which hunting is prohibited, a hunter was observed attempting to take wild turkey. The man was issued a citation for the misdemeanor charge.
On Friday, April 27, Officer Dirk Williamson encountered four subjects illegally camped in the A‑Pool Unit of the Kissimmee River Public Use Area. One of the subjects was in possession of two bass, less than the legal limit of 14 inches. Another subject was in possession of beer and was under 21 years of age. Both men received notices to appear for the violations. All the subjects were warned about camping in an undesignated area.
On Monday, April 16, Officer Joe Wolff received information reference a hunter placing cracked corn in the Green Swamp West WMA and hunting turkey over the bait. Officer Wolff located the subject’s vehicle and, with K9 Gunner, tracked the subject to his blind. The subject was found hunting approximately 30 yards from a decoy, which was in the middle of a large amount of cracked corn. Upon searching his vehicle, the subject had several one-gallon baggies of cracked corn. He was cited for attempting to take turkey over bait and placing/distributing bait in a WMA.
On Saturday, April 21, Officer Wolff stopped a vehicle at Middle Lake Fish Management Area for careless operation. The driver had a suspended license and the female passenger provided Officer Wolff with a false name. She had two felony warrants out of Pinellas County and was booked into jail on the warrants and also charged with providing a false name to a law enforcement officer. The driver was issued a notice to appear for driving while license suspended or revoked.
On Friday, April 13, Officer Lee Birge passed a vehicle stopped on the side of State Road 60 near Lake Wales and saw a female occupant throw an object from the passenger side window. The female gave Officer Birge what he believed was a fictitious name. When confronted, the subject stated she gave Officer Birge a false name because she believed she had an outstanding warrant for her arrest. A warrants check showed she did not have any outstanding warrants. Officer Birge charged the subject with resisting an officer without violence and issued her a citation for littering.
On Friday, April 20, Officer Birge was called to the City of Bartow to investigate a report of a subject shooting an osprey with a high-powered air rifle. The injured bird was taken to a local rehabilitator, who in turn took the bird to a veterinarian. The bird was later euthanized due to its injuries. While conducting this investigation, Officer Birge learned the suspect had possibly shot a second osprey early Monday morning, April 16. Bartow police were called and located a dead osprey. Officer Birge interviewed the suspect and obtained a confession to the shooting of both birds. The suspect was arrested and charged with two counts of illegally taking a non-game migratory bird. He was transported to the county jail. The weapon was seized as evidence.
POLK COUNTY - COPS
On Tuesday, April 24, Investigator Daryl Amerson and Officer Matthew Ervin attended the Presidents’ Roundtable Officer of the Year banquet in Lakeland. For the past 39 years, this civic group has honored representatives from each agency in Polk County. Investigator Amerson was chosen as the Officer of the Year and Officer Ervin was an honorable mention. The officers were honored during the banquet with very nice plaques and a gift certificate.
On Monday, April 23, Officer Loren Lowers was on patrol when he observed several people standing around a small boat ramp along the Intracoastal Waterway. Officer Lowers stopped to talk to the individuals. It was pointed out to him that one person had an unpaid ticket. A warrants check revealed he had an active, confirmed warrant for a mooring violation. The subject was transported and booked into the county jail.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
On Tuesday, after sunset, Officer Eric Hall observed a small vessel near Dunn’s Creek with no lights on. Officer Hall called the two occupants back to shore in order to check their safety equipment. One of the occupants came right to shore but the second stayed with the boat a little ways from shore. Officer Hall asked them if the had any life jackets and they said no. Officer Hall then instructed the second subject to bring the boat to shore. During the inspection, Officer Hall found four monofilament gill nets in the boat. The vessel had no registration, lights or life jackets. The subjects were cited for several net ban and safety equipment violations.
On Sunday morning, Officer Clay Huff conducted foot patrol on a private hunt lease. Earlier in the spring gobbler season, Officer Huff had located two turkey bait sites on the property. During his patrol, he located one subject attempting to take turkey within 30 yards of one of the bait sites and another subject within 10 yards of the second site. Both subjects were cited for attempting to take turkey over bait.
On Sunday, Lieutenant Paul Graham was inspecting fishermen along Heckscher Dr. in Duval County. An inspection of one individual showed that he possessed one undersize spotted sea trout. A warrants check was conducted while a warning was being issued. The check revealed that the individual had an outstanding warrant for failure to pay child support. He was arrested and turned over to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
On Saturday, Officers David Waldo and Don Bailey were checking hunters in a hunt club in Nassau County. One hunter was found to be using an electronic turkey call, and another had shot a squirrel, as well as not having a turkey stamp. The appropriate citations were issued.
On Sunday, Officer Tim Sweat responded to a boating accident, in the Fort George River in Duval County, involving two PWCs. Three persons were injured and transported to the hospital. Officer Sweat is conducting the investigation.
Officers Rodney Boone and Dennis Sharpe were working Little River WMA when they noticed fresh tracks leading to private property that borders the WMA. The officers later found a vehicle, feeder, blind and turkey decoy. After hearing a series of turkey calls, Officer Boone approached the blind which was occupied by an adult male and his 11-year-old son. The adult was issued a notice-to-appear for attempting to take turkeys within 100 yards of feed or grain.
On February 6, Officer Robert Johnston received information in reference to a suspected convicted felon who had been illegally taking game at a hunt camp within a local Hunt Club. For the next month he continued to monitor the camp while establishing informants and collecting information. During the investigation, he discovered items that indicated there was a meth lab located at the hunt camp. Officer Johnston teamed up with Levy County Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force and they secured a warrant for the camp based on his observations. On April 20, Officer Johnston and Lieutenant Jay Russel provided hours of surveillance which led to the takedown and arrest of four suspects. Several charges are pending to include armed trafficking of controlled substance, convicted felon in possession of firearm, possession of methamphetamine and attempting to take deer at night with gun and light.
After a full day of firearms and defensive tactics training, Officers Sam Dishman and Johnston responded to a search and rescue on the Gulf waters of North Levy. The officers quickly located the stranded boater in a maze of creeks within the Lower Suwannee Federal Refuge and assisted him back to safety. Just as the officers put their boat on the trailer, a second search and rescue complaint came in for two more stranded boaters out of the town of Suwannee. A group of men from Georgia had rented a houseboat and were camping at the mouth of the Suwannee River. Two johnboats had departed from the houseboat looking for a third boat that was late returning from fishing. The third boat returned shortly after and the two rescue boats never did. As the night became cold and sea conditions began to deteriorate the officers refueled and set back out to sea. Lieutenant Russel and Officer Kevin Losee responded to assist, as did the US Coast Guard. After a couple of hours of searching, Officers Dishman and Johnston located the first missing boater who was cold and wet in a small johnboat and transported him safely back to the rented houseboat. Lieutenant Russel and Officer Losee located the second missing vessel with the assistance of the Coast Guard helicopter and safely transported the two occupants back to the houseboat. The rescued boaters, although cold and scared, were all okay.
On April 17, Columbia County deputies conducted a traffic stop on I-75 in southern Columbia County. After interviewing the occupants, they were placed in the rear of the LE vehicle, as their stories did not match up. At some point, one subject kicked out the window and both men fled on foot across I-75 and into the woods. FWC ground personnel and Pilot Joe Johnston responded to the call, along with two K-9 teams from DOC, Union SO, Alachua SO helicopter, FDOT, and FHP assisted in the search. These subjects were found and one captured after the K-9s tracked the subjects to where they were hiding under a singlewide mobile home. The second subject, however, “ran like a Deere” literally. The subject ran into Union County, down and back across Olustee Creek (the county line) and back into Columbia County approximately 10 times. At several points, he was seen as a flash through the woods with the second flash being the DOC K-9 teams and Officer Bret Gill. Captain Roy Brown, Lieutenants Scott Kihei, Tim Kiss, and David Lee, Investigator Mike Pridgen, Pilot Joe Johnston, and Officers Jeff Summers, Todd Hoyle, and Billy Giles, armed with their patrol rifles or shotguns, remained flexible and patient. The tracking ended when our runner’s final attempt to elude us failed, and he was found hiding under a log in the water with only his mouth and one knee visible above the water line. Officer Bret Gill, after running approximately 10 miles in this pursuit, was able to handcuff the subject without incident. It should be noted that all agencies involved worked well together and no one got hurt. The two subjects have criminal histories to include being wanted for attempted murder, robbery with injury, aggravated assault with deadly weapon, burglary, theft, criminal mischief, criminal attempt, tampering with evidence, conspiracy, possession of firearm, VOP all from New Jersey. They are also wanted from Alabama for their involvement in a robbery and now Florida will add the appropriate charges for today’s events.
On March 27, Officer Bret Gill was at a point of advantage near a bait site he had been monitoring for some time. After approximately 15 minutes, two shots rang out. Officer Gill saw the first subject run out and finish off the turkey with his feet. The turkey was shot 15 yards from the bait by the out-of-state hunter, who had paid a local guide for the hunt. Both subjects were cited and the turkey donated.
On Saturday, Officer Jason McMillan cited a subject for hunting turkey over bait. Officer McMillan has been monitoring a bait site in San Pedro Bay WMA for the duration of spring gobbler season. Officer McMillan located the subject attempting to call a gobbler while the subject was within 50 yards of the bait site.
On Wednesday, Officers Matt Reynolds and Scott Lee were approaching a vessel off of Rock Island, to conduct a fisheries inspection, when the vessel attempted to get on-plane and leave. The subjects had to stop because they had failed to reel in their fishing lines. The officers approached the area the subjects had pulled away from and located a stringer of redfish on the bottom. The subjects were cited for possession of over-the-bag limit of redfish, possession of undersize redfish, and resisting arrest without violence.
On April 19, Officer Keith Clark was recognized at Pensacola’s Florida Coastal Conservation Association Chapter’s annual banquet meeting. The award was for his FWC work efforts to conserve saltwater resources. Officer Clark has excelled in both commercial and recreational resource enforcement in the Pensacola area over the past year. He received a nice plaque and was treated to a nice meal with his family at the Naval Air Station Pensacola Officer Club.
On April 20, Officers Keith Clark and Ken Manning stopped a Mississippi fishing vessel near Pensacola Pass to inspect their catch. The passengers advised they had only caught undersize red snapper, but all were returned back to the water. While inspecting their ice chest, the officers found several red snapper fillets with skin that averaged from 4.5 to 5.5 inches. The vessel owner was issued citations for possession of undersize red snapper and failure to land in whole condition.
On April 21, Officer Keith Clark conducted a National Marine Fisheries Service/Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) inspection on the commercial fishing vessel "Wanda" in the ICW off Perdido Key. The operator was arrested for an outstanding Escambia County warrant for battery. One of the deckhands was a five‑time-convicted felon. Weapons were found on the vessel and other charges are pending on the convicted felon.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
On April 21, Officer David Jernigan and Intern John Denton were on patrol in Blackwater WMA. They entered a campsite off of Juniper Creek and observed 14 subjects on one of the sandbars. Officer Jernigan contacted Officer Joe Murphy and DEP Corporal Mitch Golloher. The officers entered the campsite and found numerous violations. The incident ended with two felony arrests for possession of cocaine, 10 misdemeanor citations for possession of cannabis and paraphernalia, and 18 infraction citations. A metal briefcase was located by the campfire. None of the subjects claimed ownership. Approximately 26 grams of cannabis and several items of paraphernalia were found inside. The briefcase and the items inside are being fingerprinted by FDLE. Felony possession of cannabis charges are pending for all 14 subjects.
On April 22, Officer Howard Jones noticed a suspicious power vessel drifting with a lone operator near Santa Rosa Sound’s Navarre boat ramp. When Officer Jones approached, the operator seemed to be disoriented. After making contact, Officer Jones noticed signs of impairment and conducted field sobriety exercises. The operator was subsequently arrested for BUI. He was transported to Santa Rosa County Jail where he provided a .09 sample of his breath.
On April 23, Officer Steve Hoomes and DEP Officer Mitch Golloher encountered a subject at a swimming hole near Yellow River WMA in Harold. Officer Hoomes smelled marijuana burning when he approached the subject. A partially smoked marijuana cigarette was located on the ground near the subject. Rolling papers and a marijuana pipe were found in the subject's vehicle. The subject was cited for possession of marijuana and for possession of drug paraphernalia and released.
On April 23, Officer Monte Moye won a judge trial for a man charged with taking a large buck out of season. The man claimed that it had been hit by a truck and he only put it out of its misery. After hearing that Officer Moye went out of his way to try and verify the man’s story and had a regional biologist examine the deer for any trauma, the judge ruled in favor of the State and found the man guilty. He sentenced him to one-year probation, $578 in fines, and the loss of his hunting privileges for life. A separate hearing will be held regarding the forfeiture of his truck and firearm, but they are expected to be forfeited.
SANTA ROSA COPS
On April 21, Officer Steve Hoomes attended the annual La Floresta Perdido Hunt Club Meeting. Officer Hoomes spoke briefly on trespass issues and answered questions from the hunt club presidents.
On April 21, 12 FWC officers from Okaloosa, Walton, and Santa Rosa counties worked a water patrol detail in Destin. The detail was organized to increase compliance with fishery regulations and license requirements. During the detail, which coincided with opening of red snapper in federal waters, 72 vessels were inspected and 282 users checked resulting in 12 resource citations, 4 boating safety citations, 1 citation issued to a charter captain for expired charter license, 1 arrest for an .02 alcohol violation by a vessel operator under 21, and 1 arrest for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. At the end of the day, uniform FWC officers teamed with Investigations for a successful conclusion to an intense surveillance resulting in the arrest of individuals involved in illegal fish sales occurring during the day resulting in the seizure of over 147 pounds of cobia.
On April 22, Lieutenant Jeff Hahr and Officers Matt Webb and Randall Brooks conducted a boating safety inspection in Destin Pass. The operator displayed signs of impairment and was asked to perform field sobriety exercises. Officer Matt Webb determined the subject was impaired and placed him under arrest for boating under the influence. The subject refused to submit to a breath test at the Okaloosa County Jail.
On April 24, Officer Shelby Williams issued a subject a 30-day notice to remove a derelict vessel from the Sound. Officer Williams was able to locate the subject after learning that he had been booked into the Okaloosa County Jail for violation of probation.
Officer Ken White was checking fishermen along the Hwy 331 causeway. He found one man in possession of two undersized spotted sea trout that were wrapped up in a bag in his truck. The man was cited for possessing the undersize trout.
Officer Ken White has been working closely with representatives from Walton County to document and remove three derelict vessels in the Hogtown Bayou area. He recently furnished reports and GPS co-ordinates to the county so that the county may apply for grant money to assist with the removal of the vessels.
Lieutenant Arnie McMillion and Officer Shon Brower were on water patrol in the Dead Lakes area. They checked an individual that was fly-fishing and failed to possess a fishing license. He did, however, have two outstanding warrants for his arrest. He was arrested and turned over to Calhoun County Sheriffs Office for booking.
Officer Tony Lee was working at the Mexico Beach canal conducting resource inspections on vessels coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. Officer Lee found one vessel to be over-the-bag limit of red snapper and eight of those fish being undersize. A citation was issued and the fish donated to a local charitable organization.
Officer Robert Miller was conducting resource inspections on vessels fishing in the Dead Lakes. One individual was cited for harvesting several undersize black bass measuring seven inches long. The fish were returned to the water and a citation issued.
On April 8, Officers Billy Kemp, Charles Higman, and Reserve Officer Don Trussell conducted an ATV enforcement patrol in the Apalachicola National Forest. The detail was a result of on-going land abuse. The abuse, caused by a minority of individuals has impacted a large number of users, specifically hunters. During the patrol, they issued one citation and four warnings for operating an ATV in closed areas.
On Tuesday, April 17, Lieutenant Kent Harvey received information on some illegal activities taken place at Goose Pasture Campground which is located on the Wacissa River in Jefferson County. Lieutenant Harvey and Officer Jeff Babauta responded and found a camper with several violations. The subject had left Perry on Sunday headed to Mississippi but had only made it 30 miles to the west of his residence where he had decided to stay and party. The subject was issued a citation for having alcoholic beverages in SWRMD and possession of a firearm in a prohibited area of the SRWMD.
On Saturday April 21, Officer Stefanie Wilcox came upon a drunk driver in the area of Goose Pasture. The suspect failed roadside field sobriety task and was arrested and transported to the Jefferson County Jail where he was charged with Driving under the Influence of Drugs. This is the suspects 3rd DUI.
On Friday night, April 13, Lieutenant Parker cited a Gadsden County man for possession of undersized speckled perch. The location was at the upper end of Lake Talquin.
On Friday, April 13, Officer Lane Bentley located a Maryland couple that had gotten lost on Nature Conservancy property in Liberty County. The couple was in good condition other than being tired.
On April 17, Officer Hank Forehand was on patrol in the Apalachicola area. Officer Forehand saw a vessel with three persons onboard come into a dock. The subjects began to offload fish, but when they saw Officer Forehand, approach started leaving the area. Officer Forehand yelled to get their attention and the vessel returned to the dock. Officer Forehand conducted a fisheries inspection on the vessel and discovered that the subjects had four red snapper over-the-bag limit. Appropriate citations were issued.
On Friday, April 20, Officer Ben Eason and Jeff Hickman were on patrol in the Silver Glenn and stopped a vessel for a boating safety inspection. During the stop, the officers observed signs of impairment from the operator. After float and field tasks were performed, the subject was arrested and booked into the county jail for BUI. The subject refused to provide a sample of his breath.
On Wednesday, April 18, Officer Steve Adam completed an investigation on the illegal dumping of construction material. A large dumpsite was discovered in the Ocala WMA on Forest Road 31, in Hog Valley and Officer Adam was able to recover evidence from the dumpsite that eventually lead to the offender. During the interrogation of the suspect, Lieutenant Gregg Eason was told by the offender that he had planned to eventually return to the site to clean it up, but had not gotten around to it by the time officers discovered the violation. The Hog Valley man was charged with criminal dumping.
On Sunday, April 22, Officer Emily Vought was called to assist a Marion County Deputy on Lake Weir. The deputy had stopped a female on a jet ski doing donuts in a very congested area. When Officer Vought arrived, the deputy informed her that the operator may be impaired. As she was attempting to locate her safety gear, she tipped the jet ski over and had difficulty re-boarding. When Officer Vought approached the subject, who still could not locate the fire extinguisher even though the compartment was clearly marked, she could smell a strong odor of alcohol. Field Sobriety Tasks were performed at the boat ramp at which time the subject admitted, in addition to the one drink she had, she had taken several medications. The subject refused breath and urine tests and was arrested for BUI.
On Thursday, April 19, Lieutenant George Pottorf and Officer Mike Florence were on patrol of the St. Johns River and responded to a call of a downed aircraft in the river. The officers were first on the scene, but found no survivors. Two live, high-power lines had been cut by the plane and were in the water, stretching the entire width of the river and causing the river to be closed for eight hours. The officers assisted recovery teams from several sheriffs’ departments in locating and recovering the victims.
On Saturday, April 21, Lieutenant Pottorf responded to Hermit Cove Bar in Satsuma at the request of the sheriff’s department. The deputies had stopped a subject for breaking into the bar and found a four‑foot Eastern diamond-back rattlesnake and a small cottonmouth moccasin in a glass cage in the subject’s vehicle. Lieutenant Pottorf released the snakes on a nearby conservation area. The subject was charged with numerous violations, including possession of venomous reptiles without a permit, and booked into jail.
On Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21, FWC and USCG worked a joint detail/operation together from USCG Station Ponce Inlet. The objective was to stop and inspect charter-fishing vessels returning from their fishing trips. The detail provided for FWC Officers and USCG personnel to board vessels and inspect licenses, equipment and their catch. A USCG 25-foot patrol vessel and a 26-foot FWC vessel was used along with two boarding teams. In spite of poor weather, several vessels were inspected resulting in federal equipment warnings, eight state citations including criminal charges for fishery violations, marine sanitation device (MSD) violations and state charter fishing license violations.
On Monday, April 23, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Officer McDonough observed some adult males wade fishing the Turnbull Creek area of New Smyrna. After waiting for them to return to their vehicle, Officer McDonough inspected their catch. Several citations were issued for fishery violations including a major violation charge of possession of undersize snook.
On Wednesday, April 25, USCG Station Ponce Inlet held a refresher course for their personnel concerning boating under the influence. Officer Francis provided training relevant to the USCG/FWC Memorandum of Agreement pertaining to Boating Safety and BUI. He also provided information concerning the vessel stop, field notes, report writing and testifying in court.