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FWC Weekly Report

This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.

Patrol, Protect, Preserve

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NORTHWEST REGION

BAY COUNTY

Officer Brady responded to a complaint received by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office regarding a person who had trespassed on a hunting lease and killed and removed a domestic hog that was being kept there in a pen. A suspect was developed and an investigation by Officer Brady determined the individual was a convicted felon who confessed to the violations. The firearm used to kill the hog was seized as well as the meat. After meeting with the local State Attorney, three felony warrants were obtained charging the suspect with felon in possession of a firearm, armed trespass, and grand theft. The suspect was located and booked into the Bay County Jail.

ESCAMBIA COUNTY
Officer Cushing waited at Bayou Texar Boat Ramp late on Monday night for a vessel to return. He made contact with the first subject on the dock and asked if they caught any fish. The subject stated that they caught some red fish. Officer Cushing asked if they kept any of them. He said yes. When Officer Cushing approached the vessel, the second subject on the boat lifted the cooler up and said, “You can write me the ticket. It was my fault.” Inside the cooler was five undersized red fish, the biggest measuring 15 inches. Citations were issued.

Officer Cushing was conducting fisheries inspections at the Navy Point Boat Ramp. During one inspection, he checked a vessel returning from the bay. When he asked the persons onboard if they had any fish, he was told they only had “lizard fish.” When Officer Cushing looked inside the cooler, he saw a gray triggerfish in addition to the “lizard fish.” When he asked them the minimum size limit for triggerfish, he was initially told 14 inches. The fish measured 12 inches to the fork. Then he was told the fish only needed to be 10 inches. Officer Cushing pointed out on their boat ruler where it indicates the minimum size limit for gray triggerfish is 14 inches. A citation was issued.

JEFFERSON COUNTY

On October 8, Officers Louque and Wilcox received a complaint of a dead bear in the Flint Rock Wildlife Management Area. When they located the bear, Officers Louque and Wilcox discovered a section of a crossbow shaft stuck in the bear. The bear was located in close proximity to a ladder stand and there was corn spread throughout the area. Armed with only that information, Officer Louque was able to narrow the search down to one suspect. With the help of FWC Investigations and other state and federal officers, Officer Louque conducted surveillance on the area for the next two weeks. At the end of the surveillance, Officer Louque had obtained enough evidence to get a search warrant for the subject’s house, where he found more evidence to support his suspicions and received a full confession from the subject for killing a black bear, hunting over bait in a management area, and theft of state equipment. On November 3, the Jefferson County Judge and Assistant State Attorney agreed with Officer Louque’s finding and issued a summons to the suspect for killing a black bear, hunting over bait in a management area, interference with an FWC officer, and petit theft.

OKALOOSA COUNTY

Officer Molnar conducted a traffic stop in Rocky Bayou State Park for failure to wear a required seat belt. Upon investigation, the driver’s license was suspended and he had three prior convictions for driving while license suspended. He was arrested and transported to the Okaloosa County Jail.

Officer Maltais was working illegal entry and exit from Eglin Wildlife Management Area. From a concealed location, he observed a vehicle drive down the road toward the locked gate. Two subjects utilized a pair of pliers to assist in lowering the cable gate so the vehicle could pass through. Officer Maltais conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle after it passed through the gate. Citations were issued to both subjects.

Officers Bartlett and Jarvis were assisting the U.S. Coast Guard with security around USCG Destin due to the heightened threat level during their annual haunted house. One vehicle passed through the gate and donated a bag with several canned goods inside. The bag was dripping with an opened beer inside. Officer Bartlett approached the vehicle and after speaking to the operator, he determined there were several violations. The operator was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended driver’s license with knowledge, operating a motor vehicle with a tag not assigned, and cited for open container.

SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jones was on water patrol on the East River in Navarre. He received a request for assistance from Santa Rosa Fire Rescue regarding a vehicle and a person in the water on Yellow River. This was at the end of Ward Basin Road. Officer Jones responded to the location by boat where he found a vehicle in the water on the opposite shore. The victim, who had already been retrieved from the water, was readied for transport and flown to Sacred Heart Hospital by helicopter. A minor fuel spill resulted which was referred to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection who responded.

Officer Jones was on patrol on a paved road within the Eglin Reservation and Wildlife Management Area. He encountered an ATV which was traveling in the opposite direction on the highway. Officer Jones attempted a traffic stop, but the operator fled into the woods on the vehicle. Officer Jones followed its last route on an unnumbered forest trail. There he encountered a large group of people around a fire in the woods nearby. He called for assistance before making contact with the group and shortly thereafter Investigator Hughes and Officers Hutchinson and Barnard arrived to assist. After making contact, numerous subjects attempted to flee the area and many were detained. A total of 22 notices to appear (in court) were issued to those detained for trespassing on Eglin Wildlife Management Area during a time closed to the public. One citation was issued for operating an ATV on the Eglin Management Area.

WASHINGTON/HOLMES COUNTY

Officers Yates, Jackson, Letcher, and Lieutenant Walsingham concluded a two month investigation with assistance from Investigator Thomas that involved the unlawful taking and sale of deer. The investigation started with a Wildlife Alert complaint relating to carcass dumping and postings on a social media site of possibly illegally taken deer. After numerous interviews, it was determined that seven individuals from the Westville, Caryville, and Five Points area had been taking deer illegally (at night and out of season) and selling them. Charges were filed this week with the State Attorney’s Office and ranged from taking deer during closed season, sale of illegally taken deer (felony), possession of freshly killed deer during closed season (buyer), illegal purchase of deer, and littering of the carcasses. Approximately 150 pounds of fresh deer meat packaged for sale was seized.

COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING

LEON COUNTY
Investigator Dupree conducted an outreach event at a local college. She presented an environmental Power Point presentation to three different classes, totaling 140 students. Investigator Dupree covered environmental laws under Florida Statutes, Florida Administrative Code, and Department of Environmental Protection regulatory rules.

OKALOOSA COUNTY

Officer Corbin presented the laws portion of the Hunter Education course held at Uncle Buck’s in Destin. There were 31 students in attendance. He provided information and answered questions.

WALTON COUNTY

Officer Tison spoke at a Kiwanis Club meeting in DeFuniak Springs. There were more than 30 people in attendance, most of whom were business owners and landowners in the community. Officer Tison spoke about FWC’s efforts in encouraging better deer management on all state and private land and the new rules regarding antler restrictions, about a career as an FWC officer, and some of the basic goals of the FWC.

Lieutenant Hollinhead, Officers Brooks, Tison, and Letcher attended a public meeting with Northwest Florida Water Management District personnel at Red Bay about a proposed camping rule which will require reservations to camp at designated camping areas on the Choctawhatchee River. Approximately 138 people were in attendance.

OKALOOSA COUNTY

Officer Corbin presented the laws portion of the Hunter Education course held at Uncle Buck’s in Destin. There were 31 students in attendance. He provided information and answered questions.

WALTON COUNTY

Officer Tison spoke at a Kiwanis Club meeting in DeFuniak Springs. There were more than 30 people in attendance, most of whom were business owners and landowners in the community. Officer Tison spoke about FWC’s efforts in encouraging better deer management on all state and private land and the new rules regarding antler restrictions, about a career as an FWC officer, and some of the basic goals of the FWC.

Lieutenant Hollinhead, Officers Brooks, Tison, and Letcher attended a public meeting with Northwest Florida Water Management District personnel at Red Bay about a proposed camping rule which will require reservations to camp at designated camping areas on the Choctawhatchee River. Approximately 138 people were in attendance.

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

DUVAL COUNTY

Officer Stuhr observed a vehicle parked at a known violation area on the Big Talbot Island State Park. After observing the two individuals fishing for a few minutes, he noticed a violation being committed by both parties and made contact with them. Officer Stuhr discovered a red bag hidden several yards from the individuals that they were attempting to hide. The bag contained five undersized red drum, one undersized spotted sea trout and one undersized black drum. One of the subjects was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of undersized red drum and spotted sea trout and a citation by Officer Griffis for consuming alcoholic beverages in the Big Talbot Island State Park. The other subject was issued two misdemeanor citations for possession of undersized red drum and over the bag limit of red drum and two warnings for possession of undersized red and black drum.

LEVY COUNTY

K-9 Officer Dishman, Officer Russo and new recruit Paul Schulz were dispatched to a distress complaint on the Suwannee River by a group of female campers. The group had been camping on the river for 21 days and had two juveniles who were claiming to be possessed by demons and were fighting with the groups counselors. A good Samaritan attempted to assist prior to the officers’ arrival but was unable to provide assistance. The officers arrived on the scene and determined that the two juveniles were not demonically possessed, injured or in need of any medical assistance. They continued to struggle with the counselors. After a few minutes of talking with the juveniles they calmed down and boarded Officer Russo’s vessel. Officer Russo and Officer Schulz transported the group of juvenile campers and counselors along with their gear to the Manatee Springs State Park without further incident. The parents and camp coordinator were also contacted about the children’s behavior and condition upon arrival at the state park. No further action was taken.

NORTHEAST REGION

MARION COUNTY

Officer Dias received a Wildlife Alert call that a man had killed a turkey out of season in Southwest Marion County near Dunnellon. Dias contacted the complainant who stated she saw the suspect shoot a turkey in her yard from the roadway. Dias contacted K9 Officer Joe Simpson to assist with the investigation. Simpson and K9 Moose were able to locate turkey feathers and wading from the shotgun on the complainant’s property. The officers went to the suspect’s residence and when confronted with the evidence he gave a full confession. The officers seized the shotgun as well as turkey parts located at the suspect’s residence. Trespassing by projectile, taking hen turkey out of season, discharge of a firearm from a roadway and other charges were direct filed with the state attorney’s office.

VOLUSIA COUNTY

Officers conducted an enforcement detail on local Wildlife Management Areas during the opening weekend of muzzleloader season. During his patrols in Lake George Wildlife Management Area Officer North encountered a 13 year old child who was hunting alone with a loaded, modern muzzleloading rifle. The child was over 300 yards away from and out of sight of his parent, who was cited for allowing a minor to possess a firearm without direct adult supervision. Officers also issued several citations and warnings for license, permit, and hunter orange violations during the detail.

Officers Ransom, Edson and Ward worked a remote area on the opening night of general gun season in response to complaints of illegal hunting activity. At approximately 10:00 PM the officers observed the operator of a black truck shine a spotlight out of his window onto several fields in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. The officers stopped the truck and found a 30.06 rifle and a fully loaded magazine for the rifle on the passenger seat. The driver was issued a notice to appear for night hunting.

SOUTHWEST REGION

COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING

HIGHLANDS COUNTY

The annual Halloween event was held at Highlands Hammock State Park resulting in approximately 1700 people attending the two day event. Lieutenant Allen and Officers Adams, Alvis, Demeter, Hanger, Ervin, Smith and Sweat participated on foot patrol and traffic control activities that kept the event safe and enjoyable.

SOUTH REGION A

BROWARD COUNTY

Officer Brock was on patrol in western Broward County. He conducted a fisheries inspection on an individual fishing with a rod and reel in Markham Park. The individual was found to be in possession of an undersized snook. With information gathered, Officer Brock issued the individual a criminal notice to appear for possession of undersize snook. One dead undersize snook was seized as evidence.

GLADES COUNTY

Officers Taylor and Mullins were working an area where there have been several complaints of poaching. The Officers arrived to find a car in the middle of the woods with two subjects inside, apparently a look out vehicle. Officer Taylor circled around the car in the woods while Officer Mullins positioned himself for a vehicle stop if the car began to leave. Officer Taylor quickly found an abandoned ATV nearby hidden in the brush, near a fence for the neighboring property. Officer Taylor was able to find where someone had recently crossed over the fence. Officer Taylor concealed himself in the woods and approximately an hour later, he observed a male subject walking toward him with a scoped rifle on his shoulder. Officer Taylor quickly made contact with the subject and took him into custody. Officer Mullins then arrived and the two officers made contact with the two subjects in the car. Upon opening the driver door, the Officers observed a glass meth pipe at the driver’s feet. Upon a thorough search of the vehicle Officer Taylor found the passenger’s set of keys and immediately recognized some of the them as belonging to Lykes Brothers LLC, which the passenger had no reason to be in possession of. After questioning, the passenger admitted that he knew what the keys were and that he shouldn’t have them. After all subjects were secured, Officer Mullins ran the serial number on the rifle that Officer Taylor recovered from the trespasser and it came back stolen. All in all, the Officer’s arrested one subject for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia; filed charges on another subject for felony armed trespassing, recovered a stolen set of keys to Lykes Brothers LLC, and recovered a stolen firearm.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

After receiving a BOLO regarding a missing, endangered/suicidal person that reportedly had gone to the Corbett area to commit suicide, Officer Webb responded to the area and began attempting to locate the person. He began checking camps and known locations where the users of the Corbett area commonly frequented. A short time later, he located the subject’s unoccupied vehicle and continued searching. Officer Webb came into contact with a swamp buggy with five persons on board. One of the individuals was identified as the missing, endangered/suicidal person described in the BOLO. Officer Webb took the subject into custody without incident and transported him to St. Mary’s Hospital where the subject was evaluated by a doctor and was admitted for treatment.

While patrolling the opening day of general gun season in the Hungryland WEA, Officer Webb came across a vehicle parked in a location that was not a designated entry/exit point for the management area. After a brief surveillance, two male subjects were observed exiting the management area and driving away in the vehicle without checking out at the check station. A traffic stop was conducted and after a consensual search of the vehicle, the subjects were found in possession of marijuana. Both individuals were cited for possession of marijuana, unlawful entry/exit of the management area, and failure to check in and out at the check station when entering and exiting the management area.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY

Officer Willems was on patrol at one of the local boat ramps when he stopped a vessel for a boating safety and resource inspection. Upon inspecting the boat, several violations were found and the operator was checked through dispatch. He was found to have a suspended driver’s license. The operator was allowed to call a friend to drive him home. When the friend arrived, his license was checked to make sure it was valid. His records check came back showing he had a warrant for failure to appear for a previous case involving undersized snapper. The operator of the vessel was issued an infraction citation and several warnings for safety equipment violations. The second individual was placed under arrest, and booked in at the St. Lucie County Jail.

SOUTH REGION B

COLLIER

Officers Futch and Tolbert were conducting resource inspections at Lake Trafford in Immokalee when they observed a boat on the lake displaying a light in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of alligators and determined that the subjects were participating in the statewide alligator hunting season. As the subjects began to load their gear into their truck the Officers stepped out from a concealed location and asked the subjects what they were doing. The subjects stated, “Hunting alligators.” While conducting a resource inspection, Officer Futch observed a freshly baited stainless steel treble hook on the vessel. The subjects admitted and then denied using the baited hook. Also in plain view, Officer Futch observed a wooden peg on a catch line that appeared to be over 2” long. One of the subject’s was issued a Notice to Appear for attempting to take alligator by illegal methods.

Officers Harris and Reith were on Federal water patrol in the waters adjacent to Collier County when they received a call to assist the United Sates Coast Guard with a resource inspection of a commercial stone crab vessel that they stopped 4 miles west of Indian Key. Once alongside, Officer Reith boarded the vessel and was advised that there were several dead, whole stone crabs onboard. One of the subjects onboard was asked if he had his Saltwater Products License (SPL) with him and he said yes. The license he produced for inspection was expired since 6/30/2014. Officer Reith asked if he had this year’s SPL and he said he didn’t know and that it might be in the mail. After querying him through the system, Officer Reith determined that the subject did not have a valid commercial SPL on record, which is required to possess commercial quantities of stone crab. The subject indicated that he had about 100 pounds onboard and that he had pulled a few lines. Upon further inspection the vessel was missing its commercial stone crab markings, which the subject said he wasn’t aware that he had to have them. The subject indicated that he had been crab fishing since 1985. The subject was in possession of commercial quantities of stone crab without having a valid SPL and was issued a warning for having no visual markers on his vessel and written the appropriate citations. Due to the commercial nature of the violations, enhanced penalties were added to the citations. The Officers seized 8 whole stone crabs for evidence and sold 108 pounds (538 claws) of stone crab claws.

MIAMI-DADE

Officer Dominguez mounted an aggressive campaign to target fishermen that were fishing in State Parks without a fishing license. As a result of his efforts he wrote 3 infractions and educated dozens of stake holders on the importance of purchasing a fishing license.

Officers Pestka and Caldwell focused their enforcement efforts in the Houlover inlet area. During their detail they concentrated their efforts on resource protection as well as manatee zone patrols. As a result of their work they issued numerous citations and handed out a dozen fishing regulations.

MONROE

FWC Officers from the upper Keys conducted an extensive search for a missing diver after receiving word from the USCG. The divers were diving near Crocker Reef, when they resurfaced they discovered that their boat was missing. Apparently, the rental boat, somehow broke loose and drifted away. The rental boat company called the USCG when the two divers failed to return the vessel on time. After an exhaustive search the USCG found one of the divers clinging on to the Eagle Wreck buoy. The vessel was recovered 16 miles east of the original location. Even after an all out air and sea search the second diver was not located.

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