This FWC Weekly 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.
The FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo. Photo: myfwc.com
After receiving a tip about possible dog hunting out of season in the Apalachicola National Forest, Officer Mims checked individuals matching the description. The men had dogs out and stated they had been running hogs. Both individuals were cited for allowing dogs to chase game out of season.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hutchinson was working water patrol on Yellow River when he observed a vessel tied up to the bank of the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Officer Hutchinson observed a bag of corn on the ground in the WMA and two individuals in the area. One individual admitted to placing the corn on the ground when he observed Officer Hutchinson. The individual stated he intended on baiting up hogs with the corn to hunt during archery season. The subject was issued a citation for placing bait on a wildlife management area.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Lasher observed an individual approaching the Windsor Boat Ramp with a gator that had been harvested on Newnan’s Lake. After checking tagging requirements, Officer Lasher found the CITES tag owner was not present. After making contact with the CITES tag owner and having her come to the boat ramp, Officer Lasher was able to determine that she was never present during the hunt. The dad eventually told Officer Lasher he was just trying to fill his daughter’s CITES tag and knew he was wrong. A citation was issued to the dad for taking an alligator without having a CITES tag and the gator was seized as evidence.
Lieutenant Ferguson and Officer Acevedo worked an outreach event at Payne’s Prairie State Park. The “Sports Ability Event,” organized by The Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, was an event with water and land activities that attracted several hundred participants.
Officer Troiano received information about an individual who had been hitting a woman in a canoe on the Santa Fe River near Blue Springs. Officers Troiano and Acevedo responded to the Highway 47 Boat Ramp in Gilchrist County. As they were getting ready to launch their vessel, the individuals who had been described to the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the ramp. After separating all individuals involved for questioning, the officers were able to receive statements from each of them. Due to the visible signs on the female and statements made, the male was arrested for domestic violence charges and transported to the Gilchrist County Jail.
Lieutenant Glover was called in reference to a subject shooting a deer with a rifle during bow season on personal property in Graham. Working with a partial name, Lieutenant Glover was able to identify the subject and respond to the subject’s residence. While talking with the subject’s father, Lieutenant Glover noticed a person who matched the description of the subject across the street. The subject noticed the marked FWC vehicle in the driveway and turned and walked away from the residence. Lieutenant Glover caught up with the subject and identified him as the person he was looking for. The subject confessed to shooting an eight-point buck with a rifle behind his grandfather’s house. Appropriate charges were filed.
Officers Seiler, Jenkins, Johnson, and Lieutenant Loyed responded to a boating accident on the Withlacoochee River east of Dunnellon. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office advised that one of the subjects who was in the vessel had died and the other was taken to Ocala for treatment. Investigator Ayers proceeded to the accident location and took over the fatal accident investigation.
Citrus and Levy County officers teamed up for the search of a missing 70-year-old man from Inglis. After a three-hour search, the Citrus County Sheriff’s helicopter located the subject lying in an open field. They landed the helicopter in attempt to aid the victim, but the man had already succumbed to the heat and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers Seiler, Russo and K-9 Officer Dishman assisted the Levy County Sheriff’s Office with a suicide subject in Levy County. Officer Seller was the first to respond to the subject’s residence and he secured the scene until EMS arrived. Officer Russo and K-9 Officer Dishman assisted with the landing zone for Shands Medivac. The subject was air-lifted to the hospital for treatment.
K-9 Officer Dishman with K-9 Scout and K-9 Officer Simpson with K-9 Moose assisted the Levy County Sheriff’s Office with a search for a firearm used in an aggravated assault. The firearm was believed to be buried by the convicted felon subject in the woods behind the residence. Both K-9s performed area searches of the woods surrounding the property. A thorough search of trash and items under a shed led to the discovery of the firearm.
Officer Russo and K-9 Officer Dishman were stopped by a couple of subjects adjacent to the Goethe WMA. The officers were informed by the subject’s mother that her juvenile son, who was eluding his probation officer, had run away from home and had been spotted in the area. Officer Dishman located fresh shoe prints from the subject and deployed K-9 Scout on the track. K-9 Scout, along with Officer Dishman and Officer Russo, followed the subject’s foot prints for about one-half mile, but lost the track. As the search of the area provided no results, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office also assisted with the incident, but the search was cancelled due to lack of information about the subject’s location.
Officer Russo and K-9 Officer Dishman located two baited hunting sites in the Goethe WMA. The sites were set up with active feeders and worked several times, but no hunting activity was found. Due to a passing front and cooler weather, the officers returned to the sites and found the subjects’ vehicle parked in the area. The officers approached both hunting sites and found hunters at each site with fresh bait and hunting gear. Both subjects admitted to the violation and were issued the appropriate paperwork.
Officers Yates and Bean were patrolling Lower Econfina Wildlife WMA checking hunters for compliance with WMA rules and resource harvest laws. At dusk, the officers located a vehicle that was parked on a closed road inside the WMA. Officer Bean made contact with two individuals shortly after dark and discovered one of the hunters had harvested a spotted fawn by bow. The officers issued appropriate charges to the individuals for the violations.
COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Lieutenant Kiss and Officers Nichols, Mobley and Langford participated in the “Follow the Blood Event” located at the Skeeter Ranch and sponsored by the Suwannee Baptist Association. The event was geared toward hunting and the outdoor experience. The officers had a live alligator, a patrol vessel, a static display and animal mounts. There were approximately 300 people at the event. The officers answered questions pertaining to hunting and fishing regulations.
Lieutenant Kiss and Officer McGrath participated in the annual Home Depot Public Safety Fair held in Lake City. Several public service agencies had representatives at the event. The officers brought an ATV and boat and also had a table set up providing boating safety and hunting information to guests. Approximately 200 people were in attendance.
Officer Dias was able to apprehend three individuals who were unlawfully harvesting palmetto berries from the Ross Prairie WMA. Officer Dias worked the area for several weeks and noticed that someone had been cutting the fence and driving a vehicle into the WMA. Officer Dias noticed a fresh cut in the fence and someone had tried to use palmetto branches to wipe away vehicle sign leading into the WMA. Officer Hargabus came to assist and they located the individuals who had hidden their truck 150 yards back in the WMA. The men were in possession of approximately 500 pounds of palmetto berries. None of the men had valid ID’s or ties to the community and were subsequently arrested and taken to the Marion County Jail and charged with removal of a natural resource, damage to public lands, and breaking/or injuring a fence.
While on patrol, Officers Rutherford and Lightsey received information about potential night hunters in a local wooded area. The officers went to the area to address the potential violations. After conducting surveillance and hearing an ATV in the area, the officers were able to make contact with the ATV operator who had a male passenger as well. After speaking with the men, numerous violations were found and both men were arrested for possession of a concealed weapon by a felon, operating a non-registered motor vehicle, possession of cannabis under twenty grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. Due to recent burglaries in the area, the men are also suspect as possible persons of interest.
During an early morning patrol in Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Rutherford observed a commercial vessel being pulled from the boat ramp at the park. While being pulled from the water, Officer Rutherford noticed the trailer lights were not working. A traffic stop of the vehicle revealed the 17-foot commercial boat had an approximate 400-yard monofilament Trammel net on board. The operator of the vessel was arrested for transportation of a monofilament entangling net in a vessel less than 22 feet and for no SLP markings on the net. The net was seized as evidence.
Officer Hinds responded to an incident of a red-shouldered hawk being shot in the Bradenton area. Officer Hinds was able to get additional information on the person who shot the hawk and also was able to locate the hawk. Officer Hinds was able to locate the individual to ask why he shot the hawk. The individual suspected the hawk had killed some of his chickens that escaped from their cage earlier in the week. He said he was trying to scare the hawk away by shooting at it; however, when he shot at it, he killed the hawk. Officer Hinds explained that red-shouldered hawks are protected under the migratory bird treaty act and cannot be harmed. The individual was issued a citation for unlawful taking of a protected migratory bird.
Officer Beckman was conducting a commercial fisheries inspection on a shrimp trawler in the Hudson Beach area when he observed an individual at the fish house acting suspicious. After completing the inspection of the trawler, an inspection was also conducted on the fish house. During the inspection, Officer Beckman located an undersized snook. The snook was seized and the appropriate citations were issued.
Lieutenant Allen, Officers Demeter and Ervin checked approximately 20 dove hunters on a field near Bartow on which bait had been found. The two subjects who prepared the field were issued citations for hunting doves over bait. Two other subjects were issued citations for taking migratory game birds with unplugged shotguns. One man was charged with taking a ground dove which is a protected bird.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Vacin was on patrol at night in Deerfield Beach. While conducting a fisheries inspection at the Deerfield Beach Pier, he encountered an individual that was in possession of a snook. Upon his measurement of the snook it was found to be undersized. The subject was also next to a fish-measuring ruler that displayed size-limit information that Officer Vacin had previously attached on many locations of the pier to provide information to fishermen. Officer Vacin issued the individual a criminal notice to appear for possession of undersize snook. One dead snook was seized as evidence.
Lieutenant Laubenberger and Officers Warne, Brock, Vacin, Corteguera, Albert and Mirabal were on a late-night patrol at an area of the Everglades that has an airboat ramp. One vehicle was stopped due to a pungent odor of cannabis coming from it. With information gathered, Officer Warne issued one individual a criminal notice to appear for possession of marijuana. Marijuana was seized as evidence.
Officer Brock and Lieutenant Laubenberger responded to Tradewinds Park in reference to a call about an aggressive small alligator. The officers arrived to find a small alligator that had apparently been fed numerous times as it had no fear of humans and came up to people. The officers were able to successfully catch the 3-foot alligator and relocated it to a remote part of the Everglades.
During the opening weekend of General Gun Walk-in season, Officer Warne was patrolling on the L-5 Levee when he received a complaint that a subject may have taken an illegal deer. Officer Warne found the subjects that fit the description provided by the complaint and conducted an inspection. During his inspection, he observed an inflatable raft with fresh blood on it and a rifle in a case with deer hair in the case. Upon further investigation, Officer Warne was able to get the subjects to confess and take him to the location where they hid the deer. The deer had only two points, under the legal size of three points. The subject was issued a misdemeanor citation for taking an illegal deer and the deer and rifle were seized into evidence.
Officer Strader was on patrol in John U. Lloyd State Park when he received a request for assistance from Park staff. Park staff stated a vehicle had failed to pay the entrance fee, made several erratic traffic maneuvers and was located near the Intracoastal Waterway at Parking Lot 2. Officer Strader located the subject vehicle and as he approached, the vehicle began driving into the Intracoastal Waterway. Officer Strader gave loud verbal commands for the subject to stop the vehicle and put it in park. At this time, Officer Strader began to suspect a possible DUI and requested assistance. Officers Albert, Mirabel and Brock arrived to assist. Officer Brock conducted field sobriety tasks which the subject was unable to complete. After field sobriety testing, the subject began to lose consciousness and was transported to Broward Health. The subject received medical clearance from Broward Health after approximately six hours of observation and Officer Strader transported him to the Broward County main jail on charges of DUI and possession of cannabis.
While driving along Pembroke Road, off-duty Reserve Lieutenant McDonald observed a subject in a white Ford truck dumping debris on the south side of Pembroke Road just east of US 27. Reserve Lieutenant McDonald contacted FWC dispatch and Lieutenant L. McDonald to relay the vehicle tag and description. While Reserve Lieutenant McDonald was following the suspect vehicle, he saw and flagged down an on-duty Pembroke Pines officer. The Pembroke Pines officer recognized Reserve Lieutenant McDonald and conducted a traffic stop on the suspect vehicle. Due to the location of the violation being in the City of Miramar, Lieutenant L. McDonald responded to the scene to conduct an investigation. The subject, who only spoke Spanish, was interrogated by Lt. L. McDonald via Spanish a speaking Pembroke Pines officer. The subject confessed to the illegal dumping and was cited for misdemeanor littering.
Officer Nasworth was contacted by dispatch at his residence regarding a search and rescue on Lake Okeechobee. Officers Nasworth and McLendon responded to the area of Cochran’s Pass and Turner’s Cove. Dispatch advised both officers that an airboat had broken down offshore between Cochran’s Pass and Turners Cove with five people on board. Officers Nasworth and McLendon were able to locate the vessel approximately one-half mile offshore and returned them back to Uncle Joe’s safely.
Officer McLendon was on patrol along Spirit of the Wild WMA when he observed an abandoned vessel blocking an access gate. The outboard and center console had been removed and the registration and hull identification numbers had been ground off. After some investigative work, the vessel was identified and confirmed stolen from Collier County two weeks prior. The vessel was recovered and the investigation is ongoing.
Officers Teal and Taylor were on land patrol when they observed a car jump a curb and almost lose control at a high rate of speed next to them at the intersection of Highway 80 and SR 29 in downtown Labelle. The officers activated their emergency lights and attempted to conduct a traffic stop when the subject took a side road and attempted to flee from them. The officers followed the subject parallel on SR 29 as the subject blew through stop signs at approximately 60 mph until they were able to conduct a head-on traffic stop at SR 29 and Park Ave. They ordered the subject out of the car to show his hands immediately and moved in to handcuff the subject. Upon detaining the subject, the officers detected a strong odor of alcohol on the subject and emanating from inside the vehicle. The subject was booked into the Hendry County Jail where he blew a .124 and was charged with felony fleeing and eluding, DUI and reckless driving.
K-9 Officer Lilley was on patrol when he observed fresh evidence that someone had crossed a canal into the WMA. Officer Lilley decided to deploy his K-9 Roscoe and attempt to locate the subjects to investigate what their activities were. Officer Lilley and K-9 Roscoe tracked the subjects where they located multiple palmetto berry bags and buckets along the track before observing multiple subjects fleeing the area ahead of them. Officer Lilley was able to track and apprehend one subject after a short chase. K-9 Roscoe went right back to work and they tracked and apprehended two more subjects. The track was approximately 800 yards long and five large bags full of berries, along with multiple buckets, hats, gloves and garbage, were located by K-9 Officer Collazo and K-9 Jasmine who arrived on scene to assist with evidence recovery. The three subjects were booked into the Hendry County Jail on charges of taking palmetto berries from a WMA without a permit, resisting arrest without violence and littering.
K-9 Officer Lilley was on patrol when a pickup truck ran a stop sign in front of the officer and accelerated away from him at a high rate of speed with two occupants in the bed of the truck. Officer Lilley decided to conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle to discuss the safety issues with the driver. As Officer Lilley approached the vehicle he observed four more occupants in the front and the driver attempting to make a phone call. Officer Lilley asked the driver to hang his phone up for the duration of the stop and the driver refused. At that time, Officer Lilley detected the distinct odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle. Officer Lilley asked the driver once again to hang the phone up and to step out of the vehicle; the driver refused and immediately became very irritated and argumentative. Officer Lilley opened the driver’s door where the driver proceeded to clench the steering wheel as Officer Lilley attempted to escort the driver out of the front seat. The driver then jerked away from Officer Lilley and began cussing and yelling profanities as Officer Lilley extracted him from the vehicle. Once outside of the vehicle the driver attempted to flee from Officer Lilley’s grasp where Officer Lilley was able to place the subject on the ground and get him into hand restraints before his back-up arrived. After a short investigation, the subject was turned over to his parents.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Lieutenant Laubenberger and Officers Warne, Brock, Vacin, Corteguera, Albert and Mirabel while on late night patrol in a Management Area that borders the Arthur Marshall Federal Wildlife Management area observed a vehicle enter a prohibited area. Upon a vehicle stop, both the driver and passenger were observed to have open containers of alcoholic beverages. With information gathered, Officer Corteguera issued the driver a moving citation and the passenger was issued a non-moving citation for the open container violations.
Captive Wildlife Investigators Garzaniti, Howell and Reserve Officer Pride participated in an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day at Dreher Park in West Palm Beach. The Exotic Pet Amnesty Program is an effort to reduce the number of non-native species being released into the wild by pet owners who can no longer care for their pets or no longer wish to keep them. Another goal of the program is to foster responsible pet ownership. One-day-only amnesty events are held around the state to provide the opportunity for people to surrender their exotic pets free of charge with no penalties. During the event, 96 exotic animals (birds, reptiles, and mammals) were surrendered. Thirty-two qualified entities were on hand to adopt the surrendered exotic animals. In addition to providing law enforcement presence, Investigators Garzaniti, Howell and Officer Pride provided Captive Wildlife/Exotic Animal rules, regulations and permitting requirements.
Investigator Garzaniti responded to a report of a subject being injured at a permitted captive wildlife facility near Jupiter Farms. Early information indicated a construction contractor at the facility was injured by a tiger as he leaned against the tiger’s enclosure. The victim’s hand was injured by the tiger and he was transported to a medical facility for treatment. The incident is currently under investigation
SOUTH REGION B
Officers Johnson and White were on water patrol in Gordon Pass when they noticed a boat coming in from offshore. They approached the vessel and performed boating safety and resource inspections. During the inspections, Officer Johnson found 3 red grouper, 2 of which were undersized at 18 and 19 inches. The operator was issued a citation for the possession of the undersized red grouper.
Officers Johnson and White were on water patrol in Naples Bay. They stopped a vessel that was traveling on plane in an erratic manner swerving in between channel markers and performed a boating safety inspection on the vessel. During the inspection, the officers observed that the operator appeared under the influence. Officer White proceeded to administer seated field sobriety tasks on the operator and determined him to be under the influence. The operator was arrested for BUI and transported to jail.
Officers Diaz and Washington were on water patrol east of Key Biscayne when they stopped a commercial crawfish vessel in order to conduct a fisheries inspection. During the inspection, the officers discovered 5 whole stone crabs and 22 live undersized lobster. The captain of the vessel was cited accordingly.
Officer Almagro was on park patrol in Cape Florida State Park when he received information regarding a distressed swimmer in the Cape Florida Channel. Officer Almagro immediately responded into the area and saw the swimmer who appeared to be in distress and was frantically attempting to stay afloat. Officer Almagro contacted Officer Martin, who was on water patrol in the area, and instructed her to respond quickly. Once on scene, Officer Martin threw the man a line and pulled him closer to her vessel where she then assisted the man on board. The exhausted but grateful swimmer was taken to No Name Harbor and assessed for injuries.
Officer Dominguez initiated an operation targeting fresh water fisheries violations in the area of western Miami Dade County. Officer Dominguez’s efforts resulted in the issuance of four infractions for license violations.
An officer was on water patrol recently when he observed a vessel returning to the marina at Homestead Bayfront Park. The officer followed the vessel to the dock for the purpose of conducting a marine fisheries inspection. However, when the officer made contact with the operator, he observed the classic signs of alcohol impairment. After conducting field sobriety tasks on the subject, the officer arrested him for boating under the influence. The subject was then transported a short distance to a facility so a breathalyzer test could be performed. The subject refused and was transported to jail.
Two officers were on late-night water patrol in Caesar’s Creek when they observed a commercial vessel whose occupants were engaged in bully-netting for lobsters within the boundaries of the Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary. The officers conducted a vessel stop whereby the captain stated that he did not know a lobster sanctuary existed and that all of his harvested lobsters were contained in a single brown crate. However, one officer boarded the vessel and located a blue bag that contained three undersized lobsters. After measuring the lobsters contained in the brown crate, the officers discovered four more undersized lobsters. The captain was then cited for harvesting from the sanctuary, possession of undersized lobsters, interference with the duties of an FWC officer, failure to have his commercial license available for inspection, and for failure to have the vessel registration available for inspection.
Two officers and an investigator were on water patrol recently when they stopped a vessel in order to conduct a fisheries inspection. Consequently, a subject on board received citations for possession of thirteen undersized dolphin and for possessing two undersized tripletail. A warning was issued for the possession of undersized silk snapper.
Officer Wagner was on land patrol on US 1, heading home after a late night shift on the water,
when he was run off the road by a vehicle heading the wrong way on the highway. Officer Wagner circled around and managed to catch up to the vehicle and conducted a traffic stop. After detecting signs of impairment from the driver, Officer Wagner and Lieutenant Haney, who arrived on scene to assist, commenced a DUI investigation that included field sobriety exercises. Once the tests were completed, the driver was found to be impaired and was arrested. The driver refused to submit to a breath test and was subsequently transported to the Monroe County Jail for processing.
Resource Protection Officers working in an undercover capacity in the middle Keys approached a commercial vessel in order to conduct a fisheries inspection. As the officers got closer to the vessel the captain pointed his bow to face the officers’ vessel in an attempt to conceal the stern of his boat. The officers then saw the mate dump stone crabs, which are out of season, into the water. The officers boarded the vessel and conducted a fisheries inspection and discovered that the captain was in possession of undersized spiny lobster. The captain was cited accordingly.
Officers McHenry and Conlin were on water patrol one mile north of the Content Keys when they observed a commercial crawfish vessel with traps on board. The officers stopped the vessel and conducted a registration and trap inspection. The officers observed multiple traps without tags attached to them and proceeded to follow the vessel back to dock where a subsequent inspection showed the captain to be in possession of 104 untagged traps. Investigator Morato responded to the scene to assist with the investigation and follow up interviews. Once the investigation was complete, it was determined that the captain was fishing 1,100 traps, half which were untagged. The captain was arrested and cited for fishing untagged lobster traps.
COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
FWC Honor Guard members Dube and Steinmetz attended the Annual St. Michael’s Ceremony at Saint Patrick’s Church in Dade County. St. Michael is the Patron Saint of Law Enforcement Officers and the service is to bless all officers and protect them as they perform their daily duties. The Service was attended by over 500 officers from different agencies along with several local politicians.