Division of Law Enforcement
July 22 through July 28, 2016
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
Lieutenant Hahr was patrolling in the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when he observed a woman and three men sharing a cannabis cigarette while watching their children play in the river. All four were charged with possession of not more than 20 grams of cannabis and three were issued citations for possession of alcoholic beverages.
Officers Allgood and Cushing spent three days on the Fincat working offshore with FWC biologists from Pensacola to Panama City with a focus on the Madison-Swanson Marine Reserve. During their patrol, they assisted the biologists in retrieving and deploying 26 monitoring stations. They also issued federal citations for fishing in the Marine Reserve, for possession of red snapper and greater amberjack during the closed season and charter fishing in federal waters without a permit.
Officers Allgood and Cushing worked offshore on the Fincat in federal waters off the coast near the Florida/Alabama line. Fishermen on five different vessels were found to be in violation. Federal citations were issued for persons in possession of red snapper and gray triggerfish during the closed season, failure to maintain whole condition (gray triggerfish), and undersized king mackerel.
Officer Cushing observed a commercial shrimping vessel in Pensacola Bay trawling with three nets. Trawling with more than two nets is a violation. A notice to appear was issued to the owner/operator.
Officers Cushing, Jernigan and Jones responded to a boating accident involving two personal watercraft (PWC) in the Santa Rosa Sound. The PWC were being operated illegally at night without lights, and when the operator of the lead jet ski stopped, the following jet ski struck him. The operator of the first PWC was transported to the hospital for his injuries while the operator of the second PWC was arrested for Boating under the Influence (BUI) and transported to the Santa Rosa County Jail by Officer Cushing. Charges are pending on the operator of the first PWC.
While on foot patrol in St. George Island State Park, Officer Miller observed a group of fishermen walking back to their vehicle carrying a stringer of spotted seatrout. Officer Miller stopped the men to perform a resource inspection. Upon inspection of the catch, the men were found to be in possession of 15 spotted seatrout, 14 of which were undersized. The men stated they had all been fishing together and all of their fish were on the one stringer. Citations were issued to the individuals for the violation.
Officers Nelson, Robb and Miller were working complaints of shark finning in St. George Island State Park, and while Officers Nelson and Robb were on foot patrol they observed an individual catch a shark and remove its head and tail. Officer Robb called on Officer Miller to check the individual and upon inspection, Officer Miller observed the individual was in possession of three cut-up sections of shark, one undersized red drum, one undersized spotted seatrout and one undersized flounder. Citations were issued to the individual for the violations.
Officer Pifer responded by vessel to a boating accident involving two rental PWC. The accident occurred near Marler Park in the Intracoastal Waterway/Santa Rosa Sound in Fort Walton Beach. The initial information received was that one of the operators sustained a severe laceration to his finger. The injured operator was transported to a local hospital. Investigator Schafer went to the hospital to ascertain the severity of the injury and to interview the operator. Officer Pifer’s investigation resulted in one citation being issued to one of the boat operators for no boater education card and one warning for violation of navigational rule for improper lookout/safe speed.
Officers Pifer and Molnar were on vessel patrol conducting boating safety and fisheries inspections in the Intracoastal Waterway/Santa Rosa Sound in the Fort Walton Beach area. The officers observed a PWC on full plane in violation of the speed zone. The operator retrieved an orange plastic dry box from a storage compartment on the PWC. When he opened the dry box, Officer Pifer smelled a strong, distinct odor of cannabis coming from the box. A subsequent search revealed one hand-rolled cannabis cigarette. The cigarette field-tested positive for cannabis, and the individual was issued a notice to appear citation.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jones responded to a B.O.L.O. from the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office for a stolen truck, possibly in the Escribano Point WMA, and went to the Bayside Campground where he located an abandoned and vandalized Suzuki vehicle. The campsite had been ransacked, and the registration on the abandoned vehicle returned to a female from another state. Witness reports and information from WMA employees led investigators to be concerned that a mother and child previously seen with a man might be endangered. Officer Jones, along with several other FWC officers, attempted to locate the registered owner or others who may have information on their whereabouts and were able to contact the father of the vehicle’s registered owner. He provided information about his daughter and her boyfriend and said the infant child was his granddaughter, whose custody was granted to them by local court. After exhausting all efforts locally, Officer Jones received a call several days later stating that the couple were arrested in another state in connection with the stolen truck. The authorities contacted the grandfather of the child and he traveled to that state to take custody of the infant child.
Investigator Armstrong contacted Captive Wildlife Investigator Williams about information that was provided to him from Walton County Sheriff’s Department regarding an individual in South Walton who was in possession of a rattlesnake. This snake was seen in the residence and a computer check of the individual revealed he did not have a permit to possess venomous reptiles. Investigators Williams and Armstrong arrived at the residence, made contact with the individual who resides there and asked him if he had any snakes in the home. The individual advised the investigators that he had a rattlesnake and some other snakes. Once the Investigators entered the home, they observed an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and a Pygmy Rattlesnake in an glass enclosure. The subject was cited for the possession of venomous reptiles without a permit and was written multiple warnings for other violations. The two rattlesnakes were surrendered to Investigator Williams and were returned to the wild.
Environmental Investigator Nelson observed black smoke rising above a tree line on U.S. Highway 90 in Walton County. Investigator Nelson observed a large pit full of tree-cutting debris engulfed in flames. During the investigation, it was determined there was not sufficient personnel or equipment for the containment of the fire, nor was there any prior authorization to burn. The tree-cutting debris was determined to have been generated off site and there was evidence that tires had been burned as well, both unauthorized activities and not allowed by state law. Charges were submitted to the Walton County State Attorney’s Office.
Environmental Investigator Nelson, along with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) personnel, conducted a site inspection at a local tree-cutting business in Walton County. During the inspection, it was determined the business was not properly handling off-site generated tree-cutting debris. The improper disposal of waste tires was also observed. The business was issued written warnings and is currently working with DEP to comply with state requirements.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Manning and Pettey, along with Investigator Livesay, worked offshore and documented six federal violations for possession of red snapper and amberjack during closed season.
Lieutenant Clark observed two residential homes in the Mary Esther area where garbage cans had been knocked over and the household trash was pulled out and torn open. Officer Molnar contacted one of the homeowners and Lieutenant Clark contacted the other homeowner. It was determined the household trash was used as a food source for a black bear. Both homeowners were provided an educational bear brochure about how to be Bear-Wise and were issued non-compliance letters.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Lewis was on patrol in the area near Blackwater River State Forest when he observed a convoy of Jeeps heading toward the forest. Since it had been raining all day, Officer Lewis thought the group was likely to go “wheeling” in the forest. Officer Lewis waited about 20 minutes, then made his way to an area where vehicles have been known to go off-roading. Officer Lewis located 12 Jeeps in the area, six of which were being operated off the established road. Officer Lewis issued each driver of the six Jeeps a citation for operating a vehicle off the established road in a state forest. Officer Jernigan came to assist Officer Lewis and in doing so observed a subject operating an ATV in the state forest. He issued the driver of the ATV a citation for operating an ATV in a state forest.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Jarvis and P. Rockwell conducted an outreach event for the Destin Fire and Rescue Safety Junior Lifeguards summer program. There were approximately 45 students ranging from 8 to 12 years old. The officers provided a static display of a patrol vehicle, patrol vessel and utility terrain vehicle. The officers spoke about the job responsibilities of an FWC officer, centering on resource protection, public safety, boating safety and search and rescues.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hoomes was a guest speaker at the monthly meeting for the Milton Kiwanis Club. Officer Hoomes discussed the responsibilities and duties of an FWC officer. He also talked about ideas to reduce human and black bear encounters and the upcoming Family and Mobility Impaired hunts held on the Blackwater State Forest.