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Division of Law Enforcement
March 24, 2017 through March 30, 2017
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
Officer Bartlett was dispatched to a complaint reporting that a blue heron was intentionally shot in a community in Destin. When Officer Bartlett arrived, he spoke with the complainant and captured the injured bird. The officer saw the bird’s left wing was injured and it was actively bleeding. Officer Brooks transported the blue heron to a local wildlife rehabilitation center. Key information was gathered that led to a residence where the shooter lived. He spoke with a 19‑year‑old male who admitted shooting the bird with a pellet gun. The individual was issued a notice to appear citation.
Officer Pifer was dispatched to a complaint of an individual catching freshwater turtles, turning them over on their backs and leaving them to die in a Fort Walton Beach community. Information was received about the residence where the turtles were being harvested. When the officer arrived, he saw an individual matching the description provided by the complainant in the driveway getting into a vehicle. After an interview, with consent from the homeowner, Officer Pifer went to the backyard which backs up to a pond. Two turtles were lying upside down on the dock. The individual was issued a notice to appear citation for taking over the bag limit of freshwater turtles and given a citation for no freshwater fishing license.
Officer Bartlett was on land patrol after hours on the Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) targeting after‑hours access violations and saw a familiar vehicle parked off the shoulder of a road. He had previously issued the owner of the vehicle a written warning for being on the management area without a permit. There was a female outside the vehicle leaning on the hood of the truck. He asked where the owner of the vehicle was and she stated that he was in the woods. She guided the officer to the location of the driver/owner of the truck. The subject was issued a notice to appear citation for accessing Eglin WMA after hours.
Officers Bartlett and Nichols responded to a request from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office concerning a possible domestic violence disturbance off Highway 85 just south of Crestview. The vehicle matching the description was located traveling north on Highway 85. The driver was the only occupant in the vehicle. It was determined no physical altercation had occurred between the two individuals. However, during the investigation, Officer Bartlett had cause to believe the driver was impaired. After field sobriety tasks were performed, the driver was arrested for DUI and taken to the Okaloosa County Jail where he refused to provide a breath sample.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jones encountered an oysterman returning to a boat ramp on the shore of East Bay near the community of Holley. There were oysters on the cull board of the boat and a routine inspection of the catch was conducted. He found that more than 10% of the oysters were less than the 3‑inch minimum size limit allowed by state law. A citation was issued to the oysterman with a mandatory court appearance.
While off duty, Officer Hutchinson received a call late at night from a Santa Rosa County deputy about a large group of people riding ATVs at Keyser's Landing in the Escambia River WMA. He went on duty and headed to the landing and met the deputy who was speaking with a group of teenagers who were riding ATVs. Several of the teenagers told the officers that a man and his girlfriend were in a truck spinning out and tearing up the campsites at Keyser's Landing. The officers then saw a truck coming towards them from the landing. The teens identified the truck as being the one that was destroying the campsites. Officer Hutchinson encountered the man driving the truck and recognized him as a person about whom several complaints have been reported. The subject was under the age of 21 and was in possession of alcoholic beverages. While conducting his investigation, fresh tire ruts in the middle of a campsite and dirt thrown from the ruts onto a nearby picnic table were observed. The subject admitted to spinning out in the campsite and was issued a notice to appear for destruction of state lands by a motor vehicle and possession of alcohol by a person under 21. The group riding the ATVs were warned for operating ATVs on a public roadway.
Officers Gore and Hellett were patrolling the Choctawhatchee River WMA when they encountered four subjects hunting hogs with dogs from the river. The subjects were cited for attempting to take game during a closed season and issued written warnings for numerous other violations.
Officer Alsobrooks was off duty when he heard a feeder go off on adjacent private property. A few minutes later, the officer heard someone calling turkeys at the same location. Suspecting a violation, he came on duty, approached the location and discovered an individual and two juveniles hunting turkeys approximately ten yards from the feeder. The subject was cited for attempting to take turkey within 100 yards of bait.
Officers Arnette and J. Rockwell responded to a call regarding two kayakers on Shoal River in need of assistance. One of the subjects was diabetic and overturned his kayak and lost his paddle. The officers located the subjects and returned them to safety.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Pifer and Corbin provided a ride-along for a reporter with the Northwest Florida Daily News who was writing an article on the day‑to‑day life of an FWC officer. The officers took the reporter on vessel patrol on Choctawhatchee Bay, Crab Island, Destin Pass and Destin Harbor. The officers made numerous boating safety vessel and resource inspections. The Northwest Florida Daily News posted the article and video on their website.
Lieutenant Clark coordinated with Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in an outreach event at the park. The FWC’s Habitat and Species Biologist, Ms. Manis, presented a coastal PowerPoint presentation for the staff, volunteers, campers and members of the surrounding communities. The focus was how to identify shorebirds, sea turtles and other coastal wildlife and the importance in protecting their natural habitat. Approximately 30 people attended.