Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FWC Division of Law Enforcement Weekly Report May 19, 2017 through May 25, 2017

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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Division of Law Enforcement
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 Weekly Report
May 19, 2017 through May 25, 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 McHenry was working in Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when he observed three individuals enter the area after hours. He approached the individuals in his patrol vehicle and turned his blue lights on. All three individuals fled the area on foot, but Officer McHenry caught up to one of the individuals. A notice to appear citation was issued for resisting arrest without violence, under age possession of alcohol and illegal entry into the WMA. The two other individuals were identified and warrants will be filed for their arrest.


Officers Corbin and Pifer were on vessel patrol conducting boating safety inspections in the Destin Pass area and were dispatched to a boating accident involving a 21-foot boat and a personal watercraft (PWC). The accident occurred in the Santa Rosa Sound near marker 31. The operator of the PWC was injured, sustaining a laceration under the armpit that required stitches. The operator transported himself to an emergency room in Destin. Officer Corbin interviewed both operators concerning the cause of the accident. It was determined the PWC operator lost control of the PWC he was operating, striking the 21-foot vessel. The PWC operator was cited for the violation of a navigational rule resulting in an accident (navigational rule 6-unsafe speed).


While on patrol, Officer Mullins observed two individuals fishing the Garcon Point area. He conducted a fisheries/license inspection and one subject was unable to produce a fishing license or identification. The subject provided several different names and dates of birth. Despite the false information, Officer Mullins and FWC Dispatch discovered the subject's identity. It was revealed that the subject had an active warrant for probation violation. The subject was placed under arrest, booked into the Santa Rosa County Jail and issued citations for interference with an FWC officer and no fishing license.


Officers Greene and Yates attended a career day at Bethlehem High School where they spoke about the duties of an FWC officer and the role of FWC as an agency to approximately 75 students.
Officers received actionable intelligence in the fall of 2016, that night-time dumping of asphalt shingles and commercial roofing debris was occurring in a remote area of the Choctawhatchee River WMA. Lieutenant Walsingham, Investigator Brown, Officers Yates and Greene initiated an investigation, began intelligence collection efforts and set up electronic surveillance in an effort to identify the perpetrators. Officers and investigators determined that approximately twenty-three loads of roofing debris had been transported over a period of six months and dumped on the WMA by employees of an Alabama roofing company. The roofing debris contained tar, asphalt, rubber and other prohibited materials. It was illegally burned at night in the river swamp during a period of severe drought using no wildfire safety or suppression measures. After an image of the crew foreman was obtained by surveillance cameras, the foreman and two additional employees confessed to burning the material and transporting it across state lines using the company owner’s truck and hydraulic trailer. All three employees either admitted to being paid to dump or to participating in the operation. Cleanup costs are estimated at several thousand dollars.

The investigation was protracted and complex in nature and involved the establishment of remote surveillance, monitoring of social media, retrieval and review of detention facility calls, identification of multiple suspects, vehicles, and associates, completion of numerous interviews, interrogations, and records searches, and regular consultation with the local prosecutor. During the investigation, it was necessary to coordinate with multiple agencies and divisions to obtain a successful outcome. These included the FWC intelligence section, 14th Circuit State Attorney’s Office, U.S. EPA-CID, FHP, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the DEP Office of Emergency Management.

The FWC obtained warrants for the company’s owner and three employees on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges which included:
  • 58 felony counts relating to commercial dumping, criminal mischief exceeding $1,000, tampering with evidence, and habitual offender driving while license suspended or revoked;
  • 25 misdemeanor counts related to the burning of prohibited materials, damages to the WMA, and violation of DEP rules;
  • Grand theft charges were also filed on two of the defendants through the local Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the investigation.


Officers Lewis, Jernigan, Hutchinson and Clark coordinated with the Blackwater Pirates and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Auxiliary to perform voluntary vessel safety inspections on multiple vessels at Carpenter's Park and Russell Harbor boat ramps in Milton during the weekend.  Everyone involved educated the public on boating safety; distributed boating safety literature, and answered various questions from the public. The FWC reminds boaters to check their safety equipment before heading out onto the water during the first holiday of the boating season.


Lieutenant Walsingham and Officers Gore, Basford, Hellett, Alsobrooks, Hayes, Bartlett, and Pifer teamed with Washington County Sheriff’s deputies to conduct a detail on Cypress Springs on Holmes Creek. The 165 users and 71 vessels inspected resulted in 13 uniform boating citations, 6 written warnings for boating safety violations, 1 BUI arrest, 1 notice to appear citation for possession of cannabis less than 20 grams and 3 uniform traffic citations.