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Division of Law Enforcement
May 26, 2017 through June 1, 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
Investigator Thomas received a complaint regarding a 12-foot tiger shark that had been landed on the Bay County Pier earlier in the week. The complainant reported that, after being caught with hook and line, the subjects put additional lines its head and tail and, with the help of nineteen people, pulled the shark up and over the rail onto the pier. The shark lied on the pier for approximately six minutes while people sat on its back and had their picture taken. The shark was then released by dropping it approximately twenty-two feet to the water below. The subjects stated that the shark swam off upon being released. Appropriate citations and four written warnings were issued for possession, harvest and landing of a prohibited species of shark.
Officers Hellett and Alsobrooks conducted a vessel stop in St. Andrews Bay near the Panama City Port. Both the operator of the vessel and the passenger appeared to be intoxicated. While trying to conduct a BUI investigation on the operator, the passenger was verbally abusive to the officers. The operator agreed to perform field sobriety tasks and was subsequently arrested for BUI. Officer Hellett asked the operator if he was a member of SeaTow and the operator answered “yes.” Officer Hellet asked dispatch to contact SeaTow to come and get the vessel and female passenger. When SeaTow requested the operator’s member number, the operator told officer Hellett that it was on his key ring in his boat. As Officer Hellett stepped onto the operator’s vessel, the female passenger told the officer to get off her boat and pushed the officer. The female passenger was then arrested for interfering with an officer and resisting arrest without violence. Both subjects were transported to the Bay County Jail. The operator gave breath samples at the jail, which were .113 for both samples, and was charged with BUI with a breath alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or higher.
While patrolling in federal waters approximately 12 miles southwest of Panama City on board the OPV Vigilance, Officers Rockwell, Cushing and Land located a charter vessel headed south further into federal waters. While making way toward the vessel, it turned around and headed due north abruptly. The officers proceeded to the charter vessel rapidly and stopped it at approximately 10.5 miles offshore. During the inspection, the vessel and occupants were found to be on an active charter trip and in possession of red snapper during closed season. The captain did not possess a federal reef fish permit or a valid charter license. The appropriate action was taken to address the violations.
While on water patrol, Officer Cushing conducted a fisheries inspection on a recreational fishing vessel entering Bayou Chico. A large red drum was protruding from a cooler, and he confirmed who caught the fish and that they had knowledge of the regulations. The red drum measured 35 inches and a citation was issued for the violation. Another individual was issued a warning for an undersized red snapper.
While on vessel patrol aboard the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Vigilance, Officers Cushing, Land, Nelson and Rockwell conduced an inspection of a commercial shrimping vessel in the Pensacola Bay area. During an inspection of the vessel’s Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), it was revealed that one of the nets being fished had a TED that had the netting around it sewed in a manner that would not allow a turtle to pass through the TED and out of the net as intended. The appropriate action was taken in regards to the violation and the TED was fixed by the shrimping vessel’s crew prior to departure of the officers.
While on vessel patrol in Big Lagoon State Park, Officers Clark and Long approached a vessel after noticing the operator throw a cigarette into the water. They initiated a vessel stop and while talking with the operator, he showed signs of impairment. Officer Clark conducted field sobriety tasks and determined the operator was impaired. The operator was taken into custody and transported to the Escambia County Jail where he refused to provide a breath sample. The operator was booked into Escambia County Jail and cited for BUI and refusal to submit a breath test. He was also issued a warning for littering.
Lieutenant Hahr was working in the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) at Fillingim Landing and saw several subjects drinking beer. Two of the men smoked a cannabis cigarette and placed it in a backpack. As they were leaving, Lieutenant Lambert stopped them in the parking lot. The officers located three cannabis cigarettes and issued the two men a notice to appear for possession of not more than 20 grams of cannabis.
While patrolling in the Apalachicola Bay on board the OPV Guardian, Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Boyd and Nelson located seven commercial shrimping vessels. During the boarding of those vessels, the officers inspected the catch, gear, and licenses. Three of the vessels had TEDs with illegal dimensions. The appropriate action was taken for the violations and the vessels were instructed to fix their gear to prevent any drownings of sea turtles.
While patrolling in the Gulf of Mexico on board the OPV Guardian, Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Boyd and Nelson located a large commercial shrimping vessel just south of St. Vincent Island. They watched the vessel for approximately 30 minutes while conducting another vessel inspection. Upon completion of the vessel stop and approach of the shrimping vessel, they recognized that the vessel was one that typically uses 4 nets simultaneously for offshore shrimping use. The vessel was boarded in nearshore waters and upon hauling the gear, the vessel was found to be trawling with 4 large nets. The nets were measured and found to be over 2,000 square feet a piece, thus exceeding the 500 square feet maximum. The nets had additional measurements that exceeded legal thresholds and inspection of their catch revealed 5 undersized Spanish Mackerel. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.
While patrolling in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico on board the OPV Guardian, Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Boyd and Nelson located two vessels together in federal waters south of St. George Island. Upon inspection of the vessels, the occupants of one vessel were found to be in possession of red snapper and gag grouper during federal closure. The other vessel was found to be in possession of red snapper during federal closure. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.
While patrolling in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico on board the OPV Guardian, Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Boyd and Nelson located a vessel approximately 11 miles south of St. George Island. Upon inspection of the vessel, the occupants were found to be in possession of red snapper during federal closure, lane snapper not landed in whole condition and use of reef fish for bait. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.
While patrolling in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico on board the OPV Guardian, Lieutenant Marlow and Officers Boyd and Nelson located a vessel approximately 12 miles south of East Pass. Upon inspection, the occupants were found to be in possession of red snapper and gray triggerfish during federal closure. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.
While patrolling in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico on board the OPV Guardian, Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Boyd and Nelson located a vessel approximately 11 miles south of St. George Island. Upon inspection, the occupants of the vessel were found to be in possession of red snapper during federal closure and were using cut up red snapper for bait. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.
Officers conducted vessel patrol throughout the Memorial Day holiday weekend. There were approximately 1,000 recreational and commercial vessels each day. Officers conducted boating safety inspections and Officers Bartlett, Pifer and Wilkenson made four 4 BUI arrests. Officers Pifer, Corbin, Jarvis and Investigator Schafer investigated 4 separate boating accidents. Citations were issued for no life jackets, violation of idle speed zone, expired vessel registration, livery violations and underage boat operators.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officers Clark, Hutchinson and Long were in Blackwater State Forest checking fisheries and alcohol violations when they approached two individuals on a sand bar. One male was fishing and could not produce a valid freshwater fishing license. They also saw open containers of alcohol. Officer Long found the subjects in possession of 8 grams of Methamphetamine, numerous pills, cash and paraphernalia. Both subjects were placed in custody and transported to the Santa Rosa County Jail. They were charged with a total of seven felonies, three misdemeanors and two infractions.
Officer Lewis was on patrol in Blackwater River State Forest at a primitive campsite when he saw an adult male, adult female and two children camping. The officer saw alcoholic beverages and glass containers within their campsite, and explained to them that those items were prohibited in the area. The children were sleeping in the tent, and the officer could smell a strong odor of cannabis emanating from the tent. The officer explained the odor to the adults. The adult female retrieved cannabis and paraphernalia items from the tent and stated that the items belonged to her. Officer Lewis seized the cannabis and paraphernalia from the female, and issued her a notice to appear for possession of cannabis not more than 20 grams, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The officer issued them both warnings for the alcoholic beverages and glass bottles.
Officers McHenry and Ramos were patrolling the Perdido River WMA and saw two Jeeps enter the WMA. Almost immediately after leaving the paved road, they began to fish-tail and drive in a careless manner. When they came across a large clearing used for horse trailers, each of the vehicles began cutting donuts in the sand, leaving large ruts and destroying the recreation area. The officers stopped both vehicles and citations were issued for the violations. One of the suspects did not have a valid driver’s license and received the corresponding criminal citation.
While on vessel patrol in Escambia Bay, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) notified Officer Ramos that they had received a distress call from a woman on board a sailboat. She stated that her husband, who was operating the vessel, was extremely intoxicated and she was fearful for her safety. The USCG reported that they heard the man make multiple threats to his wife while she was speaking. The USCG relayed identifying information of the vessel to Officer Ramos, enabling him to locate the vessel underway in open water approximately 20 minutes later. The USCG launched a cutter to assist Officer Ramos at the sailboat. Officer Ramos conducted a BUI investigation of the operator of the vessel. The vessel operator was highly uncooperative and subsequently taken into custody due to extreme signs of impairment. He was transported to a nearby boat ramp and taken to the Santa Rosa County Jail where he was booked for BUI.
Officer Bartlett responded to a report of a vessel passenger who fell off a personal watercraft (PWC) at the Marler Bridge. The distressed swimmer was located, but he lost sight of her when she went underneath the water’s surface. He located her quickly when she briefly resurfaced and pulled her from the water and onto his patrol vessel.