From: "Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission" <MyFWC@public.govdelivery.com>
Date: Feb 27, 2015 1:41 PM
Subject: FWC Law Enforcement Weekly Report 02/20 - 02/26/2015
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Division of Law Enforcement
February 20th – February 26th, 2015
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 Gore was on patrol when he observed an oysterman harvesting shell stock well within a closed area. A check of the oysterman found he possessed a saltwater products license and had previously been warned and issued citations for harvesting oysters from this closed area and for illegal sale of oysters. A citation was issued and one bag of oysters were seized and returned to the waters.
Officer North responded to a call where a landlord discovered a freshly killed, partially cleaned doe deer at his rental property. The deer had been shot in the neck and deer season had been closed for three weeks. Through his investigation, Officer North learned that the tenant’s boyfriend shot the deer the prior evening. The boyfriend advised that he had a tough deer season so he went to his hunting club and shot the doe from his tree stand. Officer North seized the gun and the deer. The suspect was charged with possession of a deer during closed season.
Officer Krynicki was dispatched to a report of a single vehicle crash on the St. Sebastian Buffer Preserve. As he arrived on scene he noticed tire marks in a snake-like pattern from the left edge of the road to the right edge where they ended directly behind the wrecked vehicle. A white Chevy pickup S-10 crashed into a telephone pole. A Park Ranger found the two defendants walking away from the truck. The operator told Officer Krynicki he had been driving and was doing "donuts", "burn outs", and "fish-tailing" when he lost control of his truck and slammed into the telephone pole. The passenger told the same story. While inspecting the damage initially, Officer Krynicki could smell the odor of beer and saw beer cans in the back of the wrecked truck. He conducted field sobriety exercises on the operator, but the subject had no signs of impairment or alcoholic beverage on his breath. Officer Krynicki conducted a search of the wreck vehicle due to it being towed. While searching the vehicle he found several pieces of cannabis, rolling papers, a glass pipe head, a plastic pipe tip and a small blue pipe all tested positive for cannabis. He issued a Uniform Traffic Citation for reckless driving to the operator and both subjects were issued citations for possession of cannabis (under 20 grams) and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officers from Osceola, Polk, and Brevard counties participated in a detail organized by Officer Scrambling for the annual Airboat Jamboree/Freedom Ride. The detail’s primary focus was boating safety and BUI enforcement. Three BUI’s were issued as well as citations and warnings for people in violation. Officers found multiple violations ranging from BUI, refusal to submit breath, urine, or blood, improper registration, no hull identification numbers, no navigation lights, insufficient number of life vests, no sound producing device, and operating airboats without proper flags.
Officers responded to a reported boat fire located at River Ranch Boat Ramp. Upon arriving on scene they discovered there was no fire; however, the vessel operator showed signs of impairment. Officer Maslo conducted field sobriety tasks and found the operator’s normal faculties to be impaired. Officer Maslo arrested the subject for operating a vessel while under the influence and charged him for BUI, and possession of prescription drugs without a prescription. The subject was transported to the Polk County Jail.
Investigator Trusley, Officer’s Maslo and Conlin were heading back to the boat trailers to conclude the day’s operation when they noticed several airboats in Gardner Marsh with glow whips. The officers stopped multiple boats one of which had no navigation lights, upon further investigation of the operator missing the navigation lights. Officer Conlin noticed that the operator showed signs of impairment and conducted field sobriety tasks. Subsequent to his investigation the operator was arrested for BUI, failure to display HIN and no navigation lights. The subject was transported the Osceola County Jail.
Officer Conlin made a second BUI arrest on Sunday. While patrolling Lake Kissimmee in North Cove, Investigator Trusley, Officer Maslo and Conlin noticed an airboat doing donuts and missing the required flag and flag pole. After stopping the vessel Officer Conlin noticed that the operator of the vessel showed signs of impairment. Officer Conlin conducted field sobriety tasks and determined the operator to be under the influence. The subject was arrested for BUI and transported to the Osceola County Jail.
Several other investigations stemmed from this detail reference title fraud.
Due to the high visibility and proactive patrol of Law Enforcement on Saturday and Sunday there were no reports of vessel accidents. This is a substantial drop from previous years.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Hilliard, Russo and K-9 Officer Dishman responded to an assistance request by the Levy County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 8:00 p.m. in Levy County. Two male subjects in a truck had an explosive device placed on the seat between them. The driver also stated that “he just liked blowing stuff up.” The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was contacted and responded to the scene and identified the device as a dangerous explosive. It was safely detonated with a large flash and powerful percussion following the detonation. A vehicle search also revealed a homemade smoking pipe with marijuana residue. The driver was booked into the Levy County Jail for possession of an explosive device and possession of drug paraphernalia. The individual’s vehicle was impounded and towed to a nearby facility.
Officer Matthews was on US Highway 19 enforcing a night hunting detail when a SUV type vehicle passed his location, applied its brakes and turned around traveling back south on U.S. Highway 19. The vehicle drove into a posted area clearly marked with "NO TRESPASSING." Upon contact, Officer Matthews noticed a rifle sitting next to the passenger between the console and his seat. The driver was wearing a headlamp at the time and stated he also had a pistol near him on the floor. The driver immediately said he knew he needed to go to jail because he did not fulfill his weekend obligations for probation. The subject was arrested and booked into jail on charges of trespassing and violation of probation.
Officers Russo, Hilliard, K-9 Officer Dishman and Investigator Ayers worked a detail targeting illegal commercial harvesting of oysters in Levy County. Over the course of several hours multiple commercial fishing vessels were observed harvesting oysters. One vessel in particular was approximately 450 yards pass the legal boundary line into waters closed to protect public health. The commercial vessel harvested and culled five bushels of oysters in the prohibited zone before leaving. The officers stopped the vessel and directed them to a nearby boat ramp. A fisheries inspection revealed multiple violations including quality control, boating safety and harvesting oysters from closed waters. Another commercial vessel drove by the ramp while the initial inspection was being conducted and was stopped by another officer. Harvesting violations were also found with that vessel. All violations were addressed accordingly and the five bushels of oysters harvested from closed waters were confiscated as evidence and returned alive to the water.
Officer McColgin was patrolling some private property known for having trespassing issues when he observed two men fishing on the property. He watched the men for several minutes and stopped them as they began leaving the property. During the stop, the men admitted to knowing they were trespassing and that they had been fishing on the property for several years. Both men were issued a notice to appear for misdemeanor trespassing.
Officer Price was fueling his patrol vehicle at a gas station when a man approached him and told him that someone had just stolen his bicycle. The man gave Officer Price a description and the direction the suspect went. Shortly afterwards, Officer Price located the individual riding the bicycle down the street. Officer Price was able to stop the man and placed him in handcuffs. The Sheriff’s department arrived on scene and took over the investigation.
Officer Morrow was dispatched to a residence along the Imperial River in Bonita Springs to investigate the report of mangrove cutting. It was reported that a homeowner had cut down red mangrove trees below the legal length, near his boat dock, and did not have a permit to do so. The homeowner advised the officer he was just trying to clear out the back of his property. The investigation is on-going, possible charges are pending.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Spoede attended the South West Florida Public Service Academy Law Enforcement Graduation for the presentation of the Denis Grealish Award for Physical Fitness and Leadership. Officer Spoede was honored to escort Jeannie Grealish to the stage for the presentation. Approximately 130 people were in attendance for the recruit graduation ceremony.
Officers Balfour, Beckman, Fagan, Ferguson, Prowant and Investigator Tsongranis assisted the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) with a search and rescue operation in the Gulf of Mexico. They were searching for two commercial fishermen who had gone missing after their shrimp vessel had sunk. After an exhaustive search in rough seas both fishermen were located. One was transported to a local hospital for treatment and the other was discovered deceased. The boating accident investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by Investigator Tsongranis and the United States Coast Guard.
SOUTH REGION A
Lieutenant Brown received a call from a commercial fisherman that another commercial fisherman was overdue returning to the fish house. Lieutenant Brown relayed information to dispatch that the overdue subject launched at Indian Prairie Boat Ramp with his wife. Several officers responded to the scene due to the poor weather conditions. Another commercial fisherman had become concerned and had already begun looking for the overdue couple. By the time the officers made it to the ramp the concerned individual had found the wife in the water holding onto a milk jug. She had been in the water for over five hours and the water temperature was 56 degrees. The woman was treated for exposure and recovered. A search began involving FWC officers, commercial fisherman and the FWC helicopter. The search continued on for several days. On February 22, 2015, the missing commercial fisherman's body was recovered from the water. The incident remains under investigation.
Officer Mullins was dispatched to an out of control camp fire at Dinner Island Ranch WMA, in the Recreational Vehicle (RV) area. Officer Mullins made contact with the complainant and learned that a camp site was left unattended with an open flame in a grill, which was spreading rapidly, but was now extinguished. Officer Mullins arrived on scene and spoke with campers in the area. They stated that they saw the out of control fire spreading in the direction of the unattended RV, with flames reaching 2-3 feet. The campers gathered everything they could to extinguish the fire. They stated that they extinguished the flames mere feet from the RV’s door. The campers also stated that as soon as the other campers returned to their unattended RV, and saw what occurred, they immediately began packing and left. Officer Mullins spoke with several campers in the area and got a vehicle description but could not find the subjects.
Lieutenant Steelman was assisting Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Deputies in reference to ATV’s racing in the Pioneer area. A truck and ATV came to an intersection that Steelman and a few Sheriff’s Deputies were at. In the bed of the truck was a cooler and the lid was covered in fresh blood. Subsequent investigation determined the subject had killed an alligator. The subject was issued the appropriate citations. The alligator carcass, alligator meat and a shotgun was seized as evidence.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
While on foot patrol at the Belle Glade Structure, Officer Toby conducted a fisheries inspection of an individual who was at the structure in possession of a mesh fish basket and multiple fishing poles. Officer Toby was able to immediately see black crappie in the individual’s fish basket that appeared to be under the required size. Officer Toby removed the fish and conducted measurements to ensure each fish was of legal size. Upon conclusion, the individual was shown to be in possession of three undersized black crappie and was issued a citation for the violation.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Investigator Turner responded to a boat crash involving a vessel towing a barge. The vessel and barge were inbound the Fort Pierce Inlet. Due to a strong outgoing tide, the vessel was not able to keep up with the strong currents and the barge began taking on excessive amounts of water. The barge crew had dewatering devices but were unable to keep up with the excessive amounts of water breaching the hull structure. The hull was not able to handle the extra weight and collapsed, sinking in the middle of the Inlet. Several individuals were rescued by Coast Guard but unfortunately one crew member did not survive. The cause of this boating accident is under investigation.
Investigator Turner was on foot patrol at the Fort Pierce Inlet Jetty Park, conducting license and resource inspections. The area was full of recreational fishermen and people walking around enjoying the sights. Investigator Turner then came into contact with a subject that had landed a snook. The subject stated that he had measured it and was of legal size, but Investigator Turner’s experience indicated it was short. The fish was measured for compliance and it was determined to be under the required slot harvest limit for snook. The subject was cited for harvest and possession of undersized snook.
SOUTH REGION B
While on foot patrol, near the boat ramp at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Lieutenant Mark Mahoney observed several anglers fishing with rod and reel at the end of the dock. As he approached the group of anglers, one of them gathered his fishing equipment and a small bucket and began rapidly walking towards a vehicle in the parking lot. The angler was very nervous and stated "I do not have my fishing license with me". Upon inspection of the bucket, Lieutenant Mahoney noticed a portion of a fish tail under a small bait bucket that was on top of the fish. The angler removed the bucket that was on top of the exposed fish tail and revealed an undersized snook of 19.5 inches. The snook was photographed and released alive into the water. The angler was issued citations for possession of undersized snook, possession of out of season snook, failure to possess a snook permit and failure to possess a valid resident saltwater fishing license.
Officers Harris, Johnson, Lugg and White responded to a boating accident in Dollar Bay in Naples. Upon arrival they observed a 37 foot yacht suspended in the mangroves. After gathering and removing 12 passengers, the Officers noticed that the operator was behaving strangely. Further investigation determined that the operator was a hired Captain. The Officers led the Captain through Field Sobriety Tasks and subsequently charged him with causing property damage while boating under the influence. In addition to criminal charges, the Captain faces a United States Coast Guard investigation.
FWC received information regarding the feeding of wildlife by airboat tour operators, such that the operators were feeding wildlife in an attempt to entertain their patrons for economic gain. This illegal behavior is hazardous to the safety of the public and detrimental to the wildlife being fed. During a recent detail, FWC Officers discovered three airboat operators feed raccoons and an alligator. The animals’ behavior suggests that this has been a customary ritual as they ate directly from an operator’s hand. All three operators received Notice’s to Appear.
The FWC and the United States Coast Guard received information of an overdue vessel occupied by an 88 year old man who was missing after he left his residence on Sugarloaf Key. He had departed the previous day in an 18’ Carolina Skiff and had not been seen since. Officers Messier, Pena-Lopez and Way responded to the area and commenced a search by water. FWC Pilot Willman also responded and began an aerial search of the lower Keys. It was not long before Pilot Willman spotted a vessel that resembled the vessel that was reported missing. Pilot Willman reported his location and soon the officers on water patrol found the vessel in question with an elderly man on board unresponsive and incoherent. The man was also suffering from hypothermia. The officers gave the man their foul weather gear and kept him warm until other officers could arrive on scene. Officers Garrison and Martino arrived shortly after and assisted in transporting the victim to his home.
FWC Officers from the lower Keys and the Monroe County Sheriff’s office participated in an undercover operation targeting the illegal sale of saltwater products. During the operation an undercover FWC officer purchased 35 lbs. of frozen spiny lobster from a fisherman. After the purchase, uniformed officers conducted a fisheries inspection on the business and found several resource violations. As a result, the business owner was issued a multitude of citations.
Officers Johnson and Richards were conducting offshore water patrol in the FWC’s 12 meter patrol vessel when they boarded a fishing vessel near Smith Shoal Light approximately 11 miles north of Key West in federal waters. The Captain, also the sole occupant of the vessel, was actively engaged in yellowtail snapper fishing. The Captain immediately recognized Officer Johnson from being boarded many times in the past. After a resource inspection the fisherman’s commercial license was found to be expired and he no longer had a federal snapper permit. This only allowed the fisherman to possess the recreational bag limit. Officer Johnson counted eighteen yellowtail snapper in the fisherman’s live well and also observed safety equipment violations. Officer’s Johnson and Richards issued the man a misdemeanor notice to appear for the fisheries violation and written warnings for the safety equipment violations.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Dube and members of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary/NOAA had an information booth at the Upper Keys Nautical Flea Market in Islamorada. The annual event is well attended and approximately 500 people stopped by the booth over the weekend.
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