Officer Jarvis responded to a capsized vessel in the Destin East Pass. A Good Samaritan vessel removed 6 people from the waters. The Good Samaritan vessel delivered them to the United States Coast Guard Station. The investigation revealed that the boat was at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico when the outboard motor died. After the motor died, large waves started hitting the boat, causing the boat to capsize. All occupants were ejected into the water but clung to the upside-down boat. The seas were rough, approximately 3 to 4 feet with 10 to 14 mph winds. No one was injured. The vessel was brought to shore and removed the following day.
Officer Jarvis responded to a complaint regarding a bear in the garbage on Fort Walton Beach off Emily Circle. This is a known area for nuisance bears. When the officer arrived, he observed a garbage can knocked over. Several household bags were scattered in the driveway and front yard. There were also several pieces of fence near the can that looked to have been broken by a bear. Officer Jarvis asked the homeowner if she has had trouble with bears in the past. She said that a bear did get into her trash about a month or two ago. Officer Jarvis provided the homeowner “A Guide to living in Bear Country” brochure and educated her on securing the trash. Also, the homeowner was given a set of brackets to mount to her trash can to help secure it. The homeowner was issued a non-compliance notification letter.
Officer Pifer was on land patrol conducting resource protection on Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in the Metts Unit. Officer Pifer observed two individuals hunting in a closed area. Officer Pifer approached both hunters. One hunter was issued a resource citation for hunting in a daily closed area, a warning for no archery permit, a warning for no Eglin sportsman permit and released pending a court date. The other hunter was issued a resource citation for hunting in a daily closed area.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jernigan was patrolling in Blackwater WMA when he located a baited area. He returned to the area on the opening day of archery season and found a hunter hunting over the bait. He issued the man a notice to appear for hunting over bait in a WMA.
Officer Hutchinson was patrolling in Blackwater WMA when he observed a man parked near an area where a small food plot had been illegally planted. He located the hunter overlooking the small plot. The hunter admitted to planting the food plot and baiting that site as well as another site in Blackwater WMA. Officer Hutchinson issued the man a notice to appear for hunting over bait in a WMA.
Officer Hutchinson received information that a subject had caught an oversized redfish and kept it. He located the carcass and interviewed the suspect who admitted taking the 33” redfish. Officer Hutchinson issued the man a notice to appear for harvesting an oversized redfish.
While patrolling around midnight, Officer Nelson heard several shots and observed a vehicle pass his location in the Apalachicola National Forest. The vehicle quickly drove around a corner and onto a side road, stopped and turned off their lights attempting to hide. Officer Nelson observed the vehicle which then quickly sped off damaging the state lands road. He conducted a traffic stop for no tag, being parked in the middle of the road with no lights on and damage to state lands. During the traffic stop, he observed a freshly killed doe in the bed of the pickup as well as a .22 caliber rifle and spent shells. Officer Nelson interviewed the four occupants of the vehicle who admitted to shooting the deer with the .22 rifle in Liberty County prior to the opening of archery season. The occupants also admitted to shooting street signs as well as being in possession of marijuana. The appropriate action was taken regarding the violations.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Maltais taught the law portion of the Hunters Education to 32 Eglin Range Patrol personnel.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Lieutenant Huff and Officer McDonald were working a bait site they found several weeks ago in the Osceola WMA. The officers continued to monitor the site as it was rebaited on several occasions. On opening day of black powder season, the officers found fresh tire marks driving towards the baited area. They tracked the hunter on foot to the bait site where they found the hunter to be hunting over the bait. The hunter was cited for placing bait on a WMA.
Officer Christmas was on routine patrol when he spotted a subject fishing on Lem Turner over the Trout River. A resource inspection of his catch revealed three undersized red drum, two undersized mangrove snapper and one undersized spotted sea trout. The fish were seized and the subject was issued appropriate citations for the illegal fish.
Officer Stuhr approached a subject in Four Creeks WMA during muzzle loader gun season. Officer Stuhr asked the subject for his licenses and permits. The subject handed Officer Stuhr a valid sportsman license and the muzzle loader quota permit. Officer Stuhr checked the subject through super query to confirm the quota permit was valid. The super query check did not show a Four Creeks WMA muzzle loading quota permit for the subject. After reading the subject his Miranda rights, Officer Stuhr and Officer Christmas interviewed the subject and he confessed to Officer Stuhr that he fabricated and created a counterfeit quota permit so he could appear legal to hunt. This would not have been caught if Officer Stuhr did not verify the quota permit through super query. The subject was arrested and booked under F.S. 379.354(16), make or possess forged or counterfeit license or permit (3rd degree felony).
While conducting a Captive Wildlife inspection at a wildlife facility, Investigator Doricchi found multiple violations of caging requirements such as no secondary entrance lockouts or safety entrance devices. The facility was given time to correct the violations; however, during a follow-up inspection there were still no secondary entrances or lockouts in place as required. A citation was issued for the violations.
Officer Teal was on foot patrol in a private orange grove located on the border of Lake and Orange Counties. Shortly before dark, Officer Teal heard a vehicle creeping through the orange groves. He then heard a rifle shot from a small caliber rifle come from the direction of the truck, which was less than 50 yards from him. Officer Teal approached a male subject who was walking away from the truck. When questioned about the shot, he said that he had dropped off another subject with a rifle in the grove. Air support from the Lake and Orange County Sheriff’s Office responded, but could not locate the second subject. Several boxes of .22 magnum ammunition and loose rounds were found in the front seat of the vehicle. The male subject was arrested for felony charges of trespassing on cultivated land and transported to the Orange County Jail.
Officer Jones was on patrol in Lake George Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when he observed a subject operating a vehicle while consuming an alcoholic beverage. Officer Jones stopped the vehicle and found that the driver was also knowingly operating the vehicle with a suspended license. The driver was cited for both offenses.
Officer Wester responded to a construction site where gopher tortoise burrows were thought to be impacted. Upon his arrival, there was no one at the site, however, Officer Wester was able to locate two active tortoise burrows. A return trip to the site after construction activity commenced, found that burrows on the site had been covered up. The responsible party was charged with destroying gopher tortoise burrows without relocation or permit.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Wounded Warrior Outdoors (WWO) held its annual alligator/hog hunt. The event allowed veterans with various levels of challenges an opportunity to push their limits in an outdoor adventure. The warriors were permitted to take one alligator on Bull Creek/Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area (WMA) with a permit issued by FWC. The hog hunts took place on two separate ranches. This is the sixth year Lieutenant Hudson has assisted with this event.
Officer Winton was on patrol at Blind Pass when he noticed two individuals fishing from the shoreline. Officer Winton approached the subjects and asked them if they were keeping any fish, but they continued to change the subject. A resource inspection was conducted and it was determined that one of the individuals was in possession of an undersized snook. He was issued a notice to appear for the violation and educated about fisheries management.
Officer Winton was on patrol at Lover’s Key State Park when he noticed a vehicle driving erratically. Officer Winton conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle, at which time he noticed that the driver was exhibiting signs of impairment. A DUI investigation was conducted, and it was determined that the driver was operating a vehicle while her normal faculties were impaired. The driver was placed under arrest for DUI and booked into the Lee County Jail.
Officer Price was assisting the United States Coast Guard with a coordinated offshore operation. During their patrol, they stopped a vessel being fished from. Officer Price asked the captain if they had any fish and was told they had a red grouper. When Officer Price looked at the fish, he could tell it appeared to be undersized. The captain said he was sorry if the fish was a little short and that it had been a tough day of fishing. Officer Price asked the captain what he used to measure the fish and was shown a tournament ruler. The end of the tournament ruler was bent over so it would not measure fish accurately. Officer Price measured the fish and confirmed it was undersized. A misdemeanor citation was issued for the violation.
Officers responded to a boating accident at the railroad tracks along the Caloosahatchee River after a witness observed a boat crash into the rocks. When officers arrived, they found the boat resting on top of the rocks next to the railroad tracks. Miraculously, nobody was seriously injured in the accident and the vessel only sustained minor damage. The investigation is ongoing.
Multiple officers responded to the Hudson area to assist Pasco County Sheriff’s Office with manpower during an active shooter situation. FWC personnel were assigned to help with perimeter control and the safety of a neighboring school. After some very tense moments for all involved, the situation was controlled and normal activity resumed. The investigation is being handled by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
While on land patrol, Officer Bibeau approached two individuals that were actively fishing from the shoreline. Upon making contact, one of the individuals told the officer that they didn’t have any fish. Officer Bibeau conducted a fisheries inspection and located two undersized mangrove snapper and an undersized gag grouper which were found underneath a cast net inside a five-gallon bucket. Officer Bibeau wrote a misdemeanor citation for possession of an undersized gag grouper and a warning for the other fisheries violation.
While on water patrol near Johns Pass, Officers Bibeau, Bibler and Martinez stopped a vessel to conduct a boating safety and fisheries inspection. While conducting the inspection, the officers observed signs of impairment from the operator. Officer Bibeau requested that the operator submit to field sobriety tasks, which he refused. Officer Bibeau arrested the operator for BUI and cited him for refusing to submit to a breath test.
Officer Bibeau was on land patrol when he observed an individual returning to his vehicle carrying fishing poles and dragging a cooler. Officer Bibeau approached the individual to conduct a fisheries inspection and was told by the individual that he didn’t have any fish. Officer Bibeau observed the tail of a fish inside a white bucket, which was in plain view. He conducted an inspection of the white bucket and at the conclusion located two undersized gag grouper. Officer Bibeau wrote the individual a misdemeanor citation for the fisheries violation.
While on land patrol near Gandy Beach, Officers Bibeau and Martinez approached two individuals, that were preparing to leave the area, to conduct a fisheries inspection. After the inspection, the officers located an undersized red drum. One of the individuals admitted to keeping the red drum and Officer Martinez issued a misdemeanor citation for the fisheries violation.
While on land patrol at the Gandy Bridge, Officers Bibeau and Martinez approached three individuals, who were actively fishing from the shoreline, to conduct a fisheries inspection. After the inspection, the officers located two undersized gag grouper, two undersized mangrove snapper and an undersized sheepshead. After reading the individuals their Miranda rights and finding out who caught which fish, Officer Bibeau wrote the individuals the proper misdemeanor citations and warnings for the fisheries violations.
Officer Angelis and Investigator Tsongranis responded to a call around Anclote Key Preserve State Park. The call was regarding two adults and one child that were stranded on the island due to inclement weather and their inability to operate their inflatable manual powered vessel. The officers safely retrieved them from the island and returned them to Hudson Beach. During the rescue, the officers learned the individuals had put their inflatable vessel in at Anclote Gulf Park and they were carried away by the wind and current several miles out to the island. Thankfully, all were accounted for and no injuries were reported.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Wells, Investigators Prouty and Schefano, and Officers Smith, Boogaerts, Bergwerff, Pettifer, Dearborn, Wolf and LaRosa participated in Marine Quest in St. Petersburg. There were several tasks that the officers shared with members of FWC’s other divisions, USF’s Police Department and St. Petersburg Police Department. Overnight security was provided for three nights, security was performed during the event on Saturday. Tours of the 85-foot offshore patrol vessel Gulf Sentry were conducted, K-9 demonstrations were performed and numerous discussions with stakeholders and the public took place.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Brodbeck was conducting fishing license and resource inspections in Moore Haven when he encountered multiple subjects fishing from the shore of the Caloosahatchee River. Two individuals produced a valid fishing license, while a third subject was unable to do so. The subject was asked for identification, which she was also unable to produce. The subject continued to explain that she lived nearby and could return with a valid fishing license. Officer Brodbeck informed the subject that a name and date of birth would suffice for identification purposes, which the subject provided. When checked through the law enforcement database, the provided name came back with multiple warrants out of Hendry and Okeechobee Counties for theft, larceny, and failure to appear. The subject was placed under arrest and transported to the Glades County Jail.
While conducting a fisheries inspection at the Nubbin Slough Structure, Officers Davis and Hausler observed an individual walking away from the structure carrying a bucket. Upon contacting the individual, he was found to be in possession of 3 black bass, two of which were over 16”. The subject was issued a citation for being in possession of more than one black bass over 16″.
Officers Fijalkowski and Allen were on airboat patrol in the Starvation Slough when they saw an airboat parked in an area closed to airboats. In a wooded area near the airboat, two men were encountered as they entered a camp. The owner of the airboat received a citation for operating his boat beyond posted signs and a warning for not wearing hunter orange. The second subject receive a citation for not wearing hunter orange. Warnings were issued to the men for not having a camping permit from the South Florida Water Management District.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Shermetaro was on land patrol in Fort Pierce late one night when he observed a vehicle at an intersection make a wide right turn, almost striking the raised concrete median. He then observed the vehicle abruptly swerve, recover and then proceed into a left turn lane where it then completed a U-turn. Officer Shermetaro followed close behind, observing the vehicle operator violate several more traffic rules. A traffic stop was initiated and contact with the operator revealed possible impairment. Field sobriety tasks were performed with poor results. The subject was placed under arrest, transported to jail and charged with driving under the influence (DUI). The vehicle was turned over to a family member for recovery.
SOUTH REGION B
Officer Yurewitch, Oldsen and Araujo were observing night fishermen off US-41. The officers were focusing on finding snook violations during the open season. They encountered many legal fishermen late into the night with several slot snook harvested. One vehicle was stopped for a head light out after leaving a local bridge when officers arrived. The driver of the vehicle was found to be in possession of one over slot snook. The driver had previously been warned for fishing size limit violations. Officer Yurewitch cited the driver accordingly.
Captive Wildlife Investigator Smith responded to a report of a Kinkajou roaming a neighborhood. He located the animal and chemically immobilized it, allowing for its capture and was then able to transport it to a licensed facility. A follow-up investigation was unable to determine who the owner of the animal was or where it originated from.
Officers on land-based water patrol observed a subject fishing from a canal. During the fishery inspection, the defendant was in possession of three peacock bass and one largemouth bass. He was cited for having over the bag limit of peacock bass.
While on routine water patrol, officers stopped a vessel to conduct a resource and boating safety inspection. During the stop, they found 8 bags containing 12 wrung lobster tails in each, totaling to 96 wrung lobster tails. The defendant was cited for lobsters not in whole condition and over the bag limit.
Back on June 20, 2017, Officer Pestka was on water patrol and noticed a PWC that seemed suspicious in nature. After determining the PWC’s Florida and hull identification numbers were fraudulent, Officer Pestka and a Lieutenant of investigations seized the PWC to further investigate. With the assistance of investigations, the PWC’s identity was determined and the true owner was a Miami resident. The owner advised that his PWC had been stolen three years prior from a private lake in Dade County. Officer Pestka contacted the rightful owner and set up a meeting at the Miami Regional Office, in which the true owner, and his grandson, were elated to see their PWC that they never expected to get back. They also enjoyed the fact that the PWC had a brand-new coat of paint and an improved exhaust.
Officers Thompson and Martino were on patrol near Key West when they received a call from dispatch of a resource violation at White Street Pier. The call referenced an individual possibly harvesting queen conch. Officers arrived and saw an individual in the water who matched the description. Officers found the man in possession of 12 spiny lobster. Seven were wrung, spiny lobster tails. They measured the lobster and of the 12 spiny lobster, 10 were undersized and 4 were also speared. The man was arrested and transported to Stock Island Detention Facility by Key West Police Department.
Officers Alvarez and Rubenstein conducted a resource inspection near Duck Key. While approaching the fisherman, they noticed a very large rod not usually used for the fish in the area, as well as a large amount of guts and blood from what appeared to be a large fish. After approaching the individual, the fisherman stated he was out for sharks and had caught one. Officer Alvarez was given consent to check his large cooler which contained a prohibited species of shark. The individual was cited for the lemon shark and educated on how to identify varied species of sharks in the area.
Officers Alvarez and Rubenstein responded to a tip from dispatch of a possible undersize snook at Long Key being put in the trunk of a car. Officer Alvarez watched as an individual approached the car and popped open the trunk. Officers approached the subject who claimed to have put the snook and another fish inside the trunk of the car. The individuals father was nearby and claimed he caught the snook and didn’t know the size but wanted to keep it for dinner. The individual was cited for an undersized snook and educated on the size limit.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Barringer, Tidwell, Thurkettle, Johnson, Yaxley and Yurewitch participated in the 2017 Annual Naples Boat Show held for the first time on Marco Island. The officers explained and discussed information and distributed pamphlets regarding boating safety, federal and state fishing regulations, and living with bears and Florida panthers. The show was located at the very popular Rose Marina debuting the latest boats from major manufacturers. It was a great opportunity to interact with the many stakeholders.
Officer Dube assisted Tallahassee and FWRI staff at the recent Goliath Grouper workshop in Naples. Officer Dube along with several local officers attended the workshop which had approximately 40 participants that were interested in the issues concerning FWC’s proposed rule changes.
Officer Dube and Investigator Daniels set up a booth over the weekend for the annual “Ladies Lets Go Fishing” seminar at Tavernier Elks Club. Officers passed out literature, regulations and giveaways. Officers also had a question and answer session and talked about the do’s and don’ts on the water and what to do and expect if stopped by Law Enforcement.
To help our commercial lobster fishing community recover from Hurricane Irma, Officers McKay and Tafoya contacted all fishermen who had their lobster traps wash up in Long Key State Park. The park service had piled the traps up not knowing who to contact. Officers ran each tag number and provided the registered owners with directions and contact information on how to enter the closed park to retrieve their traps. Many of the fishermen were hesitant in speaking with the officers fearing they may have been in violation of some regulation but were relieved to hear that the calls were to help the fishermen out. Our partnerships were solidified with the 20+ fishermen and with our partners in the state parks that McKay and Tafoya interacted with.