FWC Law Enforcement Weekly Report 06/05 - 06/11/2015

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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Division of Law Enforcement

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Weekly Report


June 5, 2015 thru June 11, 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







Officers Wicker and Basford conducted a resource inspection on a vessel returning from offshore.  During the inspection, a bag of gag grouper filets were found in the vessel’s cooler.  A citation was issued for closed season and a written warning issued for failure to keep the fish in a whole condition.




The FWC Offshore vessel FinCat was on patrol multiple days conducting 27 boarding’s and making one public assist.  Several state and federal violations were made including, two federal citations for no federal reef fish permit, one federal citation for over the bag limit of red snapper, one state citation for undersized cobia, one state citation for possession of gray triggerfish during closed season, and one state citation for possession of gag grouper during closed season. Several other federal and state warnings were issued.




Officers Hughes and Marlow stopped a commercial oyster vessel in Apalachicola Bay after observing two of the occupants harvesting oysters before legal sunrise.  As the officers were approaching, one of the occupants attempted to get rid of all of the caught oysters by pushing them overboard.  Direction was given to the occupants before they could get rid of all the oysters.  Charges were filed for harvesting oysters between the hours of sunset and sunrise.


Officer Hughes, Marlow and Lieutenant Allen arrested an individual in St. George Island State Park for safety state park violations, a suspended driver’s license and an active warrant.




Officers McMillion, M. Webb, H. Webb, and Lieutenant Castaneda conducted a three‑day detail targeting the illegal harvest of red snapper in federal waters.  They checked approximately two dozen vessels over the three‑day period and made six federal resource cases.  ​FWC Pilot Fields assisted and relayed information that led to two of the cases.  On two separate occasions, the violators attempted to dump their fish as the FWC patrol boat approached, but the officers were able to retrieve the fish before citing the operators.




Approximately 1,000 vessels were present for the 2015 Annual Billy Bowlegs Festival.  During the one day event, ten arrests were made for BUI with the highest recorded blood alcohol content of .249.  Three additional physical arrests were made including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and felony battery.  Thirty-seven uniform boating citations were issued along with 34 warnings.  Additional criminal citations included drug possession and fail to transfer vessel title.  Emergency Medical Service personnel along with FWC officers responded to 27 medical calls for service with most of them being treated and released at the Command Post.  Officers also responded to numerous calls for altercations and disorderly conduct.




The FWC Offshore vessel FinCat was on patrol over the weekend. Officers Cushing, Land, Manning, and US Coast Guard (USCG) Boarding Officer Dziama helped to conduct 40 fisheries and safety inspections over the two day period. Many vessels were in violation for being in possession of red snapper in federal waters. Five warnings and six resource citations were issued. Also, the USCG issued seven safety violations, three warnings, and terminated two vessels voyages.  FWC Pilot Fields helped direct the crew to two separate resource violations.




Officers Marlow and Hughes were working Apalachicola National Forest when they stopped a vehicle for violating forestry rules.  The stop disclosed that the operator was on inmate release status and a habitual traffic violator.  Additional inquiries revealed that the individual did not have a driver’s license.  Citations were issued for the violations and the operator was arrested for the habitual felony violation.







Officer Guirate has been working closely with a landowner to help curb trespass problems on his property. Officer Guirate set up cameras that photographed five suspects entering the property to ride ATV’s, fish and otherwise vandalize the property. Officer Guirate was able to identify and track down all five suspects. All were charged with trespass.


Officers Campbell and Florence were on water patrol on the St. Johns River. While conducting a safety inspection of a vessel they detected indicators the operator may have been under the influence. Field sobriety tasks were administered and the operator was subsequently arrested and booked into the Putnam County Jail for boating under the influence with a blood alcohol level of .16.




Officers Hadwin and Lightsey received a call from dispatch in reference to a local boater being threatened by a man with a shotgun. When the officers arrived by land it was discovered that the operator of an anchored sail boat had become upset that wakes were rocking his vessel. The victims stated the operator had waved the men over and when they approached, pointed a shotgun at them and yelled that he was going to shoot them. The officers then went to the sail boat by patrol vessel to speak to the operator. The officers encountered a verbally combative man that fit the description of the sail boat operator. The man would not listen to the officers and advised he had guns on board the vessel. The man attempted to get back to the cabin area. Officer Lightsey ordered the man to the ground at gun point and placed him into handcuffs. One pistol was found in the man’s front pocket and one shotgun fitting the description given by the victims was found in the cabin area. The operator admitted to having called the men over, showing them the shotgun and telling them to leave but did not say he was going to shoot them. The man was placed under arrest for aggravated assault with a firearm. Officer Lejarzar arrived on scene to assist in removing the man from the water and to the Brevard County Jail.


Officer Lightsey observed a vessel returning from a local island on the Banana River. While conducting a safety inspection of the vessel, the officer observed the man use many objects to lean on as he was looking for safety equipment. The officer also smelled the odor of an alcohol beverage coming from the man. The man admitted to having drank two mixed drinks earlier in the day. After conducting Standardized Field Sobriety Tasks the man was placed under arrest for operating a vessel while normal faculties were impaired and a given a citation for the refusal to submit to a test of his blood, breath or urine. The man was then transported to the Brevard County Jail.







Lieutenant Huff, K-9 Officers Gill and Burnsed responded to the Glen St. Mary area to provide assistance with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office in response to an active manhunt. A home invasion suspect with a violent history had fled by vehicle from Charlton County Georgia deputies. The pursuit crossed the state line into Florida and the suspect was allegedly armed with a shotgun. Baker County deputies picked up the pursuit of the suspect who crashed and fled on foot into thick woods. FWC K-9 Officer Gill assisted the Department of Corrections K-9 Officers in tracking the suspect. FWC North Central Region (NCR) Special Operations Group (SOG) members were also deployed in the search of the suspect and provided tactical search support in the woodland environment. After a lengthy search, the suspect was found hiding in the woods and taken into custody by the FWC SOG team.




Officer Wilcox received information from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in reference to a possible armed trespass. Officer Wilcox received photographs from a landowner’s game camera depicting an individual holding a high-powered rifle walking across private property. The landowner stated that the man in the pictures did not have permission to be on his land. After extensive research, Officer Wilcox was able to positively identify the suspect in the photo. A criminal history check revealed the suspect was a convicted felon and had a current domestic violence injunction. Officer Wilcox received a search warrant for the suspect’s residence and with the assistance of Officer Pekerol and Lieutenant Creech the warrant was successfully executed. Two firearms were discovered inside the residence with one matching the high-powered rifle depicted in the game camera photo. The suspect was arrested and transported to Madison County Jail without incident.




After extinguishing a fire in a wooded area, the Nassau County Fire Department discovered a large pit containing an estimated 300 cubic yards of household garbage, over 200 paint containers, garbage bags, tires, rims, aerosol cans, clothing and lumber among other items. Investigator Terrones arrested the property owner after it was revealed that for the past 20 years, she had been disposing of her trash and garbage in the pit because she did not want to pay the extra fee for residential trash and garbage services.







Officer Goggin was on patrol at a local boat ramp when he inspected a vessel that came in.  When he asked the man if he had caught any fish, he showed him a redfish which he claimed was 18”.  Upon further inspection, the fish was undersized.  A notice to appear was issued for the undersized fish.





Officers Prowant, Little, Bergwerff, Investigator Schefano, and Lieutenant Parisoe responded to a boating accident that occurred on the Weeki Wachee River. Initial information was one individual had been injured after falling off the vessel and being struck by the propeller. However, when officers arrived on scene they learned the individual had fallen in the boat and sustained injury. This boating accident is being completed by Officer Bergwerff.




Officers Salem and Perry were working plain clothes while Lieutenant Ruggiero patrolled in a marked vessel in Boca Grande Pass.  The officers watched as a large crowd of vessels were shuffling for position in hopes of catching Tarpon.  Officers Salem and Perry used their unmarked vessel to get in the crowd and look for violations in regards to the Boca Grande gear rules.  After a while, the officers observed a man fishing with an illegal Tarpon jig.  The officers radioed Lieutenant Ruggiero and he made way through the crowd and stopped the vessel.  The man began to alter the Tarpon jig as Lieutenant Ruggiero got him away from the crowd of boats, but Lieutenant Ruggiero directed him to stop what he was doing.  Upon inspection, it was determined that the man was fishing with an illegal Tarpon jig.  The weight was below the hook and was also attached to the bottom of the hook with a rubber band.  When asked if he was familiar with the Boca Grande gear rules, the man said yes and that he had been fishing in the pass for four years.  He said that he did not intend for it to be fished in such a manner and that the rubber band must have gotten wrapped up on the hook by accident.  He then showed Lieutenant Ruggiero another Tarpon jig that was supposed to be rigged correctly, but it also was an illegal jig.  A notice to appear was issued for the violation. 




Officer Morrow gave a presentation to approximately twenty-five Boy Scouts, to assist the troop with achieving their Fish and Wildlife Management merit badge. During the presentation, he discussed the job description and responsibilities of a conservation officer. He also handed out recruitment material and advised on how to pursue a career with the FWC.     




Officers Pulaski, Williams, and Lieutenant Parisoe were on land patrol at Nick’s Park Boat Ramp when a vessel pulled in with no navigational lights. During contact with the operator the officers noticed signs of impairment. While conducting a boating safety inspection the individual appeared confused and had problems following direction. After performing poorly on field sobriety tasks the operator was arrested for boating under the influence (BUI). A breathe sample was obtained and measured .14 which is above the legal limit of .08.




Lieutenant Parisoe spoke to a Land O Lakes area homeowners association providing information on boating safety, boating accident statistics, and the trophy catch program.




Lieutenant’s Bratton, Brooks, Investigator Kirsch, and Officer Bontrager instructed at the FWC Ocala Youth Conservation Center. Twenty-Six FWC Youth Counselors were certified in CPR and First Aid for the upcoming youth camps. The event was also a great opportunity for cross division interaction and also provided information to the counselors on how to become a FWC officer.







Officer Barber and Lieutenant Strenth received a request from the Okeechobee Sheriff’s Department to assist them in locating and recovering a person who was riding a horse the night before and had not returned. The horse did return to the cow barn on a dairy located in NW part of Okeechobee County. With the use of an airboat Officer Barber and Lieutenant Strenth were able to locate and recover the deceased person from a cow pond.




Officer Fretwell was on foot patrol at D.J. Wilcox Park in Fort Pierce where he observed what appeared to be blue land crab traps. He then made contact with an individual who was tending the traps. The subject was found to be in possession of blue land crabs. Officer Fretwell explained to the individual that the traps were an illegal method of harvest. The individual had explained that he had used them often here and in his native state. The individual received a citation for harvest by illegal method of blue land crabs.







Officers Despian and Reith were on land patrol at Caxambas Boat Ramp in Marco Island when they observed a vessel pulling into the dock with four subjects onboard.  The Officers conducted a safety and resource inspection onboard the vessel and found 11 red grouper.  The total legal limit for the number of persons onboard is 8.  One subject claimed responsibility for the 3 red grouper that were over the bag limit and received a resource citation.


Officers Futch and Tolbert were on land patrol in the Picayune Strand State Forest when they observed a vehicle enter the forest after hours.  They observed the vehicle moving and stopping several times and driving erratically.  The Officers conducted a traffic stop and while making contact with the driver, Officer Futch detected the strong smell of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the operator’s facial area.   Officer Futch asked him if he had anything illegal in the vehicle and the subject stated no.  When asked again, the operator proceeded to pull a small plastic bag from the vehicle’s cup holder, which contained residue of a white powdery substance.  Officer Futch asked the subject what the substance was and the operator responded “Its cocaine.”  The white powdery substance subsequently field tested positive for cocaine and the subject was arrested and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), possession of drug paraphernalia and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance.


Officer Lugg received a tip from an off duty FWC Officer that there was a subject who was keeping fish on a trot line tied to a seawall near Bayview Boat Ramp.  The subject was catching fish and immediately stringing them onto the stringer before putting the stringer back into the water.  Officer Lugg proceeded to the area where he observed the subject from a distance for approximately a half an hour before making contact with him.  He saw the subject catch a catfish and put it on a stringer matching the description from the off duty Officer.  Officer Lugg then made contact with the individual and performed a marine fisheries inspection.  The subject was found to be in possession of 7 undersized mangrove snappers, as well as having 3 mangrove snappers over his bag limit.  The subject was cited accordingly.




Officers from Miami Dade County participated in “Operation Pressure Jets”, an operation specifically organized to target personal water crafts (PWC’s) and boaters around the Slow Speed / Manatee Zone of Pace Picnic Island south to the Miami River. As a result, the officers issued 41 citations and 19 written warnings. Additionally, there was one BUI arrest and two misdemeanors issued to the owner of a boat rental company. The detail was successful in gaining compliance and educating the public.




Lieutenant Haney was patrolling the waters of the upper Keys when he stopped a vessel in order to conduct a boating safety inspection. The vessel had five adults and 6 children on board and was returning to dock after spending the day at the sandbar. When Lieutenant Haney approached the vessel he noticed that the operator appeared to be very intoxicated. He agreed to perform seated field sobriety tests which he failed. He was subsequently arrested for boating under the influence and child neglect. He was transported to Plantation Key for processing.