January 15, 2017

Grassy Key man arrested on felony warrants

A Grassy Key man fought with deputies and yelled for help from his mother before being arrested on outstanding felony warrants early today.

An anonymous caller reported just before 2 a.m. that a wanted felon – 23 year old Craig Vettinger – could be found at 58662 Overseas Highway on Grassy Key. Sergeant Nick Whiteman and Deputies Daniel Hill and Garrett Bragg were familiar with Vettinger. He is well known for fleeing from law enforcement and for fighting with deputies so they formed a plan to catch him with those things in mind.
Sgt. Whiteman and Deputy Hill went to the address where Vettinger was supposed to be and, when Vettinger fled from them, Deputy Bragg, who was hiding a short distance away, waited for him. When Vettinger approached Bragg’s location, the deputy stepped into his path.

Vettinger, startled, fell down. He was handcuffed and taken into custody. He refused orders to walk to a nearby patrol car; and he struggled and fought with the deputies as they carried him to the car. At one point, he began yelling for his mother, who was at the residence, but who did not interfere with the arrest.

Vettinger was charged with the two warrants, both of which were for violation of probation ref. battery and burglary. He was also charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and resisting arrest.

Boat and other marine related thefts

Two boats and a large amount of fishing equipment were reported stolen over the past few days in the county.

In Marathon, the two boats were stolen sometime between the evening of the 12th and the morning of the 13th. One, a 1987 Wellcraft V20 with a 225 Hp two stroke Mercury engine on it, was taken from behind a house on Harbor Drive in Marathon. The owner said he was working on the boat and last saw it at 7 p.m. on Thursday. He woke the next morning at 7 a.m. and it was gone.

The second stolen boat was a 20 foot long Twin Vee Outrageous with a yellow Bimini top on it. It had two 60 Hp four stroke Mercury engines on it. It was taken from a condominium complex on Anglers Drive. The owner said he last saw it Thursday night when he was working on it. He said he woke at 7 a.m. to find it missing.

In both cases, the owners said they left the keys on the boats.

A large amount of fishing equipment was reported stolen from a boat kept on a trailer at a house on Lobster Lane in Key Largo. The owner said he last saw his equipment on the boat on January 10th. When he checked on it on Friday, it was gone. The stolen equipment included rods, reels and fishing tackle valued at over $2,000.

The Sheriff’s Office would once again like to remind everyone that it is currently our busy season in the Keys; this means we have many more visitors in our county, not all of them here to enjoy themselves. With the influx of people to the Keys, thieves also come here; they are looking out for people who are not mindful of their valuables and property.

It is impossible to prevent all crime from happening, however you can make sure you are making it as difficult as possible for someone to steal your property.

Make sure fishing equipment – and any other valuable property you might have - is secured somewhere safe and not left on board a boat or left unsecured on a dock or outside a building.

If you have a boat, never leave the keys on it; make sure it is parked or docked in a well-lighted area and that the lights are on at night when a theft is most likely to take place. If it is on a boat lift, turn off the electricity to the lift when you are not using the boat. If the boat is kept on a trailer, make sure there is a trailer lock on it so it cannot be easily towed away by thieves.

Most of the time, thieves are looking for an easy target. If your property is not easy to steal, they will move on to somewhere less difficult.

Anyone with information about these or any other crimes should contact the Sheriff's Office. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a Crimestoppers tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crimestoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may be made anonymously on line at www.tipsubmit.com or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

January 13, 2017

Clean up on Cudjoe Key

Come join us for our quarterly Adopt a Highway cleanup on Cudjoe Key.

Walking for diabetes awareness

This father and son duo are walking 3,900 miles - from Key West to Washington State - to raise awareness about diabetes. 10 year old Noah Barnes was diagnosed with diabetes and you can keep track of he and his dad, Robert Barnes', trip at www.noahsmarch.com. They are pictured with Deputy Deanna Torres who gave Noah and his dad a Sheriff's Office patch and a Junior Deputy Badge.

January 11, 2017

Couple arrested as part of an ongoing drug investigation

A Big Coppitt Key couple was arrested Tuesday as part of an ongoing drug investigation by the Sheriff’s Office Monroe County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force (HIDTA – Monroe).

As a result of the ongoing investigation into drug sales, a search warrant was served at 39 1st Street on Big Coppitt Key at 8:30 a.m. Inside the home investigators found 37 year old Marisa Estopinan and 25 year old Steven Leto, who live there. A search of the home turned up cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and two handguns – a Glock 19 which was loaded with 15 rounds of ammunition and a Kahr CW380 that was not loaded.

A large amount of cash - $166,400 - was also located, hidden in a vacuum seal bag in a laundry basket.

Estopinan took responsibility for the cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia found in a room where she was residing. She was charged with possessing those illegal substances and with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Leto was charged with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. The cash was seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as part of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Participating on the service of the search warrant were investigators from Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations, Border Patrol, the DEA and the Sheriff’s Office.

Islamorada man charged with child cruelty

An Islamorada man was arrested early today, charged with child cruelty.

Deputies responded to a disturbance  just after 3 a.m. at a residence in Islamorada. When they arrived, they spoke with all the occupants of the home. During the course of these interviews, they spoke with a 10 year old boy who revealed he’d been struck in the back with a belt the day before by Aroldo Coronado Mendez. He said he’d been doing laundry and did not feel well. He said he fell down and that is when he was struck with the belt, repeatedly. When deputies looked at the boy’s back, they saw four distinct welts which were consistent with being struck by an object like a belt.

Other’s at the residence saw Mendez strike the boy with the belt and corroborated his story. Mendez was arrested. He was charged with child cruelty and he was taken to jail.

January 10, 2017

Couple charged with illegal dumping

A couple illegally camping on State Park property was arrested after they failed to clean up their campsite after being warned to do so.

On January 1st, Sgt. Joel Slough responded to Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon where he located a illegal campsite in a wooded area just north of Coco Plum Drive, on the State Park property. The campsite was occupied by two people, 22 year old Brooke Martin and 35 year old Keith Elswick. At the request of the park manager, he issued them a trespass warning for the property. He told them they had 48 hours to remove their property from the area. At the campsite, he observed  a significant amount of property and trash, including tarps, bags of personal items, various items of litter and a large number of cigarette butts.

On January 5th, Sgt. Slough returned to the area and found some personal items removed, but many of the items still there. Warrants were obtained for both of them and on Monday, Martin and Elswick were arrested. They were charged with illegal dumping and they were booked into jail.

January 9, 2017

Community Clean ups coming up

We will be helping out with these two Community Clean Ups in Layton and on Duck Key in coming weeks. Hope many community members decide to join us and help keep the Keys clean!

Road rage results in arrest

A road rage incident early Saturday led to the arrest of a young Miami man for aggravated assault.

The victims called the Sheriff’s Office at 2:30 a.m. to report the occupants of another car had pointed a gun at them. They said they were southbound at the 56 mile marker of the highway when another car came up behind them flashing their lights. The vehicle passed them, then pulled over to the side of the road and got behind them again, flashing their lights some more. The victims pulled over to let the car pass; as the car passed, someone in the vehicle pointed what appeared to be a handgun out of the window. The victims described the car with the gun as an orange colored passenger car.

Deputy William Daniels pulled the suspect vehicle over at the 53 mile marker. He was backed up on the traffic stop by Deputies John Allen and Mario Benedetti. There were four people inside the vehicle; a male driver and male passenger and two 17 year old females in the back seat. A search of the car turned up two BB guns which closely resembled handguns. The driver and front passenger said the guns belonged to them.

The two men – identified as 20 year old Manuel Planas Santos and Adrian Dorta Rodriguez, both of Miami – said the other vehicle had been following them closely with high-beam headlights on. Rodriguez admitted to pointing the gun out the window. He said he did it to warn the other vehicle to turn their high-beams off.

Santos, who was the driver, had a suspended driver’s license. He was charged with driving with a suspended license and with being an accessory to aggravated assault. Rodriguez was charged with aggravated assault and with improper display of a firearm.

January 7, 2017

Windy weather issues

 The windy weather is causing all kinds of issues and of course sheriff's deputies are doing what they can to help with those issues. In Key Largo with a 98 mile marker the bike path was blocked buy a downed branch which was cleared by Sergeant Jason Madnick. Deputy John Riggs help this injured bird which was found on the Spanish Harbor Bridge. Wildlife authorities will be taking care of the bird which will hopefully recover. Please be careful while driving in these high winds particular on bridges where it can be dangerous.

January 5, 2017

Sheriff’s App: receive immediate notifications on your Smartphone

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office App, available for smartphone and tablet users, allows the Sheriff’s Office to send messages to app users when something important takes place.

“We use this feature in particular when a major accident takes place which is expected to close the road for a significant period, or a brush fire in the everglades which might affect the highway, or even during hurricanes when we need to reach out with important updates,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay.

The Sheriff’s App is available for both Android based phones and for IPhone users. It includes the ability to view arrests and mug shots for the past seven days, to view the Sheriff’s WebCAD (live calls for service), to see sexual offenders and predators and allows people to browse the Sheriff’s Office Blog, Twitter feed and Facebook postings. People can send in a Crime Stoppers Tip on the app and it also features the ability to communicate directly by email with many of the Sheriff’s command staff.

“I think the app is a useful tool for those interested in keeping up with what we do and with what is happening in their community,” said the Sheriff.

So far, over 15,500 people have downloaded the app. To find it just visit the Google Play store or the Apple Store and search for “Monroe County Sheriff’s Office”. There are links on the Sheriff’s Office website as well: www.keysso.net. The app was created by TheSheriffApp.com.

Sheriff’s Office Drug Drop program: Environmentally friendly way to dispose of medications

Note: The Sheriff's Office will not accept medications from commercial establishments. Also, we have seen a lot of items being deposited in our drug disposal bins that are trash items like empty pill bottles, superglue and nail polish. Please do not dispose of trash in this manner.

Monroe County – The Monroe County The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone about the drug disposal program offered at all our county Sheriff's Substations and the reasons why it is important to dispose of medications in the right way. The program has been an ongoing success. The Sheriff’s Office regularly collects hundreds of pounds of medications county wide each year. In 2016, we collected 536 pounds of medications county-wide.

Anyone – with the exception of commercial establishments - may bring no-longer-needed prescription drugs and other over the counter medications in, or call and someone will pick the medications up for disposal.

People who call to have medications picked up can do so with no questions asked. The goal of this program is to dispose of them properly, not to catch people with illegal drugs.

Proper disposal of prescription and over the counter medications is important. Flushing them down the toilet or sink can introduce dangerous and environmentally damaging substances into the water system; throwing them away in the trash can also introduce them into the environment, and runs the risk of them winding up in the wrong hands. The medications collected by the Sheriff’s Office are safely burned in the Sheriff's Burn Unit.

·         In the Upper Keys, medications will be accepted at the Islamorada and Plantation Key Substations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For pickup, call 305-853-3211 during office hours.
·         In the Middle Keys, the Marathon Substation will accept any medications Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For pickup, call 305-289-2430 during office hours.
·         In the Lower Keys, citizens can drop off medications at the Freeman Substation on Cudjoe Key or at the Sheriff's Office headquarters building on Stock Island Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call 305-745-3184 for pickup.

Caution: people who are going to bring their medications in themselves need to make sure to keep prescriptions in the prescription bottle until they drop them off to show proof the prescription is legitimately theirs. Possession of a controlled substance without proof of a prescription in your name is against the law.

Soldier Ride is tomorrow

The Soldier Ride, part of the Wounded Warrior Project, will take place starting tomorrow at the VFW Hall in Key Largo at 8:30 a.m. Bike riders plan to be at Coral Shores High School at 9:30 a.m. followed by the 84 mile marker in Islamorada at 10:30 a.m.

The Marathon portion of the ride begins Friday at the Marathon Fire Station at 12:15 p.m. Riders travel through Marathon, over the Seven Mile Bridge ending up at Veteran's Park at the south end of the bridge.

They pick up their ride the following day - Saturday - at the Naval Air Station Boca Chica at 10:30 a.m. and will ride into the city of Key West, ending the ride at Bayview Park in Key West at about 11:45 a.m.

We will be posting progress updates on our Facebook page, on Twitter and will be sending out notifications through our Smartphone App to let you know where the riders are in case you want to come out and cheer them on!