July 31, 2011

Deputy struggles to keep man from drowning himself

Long Key – A deputy was injured Saturday night as he struggled to keep a Miami man from hurting himself.

Deputy Nicholis Whiteman responded to Long Key State Park at 11:30 p.m. to reports a man may have overdosed on hallucinogenic mushrooms. When he arrived, paramedics were on the scene with two men. As the deputy pulled up, one of the men – later identified as  21 year  old Daniel Yepez of Miami – began running away; his friend ran after him attempting to catch him.

The deputy followed and the two men stopped on a nearby beach. Yepez began talking about hurting himself, then ran into the water with his friend going after him. Yepez then said he was going to drown himself and went under water.

Deputy Whiteman dropped his gun belt on the beach and went after Yepez to keep him from hurting himself. Yepez struggled violently with the deputy in the water, at one point hitting the deputy in the eye with his elbow. Deputy Whiteman held Yepez in a bear hug in the water, keeping his head above water, until paramedics arrived to assist him.

Yepez was finally handcuffed and removed from the water. His friends told deputies he’d ingested mushrooms earlier and had begun acting strangely, talking about death. A small amount of marijuana was found which Yepez said was his. Yepez was transported to Fishermen’s Hospital, and was then booked into jail for resisting arrest with violence, possessing marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia. When he was released from the hospital, Yepez thanked Deputy Whiteman for saving his life.

Deputy Whiteman was treated on the scene for a cut near his eye.

July 29, 2011

Children’s Center gets a face lift, courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office


 A group of community minded Sheriff’s Office employees recently got together to give a free face lift to the Jelsema Center for Children, in Tavernier. The worked in the heat, some coming off of long night shifts, to paint the outside of the building a beautiful yellow color. The group included Colonel Rick Ramsay, seen top left with a paint roller; Captain Don Hiller seen bottom left supervising trustees; Lt. James Sheagren, Lt. Patrick Major, Sgt. Linda Brooks, Sgt. Luis Gonzalez, Deputy Marcus Lott and Deputy Joseph Pimental.

Man dies after ingesting possible cocaine from brick found offshore

Note: the two men in this press release were not taking part in the two day sport lobster season. They were fishing.

Fiesta Key – A Merritt Island man has died in a Miami hospital after he ingested an unknown substance – possibly cocaine - from a brick he found floating offshore of the Middle Keys.

53 year old Thomas Swindal was offshore of Marathon Wednesday, trolling in about 200 feet of water on a boat with his brother, Kenneth Swindal. The brother told Detective Mark Maison they believed the package to be a kilo of cocaine. He said they discussed what to do with it, and then threw it into a bait well on the boat and kept fishing. He said he looked back at his brother a short time later and saw him opening the package and ingesting some of the substance that was inside.

He said about an hour and a half later, his brother began to act strangely. He began running around the boat, throwing things in the water including a cell phone and a VHF radio. He reportedly picked up knives, a pair of pliers, a gaff and at one point, removed the cowling from the engine which fell overboard and sank. He gaffed the engine, damaging it so it wouldn’t start.

The brother said he threw all the sharp objects off of the boat, and also threw the package overboard as well. The package was not recovered.

Because he had no means of communication left, and the boat wouldn’t start, the brother climbed up on the top of the boat and began signaling for help. A nearby vessel responded and called for help. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded and transported the two brothers in to shore where they were met by paramedics.

Thomas Swindal was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital and later transferred to South Miami Hospital where he died Thursday. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death.

The Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone finding any object they suspect to be contraband call for law enforcement assistance immediately. Do not touch the object or substance or bring it into your boat; if possible, keep it in view and wait for law enforcement to respond to take custody of it. It certainly is never safe to ingest any substance if you do not know what the substance is, or what the potency of the substance might be.

July 28, 2011

Deputies ride Yamaha Waverunners during sport lobster season

Law Enforcement Chief Lou Caputo was on patrol along with other Sheriff's deputies during the two day sport lobster season this week. Here he is on a Yamaha Waverunner, checking lobster on a boat offshore of Key Largo. The Sheriff’s Office has the use of four such Waverunners on a special Law Enforcement Loaner program from Riva South Motorsports in Key Largo. They are used for water patrols like this one, and also for patrolling the many shorelines and canals in the Keys. The Sheriff’s Office also has a number of boats that can be used for special events, and for particularly busy holiday weekends. The cities of Marathon and Islamorada have dedicated boat patrols from the Sheriff’s Office included in their law enforcement contracts with the agency.

Although the two day sport season started off with a dive related death Wednesday, the rest of the two day season has, so far, been relatively quiet and without any major criminal activity related to the season.

Argument over stolen boat leads to injury and arrest

Lower Matecumbe Key – A family argument over a stolen boat led to a domestic dispute Wednesday.

Deputies responded to reports of a stolen 9 foot long boat at the Topside Resort Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. When they arrived, they found paramedics treating a woman who had a broken leg. The paramedics told deputies she was injured in a domestic dispute with her son.

Further investigation revealed the victim, her husband and her 18 year old son, Samuel Tripp, were in the Keys from Port Orange, Florida. They’d planned to go lobstering that day. They had two boats – a 9 footer and a 19 footer. When they walked outside to take the 19 footer out that morning, they noticed the smaller vessel was gone. They told the son’s girlfriend to call police to report the theft, then the parents and son went out lobstering for the morning.

Once out on the water, the 19 foot vessel became disabled and had to be towed in. When they got back to the hotel room, they found the girlfriend had not called police as she’d been instructed to. The mother became angry and made some disparaging remarks about the girlfriend; the son picked up the chair his mother was sitting in, dumping her onto the floor; when she hit the floor, her leg broke.

Samuel Tripp, 18, was charged with aggravated battery and he was taken to jail.

July 27, 2011

Massachusetts man dies while diving for lobster

Tavernier – A 54 year old man from Massachusetts has died while diving for lobster offshore of the upper Keys.

According to Major Crimes Detective Mark Coleman, Mark Fountain of Montgomery, Massachusetts was an experienced diver who was on a private vessel with his 34 year old son and his son’s girlfriend. They were scuba diving on the Oceanside of Tavernier, at Snapper Ledge when they became separated in the water. The son told officers he got into the boat and then picked up his girlfriend; they spotted the father a distance away, but when they reached his location they realized he was floating on the surface, unresponsive.

They pulled him into the boat and called for help, then headed in to shore. The U.S. Coast Guard met them en route and escorted them in to the Tavernier Creek Marina, where they were met by paramedics; he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at the dock at 9:40 a.m. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death.

So far, during the first day of the two day sport lobster season, deputies on the water and on land have been busy checking boats, checking coolers at boat ramps and warning people who are in violation of the new county ordinance making it illegal to dive or snorkel within 300 feet of improved residential or commercial shoreline, any manmade or private canal, any private or public marina. This ordinance applies to areas of unincorporated Monroe County, during the period THREE days preceding the two day sport lobster season, both days of the two day season itself, and the first FIVE days of regular season.

According to Sheriff’s Office Caller Aided Dispatch system, there have been 17 Marine Violations of various sorts reported today (as of 11 a.m.), and deputies on the water have made 12 vessel stops. These calls do not include minor contacts made by deputies in which no CAD call is assigned.

July 26, 2011

National Night Out Events scheduled county-wide

The Sheriff's Office will sponsor National Night Out events next week in Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and on Stock Island. All of the events will feature food, refreshments, and a great chance to meet your neighbors, members of the Sheriff’s Office from a wide variety of divisions, departments and special teams and many others who are involved in the field of public safety here in the Florida Keys.

The goal of National Night Out is to bring the community together to discuss how we can all make our neighborhoods safer and more secure in the future. The Sheriff's Office will have extensive Crime Prevention information to share at the event. Community members will learn how to heighten their crime and drug prevention awareness. The Sheriff’s Office hopes to generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs and strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships. Everyone participating will send a message to criminals letting them know that Monroe County neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime.

“This yearly event is an important one for agency. We get the opportunity to meet the people we are charged with serving and protecting,” said Sheriff Bob Peryam. “National Night Out is a lot of fun for us, and for those who attend. I hope everyone will take this opportunity to meet their neighbors, learn about Crime Prevention and meet the deputies who are out there patrolling our community and keeping it safe,” he said.

The Key Largo event will be Tuesday, August 2nd from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Murray Nelson Government Center, bayside 102mm of Highway U.S. One. Captain Don Fanelli and Lieutenant Nancy Alvarez want to invite the entire community to attend their free event. Members of the Sheriff’s Office will be on hand, along with others from the public safety community; there will be food, refreshments and lots of fun.

The Islamorada event will be held at Founder’s Park Tuesday, August 2nd from 6 to 8 p.m. Captain Corey Bryan and Lt. Mitch Horn invite everyone to join them and have some fun. Visit with members of the Sheriff’s Office, Islamorada Fire/Rescue and enjoy free food, music and refreshments.

The Lower Keys Sheriff’s Office will hold a National Night Out event on Stock Island, at Bernstein Park, Tuesday, August 2nd  from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. This event will feature a special appearance by Farmer Jeanne Selander and a selection of animals from the Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol, Border Patrol, Monroe County Fire Rescue, Key West Fire Department, Key West Police, U.S. Navy and many others will also be there.

The Marathon event will be held on Wednesday, August 3rd from 6 to 8 p.m. at Marathon Community Park. There will be free food and refreshments, and residents will be able to visit with members of the Sheriff’s Office, Marathon Fire/Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard and many others in the field of public safety. 

Sheriff says keep your dive, fishing gear safe

Monroe County - Sheriff Bob Peryam wants to remind people who plan to go diving for lobster Wednesday and Thursday to be careful to keep your fishing, dive and snorkel gear secure.

“During the two day sport lobster season, we always see an increase in the theft of dive and snorkel gear," said Sheriff Peryam. "People leave their gear on the dock, or on the seawall or under their stilt house to dry and someone walks off with it. It is a simple crime to prevent - secure your gear right away when you get off the boat. Also, don’t leave gear or electronics on your boat at the end of the day. Take it with you and put it somewhere secure."

In addition, there are usually reports during the season of vehicle burglaries near bridge approaches and at boat ramps. Make sure you don’t leave purses or valuables visible in your car. Lock them in the trunk or glove box, or remove them from the car entirely. And, don’t forget to lock your car when you leave it.

Otherwise, Sheriff Peryam would like to remind people to follow the rules and have a good time.
"We will have all our boats and jet skis out on the water during the sport lobster season. We'll also have officers at all area boat ramps during the two day season. We have no desire to ruin anyone's day with a criminal charge for short lobsters or a citation for lack of safety equipment," he said. 
"That's why everyone should know the rules in advance, and make sure they are properly equipped for their days on the water. Make this a safe and legal visit to the Keys and we welcome everyone to our beautiful county and hope you have a terrific time."

Silver Alert canceled; couple found safe

The Silver Alert, issued for an elderly Keys couple Monday night was canceled at 2 a.m. this morning when Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies found them, safe and sound, at a hotel in Palm Beach County.

87 year old Lena May and 88 year old Theodore Ritacco of Key Largo were located with their vehicle, staying at the hotel.

Their daughter, Donna Webb, was notified of their location and drove there to assist her parents with their return home.

July 25, 2011

Silver Alert being issued for elderly Keys couple

July 25, 2011


A state-wide Silver Alert is being issued for an elderly couple from Key Largo last seen this morning by neighbors leaving their home. 

Lena May and Theodore Ritacco were reportedly last see leaving their home at in the Pirate’s Cove subdivision of Key Largo by a neighbor at 9 a.m. This evening, their daughter, Key Largo resident Donna Webb reported them missing. She told detectives the couple both suffer from dementia.  

Lena May Ritacco is 87 years old and her husband Theodore is 88 years old. Photos of the couple are attached to this press release. 

The couple is believed to be traveling in a silver colored 2009 Chevrolet HHR with the Florida license tag 1LST.

Anyone with information about where the couple may be should contact 911 immediately.

Detectives say shooting victims stable; release their identities

Key Largo – Major Crimes Detectives finally had the opportunity today to speak with the two people shot Friday night at a Key Largo trailer park.

21 year old Dayanis Gonzalez of Key Largo and 45 year old Braul Hernandez-Diaz of Islamorada are both still at the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. They are in stable condition. Gonzalez was shot in the left shoulder and Hernandez-Diaz was shot in the abdomen and his left middle finger was also severely injured.
Gonzalez told detectives she moved to the trailer park, to Lot 4, just two weeks before the shooting took place. She previously lived in Islamorada. She said the suspect, 65 year old Rogelio Cordova Sanchez, lived three lots down from her. She said he was very friendly toward her, on occasion making her uncomfortable with his attentions. She said he frequently drank alcohol and would become more “sexual” in his remarks to her when he was under the influence.
She said her friend, Hernandez-Diaz, was over Friday to visit. While he was there, Sanchez knocked on the door. She said she told him it wasn’t a good time, and asked him to leave. He returned a short time later with a gun, shooting both of the victims and then himself.

July 23, 2011

Shooting leaves two critical, suspect dead

Key Largo – Two people are in a Miami Hospital in critical condition today and the man who is believed to have shot them is dead of what detectives believe is a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Major Crimes detectives are still trying to piece together what happened at the Key Largo RV Park at the 101.6 mile marker of Highway U.S. One at 10:30 p.m. Friday. Dispatchers began receiving calls of shots fired. When deputies arrived minutes later, they found a woman covered in blood with a gunshot wound in her shoulder. She told them she lived in Lot 4 at the trailer park and there was another person in her trailer who’d been shot.

When deputies reached the trailer at Lot 4, they found a second gunshot victim at the entrance to the trailer -  a male who was calling for help; he had what appeared to be gunshot wounds in his leg and abdomen.  They could see another male inside, not moving, with a gunshot wound to his head. A gun was near his body. The conscious male victim confirmed the other man was the one who shot him.

Both victims were flown to a Miami hospital where they are currently in critical condition. Detectives have not yet been able to interview them to find out what happened. They are also still trying to confirm the two wounded victim’s identities.

They say it appears the dead man – identified as 65 year old Rogelio Cordova Sanchez of Key Largo – is the suspect who shot them for reasons currently unknown.

July 7, 2011

Islamorada welcomes new officers

Islamorada Captain Corey Bryan and Lieutenant Mitch Horn welcome Ralph Williams as a new sergeant in District 6 – the Sheriff’s Islamorada District. They also welcome veteran Deputy Ray Jodlowski back to Islamorada Road Patrol from the position he has been assigned to in Ocean Reef.

“Both officers are very familiar with Islamorada and will be a great fit in assisting the citizens in our community,” said Captain Bryan.

Left to right, Deputy Ray Jodlowski, Lt. Mitch Horn and Sgt. Ralph Williams.

Marathon man arrested for Marijuana

Deputy Whiteman, with the marijuana
found in Gonzalez' vehicle.
Marathon – When deputies stopped a man in the early morning hours for driving with a suspended driver’s license, they found 175 grams of marijuana in his vehicle.

Deputy Nicholis Whiteman was on patrol just before 2 a.m. on Aviation Boulevard when he spotted a white Lincoln. He could see the driver, 30 year old Duviel Gonzalez, and knew from previous contacts that Gonzalez had a suspended driver’s license. He called for backup and Deputy Nicholas Abroe responded. Deputy Whiteman pulled the vehicle over and placed Gonzalez under arrest.

As the deputy interacted with Gonzalez, he could smell the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. During the arrest, Deputy Abroe said he saw Gonzalez put something in the ashtray. The deputies found a pipe with marijuana residue on it in that location. They also found a “blunt”, marijuana formed into a cigar, in the same place. A prescription bottle with 800 milligram tablets of Ibuprofen inside was also found; the prescription was not in Gonzalez’ name.

A search of the vehicle turned up plastic bags full of various items, including clothing, in the trunk. In one of the bags, deputies found 175 grams of marijuana. A check in computers revealed Gonzalez has two previous cases this year for driving with his license suspended.

Gonzalez was charged with driving with his license suspended, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked into jail.

July 4, 2011

West Palm Beach man arrested for stealing fire department vehicle

Stock Island – A West Palm Beach, Florida man was arrested early today after he stole a fire department vehicle, then ran over a fire hydrant with it.
A witness saw the Ford Expedition, fully marked as a fire department vehicle, at 3:30 a.m. It was sideways, blocking a lane of traffic on Highway U.S. One at the 5 mile marker.  It was parked overtop of a fire hydrant and had a flat tire and had its hazard lights on  A man, later identified as 26 year old Adam Streifel, was standing beside it.
The witness pulled over to help. He  said Streifel offered him money to help him move the vehicle off the road. Instead, the witness called the Sheriff’s Office.
When Deputies Joe Cortner, Spenser Bryan and Scott Ward arrived, Streifel was still there. As the deputy began unraveling what happened, two men drove up in separate taxis. They said they were Streifel’s friends. One of them told the deputy they’d been drinking on Duval Street and had lost track of Streifel. They said Streifel then called them and told them to meet him at the five mile marker of the highway. One friend, 42 year old Justin McClain of Gainesville, Florida, refused to follow deputy’s instructions to stay away from Streifel; he kept yelling at his friend, and was finally arrested for interfering with a law enforcement officer.
Deputy Cortner spoke with Streifel, who told him someone loaned him the fire vehicle. He would not say who. According to the deputy, Streifel smelled strongly of alcohol while he was speaking.

Further investigation revealed the fire department vehicle had last been seen in the parking lot of the Big Coppitt fire department at 10 p.m. Sunday. The keys had reportedly been left in the vehicle, along with a cell phone, which was later found in Streifel’s pocket. A member of the Fire Department responded to the scene and took custody of both the vehicle and the cell phone.
Streifel was charged with grand theft auto and both men were taken to jail.

July 1, 2011

Corrections Officer arrested for DUI

Key Largo – A Monroe County Sheriff’s Corrections Officer was arrested Thursday night for driving while impaired.
Dispatchers received a report of a black truck southbound at the 98 mile marker of the highway, weaving in traffic. A second call reported the same truck had driven off the roadway onto the bike path, and then back onto the road.
Deputies found the truck at the 96 mile marker on the southbound side. It was parked up against bushes on the south side of a restaurant. The driver, Celso Hernandez, was in the driver’s seat with the keys still in the ignition. It was later revealed the truck had run out of gas.
Hernandez refused to participate in field sobriety exercises and had trouble standing up on his own. He was transported to the Monroe County jail, where he refused to take a breathalyzer test. He was booked on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.