Category Archives: Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL

Remember When the Mall Easter Bunny Got Arrested?

The scene, Edison Mall, 2006. They have an Easter Bunny area where families could come and get their picture taken with the Easter Bunny. 27 parents were lined up when the Bunny-manager decided to shut down for the day, 15 minutes early. One of the parents approached the manager and asked why, to which the manager replied, “because I felt like it”, and punched the mom in the face. When the bunny saw the manager involved in a fight, he jumped in and started punching the mom in the back of the head.

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Arthur McClure, the Rogue Rabbit

The Bunny, Art McClure, claims that he and the manager, his girlfriend, were acting in self-defense when the “mob of angry soccer moms” came after them. Ultimately, McClure was charged with misdemeanor battery and breach of the peace, and pled out  to time served on the charges a couple weeks later. The responding officer got statements from half a dozen of the parents, who all indicated McClure and his girlfriend were the aggressors. It’s like Bad Santa for another season!

It’s too bad that cell phone cameras were not as common then, and even the snapshots that were taken don’t seem to have made it to the internet. McClure’s listed occupation on the arrest report is “Easter Bunny”, though this was his last day on the job.

LCSO Deputy Fired for Excessive Force

This came out a couple days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to write it up. A deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was dismissed after a complaint about excessive force. The internal affairs investigation actually cited him for several things, including not being forthcoming in his report of the incident. He pulled a woman out of her car at gunpoint, while the car was still in gear, and she ended up being dragged along side it for a moment. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

While this isolated incident pales in comparison to the recent wave of suspensions after the city-commissioned audit of Fort Myers PD, it is nonetheless disturbing. The encouraging thing is that we are not talking about a cover, rather that the deputy had consequences for his actions. Sheriff Mike Scott has shown time and again that he will act swiftly to punish misbehavior to protect the reputation of his department, particularly when there is any indication of dishonesty from his team. That’s the first step in building a strong reputation and confidence in the community.

Also troubling is that the woman’s attorney indicated to NBC2’s Jaclyn Bevis that there were not made aware that another witness had come forward, nor that there was an internal affairs investigation on the case. That sort of information is known as “Brady” material: which must be turned over to the defense. The failure to turn that over in discovery is likely a violation, and could result in the conviction being thrown out. The woman involved did get a reduced charge from DUI to reckless driving, which was already probably due to the arresting deputy’s aggressive behavior.

Fox4 has uploaded the raw video:

Accused Babysitting Killer was Fresh Out of Prison

rafael-carrionThe first thing that sprung to mind when I saw the mug shot of the man accused of beating to death a baby he was watching was, “Who would let that guy watch their kid?” I looked a second time, and thought, those sure look like prison tattoos… I wonder if that guy has done some time.

Sure enough, a quick search on the DOC website indicated he has just finished serving time for Burglary out of Hillsborough County. He was just released on October 31, less than 2 months before his new arrest in this tragic case. The Lee County Sheriff’s database indicates he has been arrested 14 times here in Lee County, including a couple juvenile arrests related to sex-offense charges. Presumably he was not convicted as charged on those offenses, as he is not a registered sex-offender.

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Carrion’s prison photo

His bond has been set at $600,000 on manslaughter and second-degree murder charges. The mother who left her child with him has had her other children placed into foster care by the court until it can be determined that they can be safe. Carrion’s father disputes the charges, saying the mom bears some responsibility and that Carrion tried to save the child. His arraignment is set for December 27, and I’d expect the charges to be amended to one murder and one child-abuse charge if the state determines to go forward.

What Can be Done About the Unsolved Murders in Fort Myers?

An NBC-2 Investigative report yesterday examined the unsolved homicides, and discussed cases that have suspects, but that the State does not think there is enough evidence to pursue charges. It sounds like there is some finger pointing between FMPD and other members of the community and the State Attorney’s Office as to who is to blame here. I think the story doesn’t even get into the biggest issues.

The biggest issues are not the law enforcement disputes. Rather, it is:

  1. There are way to many unsolved murders in Fort Myers. NBC found 253 homicide investigations since 2010 (That’s a lot!) and found only 146 charges have been filed for those crimes. That is a lot of victims and their families who have not seen justice.
  2. The far-and-away-number 1-biggest problem, is witness cooperation… or lack thereof. Mr. Russell does talk about the issue, and stresses that it is important to continue to work to support victims.

We definitely need more murderers off the streets, but it’s not just an issue of the State not wanting to take chances… Mr. Russell points to the Zhi Huang case, where an arrest was made without SAO input, and a grand jury failed to indict the evidence was so lacking. And the greater problem with doing that is that if evidence comes up later implicating the person who was arrested, it may be too little too late due to double jeopardy. Fortunately, the State was later confident to charge Eugene Johnson in that recent case that initially suffered from a lack of evidence. It’s not right to point the finger at the State on cases where evidence is lacking, though more cooperation and communication may help solve the cases, and it could help prevent the aforementioned finger pointing.

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Andrew Faust Jr.

The case that best encapsulates the greatest problem fighting violent crime in Fort Myers was the case of Andrew Faust Jr. Andrew was a five-year-old little boy who was shot in his home; an innocent killed by the wayward bullet of a drive-by shooting. After weeks without charges, a witness finally came forward and two men were charged in the case. However, the witness became uncooperative, and ultimately the charges had to be dropped. Since they were previously charged and speedy trial has run, they can never be charged again.

Here’s the thing about that case… the State did not handle as well as possible. While Mr. Russell is right when he tells NBC that we need to work with, support, and protect victims, his office tried to arrest the essential witness, the only person who could implicate the Defendants (after erroneously serving her sister with a subpoena). The attitude toward the witness likely contributed to her later uncooperativeness. It’s up to law enforcement at all levels, from the State Attorney to the street-level cop, to build up trust in the community, and to get the community to work together. Chief Diggs has already spoken about that need, and started outreach efforts to start building that trust. He said he didn’t know how bad it was before he got here and got to work, but it’s good to see him digging in. Hopefully he and the State Attorney, and the Sheriff, and all of the relevant agencies can work together to improve the problems in Fort Myers.

We’re all in it together! Community outreach like the efforts of Chief Diggs is the first step to reducing crime in Fort Myers, and we should all support those efforts.

The New Fort Myers Police Chief is Reaching Out to the Community

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FMPD Chief Derrick Diggs

After my last couple posts, I am glad to change it up with some positive news coming from law enforcement. The new Chief of FMPD held a couple of community engagement sessions for the purpose of building a relationship between the department and the community. Chief Derrick Diggs held two sessions today, and is holding another session tomorrow. I think he has his work cut out for him, but every journey begins with the first step. Ironically, the News-Press linked relates stories to this one, so as you read the article, there are linked headlines to stories about harassment, and persistent discrimination at the Department.

Chief Diggs is taking the first positive steps to develop a positive culture at FMPD, which is a building block to connecting with the community and hopefully addressing the violence that has become persistent.

Sombebody Didn’t “Warn a Brother”

warna brotherI’ve seen the shirt that reads “If you see the police WARN A BROTHER” shirt around a few times. It’s a funny play on the similar-sounding Warner Brothers, and the text superimposed on the WB logo. It’s funny, I giggled, check it out in the mug shot.

Well, a guy in Fort Myers apparently takes it more seriously. I’ll call him by his first name, Anthony, since it’s just a misdemeanor. An FMPD officer says he was acting suspicious on the sidewalk, and when he walked over to investigate, he dropped a partially smoked marijuana cigarette.The cop says he saw Anthony try to hand something to a friend, and then hide his arms behind his back, but you gotta think he saw the shirt. You just KNOW he saw the shirt…

Why didn’t anyone Warn a brother?

When people say that people don’t really go to jail for marijuana, they are wrong.

Fort Myers Names new Police Chief

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Chief Derrick Diggs

Crimcourts would like to welcome and congratulate Derrick Diggs, who has just been named chief of FMPD. He previously capped his 37 years of law enforcement experience as chief of the Toledo, Ohio police department. The challenges are abundant, as Fort Myers has a major issue with violent crime, and there are issues regarding morale in the department. We hope that Chief Diggs is successful in reducing or eliminating these issues, and helping make Fort Myers a safer place to live.