Tag Archives: misconduct

The FMPD Officer Investigation Continues to Evolve with new Details

fmpd

Fort Myers Police Department

WINK has done some follow-up reporting about the continuing situation with FMPD officers that were suspended after the Freeh Group audit after new details were divulged a few weeks ago. First, WINK has reported that the four officers were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury related to the investigation. None of the officers appeared, which is not surprising as any of their attorneys would have declined to allow them to testify under those circumstances. WINK spoke to Captain Perry’s attorney who said as much, and said that he could not let his client testify when he wasn’t sure any details of the investigation. It was mentioned that the officers received letters, which sounds like they may have been target letters: suggesting they were personally being investigated.

Second, that WINK article included an interview with former acting Chief Eads, who ran the department when the investigation got underway. Eads states that during his time in charge that he did not have any facts presented to him that were actionable. Ultimately, the four officers were suspended when the new chief received the Freeh Group report, and the redacted pages that still have not become public knowledge.

These reports, and those we discussed here before, suggest that the investigation of the officers is intertwined with the federal charges against accused drug trafficker Robert Ward, and to federal informants that were murdered. Ward is accused of murder for his involvement in the death of Kristopher Smith, and the murder of Victor Johnson appears to be related, as well. Detective Matt Sellers, the retired FMPD homicide detective, handled the investigation into the murder of Kristopher Smith. He went on WINK and stated that not only does he believe that the officers were not involved with that murder, but that he has also presented evidence that exonerates them to investigators. That means the Chief at the time, and the lead investigator, are both on record saying that they are unaware of any wrongdoing or connection between these officers and the Smith murder.

The city, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies do not have to release information related to ongoing investigations. It may be years before the public finds out what was really going on at FMPD. The upcoming trial of Robert Ward, who is headed to federal court in Orlando may shed some light on why FMPD suspended the officers. Three of the officers have retired, but one remains on paid leave… three years after the suspensions were handed down. The leave for the officers has totaled over $200,000 and counting, and stands as an expensive unanswered question that even city leaders may be in the dark.

In other FMPD news, more details from the discovery in the case of former Captain Jay Rodriguez have been released. Also, it appears the state is considering additional charges for making a false report (no additional charges have been filed, it’s still in an investigation phase.) Rodriguez filed a report prior to release of the prostitution video that local activist Anthony Thomas tried to extort him for money or he would release the video. Thomas denies the extortion claim, which is now the basis for the false report allegation. Thomas later published the video on Facebook. The alleged extortion attempt supposedly took place when Thomas confronted Rodriguez outside a city council meeting, but there do not appear to be any witnesses. This type of charge is difficult to prove, because it is entirely he said/she said.

Finally, several FMPD officers are under investigation for an altercation that occurred off-duty at a Cape Coral bar the Dixie Roadhouse. Three officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the ongoing investigation. Apparently, the alleged victim was struck in the head with a beer bottle, and the incident was captured on video, which may become public down the road.

Fired CCSO Deputy may have Planted Drugs on his Lover’s Husband

Former CCSO Deputy Eric Ireland

Former CCSO Deputy Eric Ireland

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office arrested, and quickly terminated, former deputy Eric Ireland and charged him with Official Misconduct and Perjury. The police reports have been released, and the allegations are even crazier than the charges indicated.

According to reports, a man who turned out to be the husband of the woman Eric Ireland was having an affair with was arrested for drug possession in Fort Myers on August 13. On August 20, the woman, Sara*, contacted the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office to say that she¬†believed that then-deputy Ireland had planted drugs on her husband, leading to the arrest, and CCSO quickly began an investigation. When they contacted detectives in Fort Myers, red flags went up pretty quickly.

Fort Myers detectives stopped and searched the husband based on information they received from Deputy Ireland, which he had claimed came from a confidential informant. But Detectives thought it was weird when he called them back asking that his name be kept out of the paperwork.

CCSO investigators kept digging, and more and more holes appeared in the story. First, Ireland denied being present for the investigation; claiming to be in Charlotte County. But FMPD Detectives saw a black Mercedes circling the area of the stop, and saw the driver of the car laughing in a child-like manner (that’s what the report says… I picture peals of maniacal laughter). Ireland initially denied that he knew anything about the car, but a couple of Fort Myers detectives were able to identify him as the driver.

Ireland also denied knowing who was involved with the stop, and later denied that he know Sara. She told investigators that they started dating a while back, and had had a sexual relationship, and that he exhibited disturbing behavior: showing up where she worked, where her kid went to school, and even making traffic stops on people she knew. She ultimately broke off the relationship because her husband was getting out of prison, and she wanted to try to reestablish her marriage. But Ireland kept up the contact, and even asked to borrow the husband’s truck a few weeks earlier.

Investigators talked to Ireland, and he kept lying about his involvement with teh case. Investigators also made controlled phone calls with the assistance of Sara, wherein he admitted to lying to investigators, and told Sara another set of lies to try to make it look like he had nothing to do with the arrest. The husband vehemently and consistently denied any knowledge of the drugs when he was arrested. Ireland apparently had the motive, the access to the truck where the drugs were found, and specific knowledge of the location of the drugs, based on the information he gave FMPD.

There is substantial evidence suggesting that he planted the drugs, but probably not enough to prove it in court. However, once the information became known, prosecutors dropped the charges against the husband, though he had already spent 10 days in jail at that point. It will be tough for Ireland to be charged with anything else related to the drugs will make it tough for drug charges to be filed, though he could potentially face a civil rights charge like former LCSO deputy Michael Ronga. Also disturbing is a report that another woman has complained that Ireland was stalking her while he was on duty.

I do commend the CCSO office for taking quick, decisive action to try to make right the fact that one of their own was breaking the law, and to get the wrongly arrested man out of jail as quickly as possible. Public trust in law enforcement is at an historical low, and high-profile local cases, such as the FMPD police chief’s dishonesty and the Ronga case further decay our trust in law enforcement. That’s why accountability and transparency are paramount to rebuild the trust.

*We decided not to publish her, or her husband’s, last name