March 15, 2018
Paxton, Fla—Walton County Fire Rescue crews respond to a structure fire on State Line Road in Paxton to find a home partially engulfed in flames.
At 2:54 AM Thursday morning, Walton County Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to 960 State Line Road in reference to a residential fire. The caller stated that she woke up in the middle of the night and saw flames on the ceiling of her bedroom. Firefighters and Paramedics arrived within minutes to find part of the home fully engulfed in flames. Fortunately, both residents made it out of the home safely and no one was injured. The residents were able to save one of their two family dogs. Unfortunately, Walton County Fire Rescue firefighters were unable to save the second dog.
Walton County Fire Rescue, Florala Fire Department and Lockhart Volunteer Fire Department crews battled the fire for over an hour and a half before the fire was contained. One WCFR firefighter suffered minor injuries while fighting the blaze and was transported and released from a local hospital.
Electrical issues are believed to be the cause of the fire. Fire rescue crews cleared the scene just before 9:00 AM this morning. The American Red Cross was called out to assist the residents of the severely damaged home.
March 14, 2018
Freeport, Fla—A Freeport resident was transported to a burn center after suffering 1st and 2nd degree burns following an explosion on his boat Wednesday night.
Just before 8:30 PM, a 911 call promptly dispatched Walton County Fire Rescue crews to the Freeport Marina and Yacht Club in reference to a boat explosion. When firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene, they immediately began treating the boat owner’s burn wounds.
The patient stated that he was siphoning gas out of a generator that was still hot on his boat, which was tied up to the channel marker in the middle of the bayou, when he spilt some of the gas down the front of his legs and onto the hot generator, causing the explosion. He tried to retrieve a fire extinguisher but quickly realized the fire was too much for him to handle. The man managed to escape through the scuttle hatch on his boat and was transported back to land by a nearby kayaker.
The patient was transported to a burn center by Okaloosa Med Flight where he is receiving medical treatment for his burn wounds. A flag was placed over the sunken boat to warn boaters of the wreckage.
For Immediate Release
March 14, 2018
SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla— Nine car burglaries occurred overnight in Walton County Tuesday. All nine vehicles affected were left unlocked.
Between 11PM and 1AM a suspect or suspects burglarized multiple vehicles in the Botany Bayou gated community. Two firearms, knives, cash and other items were stolen.
Roads affected include Botany Boulevard, McDowell Street, Raymond Circle, Paradise Point, and Rosin Cup Circle.
Walton County Sheriff’s Office is releasing video from a residence that shows two subjects, one in a gray hooded sweatshirt and the other in a camouflage hooded sweatshirt, rummaging through a vehicle before leaving the driveway on foot.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Walton County Sheriff’s Office at (850)-892-8111 or you can anonymous by calling Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at (850) 863-TIPS, submit a web tip athttp://www.emeraldcoastcrimestoppers.com/ or send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips Mobile Application.
Walton County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging residents to HIDE your belongings, LOCK your vehicles, and TAKE your keys and guns.
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2018
SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla—A Walton County Sheriff’s Office K9 has earned another trip to the United States Police Canine Association National K9 Trials in New Jersey.
K9 Kayne and handler Sergeant Kristin Pond took first place in vehicle narcotics detection, third place in room narcotics detection, and placed second in the category of inter-department teams along with Officer Tommy Nguyen and K9 Dobies of Tarpon Springs Police Department.
In addition to Kayne’s success, Deputy Damon Byrd and K9 Jester and Deputy Steven Tector and K9 Drago both earned USPCA Certification for Patrol Dog 1.
“We’re proud of our entire team and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “Even with all the changes to the unit in the past year they are still representing our agency at the top level!”
K9 Kayne missed the title of Region 1 Top Dog by .67 of a point. More than 40 teams from Florida and Alabama competed in the competition held in Santa Rosa County.
Kayne and Pond have been invited to travel in May to New Jersey to compete in Nationals.
For Immediate Release
March 9, 2018
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla—A bag of large knives were found within arms reach of a man who said he thought about killing the Deputy that pulled him over.
On March 9th a deputy on routine patrol observed a camouflage Jeep traveling eastbound on US Highway 90 near Gene Hurley Rd. The tag displayed on the Jeep was queried and came back to a 2007 Blue Hyundai Sonata.
The Deputy pulled the vehicle over in the Tom Thumb parking lot located on Highway 90. The subject stated he didn’t have a license. He was escorted out of the vehicle and detained. The male would not provide his identification information. He eventually provided his information and an Alabama ID advising he was James Melvin Long Jr. out of Alabama. A check of his information revealed his AL Driver License had been revoked since 8/17/1994.
Further investigation revealed an active warrant out of Dothan Police Department for “Burglary 3rd Bond: $15,000”. Dothan PD confirmed they would extradite and wished for us to place a hold on the subject.
The vehicle Long was driving was a 1996 Green Jeep Cherokee. The tag was attached not assigned, however not reported stolen. A check of the Jeep’s VIN revealed it was reported stolen out of Dothan PD.
Throughout the interaction with the Deputy, Long stated that he thought about harming him when he pulled him over. During the stop was a duffel bag of large knives within reach of him in the backseat of the vehicle. He advised it almost went “very differently” for the deputy. He asked the Deputy continuously if he woke up “thinking it may be his last day.”
Long told the deputy he thought about “having court” on the side of the road in lieu of being arrested, but God told him not to harm the deputy. He stated to the deputy that “He didn’t know who he had just caught” and that he was his “next promotion” by catching him.
Long was transported to the Walton County Jail without incident. He awaits extradition back to Alabama.
For Immediate Release
March 9, 2018
Santa Rosa Beach, Fla— Two burglars wreaking havoc in three counties finally slipped up. All because they picked a bad place to park.
Deputies patrolling Watersound North community early Wednesday morning came across a white Toyota Tundra parked in a construction area. The deputies blocked the truck with his patrol car and then climbed onto a bicycle to check nearby trails.
The truck had been previously identified by several area agencies as being involved in a string of burglaries in Bay and Walton Counties.
In minutes deputies spotted an additional truck pull up in the area attempting to pick up two men coming out of the woods. Four were taken into custody.
“We knew we would catch these guys eventually,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “They are responsible for dozens of burglaries and thefts spanning over a year.”
Two of the four men admitted to several burglary sprees including incidents in Cypress Breeze, Seabreeze, and Watersound North areas of Walton County. They even confessed to the 2017 burglaries in Seacrest where thousands of dollars of fishing equipment was stolen and multiple YETI coolers.
Ryan Nichols, 18 of Port St. Joe and Jackson Taylor, 21, of Panama City Beach were arrested and charged with loitering and prowling.
Austin Bell, 21, of Panama City Beach and Steven Robinson, 19, also of Panama City Beach were arrested on a slew of charges.
Robinson racked up 97 total charges including more than 38 burglary charges, including residential and car burglaries, 24 counts of dealing in stolen property, 17 grand theft charges, theft of a fire arm, grand theft auto, and more. Bell was charged with 27 burglary charges, including residential and car burglaries, 16 counts of dealing in stolen property, 12 counts of grand theft, grand theft auto, and more.
Bay and Gulf County Sheriff’s Offices and the Panama City Beach Police Department have been instrumental in developing additional information and recovering some stolen property.
Additional charges for Bell and Robinson are expected out of Panama City Beach and Bay and Gulf Counties.
“These men openly admitted they didn’t touch cars that were locked – even if there was something they wanted,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “If we keeping getting the word out we can hopefully stop these criminals from taking advantage of our residents and visitors.”
Walton County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging residents to protect yourself from those who would take advantage of unlocked vehicles. HIDE your belongings, LOCK your doors, TAKE your keys!
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2018
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla— If resilience were a color, it would be the same shade as sparks flying off a welding machine.
For the last six weeks in a large trailer hidden at the Walton County Jail, you could find six welding helmets hiding the faces of men in striped uniforms. Most are shy talking about it.
Why? Because these men, are all incarcerated inmates.
“I’ve got to break the chain from coming back and forth to jail,” said Kenneth Sanders, a 34-year-old from Walton County. “It was an opportunity and I took it.”
It’s an idea dreamt up by Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson to reduce recidivism – an opportunity for inmates to learn a new trade. In January the jail launched the “welding program” in addition to its other vocational opportunities like the “grow” farming program.
“If I can’t convince you it’s smart morally, I can convince you it’s smart fiscally,” said Sheriff Adkinson. “If one or two of these men don’t return to jail because of this program— it’s paid for itself.”
With the help of Northwest Florida State College, a large trailer was installed right in the back-yard of the jail –cutting down on any logistical issues. The instructor, Scott Bennett, has mentored the men along the way.
“This has been such a rewarding experience,” said Bennett. “I’m happy to see these guys graduate and hold their heads high.”
Wednesday’s graduation is a rite of passage. All six men are looking for nothing less than a new life; a chance to stop walking a path that leads behind bars and focus on the future.
“Its hard work,” said Bryan Grant, 37, of Walton County. “You have to earn it. But, it makes it all worth it.”
The six men were given a certificate of completion for the course. They include Sanders and Grant along with Anthony Harrison, 43, James Willliams Jr., 35, Brandon Penree, 22, and Richard Birch, 52. Walton County Sheriff’s Office is working alongside NWFSC to help with job placement.
The next class is set to begin on March 26th.
READ MORE ABOUT THE WELDING PROGRAM HERE.
For Immediate Release
March 5, 2018
WALTON COUNTY, Fla— A five-day operation leads to the arrest of eight men for soliciting a child for sex including a registered sex offender out of Escambia County.
By monitoring smartphone apps and online ads an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force went hunting for sexual offenders in our area.
“We are going to rid our community of these animals one-by-one,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson.
The operation was conducted at an undisclosed location in Walton County for a five day period ending Sunday. The following is a list of those arrested:
Richard Augustus Pate, 67, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida – responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. During the conversation between Richard Augustus Pate and the undercover officer, posing as the 14-year-old male, Richard Augustus Pate did solicit to engage in sexual activities with the 14-year-old male. On Wednesday, February 28th Pate traveled from Walnut Street to engage in sexual activity with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old male. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
Keith Christophe Meade, 30, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. Meade engaged in conversation through the app and through text message with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old boy. Friday, Meade traveled from his hotel room in Destin to pick up who he thought was a 14-year-old child to engage in sexual activity. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
Chad Dugas, 18, Fort Walton Beach, Florida – responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. Dugas engaged in conversation through the app and then continued on “Snapchat” and through text messages with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old male. Dugas traveled to a location to pick up who he believed to be a 14-year-old boy to engage in sexual activity. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
Jame Nicholas Gibson, 27, Pensacola, Florida – responded to an online advertisement posted to subjects seeking to solicit sexual activities with underage children. Gibson replied to the ad and began a conversation an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old child. During the conversation, Gibson asked for a photo of her breasts. Gibson traveled to a location in Walton County to meet with who he believed was a 14-year-old girl. Investigators then confirmed Gibson was a registered sex offender. Before he could be apprehended at the “meet spot” Gibson fled and a pursuit was initiated. Gibson drove in excess of 100 miles an hour on Highway 30a to avoid capture before crashing into the bay at the end of 395 and fleeing on foot. Gibson was apprehended the following morning by WCSO in the area of the crash. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony, fleeing and eluding.
Timothy Keith Lewis, 20, Milton, Florida – responded to an online advertisement posted on Whisper. Lewis engaged in conversation with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old female. Lewis traveled from his home in Milton to a specified location to engage in sexual activity with a person he believed to be 14 years-of-age. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
Trenton Patrick Hooks, 32, Milton, Florida – responded to an online advertisement on Craigslist. Hooks engaged in conversation with an undercover investigator through email then switched to text messages. The undercover officer was posing as a mother wanting someone to have sex with her 13-year-old female daughter. Once he learned the age of the daughter, Hooks sent a photo of his genitals to the undercover officer. On Sunday, Hooks traveled from his home in Milton, bought lubrication while en route to a specified location to engage in sexual activity with a child he believed to be 13-years-old. Charges: Using a computer to solicit a parent or guardian to engage in sexual activity with a minor, transmitting harmful material to a minor, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
Thomas Bannin, 36, Fort Walton Beach, Florida – responded to an online advertisement posted on Craigslist. The conversation between Bannin and the undercover officer switched from email to text message. Bannin did solicit to engage in sexual activities with who he believed to be a 14-year-old female. During the conversations, Bannin asked the undercover officer if she wanted a picture of his genitals and then sent the photo. On March 4th, Bannin traveled from his home in Fort Walton Beach to engage in sexual activity with a 14-year-old child. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, transmitting harmful material to a minor, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
Charles Spence, 33, Valparaiso, Florida – responded to an online advertisement posted on Craigslist. The conversation between Spence and an undercover officer switched from email to text message. During the conversation with the undercover officer, Spence solicited to engage in sexual activity with a child he believed to be a 14-year-old female. On March 4th, Spence traveled from his home in Okaloosa County to a location disclosed to him by the undercover officer and was taken into custody. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.
“These people are the worst of the worst,” said Sheriff Adkinson. “We cannot encourage parents enough to be aware of the applications and websites their kids are using.”
Walton County Sheriff’s Office hosted the operation with help of area agencies including Panama City Beach Police, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Pensacola Police Department, Gulf Breeze Police Department and other Florida agencies including Gainesville Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“The success of this operation is a direct result of the passion, hard work, and dedication of the men and women who work internet crimes against children,” added Adkinson.
For Immediate Release
March 5, 2018
WALTON COUNTY, Fla— A suspect in a fatal shooting in Alabama was taken into custody in Walton County Sunday.
Just before 12:30pm, WCSO was called in to assist Covington County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama Bureau of Investigations, Opp Police Department and Florala Police Department following a shooting in the parking lot of the Huddle House in Florala.
Phillip George Parker, 24, was quickly identified as the suspect and a BOLO (be on the lookout) was issued to neighboring counties. Walton County Sheriff’s Deputies were diligently following leads on possible locations of the suspect in Walton County along U.S. Highway 331 North heading toward Interstate 10.
Shortly after Walton County dispatchers received a tip from a citizen who heard the BOLO on a local radio station and advised deputies that Parker was heading back north on Highway 85 towards Alabama. Walton County Sheriff’s Deputies met Parker as he crossed over into Walton County on Highway 85 and conducted a felony traffic stop at County Road 147. Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks was on scene when the suspect was taken into custody.
Parker’s bond has been set at $750,000.00 and he remains in the Walton County Jail as of the time of this release.