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DeFuniak Springs, Fla— Available now is a new technology helping residents in Walton County receive emergency services through text message. The service provides a new way to reach 911 never used before in Northwest Florida. Text to 911 is a new feature available on all major carriers in Walton County.

Citizens who are deaf, hearing impaired, or have a speech disability can now send a “short message” (SMS) text to 911 during an emergency. When a voice call might be dangerous or otherwise impossible texting to 911 is now a safe alternative.

Residents should check with their wireless phone company before texting to 911. In general, you must have a text-capable wireless phone and wireless service subscription or contact with a wireless company with a “data plan”.

Texting to 911 is different from making a voice call to 911. When making a voice call dispatchers will typically receive your phone number and your approximate location automatically. However, in most cases when you text 911 from a wireless phone, the dispatcher receiving the information will not know the texting party’s location.

For this reason, when sending a text message to 911 it is imperative to also send your location as quickly as possible.

 

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is the first to introduce this new technology LIVE in Northwest Florida. This is a prime example of how we are continuing to work to keep our community safe. 

Seacrest, Fla— A 25-year-old Georgia man is arrested following a domestic dispute at a Seacrest condominium. 

On June 5th deputies were dispatched to the Inn at Seacrest where a victim provided a sworn swritten statement that her boyfriend Michael C. Griffin became angry and struck her in the face with an open hand, hit her with a gun, and put the weapon to her head.

The victim said the pair had been drinking at a nearby restaurant and had gotten into a verbal argument that quickly escalated.

Deputies found Griffin hiding in some thick brush south of the condo where he denied anything physical happened.

Further investigation revealed the victim had obvious marks to her face and mouth and a knot was visible on her forehead.

 

Griffin was placed under arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and booked into the Walton County Jail. 

Mossy Head, Fla— A runaway juvenile wanted out of Okaloosa County is now behind bars once again.

On June 4th just after midnight deputies responded to a call regarding a burglary at the Raceway located at 14338 State Road 10 (U.S. Highway 90).  When they arrived deputies discovered the store’s front door had been shattered and while clearing the building found blood by the cigarettes.

Surveillance footage from the store shows the suspect making entry, carrying his own plastic bag, breaking the front door glass with a shock absorber from a motorcycle. The part was found at the scene (pictured).

Surveillance video also shows the suspect walking into the store wearing a mask to hide his identity in a camouflage hat, jeans, and a long sleeve plaid shirt stealing nineteen cartons of cigarettes.  

A clerk recognized the clothes worn by the suspect, which lead deputies to a home located at 14888 U.S. Highway 90 where investigators found Michael Allen Stiles, 16, and his 18-year-old roommate. Deputies noticed Stiles had an injury to his hand.

Consent was given to search the property. Further investigation revealed a bloody shirt, plastic bag, and the cartons of cigarettes stolen from the Raceway inside the home.

Outside the house deputies also located one of two rear shock absorbers to a motorcycle. The part matches the absorber found at the scene used to break the window.

Stiles is being charged with criminal mischief, burglary, and grand theft. The juvenile’s extensive criminal history is the reason Walton County Sheriff’s Office feels compelled to release this information.

“It’s sad to see this kind of criminality in such a young man,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. “But he will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

 

Stiles was booked into the Walton County Jail and is being transported to the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

DeFuniak Springs, Fla— A trespassing call lands a 61-year-old man behind bars in Walton County after investigators discover a meth lab, paraphernalia, and methamphetamine oil weighing more than 200 grams.

Deputies responded to 507 Rockman Lane in reference to a trespassing call for service just before noon on June 3rd. After arriving on scene and making contact with the suspect it was learned the man, identified as Michael Joe Potter, 61, had a warrant out of Holmes County.

Potter was read his Miranda rights and then proceeded to tell deputies he had a meth lab inside the home.

Investigators found three bottles of a bi-layer liquid, three glass jars with a single layer liquid which were later identified as meth oil. Three pill bottles were also located with finished product methamphetamine inside. Potter also had lye, ammonium nitrate, lithium batteries, funnels, Muriatic acid, Coleman fuel, hydrogen peroxide, and acetone – all used for making meth.

 

Potter was arrested for trafficking meth, a felony, possession of drug paraphernalia, and was also booked for Violation of Probation out of Holmes County.   

Defuniak Springs, Fla— A 23-year-old Panama City woman is arrested after leading Defuniak Springs Police on a pursuit while exceeding 100 miles per hour.

On June 1, 2015 just before 6am a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy on an off-duty detail was dispatched to a pursuit of a vehicle traveling west on Highway 90 passing Kings Lake Boulevard. The vehicle the suspect was driving, a Hertz rental car, was confirmed stolen and the driver was thought to be armed.

The deputy drove closer to the location pulling over at Blackstone Golf Course and could see a vehicle passing cars to the east. As the vehicles were approaching the Blackstone Golf Course the deputy spotted the vehicle, a black Buick with Tennessee tags, and a female driver.

The deputy pursued the vehicle with lights and sirens activated and just east of Rainbow Drive the driver lost control and spun out. Mahogny Ina Sharde Patrick, 23, was placed under arrest when deputies found she did not have a valid driver’s license and that the vehicle was confirmed stolen out of Douglasville Police Department, Georgia.

Mahogny Ina Sharde Patrick was arrested and booked on charges of fleeing and eluding, grand theft auto, and driving while license suspended.

 

DeFuniak Springs Police Department has additional charges pending.

A great deal of illegal drugs and drug money has been taken off the streets thanks to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office VICE/Narcotics Unit and Patrol Bureau.

On May 14, 2015, members of the WSCO teams executed a probable cause search warrant at 226 Central 8th Street in Santa Rosa Beach. The search warrant was part of an extensive investigation into the distribution of illegal narcotics.

In their search investigators discovered over a pound of marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, Hydrocodone, drug paraphernalia, and over $8,000 in US currency.

Three residents of 226 Central 8th Street were arrested during the course of the search warrant:

 

David Henry Key, 24, was charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Charles Ryan Binford, 23, was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, possession of a Controlled Substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Michael Hunter Griffith, 23, was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

 

 

All three were transported and booked into the Walton County Jail.

An 89-year-old woman is now in good hands after falling ill inside her home. Dispatchers tried to get a hold of the Freeport native at 8am Tuesday morning May 12th, but were unable to reach her.

Deputy Justin Tisdale was dispatched to the home where he and dispatchers continued to try to make contact with her. Tisdale could hear a television, but the woman did not come to the door. After several attempts to make contact the deputy made entry into the home and found the victim on the floor. She was responsive and EMS responded and transported her to Sacred Heart Hospital.

Wednesday Michael Johnson, a volunteer member of the WCSO Posse, checked-in on the woman in the hospital bringing her flowers and visiting using personal money and time.

Safety Net is an elderly call care service where participants can be called between 6am and 8am to be checked on daily. If contact cannot be made after multiple attempts than a deputy is called to respond. Walton County Sheriff’s Office has been participating in the effort for 30 years.

 

For information on client enrollment or to make a donation, you may contact Volunteer Coordinator Leah Snaith at (850) 892-8186.

Stacey Wade Ward, 40, is behind bars after chasing his step son through their home with a frying pan Wednesday.

At approximately 7pm on May 13th deputies were dispatched to a domestic dispute in progress on Palm Street in Freeport. The victim told authorities Ward was cussing and threatening him when the assault took place.

Before deputies arrived Ward fled the property in a green GMC. Deputies later caught up with the suspect and conducted a traffic stop. 

 

Ward was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill. 

Thanks to a thorough investigation by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office a Santa Rosa man will be behind bars for 15 years after being arrested for a series of burglaries in the South Walton Area.

Thomas Walter Courtig Howells IV, 24, was first arrested by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office in April 2013 when he was suspected of stealing fishing equipment, jewelry, and firearms totaling more than $25,000 from homes on Driftwood Point Court and East Mack Bayou in Santa Rosa.

Since his arrest Howells has also been charged with possession of contraband into a detention facility when Correctional Officers discovered a shank in his cell in November of 2014.

 

This week the State Attorney’s Office conducted a plea deal with Howells. He was transported of the Department of Corrections early Wednesday morning. 

On Friday May 9th a Black Ford Explorer driven by 18-year-old Jaylen Powell was observed by deputies in Walton County pulling into a residence. The deputy knew the owners of the home and did not recognize the subject.

When the deputy pulled out to engage the man he accelerated his vehicle nearly wrecking several times. The deputy stopped pursuit of the vehicle and returned to the home to see if anything was taken.

Just minutes later an off-duty WCSO Lieutenant Artie Rodriguez made contact with the deputy saying Powell crashed his SUV in front of Rodriguez's home ¼ of a mile where the pursuit ended, fleeing on foot into the woods behind his house.

Lt. Rodriguez spotted the driver running north into the woods.  A responding deputy stopped and entered the woods near the area he was spotted.  He and Lt. Rodriguez spotted Powell running westbound and began chasing on foot.  As the two grew closer the suspect yelled he was giving up and put his hands into the air.

Powell was transported to the Walton County Jail and is charged with attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

Powell is currently on probation and is a registered sexual predator for sexual battery on a juvenile victim under 12 years of age in 2011.