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Everyone Is Welcome Here -- Except the Criminals

By:  Sheriff Mike Prendergast

It is such a tremendous honor to serve as your Sheriff.  Since January 3rd, I’ve spoken to thousands of community members about the plans we have as an agency to serve you and help Citrus County be an even better place to call home.

At every meeting, festival, luncheon, and evening event, I’m spreading the news about how we plan to grow our already impressive volunteer base, how we need to better support our firefighters and how we are attacking our county’s drug crime problem.  And believe me, we are in attack mode.  I said it during the past year and I’m saying it now, drugs don’t have a place here in our community.

Since the beginning of the year, our patrol deputies, detectives and Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) have shifted into overdrive; hunting down users, dealers and everything in between.   We have arrested 116 adult and 5 juvenile suspects on a total of 190 drug charges in just 67 days.  That’s pretty impressive by anyone’s measure, but we know there is much more work to do.

Our TIU also completed Operation Street Sweeper, an expertly executed and intricate plan to attack several drug houses in the Beverly Hills area.  This operation alone consisted of nine search warrants served in various areas of Beverly Hills, resulting in 21 arrests.  The ultimate goal was to make sure those living in Beverly Hills neighborhoods, business owners and visitors not only feel safer – but they are safer.

TIU also served six additional warrants across the county in Citrus Springs, Inverness, Homosassa and Hernando, and that netted an additional 14 arrests. 

In those search warrants alone, TIU collected over 3 pounds of cannabis (roughly $10k worth of marijuana), just under $18,000 in cash, seven guns, methamphetamine in a variety of forms, as well destroyed five meth labs.  That doesn’t include the high volume of illicit pills and other illegal substances seized by patrol deputies on a daily basis. 

Just last week on Wednesday, March, 8, a highly alert patrol deputy made a traffic stop that yielded nearly 6 ounces of methamphetamine (roughly $7k in value), .8 grams of heroin, 14 grams of marijuana, and several pills.  The traffic stop resulted in the seizure of the suspect’s 2010 Dodge Ram as well as $4,816 in cash and a shotgun.  TIU also secured another two ounces of meth on a search warrant and patrol seized over a half ounce of meth on an unrelated investigation.  This is almost a quarter kilo of meth with a combined street value of approximately $11,000.

Then, on Thursday evening, our patrol deputies struck it rich yet again.  After being called to a hit and run in which the driver had fled on foot, deputies discovered the suspect’s vehicle was stolen.  Great tactical coordination, including the help of a K9 unit and aviation, led to the arrest of the suspect, who admitted to possessing large quantities of narcotics, such as meth, cocaine and cannabis.  His bond was set at $35,000.

Obviously, our team is completely committed to doing whatever it takes to eradicate drug activity in Citrus County but we do so much more, 24/7/365.  In sum, I can’t express to you how impressed I am by this highly dedicated and experienced group of leaders and individuals that work non-stop to keep you safe.  These world class professionals truly are selfless servants who put themselves in harm’s way for you and your family.

I hope the message I’m sending is clear.  We love our residents, and we love the more than 442,300 visitors who come see us every year.  However, if you’re a criminal and you’re doing, selling or manufacturing drugs, you’re not welcome here and my team and I are coming after you.  We’ll get the search warrant.  What time would you like your wakeup call?

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"Thorn" in Community Arrested During Early Morning Search Warrant

Early Wednesday morning, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team executed a search warrant at 454 South Tuck Point in Inverness.  The Sheriff's Office Tactical Impact Unit concluded an investigation into drug sales at the residence.  The suspected drug dealer, Bud Thorn, 31 of Inverness, had active arrest warrants for original charges of possession of a firearm by convicted felon and possession of a controlled substance from two different counties. 

Before today, Thorn would brag about running and hiding from law enforcement for nearly two years.  For several months, deputies would respond to the residence in an attempt to serve the arrest warrants, but would be turned away by family members saying he wasn't home.  Thorn even had a doormat that read, "COME BACK WITH A WARRANT."  Well, that’s exactly what we did.  When detectives arrived this morning with the SWAT Team, they didn’t have to knock.  Thorn wasn't laughing when detectives found him inside of the residence with over two ounces of methamphetamine, marijuana, distribution equipment, $4,500 in cash, and a stolen lawn mower from a local school. 

As a result of today's investigation, Thorn was arrested for various local charges listed below.  Once there is resolution to local charges, he will then be prosecuted in other counties for multiple jurisdictional warrants.  Thorn is facing minimum mandatory sentencing for the trafficking amount of methamphetamine and with his lengthy criminal history; he should be handed serious prison time. 

“Bud has been a thorn in our side for several years,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast.  “Due to a diligent and labor intensive investigation by the men and women in our Tactical Impact Unit, he is now behind bars.  I know some of the neighbors might not have liked the early wakeup call, but after speaking with some of them, I know they are relieved to get some trash out of their neighborhood.”    

ARRESTED: Bud Thorn (11/7/85) - Trafficking in Methamphetamine; Possession of Marijuana with Intent; and Possession of Paraphernalia.

Sheriff's Office Releases Names of Deputies Involved in Fatal Shooting

On Sunday, Feb. 26, deputies responded to an “active shooter” incident that started in Marion County but led Citrus deputies through Citrus County on Hwy 41 through Hernando, Inverness and then ended in Floral City. The suspect, James Leroy Marker, 66, of 150 Smallwood Dr., Chokoloskee, FL, who was killed following a confrontation with law enforcement, caused extensive damage to a section of the Sabal Pipeline in Marion County before fleeing into Citrus County.
 
The Florida Highway Patrol responded to assist. Before reaching Floral Park, the CCSO deployed stop strips in Inverness which did impair Marker’s driving ability. The FHP officer was then able to conduct a precision immobilization technique near Floral Park which caused both vehicles to come to rest along the east shoulder of the roadway.
 
Marker then engaged with law enforcement officers before being fired upon by Citrus deputies and an officer from FHP. Nature Coast EMS responded and the suspect was pronounced dead on scene.
 
Although the situation was extremely volatile and dangerous, no one other than Marker was injured. A number of CCSO deputies responded to the incident, but those involved in the shooting were: Det. Jason Strickland, Dep. Gabriel Gerena and Dep. Jericho McIntyre. All three officers have been placed on paid administrative leave per CCSO policy regarding an officer-involved shooting incident. FDLE handles all officer-related shootings for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.
 
“We’re again very thankful that no one else was injured during this extremely dangerous incident,” Sheriff Mike Prendergast said today. “We’re giving FDLE time to complete a thorough investigation to determine exactly what happened. However, from what I’ve seen, all parties involved acted with extreme professionalism when faced with an imminent threat. All of the agencies involved worked extremely well together during a time of great stress. Our community should be proud of the actions of those who stopped an unprecedented threat.”
 
No further details will be released related to this incident until FDLE’s investigation is complete.

Sabal Pipeline Shooting leads to chase - Suspect deceased; all deputies are safe

(Sunday, February 26,2017) Deputies are on scene at the crash location on U.S Highway 41, south of Floral Park Drive, Floral City, where a chase that began in northern Citrus County ended here with the alleged suspect being shot and killed. It all began this morning at approximately 9am in Marion County who received reports of an individual shooting at the Sabal Pipeline equipment and the pipeline itself, with what was described as a high power rifle. The shooter fled the area and a pursuit began in Citrus County on Highway 200. Citrus County deputies pursued the suspect along with the Florida Highway Patrol. The suspect was involved in a crash on the side of the road adjacent to the Floral City Park. This is where the suspect engaged the deputies and was subsequently shot and killed. The name of the suspect is not being released at this time pending notification of the suspect’s next of kin. As per CCSO policy and protocol, the officers involved will be placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement actively investigates this incident. Names of the officers involved are being withheld at this time due to the pending inquiry by FDLE. “We know that the suspect was armed and extremely dangerous, and pending the examination of the evidence at the scene, we will be able to determine what other weapons he had in his possession at the time of the shooting. Fortunately, none of our Citrus County Deputies, Marion County Deputies or Florida Highway Patrol Troopers were injured as a result of this crime.” said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast.  More information will be released on Monday.

Early morning SWAT Team wake up call nets four arrests...

Early this morning, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team secured a residence located at 4638 N. Tumbleweed Trail in Hernando for a drug search warrant. The residence has been a hub of illegal activity and identified as a problem in the neighborhood. The SWAT Team was used to secure the home due to the number of individuals with violent criminal histories who frequent the house.

Patrol units have responded to the residence on several occasions over the past few weeks regarding a multitude of calls for service in the area. Drug use, theft reports, and possible overdoses have drawn the attention of the Tactical Impact Unit. TIU worked with the area patrol units to develop the probable cause needed for the search warrant.

When the SWAT Team approached the front door, Manuel Reyes attempted to barricade himself inside the residence by shutting and locking the door. This prompted his arrest for interference with a search warrant.

As expected, there were only small amounts of drugs located during the search. There was on the other hand, a large amount of drug paraphernalia found in the home which substantiated the claims the residence was used as a "Flop House." The term is used to describe places which allow drug users and other criminals to come and go freely. It was the intention of the Sheriff's Office to impact the community by closing up shop for such houses.

The filth and living conditions at the home were deplorable. Exposed septic and piled up garbage at the home prompted the misdemeanor arrest of the main resident, Jennifer Purdin, for multiple nuisance violations. Others at the scene were arrested on drug charges.

The Community Crimes Unit also responded to the residence to follow up with theft reports at the home and to investigate possible stolen property located at the residence.

Arrests are as follows:

Manuel Reyes 6/8/94 - Interference with Search Warrant

Jennifer Purdin 3/13/71 - Nuisance Violations

Daniel Weeks 7/8/88 - Possession of Paraphernalia

Vonda Leighty 9/6/94 - Possession of Paraphernalia

"As promised, we're hitting it hard when it comes to drugs," said Sheriff Prendergast this morning after the search. "Our Tactical Impact Unit has vast amounts of experience in this area and they will find you if you're using or dealing."

Early Morning Search Warrant Nets Two Arrests

Early this morning, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office conducted a search warrant at 373 Joshua Ct. in Hernando after detectives learned the residence was being used to manufacture methamphetamine.  The search revealed more than 1/4 ounce of crystal methamphetamine, liquid methamphetamine (over 680 gram), Xanax, several items used to make the drug, and distribution equipment. A one pot meth lab was also located in the shed of the property and linked to the suspect in the case.

The suspect, David Downs, was arrested for trafficking in methamphetamine and other drug related charges. A second subject located at the residence, Heather Jacobs, was also arrested during the investigation on drug charges. The amount of methamphetamine seized during this investigation carries a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence if convicted. Downs is no newcomer to cooking meth, he was previously arrested on meth lab charges a few years ago. During that investigation, Downs sustained injuries from a malfunctioning meth lab which it caught fire.

"We're not stopping", says Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "Drug dealers and users aren't welcome in this county. If you're cooking meth - I guarantee you will go to prison."

Big thanks to the Citrus County Fire Rescue HazMat team and members of our patrol unit who assisted with this investigation.

ARRESTED:
 David Downs, 52 of Hernando - Trafficking in methamphetamine more than 400 grams, possession listed chemical, manufacturing methamphetamine, and possession paraphernalia

Heather Jacobs, 37 of Hernando - Possession controlled substance and possession paraphernalia

      

Sheriff Prendergast Releases January Drug Stats

Sheriff Prendergast is pleased to report the results of January’s crime-reduction initiatives related to drug crimes. 

# of drug-related arrests: 45 [by patrol, detectives and Tactical Impact Unit (TIU)]

Arrest statistics:

36 males, 9 females

City of Crystal River:            5

City of Inverness:                 6

East side of county:             18

West side of county:            14

Charges:

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Possession Cannabis (Less than 20 Grams)
  • Drug Paraphernalia - To Inject/Ingest/Inhale/Introduce
  • Sell/Manufacture/Deliver or Possess w/Intent to Sell/Manufacture/Deliver Controlled Substance
  • Sell/Manufacture/Deliver or Possess w/Intent within 1000 feet of a Place of Worship
  • Theft of Controlled Substance defined in 893.02
  • Deliver/Possess/Manufacture Drug Paraphernalia Knowing It Will Be Used To Inject/Ingest/Inhale A Controlled Substance
  • Trafficking in Methamphetamine
  • Possession of Schedule I,II, or III Drugs w/Intent to Sell/Manufacture/Deliver
  • Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility (Drugs/Narcotics)

# of Search Warrants:           6 (by TIU)

Drugs seized by TIU:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Psilocybin Mushroom
  • Pharmaceutical Tablets

Other items seized:

  • Ruger AR-15 rifle
  • Rossi 357 Magnum (Serial Number Defaced)
  • $10,786.00 in U.S. currency

“Everyone in the agency knows that fighting the drug problem in our community is a top priority.  From our Tactical Impact Unit to our patrol deputies, everyone is focused on a strategic attack to arrest those who are selling drugs, using drugs and promoting a culture of illegal drugs in Citrus County,” said Sheriff Prendergast on Friday.  “I wasn’t kidding when I said we are going to hit this issue hard and we will not give up.”

A variety of other pills were seized by patrol deputies throughout the month in addition to those collected by TIU.  Also, 154.3 pounds of unused or unwanted medications were turned into the Sheriff’s Office for disposal.

“If you’re dealing or using, get out of Citrus. If not, we’re coming for you,” Sheriff Prendergast concluded. 

 

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CCSO News

Citrus County Most Wanted
CAPTURED

NAME: Denver Naylor

Wanted for:
FAILURE TO APPEAR:
GRAND THEFT AUTO, FLEEING AND ELUDING LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND DWLS/R

AGE: 23

HEIGHT: 5'8"

WEIGHT: 165