Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida on August 10, 2008 · Page 11
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Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida · Page 11

Tallahassee, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Page 11
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wnw.TALMH ssEE.rom Local Florida Tallahassee Democrat -Sunday, August 10, 200811A Lieutenant who OK'd Hoffman drug buy has 'sustained' investigation on record By Corey Clark DEMOCRAT STMT WRITER - According to personnel files, the Rachel Hoffman case represents the fifth time since 1999 that Lt. Taltha White has been investigated by the Tallahassee Police Department's internal-affairs unit and the second time an investigation involved a confidential informant. White was the lieutenant who approved the controversial drug-and-gun bust involving Hoffman on May 7, and the one who was heavily criticized in the grand-jury presentment that was released Aug. 1, "Although a lieutenant was monitoring the radio transmissions, 'she was also tasked with a computer audit at the same time and was somewhat distracted," the presentment read. "Further, the lieutenant had only been supervising the unit for. less than three months and had no prior experience in the VICE unit." During the course of the grand:jury testimony, White also admitted that she did not read the operational plan (OPS) before signing off on it. "Although the lieutenant testified that she did not actually review the (OPS), she did indicate that the transaction was discussed with her in. detail and she approved it," the presentment read. ' White, a 20-year TPD veteran, had just been transferred to the vice unit earlier in the year. . "It's unfortunate that there wasn't a supervisor with more experience," said Kevin Fitzpatrick, One month after the deadly sting operation, White was reassigned as a supervisor In the Administrative Services Division. Less than two months later, she was under investigation for the fifth time in nine years. who was a narcotics officer in the Hillsborough County Sherriffs Office for 29 years. "That would have helped a lot. Because narcotics is a whole different world. There's nothing in the police academy that can prepare you for it." One month after the deadly sting operation, White was reassigned as a supervisor in the Administrative Services Division. Less than two months later, she was under investigation for the fifth time in nine years. In 1999, following a sustained investigation for improper conduct, she was ordered to detail how district Community Oriented Police Squads should maintain confidential informant files. What exactly prompted the corrective action isn't known; Internal Affairs files with sustained charges are purged by the department after five years. There were two more improper-conduct investigations into White that same year. One was ruled to be "unfounded" and in the other one she was exonerated. In 2006, she was also exonerated in a neglect-of-duty investigation as well. I A files that are labeled "unfounded" or "exonerated" are purged after one year. While White wasn't the only supervisor in the vice unit who had been investigated in the past, she was the only one with a "sustained", investigation. Vice unit Capt. Chris Connell had a firearm-related injury ruled as "justified" in a 2003 investigation, and a 1988 excessive-force investigation was "not sustained." Sgt. Rod Looney was exonerated for improper conduct in 1999 and for improper procedure in 2001 and a firearm discharge was ruled as "justified" in a 2004 investigation. The other vice supervisor, Sgt. David Odom, has never been under investigation before. All four, along with Investigator Ryan Pender, were placed on leave last Monday, just four days after the grand jury stated in a presentment that it believed the unit's command staff was "negligent in its review of the OPS plan and supervision of this Transaction." Said Fitzpatrick: "The primary job of the supervisor is to be a safety observer. When I was supervising narcotics, I would nit-pick every little detail to make sure the deal was safe. I would say, 'I don't care how much dope you can get. If you get killed or , the CI gets killed, it doesn't mean a thing.'" 1 have a iob.that is osquiSo. inspectors By Victoria Macchl NAPLES DAiiy NEWS NAPLES You may get bitten during mosquito season, but five Collier County employees get paid to get stung every day. Each morning of mosquito season, usually from May to late September, Naples native Dan Weeks hits U.S. 41 East in a white Ford F-150 and makes 15 stops, as far south as Fiddler's Creek, and five miles east of Collier Boulevard. Wearing blue pants stuffed into wading boots and a tucked-in, short-sleeve Collier Mosquito Control District gray polo shirt that is one size too big, a bare-armed Weeks leaves the truck running while , he sidles up to a wooded area on Myrtle Lane. In mud-stained, once-white,, knee-high rubber boots, the Mosquito Control inspector sloshes through ankle-deep water and stops in a clearing about 20 feet into the woods. He waits silently, swatting at the mosquitoes buzzing around his exposed neck and ears and counting how many are landing on him. "You either brush 'em off or kill 'em," he chuckles, shifting his weight to count the insects on the back of his legs. The landing rate counts are performed every morning by Mosquito Control and are the gauge to determine where, when and how many mosquito control planes will spray the' next morning. But the 20 to 30 bites a day he gets every day from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. during mosquito season don't bother Weeks any more. Iy skin is so tough now," says the 56-year-old, who has been an inspector for the district for 25 years. Before he joined in 1983, he was in a deadend job; Mosquito Control offered "decent benefits and decent pay," so Weeks stuck around. Surely, starting the workday with the mosquito's tubular proboscis breaking the skin's surface, sucking out blood and often leaving a welt in reaction to the insect's saliva (multiplied by 20 to 25 bites a day) gets annoying after two decades, right? After decades on the job and growingup doingyard-work, fishing and hunting in Southwest Florida, the bites don't faze him. Moreover, when he is eligible for retirement in less than five years, he might just keep on working. "I don't really dislike any of it. It's a good job. I've done the same thing every day for 25 years. I know what's expected of me. I've done it so often, one -day blends into the next," he says halfway through a weekday monitoring session. He has inspected the same route for 15 years; after the early morning surveillance, he goes to spray mosquito hotspots with his fog truck . The sun is breaking through the trees in East Naples, and Weeks hits the mosquito jackpot. "This is what we call '25 plus'. This is when we don't even stand for two minutes," says Weeks in between swatting mosquitoes away at a campground off of Collier Boulevard. He reports back to the Mosquito Control office near Naples Municipal Airport to record the first batch of landing rate counts. - - Once . all of the numbers from the five inspectors are in, a decision is made about which planes or helicopters will go up before sunrise the fol-lowmg morning to spray against adult mosquitoes and larvae. When Weeks first joined Mosquito "Control in the early 1980s, keeping the county skeeter-free- was more tedious. "We didn't have planes then, just a little fog truck," he recalls of his early days with Mosquito Control as he eyes his arms and legs, counting mosquitoes in a ditch near a gas station parking on the north side ofU.S.41East. . There is no hard-and-fast equation that translates the landing rate counts into an area necessary to spray, but reports of "25 plus," when the number of mosquitoes is too high to count, generally attracts the eye of Mosquito ' Control decision-makers. Rachel Hoffman timetable: It started with a speeding ticket, which led to a pot arrest, which led to ... rr Miiirl" ' iiwiii Hoffman DEMOCRAT STAFF REPORT I Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007: i Tallahassee Police Department officer pulls over Rachel Hoffman for speeding on West Tennessee Street. He smells pot First she says she'd been smoking with friends, then says there's pot in her purse. He arrests her after finding 25.7 grams of pot in a mason jar and $450 cash. She's sentenced to probation and community service and required to be in drug intervention program. She must submit to weekly drug . tests, can't use drugs and can't be around people who use them. Friday-Sunday, April 4-6, 2008: Hoffman taken to Leon County Jail for failure to appear for drug test. Friend later reports, "She tried to make light of it, but she was terrified." Thursday, April 17: TPD officers, acting on tip from confidential informant, raid Hoffman's apartment at Polos on Park and find about a quarter-pound of marijuana and six Ecstasy pills. Police find ledgerwith 11 names, with amounts next to them. (Grand jury later reports she told TPD she sold 10 to 15 pounds of pot a week; experts and her friends express doubts.) She won't get into trouble for this bust, Investigator Ryan Pender tells her, if she'll work as CI for them and help bust other people. TPD should notify State Attorney's Office because she's in drug program,-but it doesn't. May 2007 on charges of possession of marijuana in Leon County and pleaded no contest. ' I atur in Anril Police want to wire riortman ana sena ner to detailing shop to buy drugs from Green and Bradshaw, but it's called oft when the men can't come up with the number of Ecstasy pills she requested. Monday, May 5: Hoffman goes to police station to plan another bust attempt. Plan is for her to tell Bradshaw and Green she's trying to get cocaine, Ecstasy and handgun for friends coming to town from Miami. s - 1. L. Bradshaw Green Later In April: Someone who'd bought pot from Hoffman before introduces her to brothers-in-law Andrea Green, 25, and Deneilo Bradshaw, 23, who work at Tennessee Street detailing shop where she'd had her 2005 Volvo S40 cleaned. Green spent nearly nine months in prison (2004-05) for selling marijuana and aggravated assault in Taylor County, according to state Department of Corrections. Bradshaw was arrested in April and 4 "N 1 Monday, May 12: Attorney General's Office agrees to review events leading to Hoffman's death after request from Police Chief Dennis Jones and City Manager Anita Favors Thompson. Wednesday, June 4: State Attorney's Office officially charges Green and Bradshaw with armed robbery. Wednesday and Thursday, July 30-31: Leon County grand jury hears testimony. 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7: Pender tells Hoffman this is the night. After 4 p.m.: Hoffman reports for weekly drug test, which she passes by cheating. 6 p.m.: Police listen as Hoffman calls Green. She says she'll pay him $13,000 cash for 1,500 Ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine and 'handgun. She's told to meet the men at Forestmeadows Park, 4750 Meridian Road. Plan has been reviewed by investigator, ' sergeant and captain and approved by lieutenant, deputy chief and chief. Fifteen TPD officers are taking part, plus three DEA agents and one Florida Highway Patrol officer. She's assured she'll be safe. After 6 p.m.: . .Hoffman drives toward Forestmeadows. She's not familiar with area. She has $13,000 in recorded bills. Police are monitoring her through listening device in her purse. Her friend Liza also is driving to Forestmeadows; Hoffman wants her to videotape bust. 6:34 p.m.: She messages her boyfriend: "I just got wired up. Wish me luck. I'm on my way." About 6:40 p.m.: Green calls Hoffman and tells her to forget about Forestmeadows and meet him instead in parking lot of Royalty Plant Nursery, more than a mile north of Forestmeadows. Time unknown: Hoffman calls Pender and says she's following Green and Bradshaw to Gardner Road, another half-mile away. Pender tells her not to. Call ends. Tree canopy keeps DEAflane from tracking her. Only one officer partici- PHIL SEARSDemocrat files The dead end of Gardner Road on Wednesday evening, July 30. Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old confidential Informant for the Tallahassee Police Department, was killed on the road May 7. pating knows where Gardner Road is. 6:41 p.m.: Hoffman messages boyfriend: "It's about to go down." About 6:45 p.m.: Police lose contact with Hoffman. She -doesn't answer phone calls. Listening device on purse isn't working. Note: Phone-call times in this section come fromTPD probable-cause affidavit and grand-jury report AT&T records for Hoffman's cellphone indicate she made no calls on that phone after 5:28 p.m. May 7. They indicate she answered a call (thought to be from Pender) at 6:28 p.m. and three calls thought to be from Green) at 6:30, 6:36 and 6:41. They also indicate she checked voice mail at 6:43 and 6:49 p.m. Ho later calls listed. 6:47 p.m.: Liza receives Hoffman's last message, calling off video: "It's far referring to new location. I'll call you after." 7:15 p.m.: Liza arrives at Forestmeadows, sees no sign of police or Hoffman, then continues north on Meridian. She never sees police or hears siren. Time unknown: Investigators go to dead end of Gardner and find black flip-flop, three .25-caliber rounds (one spent, two live) and tire skid marks. No sign of Hoffman, Green, Bradshaw or their cars. Several hours later: Hoffman's phone found in ditch on Center-ville Road near Pisgah Church Road. - Time unknown: Investigators contact Green's relatives in Perry, who say they'd seen the two men later on night of scheduled bust Relatives say both had lots of cash, later determined to be some of money Hoffman had with her. 2:30 a.m. Thursday, May 8: Two robbery detectives arrive at boyfriend's house. He tells them Hoffman isn't there. 3 a.m.: Police knock on door of house where Liza is staying. She tells them she thought they had Hoffman. 6:30 a.m.: Police announce Hoffman is missing and endangered and foul play is suspected. Noon: v Authorities find Hoffman's Volvo on Industrial Park Drive in Perry. 5 p.m.: FDLE agents arrest Green and Bradshaw in Orlando. 6 a.m. Friday, May 9: Green and Bradshaw booked into Leon County Jail.Then they lead investigators to Hoffman's body in rural Taylor County. ' . i . fm t-m -MniTi imm PHIL SEARSDemocrat files Tallahassee Chief of Police Dennis Jones reads a statement In response to a grand-jury report In the Rachel Hoffman case Aug. 1 at TPD headquarters. Friday, Aug. 1: Grand jury indicts Green and Bradshaw on charge of first-degree murder and blasts TPD's "poor planning and supervision" and "unconscionable" decision" that "handed Ms. Hoffman to Bradshaw and Green to rob and kill her." It recommends TPD "take corrective action immediately ... and whatever ; disciplinary action it deems appropriate." Monday, Aug. 4: TPD places five officers involved in the Hoffman operation on paid leave until internal-affairs investigation is complete. Most times are approximate. Sources: i Probable-cause affidavit used to charge Andrea Green and Deneilo Bradshaw with armed robbery; April affidavit for search warrant for Hoffman's apartment TPD arrest report from February 2007; other court records; Tallahassee Democrat interview with Hoffman's friends; Hoffman's cellphone records; Aug. 1 presentment from grand Jury. MIKE EWEN Democrat files Tallahassee police officers, FDLE agents and Taylor County sheriffs deputies gather on a lonely stretch of dirt road In rural Taylor County. Rachel Hoffman's lifeless body was found on this road early Friday, May 9.

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