Astatula

Tavares Police and LCSO Join Forces for Operation Aware

Operation Aware will provide wristbands and a database for first responders and the special needs community.

TAVARES, Florida—Two law enforcement agencies have joined forces to provide a new tool to the community that will give first responders valuable information when responding to calls for service in the special needs community.

Nearly a year in the making, Tavares Police Department began its Operation Aware initiative in November 2021 and has since teamed up with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to provide wristbands to members of the community that may require a different response from law enforcement.

“We are big on community policing,” TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake last year. “There are always ways we can be better,” she said, “and there are always opportunities for the community to teach us how to better serve them.”

Operation Aware is a “total approach” to the issues facing the special needs community and will provide education, outreach and follow up,” Sullivan said.

Newly-appointed Tavares Police Chief Sarah Coursey worked with Sullivan to get this program up and running. “Operation Aware is near and dear to my heart; it gives us the opportunity to serve our community in a unique way when our response requires a different approach,” Coursey told Inside Lake.

The wristbands are available for community members who have intellectual and developmental disorders, including, but not limited to, autism, dementia. PTSD and Alzheimer’s, according to Sullivan. Loved ones and caregivers are encouraged to reach out to TPD or LCSO and register special needs individuals to get them a wristband and enter them into the database.  

The bright blue wristbands will immediately let law enforcement officers know they are interacting with an individual with special needs, and provide them with vital information including names, addresses, emergency contacts and medical conditions. Officers and dispatchers will have access to the information and individual addresses will be flagged so the officer is aware of any special circumstances before they arrive to the call. Officers will know if the individual is non-verbal, has a sensitivity to lights and sirens and any other pertinent information that would be helpful to officers. They will also help reunification by giving officers and deputies information immediately that can be shared with media outlets and on social media, Sullivan said.  

The wristbands will also be a tool for the public; they will have a number and a QR code that can be scanned and will inform the public to call 9-1-1. The wristband never needs to be charged.    To register, please visit https://tavares.org/1327/Operation-Aware or https://lcso.org/oa/

More Charges For Armed Robbery Duo

TAVARES, Florida—Two men facing numerous charges for robbing three stores in Lake County have now been charged with robbing one more.

 Dustin “Chico” Perdue, 27, of Tavares and Patrick “YG” Brown, 22, were arrested early Aug. 5 after an Astatula traffic stop led to evidence in a robbery of a Clermont gas station just 23 minutes before the stop.

They now stand accused of robbing Golden Ox Liquors 305 East Burleigh Boulevard, Tavares around 10 p.m. June 30. Perdue and Brown are accused of approaching the cash register, pointing guns at the victim and demanding money. The victim complied and the robbers grabbed an undisclosed amount of cash and tried to flee through the Golden Ox Bar that was filled with patrons. They realized their mistake and fled through the front door, according to a report.

Patrick Brown, left; Dustin Perdue PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Perdue and Brown have been charged in four robberies, including stores Clermont, Mount Dora, unincorporated Mount Dora and Tavares. They are being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Perdue is also suspected of murdering Alejandro “Alex” Garcia at Caroline Court Apartments in Tavares on April 8.

Pair of Accused Robbers Facing More Charges, One Suspected of Tavares Murder, Police Say

MOUNT DORA, Florida—The duo accused of robbing a Clermont gas station last week are facing more charges in connection with robberies in the City of Mount Dora and unincorporated Mount Dora and Tavares Police say one of the men is a suspect in a murder.

Dustin “Chico” Perdue, 27, of Tavares and Patrick “YG” Brown, 22, were arrested early Aug. 5 after an Astatula traffic stop led to evidence in a robbery of a Clermont gas station just 23 minutes before the stop.   

In that case, Perdue and Brown stand accused of pointing guns at a store clerk at Circle K, 190 U.S. Highway 27, Clermont, and demanding money just before 11 p.m. Aug. 3. The clerk opened two registers and the suspects stole cash and change, some of it rolled, totaling $134 according to an arrest affidavit.

The red Volkswagen Beetle they were riding in was pulled over for an equipment violation by Astatula Police Department and a gun was spotted in plain view. Upon searching the car, police found a second gun, clothes and rolled change consistent with the robbery. The pair were arrested and held in the Lake County Jail on $101,000 bond. Inside Lake is not naming the driver of the car because she has not been charged with a crime. She is cooperating with law enforcement, according to affidavits in the case.

On Tuesday, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office added an armed robbery to charge to the pair, stemming from a robbery in unincorporated Mount Dora Aug. 2. LCSO responded to Triangle Food Mart, 3865 North Highway 19A on a report of an armed robbery.

The victim told deputies two black males wearing masks, hoodies and gloves entered the store, brandished handguns and made threats. They took $200 worth of Newport cigarettes, $40 and one of the victim’s cell phones. They fled the store and got into a red Volkswagen Beetle.  

Patrick Brown, left; Dustin Perdue PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Also on Tuesday, Mount Dora Police Department charged the pair in connection with a robbery in its city. According to that affidavit, on July 30, Perdue and Brown robbed Little Sammy’s, 446 North Highland Street. In that case, the pair is alleged to have entered the store armed with their faces covered and demanded money from the two clerks. They took cash from the registers and several cartons of Newport cigarettes and demanded the clerks open the safe. The clerks said they had no way to open the safe and one of the robbers jiggled the handle with his bare hand, according to the affidavit. MDPD collected DNA evidence from the handle and are awaiting results from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Both suspects saw one of the clerks attempt to push the panic button on his belt and they fled the store. As they ran out, one of them, later identified as Perdue, struck the victim across the face with his gun. The entire incident was captured on the store’s video surveillance system.  One suspect was wearing a pair of black Nikes with red soles and the shoes were later tied to Brown.

In the case, Perdue and Brown are each facing an additional armed robbery charge and Perdue is also facing a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Detectives with MDPD, LCSO and Tavares Police Department interviewed the driver of the Beetle earlier this week and she admitted to being the driver in five armed robberies with Perdue and Brown—three in Tavares, in addition to both robberies in Mount Dora. She said she never profited from the crimes and was only the driver. She also gave detectives details about the crimes and identified Brown’s shoes, according to the affidavit. She is being treated as a witness at this time, but may be charged later, detectives told her.

Image of some of Dustin Perdue’s tattoos. PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Perdue soon may have a much more serious charge to face. TPD Lt. Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake he is a suspect in double shooting that killed a man in April. Alejandro “Alex” Garcia Jr., 29, was killed around 8 p.m. April 8 at Caroline Court Apartments, 1000 East Caroline Street. Another man was shot multiple times and survived his wounds.  

Garcia’s murder was just two months after Perdue was released from state prison after serving nearly 10 years for burglary and theft charges.  

Brown also recently served time in state prison; he was released just over three months ago after serving just under two years for burglary and grand theft charges out of Polk County. He was released after Garcia’s murder and is not a suspect.

Perdue and Brown are both being held in LCJ on no bond. If you have any information on Garcia’s murder or any of the robberies, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.  

Our coverage on Perdue and Brown’s arrests last week. https://insidelake.com/2022/08/05/pair-of-armed-robbers-suspected-in-multiple-crimes-arrested-police-say/

Pair of Armed Robbers Suspected in Multiple Crimes Arrested, Police Say

CLERMONT, Florida—Two men suspected in multiple armed robberies, who were both released from state prison this year, are behind bars on $101,000 bond, according to Lake County Jail online booking records.

Dustin “Chico” Perdue, 27, of Tavares and Patrick “YG” Brown Jr., 22, of Auburndale were arrested early Thursday morning following an armed robbery at Circle K, 190 U.S. Highway 27, Clermont just before 11 p.m. Wednesday, according to their arrest affidavits.

Two black males with their faces covered were wearing dark clothes and gloves when they entered the store near the corner East Grand Highway, pointed guns at the store clerk and demanded money. The clerk opened two registers and the suspects stole cash and change, some of it rolled, totaling $134 according to the affidavit.

The suspects, one tall and thin, the second shorter with a medium build, both pointed handguns at the clerk and one of them put a red bag on the counter that was used to collect the money, video surveillance shows. One of the suspects appeared to have a tan-colored hoodie on underneath his dark shirt, with the hoodie covering his head. The pair fled on foot and a K9 tracked the scent to a nearby business plaza and stopped, indicating the duo got into a vehicle and fled the scene, the affidavit states.

Perdue is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds; Brown is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds, according to LCJ online records.

Twenty-three minutes after the robbery, a vehicle was pulled over in Astatula for an equipment violation and Perdue and Brown were found in the vehicle, along with a female driver. Inside Lake is not naming the driver because she has not been charged with a crime. Twenty-three minutes is consistent with the amount of time it would take to drive from the robbery scene to the location of the traffic stop, a Clermont Police detective noted in the affidavit.

A handgun was spotted in plain view in the front passenger floorboard at Brown’s feet, along with a bag of marijuana in his lap, according to the affidavit.

Astatula Police searched the vehicle and found a red backpack that contained gloves, dark-colored pants, long sleeve shirts, a tan hoodie, loose and rolled change, in addition to a second handgun, according to the affidavit.

Brown and Perdue were placed under arrest for armed robbery, two counts of possession of a weapon or ammunition by a convicted felon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and petit theft. and transported to LCJ. The CPD detective asked both defendants be held on a “no bond” status, however each defendant’s bond is set at $101,000.

Sources have told Inside Lake the duo is suspected of multiple armed robberies and other crimes in several cities and LCSO’s jurisdiction. Inside Lake will be following these cases closely and will publish a follow-up if more charges are added.

Purdue was released from prison in February after serving nearly 10 years for a variety of burglary and grand theft charges; Brown was released from prison just over three months ago after serving just under two years for burglary and grand theft charges out of Polk County.

Yearlong Investigation Nets 13 Pounds of Various Narcotics, Nearly a Quarter of a Million Dollars and Guns, 2 Arrested

ASTATULA, Florida—Last month during a press conference about a record-breaking drug bust, Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell had a message for drug dealers in Lake County, “To be continued.” And on Wednesday he kept his word.

A yearlong investigation by LCSO, The City/County Investigative Bureau and Homeland Security Investigations into an Astatula man culminated in a search warrant early Wednesday morning at 22630 County Road 561, Astatula where detectives found a “one-stop shop of narcotics,” and arrested Eugene Isom, 44, and Marie Richardson, 42, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said in a press release.

Detectives, who were assisted by the SWAT team, searched the home and found 1 pound of crack cocaine, 2 pounds of fentanyl, 8 pounds of cocaine, 2 pounds of methamphetamine, 25 Tramadol pills, seven firearms, two vehicles and $218,000 cash.

Eugene Isom PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Detectives also found “everything needed to distribute large amounts of illegal drugs,” including presses, digital scales and packaging materials, Herrell said.

Isom is facing a litany of charges including tampering with evidence, trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in fentanyl, possession of marijuana, possession ammunition by a felon, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $421,000 bond. Richardson is facing the same drug charges. She is being held on $406,000 bond and her mugshot was available at press time.

“This case is only part of an ongoing, continuing effort to combat those who deal drugs in our communities and its success would not have been possible without the support and assistance from our partners with the Clermont, Eustis, Mount Dora, and Leesburg Police Departments, as well as those from Homeland Security Investigations,” Herrell said.

This bust comes a little over a month after LCSO wrapped up “Operation Sneak-A-Peek,” a four-month operation that resulted in 27 arrests including three high-level dealers and the county’s largest fentanyl haul to date.

Inside Lake’s previous story on Operation Sneak-A-Peek

Inside Lake’s previous story on Operation Sneak-A-Peek https://insidelake.com/2022/06/30/team-effolcrt-in-operation-sneak-a-peek-nets-largest-fentanyl-haul-in-county-history/

Man Arrested more than a Dozen Times since 2016 Accused of Fleeing Tavares Police

TAVARES, Florida—A man who is no stranger to the law has been arrested again—his 15th felony arrest in Lake County since 2016, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.

Austin Dean Chaudoin, 26, of Astatula is accused of fleeing Tavares Police officers Saturday and having drugs on him when a detective caught up with him Sunday, an arrest affidavit states.

A TPD detective was getting gas Saturday around 1 a.m. when he spotted Chaudoin pull up to a nearby gas pump. The detective recognized Chaudoin from past involvements and found the tag was expired on the white Dodge Durango Chaudoin was driving. A marked unit attempted to pull Chaudoin over on U.S. Highway 441 and Palm Gardens Street and he failed to yield and took off speeding, according to the affidavit.

Officers deactivated their emergency lights and sirens and terminated the traffic stop, driving the opposite way of Chaudoin.

The TPD detective went back to the gas station and Chaudoin was identified by the clerk and on video surveillance later that day. Around 3 a.m. Sunday, the detective was attempting to locate Chaudoin, and found him and the Durango at Rosewood Condominiums. Chaudoin was taken into custody and searched. TPD found a glass pipe, syringe and bag of white powder in his left front pocket and a small bag containing methamphetamine in his right pocket.

The detective asked Chaudoin if the white powder was “fetty,” a street term for fentanyl and he nodded his head, the affidavit states.

Chaudoin was arrested for fleeing and eluding, possession of methamphetamine, possession of fentanyl and possession of paraphernalia. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $17,000 bond.

Correction: Due to a typo, the original headline was incorrect and did not match information contained in the story. The current headline reflects the correction.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Detective Fired Following Internal Investigation into 2 Off-Duty Traffic Stops

TAVARES, Florida—A Lake County Sheriff’s Office detective was fired earlier this month following an internal affairs investigation into two separate traffic stops by Eustis Police Department.

Kejuan Monroe was a backseat passenger in a vehicle pulled over for speeding on Bay Street on Feb. 26, according to the internal affairs report. When the EPD officer activated her emergency lights, the car, being driven by a friend of Monroe’s failed to immediately stop and continued for nearly half of a mile before finally pulling over.

When the EPD officer approached the car, Monroe stuck his LCSO identification card out of the window, “I’m with SIU (Special Investigations Unit) with the SO (Sheriff’s Office,)” and told the officer nothing illegal was in the car and the driver did not have any warrants. “Nothing illegal in the car, nothing like that,” Monroe said. There were two more passengers in the car and one has a criminal record, including trafficking in MDMA, according to the report.

The driver refused the EPD officer’s request to search and an EPD K9 corporal arrived. All of the occupants exited the vehicle, except Monroe, “There’s no need for that,” Monroe told an EPD sergeant. The sergeant stated Monroe was interfering and Monroe stepped out of the vehicle and began openly discussing his undercover work at LCSO in front of the vehicle’s occupants and he identified a Eustis undercover officer, the report states.

After the K9 was deployed, it alerted on the vehicle. Later, in an interview with LCSO, the EPD K9 corporal said Monroe began acting “strangely” when he deployed his dog and Monroe began engaging the corporal “as if to distract him from the search,” the report states.

Upon searching the vehicle, officers found a digital scale with cocaine residue, multiple open containers of alcohol, ammunition and a firearm concealed under a blanket on the floorboard, near Monroe’s feet. All the occupants in the car were given open container citations, and Monroe failed to inform EPD officers the gun was in the car.

“Detective Monroe had ample time throughout the traffic stop to notify officers about the concealed firearm at his feet, but failed to do so,” the investigator noted in the report.

An EPD sergeant called an LCSO sergeant to the scene and she talked to each occupant about Monroe’s involvement and each one gave a different story. Monroe first said he only knew the driver of the vehicle but later admitted he knew all the occupants, including a passenger who has a criminal history, according to the report.

An investigator interviewed Monroe, who said he was out with friends drinking at two different restaurants in Tavares. The friends left when one of them fell ill and Monroe said he did not have a ride home, so he asked his friend he had known since childhood to take him home. “I did have a couple drinks. I will say my judgment was skewed and I should have went home when my homeboy went home,” he told the investigator.

Monroe claimed he did not know what was in the vehicle and the driver began driving slowly when they were lit up by EPD and the passengers were “panicking,” and the firearm “came out of nowhere” and they “tucked it” beside Monroe. Monroe said he panicked and did not know what to do and immediately put his sheriff’s office identification out the window because he knew EPD would find the gun. When the investigator asked why he did not inform the EPD officers about the gun, he said, “Honestly, I wish I could tell you. I was so flabbergasted and so (expletive) off at the fact somebody I trusted would put me in that situation knowing what I do. I was more shocked than anything.” Monroe indicated he was very upset with himself for not alerting the officers to the weapon.

On March 2, Monroe was placed on administrative suspension with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. On March 8, Monroe was pulled over again by Eustis Police Department. Monroe was driving his LCSO unmarked vehicle when he was pulled over for speeding and “unprofessional towards Eustis officers.” His vehicle was taken from him as a result of that traffic stop.

On March 28, Monroe tendered an apology letter to an LCSO captain and took responsibility for his actions and stated the “two occasions were not indicative of my professional and personal character, and I sincerely apologize for that. Please do not give up on me.”

Nearly a month later, on April 25, Monroe was informed the allegations of three policy violations, performing any acts bringing office into disrepute; conduct unbecoming of an officer; and association with known criminals, were sustained. Monroe was fired on May 5.

Third Annual Back the Blue Walk Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Hundreds of people are expected to attend the third annual Lake County Backs the Blue Walk scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Tavares’ Wooton Park.

In its third year, the walk began in 2019 to show support for law enforcement during a time when the “defund the police” movement was making its way across the country, event organizer Shannon Cook told Inside Lake. Representatives from several law enforcement agencies and numerous public officials are expected to be in attendance.

“The good ones needed to know they were appreciated,” Cook said.

Cook has always had respect for law enforcement officers and the job they do, she said. She grew up and was close friends with Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 9, 2005. Koester, who was 33 at the time, and two other deputies were ambushed while responding to a domestic violence call. All three deputies were shot, and Koester succumbed to his injuries; the other two deputies recovered. Jason Wheeler was shot and paralyzed during his capture and convicted in Koester’s death.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Cook was also close to Chris Daniels, who was serving as Lake County Sheriff when he was tragically killed in a charity bus race in 2006.

“Almost the entire time my son played baseball; Chris Daniels was his coach.” Cook said.

Cook told Inside Lake it is important the community show its support for all of the good officers and those who were lost in the line of duty. She is hoping for a large turnout Saturday, last year’s efforts were hampered by unusually cold weather and it was held Easter weekend.

Saturday’s walk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Wooton Park, 100 E. Ruby Street; donuts and coffee are being provided by Ralph Smith of Lake Tire & Auto before the event. Walkers will travel down Ruby Street to LCSO and then onto the Tavares Public Safety Complex before returning to Wooten Park for a hot dog lunch provided by Pamela O’Donnell and Vic Donahey of Vic’s Embers Catering.

Cook suggests participants use street parking in downtown Tavares, or park in the Tavares Parking Garage, 200 North Sinclair Avenue.

Free Sealing and Expungement Clinic Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Lake County residents with minor criminal histories have a unique opportunity to quickly and efficiently expunge or seal their record Saturday if they qualify, at the first-ever Sealing and Expungement clinic offered here.

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida is teaming up with the Lake County Bar Association and Lake Young Lawyers Division to offer this free 4-hour clinic scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lake County Courthouse, 550 West Main Street, Tavares. Lawyers and representatives from numerous government agencies will be on hand to help participants navigate through the process, which often can be difficult to do on their own or expensive to hire a private attorney, said Taylor Tremel, an attorney who will be available on-site Saturday, to help. Lake County Clerk of Court Gary Cooney is waiving certain fees and providing the space for the clinic, Tremel said.

Tremel, who has served as an assistant state attorney and a public defender, is now in private practice with the firm Bowen & Schroth in Eustis and is enthusiastic about being a part of this program. “We saw that there was a need, and I thought it was a worthwhile thing to take on” he told Inside Lake.

“This brings everybody together under one roof to help and answer questions. It’s not very often all these groups get together to do something like this,” Tremel said.

Many crimes are not eligible to be sealed or expunged, including violent offenses, Tremel said. If a person was adjudicated guilty for a crime, they are not eligible either.

Participants’ criminal case must have occurred in Lake County to partake in the event and are asked to pre-register at Clinic Screening (legalserver.org) and those who do, may qualify for assistance with the $75 Florida Department of Law Enforcement application fee. Tremel said participants should not overstate their income or overrepresent how much money they have in the bank.

Tremel is hoping for a large turnout Saturday, “It’s a really awesome event,” he said. “I think it’s something that can be done annually.”

Groveland Man Dies After Truck Overturns Near Astatula

ASTATULA, Florida—A Groveland man died Wednesday after the semi he was driving overturned around 10:20 a.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Kim Montes.

The 58-year-old man was northbound on County Road 48 near Ranch Road when he lost control and overturned, Montes said. The man, who was wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead on the scene.

The crash remains under investigation.  

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