Eustis “Tip A Cop” Drops $1,100 In The Bucket

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — The community came in force Friday for Eustis Police Department’s “Tip a Cop” to benefit an EPD event scheduled for Thursday.

Chief Craig Capri, along with Captains G. Winheim and K. Toler, Sgt. B. Jenkins, Cpl. L. Brown and Officers J. Allred, D. Perez and M. Freitas worked the lunch rush at Tillie’s Tavern & Grill, 12 E. Magnolia Street to raise money for “Bike Ride with the Eustis Police Chief” scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

The money raised Friday will benefit Thursday’s event; elementary aged children are invited to meet Capri at Eustis Police Department at 3:30 p.m. with their bicycles and take a ride with him down to Ferran Park where they can visit different vendors and get properly fitted for a bicycle helmet, Allred said. Children without bicycles are also welcome to attend, EPD asks they meet at Ferran Park.

The officers put in work taking orders, running food and even bussing tables while shadowing a Tillie’s waitress. Most customers tipped the police officers and their waitress and at the end of the event, each of the five waitresses donated their own tips to the cops, Tillie’s Tavern & Grill District Manager Tanya Catoe said.

Catoe said it was an easy decision to help the cause when Allred approached them earlier this month. “He came to us with the idea, and we said, absolutely,” she told Lake Legal News.

More than $1,100 was raised Friday, with several $100 bills dropped in the tip bucket the officers took turns carrying around. Many people well-known around Eustis were in attendance, including City Manager Ron Neibert and City Commissioners Willie Hawkins and Nan Cobb — the city’s two newest commissioners.

Photo credit: Lake Legal News

Eustis Police Looking For Information As Man, Shot Twice, Becomes City’s First Shooting Victim Of 2021

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — Eustis Police Department is investigating a shooting that occurred on Kensington Street Tuesday night.

A man suffered two gunshot wounds around 6:20 p.m. and his injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, EPD Chief Craig Capri told Lake Legal News. He was transported to Central Florida Regional Hospital for treatment.

“It looks like the victim is going to pull through,” Capri said.

EPD has developed information the shooting may be a part of an ongoing dispute with another man. Capri (who was on scene of the shooting), said he was comfortable EPD would have a suspect in custody soon. Police spoke with the victim briefly and expect him to cooperate after he receives medical treatment, Capri said. A witness to the shooting is also cooperating with investigators.

This is the first shooting in Eustis in 2021; in 2020 several shootings took place including a shooting at the city’s Light-Up Eustis event in November. A woman, who was not the intended target, was shot in the arm by a stray bullet shortly after the event officially ended. Seventeen-year-old Brycen Williams was later arrested for that shooting.

If you have information on Tuesday night’s shooting, call EPD at 352-357-4121.

Umatilla Teen Keeps Buying Vehicles With Bum Checks — Two Lake Dealerships Hit

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — An unemployed Umatilla man scammed two local car dealerships with nearly $70,000 of worthless checks, and attempted to scam two more, according to a probable cause affidavit.

On April 16, Eustis Police Department responded to Advantage Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, 18311 U.S. Highway 441 on a report of fraud. The general manager told police Prestin Scott Carroll, 19, purchased a 2021 Jeep Wrangler with a check written for $48,940.35 four days earlier. The check was returned the next day for insufficient funds; the manager contacted the bank and found the account the check was written on had been closed.

The responding officer called Carroll and Carroll told him he purchased the Jeep with an insurance settlement from a previous crash and did not know why the bank failed to honor the check. The manager requested Carroll bring in a cashier’s check or return the Jeep by the end of the day and Carroll agreed, according to the affidavit.

The following day an unidentified female left the Jeep in the parking lot.

Just a week later, on April 23, another EPD officer responded to Danny Len Buick GMC, 17605 U.S. Highway 441, also on a fraud complaint. An employee told EPD Carroll came to the dealership on April 17— the same day the Jeep was returned— and wrote a $5,000 check to hold a 2013 Ford F150. On April 19, Carroll returned to the dealership and finished paperwork and wrote a check for the remaining balance on the truck— $14,857.78. The checks were returned as unpaid four days later and the employee attempted to contact Carroll to no avail and then called police.

An EPD corporal contacted Carroll later that same afternoon and he said he had two accounts at the same bank, one of which is closed, and he “must have accidently written checks from the wrong account,” the affidavit states. Carroll later returned the truck.

Carroll’s criminal history showed a prior arrest in Winter Haven and EPD contacted Winter Haven Police Department and found that Carroll had purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro from a dealership in Winter Haven, with a worthless check in the amount of $28,379.59 The report in that case mentioned a similar case in Pasco County and EPD contacted Pasco County Sheriff’s office and found that Carroll had purchased a 2020 Toyota Tacoma from a dealership there and then traded it in on a 2021 Jeep Rubicon. He is alleged to have written two checks for those vehicles totaling nearly $75,000.

Carroll also attempted to purchase a Ford F150 Platinum worth $74,000 from Prestige Ford, 17701 U.S. Highway 441, Eustis but was unsuccessful. Carroll was also unsuccessful at Phillips Buick GMC, 2160 U.S. 441/27, Fruitland Park. A warrant was issued for Carroll’s arrest on April 27 for two counts of grand theft auto and four counts of fraud.  He was nabbed on April 29 and is being held in the Lake County Jail on $35,000 bond.

‘Fraudulent Receipt’ Scam Man Has Used For Years Gets Him Caught At Bealls Store, In Eustis

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — A homeless man who told police he had been using fraudulent receipts “for years to get money” was busted for that offense and possessing methamphetamine Saturday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Eustis Police responded to Bealls, 2802 David Walker Drive on a report of a man using fraudulent receipts. An employee told EPD Darin Clay Grenier, 44, had committed fraud at their other location and the employee had been watching for him. He said Grenier entered the store and took a cooler and jewelry totaling nearly $80 and returned — it using a fraudulent receipt.

The employee approached Grenier, and he gave him $64 back, according to the affidavit. Grenier walked outside and sat on a bench until EPD arrived. When Grenier spoke with officers, he admitted to finding the receipts outside and fraudulently using them to receive cash. “[He] explained he was homeless and has been doing this for years so he can get money,” the arresting officer noted in the affidavit. (Lake County Jail records reveal numerous previous charges against Grenier— including several related to theft and fraudulent refunds.)

Photo Credits: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

EPD searched the backpack Grenier had with him and found an orange pipe with residue and baggie with a substance that field tested positive for methamphetamine. Grenier then returned the remaining cash he received to the Bealls’ employee and he was arrested for use of a fraudulently obtained receipt, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on $4,000 bond.

City Of Eustis To Launch Nationwide Search, Following Current Police Chief’s Resignation

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — The Eustis Police chief abruptly resigned Wednesday, citing “other professional opportunities,” according to a press release.

Chief Gary Calhoun tendered his resignation to City Manager Ron Neibert on Wednesday, Neibert told Lake Legal News Wednesday afternoon. The city posted the press release on the city’s Facebook page and the post had garnered 60 comments at press time Thursday. Several comments questioned whether Calhoun resigned on his own accord or was forced out. Neibert denied Calhoun was forced out.

Calhoun was hired in 2015, and while his official last day is Feb. 5, he is taking leave until then, the press release states. Capt. Ken Birkhofer will serve as EPD’s interim chief.

In the coming weeks, the city will determine the criteria it is looking for in the next chief and they will be looking for someone who will, “take the city in the direction it needs to go,” Neibert told LLN. There will be a national search for a new chief, “as soon as reasonably possible,” he said.

The department has seen a tremendous amount of turnover in the last five years. It has 41 sworn officers, 28 of which (68 percent) have left the agency for various reasons — including seven of them who left to go to other law enforcement agencies, Neibert said. There are currently six open positions that still need to be filled.

Salaries may be the reason the department has seen so much turnover, “I’m aware there is some dissatisfaction with the pay,” Neibert said. There have also been some issues with the command structure, he said.

Starting salary at EPD is $40,123, but the neighboring cities of Mount Dora and Tavares starting salaries are $46,180 and $41,808, respectively. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2019 the population of Mount Dora was 13,897 and the population of Tavares was 16,752. Eustis’ population was 20,700.

Suspect Wanted For Halloween Shooting Flees At Sight Of Eustis Detectives In Unmarked Cars — Chase Ensues

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — A suspect wanted in a Halloween shooting rammed two unmarked Eustis Police Department detectives at a local car dealership, fled the scene, was bitten by a K-9 and tased Thursday afternoon, according to Eustis Police Officer J. Allred.

EPD received information that the suspect was going to be at Prestige Ford, 17701 U.S. Highway 441, Mount Dora. Two EPD detectives in unmarked vehicles went to the dealership to take him into custody. He rammed both detectives’ vehicles and fled the scene, Allred told Lake Legal News. Though the detectives were in unmarked units, the suspect did recognize them and knew they were police officers, Allred said.

PHOTO: Courtesy

A Lake County Sheriff’s deputy was in the area and began pursuing the suspect; no EPD officers were involved in the pursuit, Allred told LLN. The man went to the area of State Road 44 and the Eustis Bypass and he bailed on foot near a neighborhood, The Oaks at Summer Glen. As many as five vehicles were damaged around the time of the incident, but officers are still investigating whether all the damaged vehicles are related.

An LCSO K-9 chased after the man and, “The K-9 bit him,” Allred said. He continued to struggle with law enforcement and was tased before being taken into custody. Allred said the man had four felony warrants, but the charges were unavailable at press time Thursday.

Shortly before 1.p.m. Halloween, EPD responded to the area of Cherry Blossom Court after a witness reported a shooting. The victim — who had already fled the scene — told police he was traveling down Country Club Road approaching the stop sign at Washington Avenue when the passenger car behind him went around him and cut him off, EPD Cpl Lauren Brown told LLN in October. The victim honked at the car and a subject got out; the victim put the car in reverse and struck the vehicle behind him; a man got out of that vehicle and there was an altercation between him and the second subject. The victim fled in his red vehicle and multiple vehicles chased him, possibly as many as four, a witness told LLN. The suspects chased the victim and he turned down Cherry Blossom Court attempting to evade them.

The witness said the victim made a U-turn — Cherry Blossom Court is a dead-end — around a tree with a silver car, a black car, a white car and a blue car chasing behind him. All the vehicles made U-turns in neighboring yards and chased the victim back to the entrance. The victim was fired at five times, the witness said. Multiple shots struck the vehicle and the victim got away unharmed.

This is a developing story.

Man Arrested At Colonial Inn, Eustis, On Charges Involving A Meat Cleaver And Fishing Knife

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida— A man who apparently did not want another man close to him because of “coronavirus,” was arrested Wednesday for threatening the man with a meat cleaver and a fishing knife.

Just before 8:30 p.m. Eustis Police responded to Colonial Inn, 1000 South Bay Street on a report of an aggravated assault. Lake Legal News has reported on several incidents at the motel since 2019, including two separate search warrants.  When an officer arrived, the victim told him a man he knew as “Junior,” later identified as Rolando Trevino Jr., told him to back up and yelled, “You know coronavirus and (expletive,)” and pulled a chrome meat cleaver with a metal handle from his pants and held it chest high with the blade down, according to the arrest affidavit. Trevino, 28, then allegedly held the cleaver over his own head and said, “If this does not kill, this will,” and pulled a black fishing knife from his pants and also held it chest high with the blade down.

The victim said Trevino did not advance toward him, but he was in fear for his life, so he went back to his room and called the police. Officers found Trevino in downtown Eustis riding a bicycle and holding the meat cleaver. After detaining him, he first told EPD nothing happened and then said he did have a run in with the victim, but never pulled a weapon and told police had he used a weapon, he would have made sure the victim was hurt. Police searched Trevino and found two knives, including the black fishing knife described by the victim.

Trevino was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released Saturday on $2,000 bond.

Eustis High School Parents Learn Of Student’s Arrest — Self-Proclaimed ‘Folk Nation Gangsta Disciple’ Had Gun At School

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida— On the first day back from holiday break, a 16-year-old Eustis High School student was arrested for having a loaded gun on campus Monday.

Jaiden Dylan Vickers, 16, is facing serious charges after pills and a loaded 9mm Kel-Tec handgun was found in his backpack that he left in a classroom during basketball practice, according to an arrest affidavit.  Three pills were also found in a pill bottle in the backpack and the label on the bottle did not match Vickers’ name. One pill was an allergy medication, one was Ritalin and the third was Zolpidem, the affidavit states.

Vickers, a self-identified gang member, told the school resource deputy (SRD) he belongs to “Folk Nation, Gangsta Disciples” and denied knowledge of the gun. The SRD spoke to Vickers’ father and he said the boy posted a photo of himself holding a gun on Instagram and had his phone taken away as punishment, according to the affidavit.  

Vickers then changed his story and said he used a rope with a magnet to retrieve the gun from Lake Eustis after one of his friends fired it, and it fell in the lake. Vickers was arrested for possession of a firearm on school grounds and two counts of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. He was transported to the Lake County Jail and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

A recorded message went out to parents of Eustis High School students late Monday afternoon, informing them a gun was found in a backpack on the main campus. “No one was threatened or injured, however bringing a weapon to school is a violation of our code of student conduct,” the message stated in part. 

Eustis Man Allegedly Invites Juvenile Runaways To His House To Smoke Pot — Sex Investigation Ongoing

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — A Eustis man who was armed with two knives and a firearm when police found him with two juvenile females— one of whom was overdosing— has been released on $7,000 bond after being arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and felony child abuse on Wednesday.

An officer with Eustis Police Department was conducting a property check early Wednesday morning at Woodland Center, 1950 North State Road 19, when he found a 16-year-old girl sitting on a bench at the plaza. The girl told EPD she ran away from a local group home, along with two other 16-year-old girls, and they walked to a gas station where they met Joel Rivera, 39, according to an arrest affidavit.

Rivera invited the trio of girls to his house and they walked to the house, which EPD later found on Frosti Way. The girl told police the other two girls were at Rivera’s house and one of them may be overdosing on cold medicine. The girl was unable to tell officers where Rivera’s house was located, but did show them, the affidavit states.

EPD arrived at Rivera’s home and Rivera allowed them to look for the two girls. Officers went into a bedroom and found one girl on the floor and one sitting on the bed. One of the girls “appeared dazed and confused and (redacted) was unable to answer simple questions,” the affidavit states. Due to heavy redaction in the affidavit, it is unclear if the officer was referring to the girl on the bed, or the girl on the floor.

Police detained Rivera and found two knives and a loaded firearm in his pocket; Rivera claimed he grabbed the gun when officers knocked on the door because he did not know who was at the door, the affidavit states. Police rendered aid to the girl who appeared to be overdosing and the second girl fled but was quickly apprehended. She told police the first girl took eight cold pills before the trio met Rivera at a nearby gas station. Rivera invited the girls back to his house to “hang out” and smoke marijuana and the group walked to Rivera’s house, where they smoked “a lot” of marijuana, one of the girls said.

One of the girls, whose name is also redacted, told officers Rivera touched her hips and began to kiss her and she was “too high” to say anything. She said Rivera had sex with her and that it was the first time she ever had sexual intercourse.

Rivera was questioned and he told police the girls told him they were 18, 19 and 20 and he did invite them to his house; once there one of the girls started acting strange and he called a friend and said he thought she might be overdosing. The unknown friend told Rivera to “watch” her and call 9-1-1 if her condition worsened. Rivera told police he approached one of the girls and began to “make out with her but nothing more.”

Rivera was arrested for felony child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Rivera’s clothing and the victim’s clothing were collected and submitted into evidence, according to the booking sheet.

 Lake Legal News asked EPD why Rivera was not charged with a sex crime. “The investigation is ongoing,” said EPD Cpl. Lauren Brown.

Home Invasion Investigation Underway In Eustis

The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.

EUSTIS, Florida — A home invasion Monday night is under investigation, according to Eustis Police Officer J. Allred.

EPD responded to a complaint of multiple gunshots in the area of Tall Pines Villas, 1000 Wall Street around 11:30 p.m. Monday. Officers were flagged down in the area of Pine Avenue, according to a press release. The victims told police two black males, over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds entered their home and demanded a female victim come with them.

The suspects escorted her outside, but then allowed her to return to the home, Allred said. They were both wearing black hoodies and black neck gaiters; one is described as light-skinned with a bald head, and the second man had darker skin. Both men have a muscular build, the victim told police.  

If you have information on this home invasion, call EPD Detective Carpenter at 352-357-4121. 

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