Lady Lake

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/

Leesburg Woman Killed, and Man Seriously Injured in Hit-and-Run Crash Sunday, FHP Searching for Vehicle

LADY LAKE, Florida—A 40-year-old woman was killed, and a 31-year-old man was seriously injured when a vehicle, possibly a Jeep Cherokee, struck the pair while they were walking northbound on Rolling Acres Road, south of West Lakeview Street just after 9:45 p.m. Sunday, according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

The pair, both of Leesburg, were walking on the grass shoulder of Rolling Acres Road, when the vehicle ran of the road and struck them, Crescenzi said in a press release. The vehicle fled the scene.

The woman was pronounced dead, and the man was airlifted to Ocala Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. FHP traffic homicide investigators found vehicle parts on the scene and believe they may be from a 2014 to 2018 Jeep Cherokee. The vehicle should be missing a passenger side mirror and have right front headlight damage, Crescenzi said.

If you have information about this crash, call FHP at 407-737-2213 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.   

Forensic Analysis Reveals 10 Kiddie Porn Images on Lady Lake Man’s Electronic Devices

LADY LAKE, Florida—A Lady Lake man has bonded out of the Lake County Jail on $20,000 bond after a search warrant at his home revealed at least 10 images of child pornography containing male and female children as young as 1 year old, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Acting on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) began investigating images that that were uploaded to from IP address that belongs to Michael Pollitt, 61, of Lady Lake, the affidavit states.

On Wednesday, FDLE served a search warrant at Pollitt’s home on First Avenue and recovered two laptops and a phone belonging to Pollitt. The devices underwent a forensic analysis and at least 10 images were found depicting boys and girls, some as young as 1 year old and wearing diapers, according to the affidavit. The descriptions of the children are extremely graphic.

Pollitt, who has a juvenile living in his home, was arrested Tuesday for 10 counts of possession of sexual performance by a child. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 19.  

LCSO Sergeant Paid Prostitute $80 for Trysts, Unsealed Court Documents Reveal

TAVARES, Florida—A Lake County Sheriff’s Office sergeant arrested last month for soliciting prostitution paid the person $80 per encounter, according to a probable cause affidavit unsealed by County Judge Sarah Jones earlier this month.

LCSO was tipped off to Sgt. Scott Stone’s activities by a woman who told an LCSO captain and a detective her friend of four years confided in her that a “Sgt. Stone” with LCSO was paying the friend to have sex with him in public places. The friend is not named in the affidavit and is referred to as he/she or “the source” throughout the affidavit. Inside Lake will be referring to this person as “the source” for the remainder of this article.

After conducting surveillance on the source, the captain and detective approached the source at a store and conducted an interview. The source said the pair met on a domestic dispute call and exchanged numbers in June 2021. Within two days Stone sent the source a photo of him standing in front of a mirror completely nude, according to the affidavit.

The source did not send a return photo and said about a day later Stone contacted the source to hang out. The source agreed and Stone picked the source up in his personal vehicle. Stone asked the source if they were interested in sex and the source agreed. The source asked where at Stone reportedly replied Home Depot and they stopped at Circle K at the corner of County Road 44 and County Road 473 and Stone made a withdrawal from the ATM.  

The couple went to Home Depot and proceeded to have unprotected oral sex and intercourse, according to the affidavit. Stone then paid the source $80.

In January Stone again contacted the source and the pair met at Walgreens, 11101 U.S. Highway 441 and attempted intercourse. Again, Stone paid $80. Later in January, Stone met the source at an abandoned home in Leesburg while on duty; the home was outside his assigned sector. The source said Stone was in full uniform and parked his marked patrol unit behind the home. The pair touched each other, and Stone did not remove his uniform, and told the source he was nervous because he was on duty.

Stone was interviewed in late April and admitted having sex with the source but denied paying for it. He was asked if he had phone conversations with any known criminals or prostitutes and he reportedly said, “to his knowledge nothing he wouldn’t be afraid Jesus would see.” Investigators found text messages between Stone and the source.

Stone: When is the last time you had sex?

Source: Last night.

Stone: That’s really hot!! For pay?

Source: I have not showered yet but was gonna bath (sic) but I can wait just for you.

Source: Yes.

Source: I have bills.

Stone: Ugh. That’s SO SO HOT!!

A warrant was issued for Stone’s arrest in July and Stone, a 17-year veteran of LCSO turned himself in to the Lake County Jail, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said in a press release last month. He was released from LCJ on $1,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Stone is currently under internal investigation and is suspended without pay, LCSO Lt. Fred Jones said.  

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.

Man Vandalizes Mom’s Apartment, Texts Her to Tell Her About it

LADY LAKE, Florida—A Fort Pierce man destroyed his mom’s apartment and texted her to tell her about it, according to an arrest affidavit.

Brett Barton Moorhouse, 34, texted his mom Sunday afternoon and said he was headed over, she told Lady Lake Police. The woman told Moorhouse he was not welcome, and he later texted her and stated, “Go check your apartment I made it up just for you. I admit everything 100%.”

The victim sent family members to check on her home and when they arrived, they found the door unlocked, the affidavit states. They opened the door, found the apartment in disarray, and called 9-1-1.

LLPD officers arrived and found that an unlocked window was likely the entry point; a knife was lying on the bed in the master bedroom and the mattress was stabbed multiple times. A fan was broken, and two televisions were broken, likely by being punched, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit. Food was also dumped from the refrigerator onto the floor.

Several hours later officers responded to a report of a suicidal male at a business on Avenida Central and Moorhouse was identified and taken into custody. He was arrested for burglary and felony criminal mischief and is being held in the Lake County Jail on $12,000 bond. 

License Plate Reader Alerts Police to Stolen Vehicle, 130 Cocaine Pills Found  

LADY LAKE, Florida—A Georgia man busted Wednesday with 130 pressed pills that tested positive for cocaine is facing a trafficking charge and being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond due to a probation violation.

Corey Michael Payton, 43, of Douglas, Georgia, was pulled over near the intersection of U.S. Highway 27/441 and Water Oak Boulevard after a license plate reader alerted Lady Lake Police a stolen vehicle had entered the town, according to an arrest affidavit.

PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Lady Lake Police detained Payton and began to inventory the vehicle before having it towed and found a prescription bottle in the center console that contained 130 pills that resembled Xanax bars, the arresting officer noted in the affidavit. The pills were filed tested and tested positive for cocaine. Payton’s legitimate prescription was also located in the console.

Payton told police a friend of his lent him the vehicle and he knew the pills were in the console, but they did not belong to him. “Based on the statements made in reference to the stolen vehicle, there was insufficient evidence to proceed further with charging Mr. Payton with grand theft auto,” the officer stated in the affidavit.

Payton was arrested for trafficking cocaine and transported to LCJ. He is also facing a violation of probation and is being held on no bond.

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.

Trio in Car Accused of Trying to Run Deputy Over Facing Litany of Charges

LEESBURG, Florida—The trio accused of being in a car that attempted to run over a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy are facing a litany of charges, according to several booking sheets.

Jeffrey Elijah Gilbert, 20, of Orlando is facing the most serious charge, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a motor vehicle, after being accused of being the driver in Monday’s incident.

According to LCSO, a deputy attempted a traffic stop near Water Oak Country Club Estates on a white Dodge Charger believed to be involved in a shoplifting incident at Walmart, 2501 Citrus Boulevard, Leesburg. Gilbert, along with passengers, Pierre D’Haiti, of Orlando, and Calvin Anthony Williams, of Davenport, both 20, fled the stop in a white Dodge Charger after trying to run the deputy over to “facilitate an escape,” a detective noted in Gilbert’s affidavit.

As the car came towards him, the deputy fired two shots, striking two of the car’s occupants. The Charger fled and the trio abandoned the car near Country Life Mobile Home Park and fled on foot across U.S. Highway 27 into a Dunkin Donuts near the corner of U.S. Highway 27 and County Road 48. When law enforcement arrived, they found Gilbert and D’Haiti in the bathroom, along with scales, a glass jar and two gallon-sized bags of marijuana, the affidavit states.

Gilbert is facing one charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, fraudulent use of a credit card and criminal use of personal identification; He is being held on no bond.

 D’Haiti is facing one charge each of, possession of marijuana over 20 grams, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of another person’s identification, illegal use of a credit card and petit theft; he is being held on $9,000 bond.

Williams is facing four petit theft charges, one charge of scheme to defraud, four charges of illegal use of a credit card, four charges ID theft, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, three counts of violation of probation from an Orange County case and a pending charge that was not available at press time; he is being held on no bond.

Two Suspects Shot After Driving Towards LCSO Deputy

LEESBURG, Florida—Two people were shot by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy after the vehicle they were in drove towards him when he was outside of his vehicle, according to LCSO Lt. John Herrell.

LCSO deputies were looking for a suspect vehicle after a stolen credit card was used at Walmart, 2501 Citrus Boulevard, Leesburg. Deputies spotted the vehicle in Lady Lake and attempted a traffic stop, but the vehicle fled, Herrell said in a press release.

“At some point during the chase, the deputy, after getting out of his vehicle, reportedly fired shots at the suspect vehicle as it drove towards him,” Herrell said.

The three suspects fled and abandoned their vehicle at Country Life Mobile Home Park, 3813 Victor Boulevard, Leesburg. Numerous witnesses told Inside Lake the car was a white Dodge Charger, but LCSO has not confirmed that. The trio were apprehended at Dunkin Donuts, near the corner of U.S. Highway 27 and County Road 48.

Two of the suspects were transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with what appears to be non-life-threatening injuries, Herrell said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating.

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