Walton County deputies have been extremely busy over the past few days. As Spring Break kicks into high gear, the numbers of calls and arrests have soared. Starting on Friday and ending on Monday, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Communications Center answered approximately 1494 calls for service. Last year’s numbers for the same weekend: 1773. Of the calls answered this past weekend, there have been 178 Notices to Appear issued for underage drinking. Although the number of calls for service is down from last year, the deputies are working hard to keep law and order on South Walton beaches. Last night, over 30 individuals were arrested and booked into the Walton County Department of Corrections for underage drinking at an open house party. Underage drinking wasn’t the only thing these visitors to Walton County were doing: they trashed the rental home at 110 Miami Street.
Also yesterday afternoon at 5 p.m., deputies were called to the area of Shipwatch Condos in Miramar Beach in reference to illegal parking. Several vehicles were found blocking access of an entrance. Upon arrival deputies discovered another house party. Individuals carded were all of legal drinking age but that didn’t stop the property manager and homeowner from evicting the vacationers from the property. The WCSO stood by while approximately 150 individuals were forced to leave.
Sheriff Adkinson is keeping his promise from the Operation Dry Spring press conference he held last week with Sheriff Ashley and Sheriff McKeithen. The meeting with the media detailed what each of the Agencies represented are planning during Spring Break, especially with the occurrence of synthetic drugs and alcohol use. During the press conference Adkinson stated, “We are going to be completely zero tolerant in dealing with this issue and completely proactive.”
On March 3, 2013 an investigation by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) began at 240 Four Mile Road in Freeport. Deputies were at the home for an unrelated matter when deputies observed 6 horses that appeared to be in poor health. On March 4th, deputies returned with a vet and animal control officers to assess the conditions of the horses. Four of the horses were immediately removed and transported to Alaqua Animal Refuge.
Investigators then began to look further into the maltreatment of the horses, as well as other animals present at the residence. On March 7th, authorities removed the other two horses, four puppies and one piglet. Two arrests were made during the animal abuse investigation. Crystal Sue Esquibel, 27, and James Richard Holzapfel III, 37, were charged with 11 counts of animal cruelty, a third degree felony. All of the horses and the piglet were transported and treated at Alaqua Animal Refuge. The puppies were taken to the Walton County Animal Shelter for treatment.
Esquibel and Holzapfel were transported and booked into the Walton County Department of Corrections.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is helping to sponsor the 2013 Inaugural Rodeo for Kids. This event takes place on April 5th and 6th at the Freeport Sports Complex located at Hammock Bay in Freeport. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and show starts at 7 p.m. The ticket listed above is good for free admission of a child who attends school in the Walton County School District and is only valid with a paid adult admission. Those taking advantage of this offer must bring the ticket with them.
This event goes toward supporting the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast. There will be numerous events scheduled to take place, to include: face painting, rodeo games for kids, rodeo kids expo, clowns and more. Saddle bronc, calf roping, team roping, bareback, barrel racing, breakaway, and bull riding are the featured events.
A room full of deputies from various agencies, including Walton County, sits with their heads bowed. Bagpipes start playing “Amazing Grace” and the instructor asks the deputies to envision a church full of law enforcement officers, an American flag draped over a casket and the front row of the church lined with family members. According to the instructor, this type of scenario occurred 128 times last year for law enforcement officers all over the United States and 19 have been killed so far in 2013. The last time the number was under 100 was in 1944. Nearly 70 years later, administrators, supervisors and trainers are attempting to figure out what they can do to lower the numbers down below 100 again.
Innovations in training, emergency medicine and vehicles, as well as the development of ballistic armor, have all contributed to bringing the numbers down over the years but there are five points that have been identified in the Below 100 initiative that are focused at bringing the numbers down even further: wearing your seatbelt, wearing your ballistic vest, watching your speed, focusing on what is important right now, and never becoming complacent.
Sheriff Michael Adkinson fully backs the Below 100 initiative. “I believe in a fundamental obligation to the men and women in this Agency to insure they go home to their families.” His dedication to the safety of his deputies is evident. All deputies and investigators with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) are required to attend the training. The instructors for the course drive home the simple concepts of this course. “The Below 100 instructors provide great insight into the risks of this profession that can be reduced. Since we have identified these predictable behaviors, then we know it is preventable.”
The four hour class is being offered over a three day period in DeFuniak Springs, Chipley, and Marianna. To learn more about Below 100, go to www.below100.com. To pay respects to the law enforcement officers who lay down their lives each day to protect our towns and counties, go to www.odmp.org.
Effective February 28, 2013, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) officially ended their operational oversight of the Freeport Fire Department. Tom Palmer was unanimously supported by his co-workers and the Freeport City Council to become the Department’s first ever Fire Captain. Captain Palmer will be the Department’s ranking officer-in-charge until such time as a fire chief is selected. The WCSO will continue to provide limited assistance with administrative issues until a permanent fire chief is in place. The Freeport City Council is expected to fill the position of Fire Chief within the next few weeks.
WCSO stepped in approximately eight (8) months ago when Al Ford was named Interim Chief. During this operational time period, the Freeport Fire Department underwent several positive changes, to include new uniforms for firefighters, clean up and remodeling of the station, the institution of a rank structure and increase of morale.