The Walton County Sheriff’s Office Posse started in 2010 with ten members and has now grown to twenty-four. The Posse Unit helps augment activities from within the Sheriff’s Office and gives citizens an opportunity to get involved with their community. They provide assistance to patrol, emergency services and community events. The Citizen Posse are not sworn law enforcement officers and do not possess arrest powers. Its purpose is to save taxpayer money while providing sworn law enforcement officers with more time to respond and focus on violent criminals and complex criminal investigations.
In November, 2013, the WCSO Posses received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. In 2003, President George W. Bush worked with Congress to initiate the “Presidential Volunteer Service Award.” The award was for both individuals and groups who dedicated their time for the betterment of their community. The WCSO Posse was nominated for the award and received a gold medal for reaching over 4000 volunteer hours in 2013. The WCSO Posse is the first “sheriff’s group” presented the distinction in the State of Florida. The award is presented to groups in the following category: Health, Youth, Parks and Emergency. The WCSO Posse received the award in the “Emergency” category.
With so many opportunities to volunteer and reach out to your local community, you can be part of making a difference! Posse members are required to serve a minimum of sixteen (16) hours per month. Applicants must pass a criminal history investigation and interview. Uniforms and necessary equipment will be provided by the WCSO. For more information please contact Volunteer Coordinator Leah Snaith at [email protected] or 850.685.0348.
Steven Ryan Ritchie, 23, of 213 Eric Drive, Bonaire, GA, was arrested and charged August 27th by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, leaving a scene of an accident with injuries, resisting arrest with violence and grand theft auto. Ritchie was driving a 1999 blue Jeep Wrangler which was reported stolen out of Miramar Beach. Upon contact, Ritchie rammed the jeep into a deputy’s patrol car, pinning the deputy inside the vehicle and causing injury to the deputy’s shoulder. Ritchie fled on foot but was apprehended nearly 5 hours later by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators also charged Ritchie for Armed Burglary, Grand Theft of a Firearm and Grand Theft. On August 17th, Ritchie entered a residence in Santa Rosa Beach, by breaking a window to gain entry and deprived the victim of their personal belongings valued over $10,000.00 to include a Ruger pistol.
On Monday, December 30th, an investigator charged Ritchie for burglary. Richie broke into a 2007 Lincoln Navigator at a residence off Bayshore Drive and rummaged through the vehicle. Ritchie also tried to open the victim’s garage door and by doing so, set off the residential alarm. Latent prints were processed by the Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and were sent to FDLE. According to the FDLE lab report, the latent print identified Ritchie as the suspect. Latent prints also lead to additional charges for one count of burglary, one count of armed burglary and one count of grand theft at a second residence off Bayshore.
Ritchie has been incarcerated at the Walton County Jail since August 27th and has an out of state fugitive warrant from Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia for Theft by Taking a Motor Vehicle.
On December 30th (Monday), the Walton County Sheriff’s Office arrested Dewayne Elliot Shelton, 35, of 1515 Cat-Mar Drive, Niceville, for burglary and petit theft of the Goodwill store located at 3223 West US Hwy 98, Santa Rosa Beach. Shelton fled after he was questioned by a Goodwill employee who noticed that there were donated items in the suspect’s truck that appeared to have been taken from the Goodwill store outside drop off point. Shelton fled on foot because he had gotten his vehicle stuck in the mud during the burglary. The truck had a stolen tag and deputies ran the VIN number and found that the truck was registered to Shelton.
Shelton was arrested in Okaloosa County and was booked at the Okaloosa County Jail. He is awaiting extradition back to Walton County where additional charges are pending for trespassing at Taking Care of Business Inc, located at 74 Moll Drive, Santa Rosa Beach. The business is a third party contractor for U-haul and after fleeing Shelton went to the business, broke into one of the trucks but did not take or damage anything.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office was notified at 8:25 this morning (Sunday) that a white male fled on foot after being approached by an employee from the Goodwill store located at 3223 West US Hwy 98, Santa Rosa Beach. The employee noticed that there were donated items in the suspect’s truck that appeared to have been taken from the Goodwill store drop off point outside. After the employee asked what he was doing with the donated items the suspect fled on foot. A K9 unit responded and tracked the suspect to a shed located behind St. Rita’s Church, located at 137 Moll Drive. The K9 unit found the suspects clothing but the suspect’s whereabouts are unknown at this time. The donations taken by the suspect were located in a silver dodge truck with a stolen tag. The identity of the suspect is unknown but is described as a tall, skinny build, white male in his late twenties to early thirties. If anyone has any information please contact the Walton County Sheriff’s Office at 850.892.8111 or Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at 850.863.TIPS/www.emeraldcoastcrimestoppers.com.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office has two investigators who are committed to helping victims of cybercrimes. Matt Williams and Ben Dowdy investigate child exploitation cases, specifically cases relating to the download, distribution and possession of online child porn. They also investigate online sex crimes, different types of online fraud and assist law enforcement officers on various types of computer related cases. Both investigators were successful in the planning and execution of Operation Turkey Hunt where ten individuals were arrested last month for traveling from multiple locations to Walton County with the intent to have sexual relations with a minor.
More than one million people fall victim to cybercrimes every day and there are resources online that can help those who have become a victim. Victims of Internet Crimes Empowered (VOICE) allows individuals to file a complaint about an online crime directly with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Prevention tips, resources related to cybercrimes and steps to take if victimized are available. “Citizens need to be aware of the different types of crime that takes place online and it starts by education and prevention,” stated Investigator Ben Dowdy.
For those who have been a victim of an online crime or who simply want to prevent valuable information from being compromised can visit www.VictimVoice.org.
Online Safety Tips:
* Research companies before doing business
*Use your credit card on secure sites
*Be aware of prevalent scams
*Never purchase anything advertised through unsolicited email
* The Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) is a great resource that has information and ratings on businesses.
*Update malware protection on personal computers
*Change passwords periodically and do not use your social security number as a PIN
*Run scans to eradicate viruses and keep up with software updates
* Educate children on the potential risks of using the internet