Historic City News has been following the allegations against the former Chief of Police, Richard Hedges, since nine St Augustine Beach Police Officers signed a complaint, spanning about seventy pages in length, iterating more than a dozen charges against Hedges and his assistant chief, Dan DeCoursey.
During a very narrowly focused, almost scripted meeting on May 15, 2012, on a unanimous vote by the St Augustine Beach commissioners, Chief Hedges was placed on administrative leave, with pay, while an independent law enforcement investigation was conducted into his administration of the agency.
After the allegations became public, controversy surrounded the “whistleblowers”, including information distributed to media representatives by the recognized Collective Bargaining Agent for St Augustine Beach Police Department officers and sergeants; Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association.
Repeated requests for information, during the six weeks that followed, were refused by the City of St Augustine Beach and its Police Department. Chief Hedges was represented by local attorney Patrick Canan and neither would make public comments about the accusations or the officers who made them.
Now, we have the results of the examination of allegations against Hedges that inferred possible criminal activity — in each such case, the Office of Executive Investigations within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement could not find any information indicative of criminal action by, or on the part of, Chief Hedges.
Since we have received numerous requests for the particulars of exactly what was alleged and the findings of the agents who investigated, we are republishing the following executive summary for our readers:
Allegation #3 (Missing Firearms) and
Allegation # 4 (Missing Starter Pistol)
On May 16, 2012, FDLE Office of Executive Investigations (OEI) Inspector James Biddle and Deputy Inspector General (IG) Dean Register met with St Augustine Beach Police Department Administrative Assistant Michelle Price.
During this meeting, Price stated that the firearms and starter pistols that were reported missing were actually stored in the St Augustine Beach Police Department secure weapons locker.
Price subsequently permitted Inspector Biddle and Deputy IG Register to enter the secure weapons locker and visually inspect the firearms and starter pistols.
It was confirmed that the items alleged to be missing in allegations #3 and #4 were, in fact, present in the weapons locker.
It was also determined that the items in question were originally placed into the weapons locker by Chief Hedges and had never been removed.
FDLE’s investigation identified the St Augustine Beach Police Department “weapons locker” as a secure room located within the St Augustine Beach Police Department where found, abandoned, or evidentiary property of value is stored for safekeeping.
The FDLE investigation also determined that the firearms and the starter pistols identified in allegations #3 and #4 had belonged to deceased persons whose family members did not want them and had turned them over to the St Augustine Beach Police Department for disposal as the department saw fit.
The investigation additionally revealed that, at one point, Chief Hedges planned to request that City Commissioners approve the sale of the firearms and use of the proceeds for the purchase other equipment or supplies; however, this never occurred.
An FCIC/NCIC query of the two firearms having identifiable serial numbers (a .32 caliber Walther PPK semi-automatic model, S/N 113305P, and a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, S/N 581331) was conducted, and this query revealed that neither firearm was reported stolen.
Further, there was no record of the firearms being a part of a criminal investigation.
Finding: No criminal violation was identified.
Allegation # 6 (Missing St Augustine Beach Police Department Issued Mountain Bike)
The FDLE investigation regarding the missing St Augustine Beach Police Department mountain bike revealed that the mountain bike was donated to the department prior to 2007 and had been used as part of the daily operations of the department.
The investigation also revealed that, in 2007, St Augustine Beach Police Department officers used the mountain bike and other department mountain bikes while attending training classes on the proper handling and use of the bikes.
It was during this timeframe that the mountain bike in question was initially reported missing.
The FDLE interviews of Chief Hedges and St Augustine Beach Police Department Sergeant Hartshorne were inconsistent with regard to how and when the bike went missing and any efforts made by the St Augustine Beach Police Department to locate the missing bike.
Chief Hedges advised that, sometime in 2007, he learned that the mountain bike was missing and subsequently directed Sergeant Hartshorne to conduct an investigation and determine its whereabouts.
Chief Hedges also advised that, because so many officers had used the bike for training, he directed Sergeant Hartshorne to send an email to all St Augustine Beach Police Department employees in an attempt to locate the bike.
During his interview with the FDLE, Sergeant Hartshorne stated that former St Augustine Beach Police Department Officer Wallace might have been in possession of the mountain bike at the time of his termination in 2007.
Sergeant Hartshorne based this statement upon the fact that he had observed the bike in question in the garage of Wallace’s home a few days prior to Wallace’s termination.
Chief Hedges was questioned regarding Sergeant Hartshorne’s statement that he observed the mountain bike in Wallace garage just prior to Wallace’s termination and Chief Hedges stated that he was certain that Wallace had returned all department issued property to St Augustine Beach Police Department prior to his termination.
However, no documentation regarding the return of Wallace’s department issued property could be located.
FDLE also determined that the missing mountain bike’s serial number was never documented and logged into St Augustine Beach Police Department as inventoried property because the bike was originally donated to the department.
Consequently, the serial number of the missing mountain bike is unknown to the St Augustine Beach Police Department and cannot be entered into FCIC/NCIC as stolen or missing property.
Wallace is believed to be living in Georgia; however, efforts to contact him met with negative results.
The FDLE investigation did not find any additional information that would substantiate speculation that the missing mountain bike was taken by Wallace in 2007 or that he is currently in possession of the property.
Finding: No criminal violation involving Chief Hedges was identified. St Augustine Beach Police Department Acting Chief David Messenger has been made aware of the results of the investigation regarding the missing mountain bike and has informed FDLE that additional follow-up investigation will be conducted regarding this matter.
Allegation # 7 (Missing Motorcycle)
The motorcycle alleged to be missing was identified as a Yamaha YZ50 dirt bike, serial number 01168, which was neither titled nor registered.
Sergeant Hartshorne, during an interview with the FDLE, advised that, on May 22, 2002, he placed the Yamaha YZ50 into St Augustine Beach Police Department storage as “recovered property” (St Augustine Beach Police Department case number 02146021-7B) after it was abandoned by an unknown driver who was being pursued by Sergeant Hartshorne.
Sergeant Hartshorne further advised that, over the course of several years, the seized dirt bike became inoperable, but remained in storage at the St Augustine Beach Police Department.
Sergeant Hartshorne stated that he recently discovered that the dirt bike was missing from St Augustine Beach Police Department storage and took steps to ascertain its current whereabouts.
Sergeant Hartshorne ultimately located St Augustine Beach Police Department documents indicating that former St Augustine Beach Police Department Detective Terry Prescott, who originally received the dirt bike into St Augustine Beach Police Department storage as “recovered property” on July 2, 2002, had donated the dirt bike to the Rodehaver Boys Ranch (RBR) in 2007.
Sergeant Hartshorne subsequently made contact with the RBR and was advised that the dirt bike was never donated to them.
Sergeant Hartshorne also advised FDLE that, at one point, he spoke with an individual believed to be the owner of the dirt bike and informed him that the dirt bike was being stored at the St Augustine Beach Police Department.
An FDLE review of St Augustine Beach Police Department records failed to reveal an St Augustine Beach Police Department report documenting either this contact or the suspected owner’s identity.
A review by FDLE of the documents pertaining to the seizure and impoundment of the dirt bike revealed that the dirt bike was seized and placed into storage at St Augustine Beach Police Department prior to Chief Hedge’s employment as Chief of Police.
FDLE was also advised by Chief Hedges that he had no independent or direct knowledge of either the dirt bike or the case pursuant to which it was recovered.
Detective Prescott completed St Augustine Beach Police Department paperwork indicating that the dirt bike was donated to the Ranch in 2007 (while Hedges was Chief of Police); however, there is no indication that Chief Hedges either saw or was aware of this document.
FDLE efforts to contact the suspected owner (name provided to FDLE by Sergeant Hartshorne) of the dirt bike met with negative results.
In addition, FDLE contacted a representative for the Ranch who advised that they have no record of ever receiving the dirt bike.
Finding: No criminal violation involving Chief Hedges was identified. St Augustine Beach Police Department Acting Chief David Messenger has been made aware of the results of the investigation regarding the missing dirt bike and has informed FDLE that additional follow-up investigation will be conducted regarding this matter.