City of St. Augustine Beach public information officer Melinda Conlon reported to Historic City News Monday afternoon that effective January 31st, St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Ernesto Juan Torres-Perez has resigned after a police report alleged that he berated and tried to use his elected position to gain favor with local officers during his wife’s arrest for driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath-alcohol test when stopped, just before midnight on Saturday, January 22, 2022.
While wishing former Commissioner Torres and his family the best, Conlon reported that the only explanation given to the city was that Mr. Torres wanted to spend more time with his family. Torres was elected to represent District 1 on the St. Augustine Beach Commission during a four-year term in November 2020, so, at the February 7th meeting, the Commission will have to address the process of filling the remainder of the vacated seat. According to City Manager Max Royale, the City has sought applications of interested residents in the past, interviewed them at public meetings, and then voted among themselves to elect a new commissioner.
“The St. Augustine Beach Police Department is disappointed in the actions of Commissioner Torres during the early morning of Sunday, January 23rd,” said St Augustine Beach Police Chief Daniel Carswell in a statement from his department Monday. Aside from the criminal charges facing Torres-Perez’s wife, Carswell condemned former commissioner Torres for his behavior, saying, “Details of this incident have been sent on for review to the Florida Commission on Ethics. We fully understand that this is not a direct reflection of the city commission as a whole and we appreciate their continued support.”
Details from the police reports and court records available to Historic City News give an idea as to former commissioner Torres’ state of mind and behavior the night his wife, 47-year-old Nicole Ruth Torres, was arrested. Patrolman Thomas D Townsend of the St Augustine Beach Police Department responded to A1A Beach Boulevard and 11th Street to assist Corporal Miller with the traffic stop made incidental to a DUI investigation. Corporal Miller advised that the operator was driving erratically prior to him conducting the traffic stop. Townsend contacted the defendant, who was still behind the wheel of the couple’s Dodge RAM pickup truck, and former commissioner Torres who was sitting in the passenger seat.
- Police asked Ernesto Torres where the couple was headed and he responded by pointing and saying, “Down there.” According to the report, “Torres spoke with slurred speech and in a thick-tongued manner.” Torres stated several times, “C’mon man. We are just going right down there.”
- After twice refusing to cooperate with field sobriety tests and to submit to a breath-alcohol test, Nicole Torres was arrested. Hearing this, Ernesto Torres reportedly became angry and attempted to contact St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick, the former Chief of Police at the Beach. Torres, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, told police that he served with Hardwick in Iraq. The arrest proceeded.
- A few minutes later, former commissioner Torres exited his vehicle and walked back to the patrol car. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. The officer told him to step away from the patrol car. Torres reportedly handed the officer his cellphone, which had Chief Carswell on the other line. Carswell told one of his senior officers at the scene, “Handle this incident as any other DUI investigation.”
Finally, Ernesto Torres taunted the police using what was called a “berating tone,” saying:
- “What are you going to do? Arrest me, too?”
- “Wow . . . after all I’ve done for you guys.”
- “I vote to give your department a pay increase. You’re welcome, by the way.”
- “I always support the Beach Police, and this is the thanks you give me?”
- “You guys are a joke.”