Man Charged After Calling 911 Eighteen Times to Complain About Deputy
The Bradenton Herald via YellowBrix
April 16, 2010
MANATEE — Authorities say a Manatee man’s run of calling 911 with non-emergency issues ended Tuesday at 18 in two months, after he called 911 three times and made accusations about a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy, according to a sheriff’s report.
Deputies arrested David G. Bouchard, 55, of Bradenton, on Tuesday on a charge of misuse of 911, after authorities say he dialed 911 to report the front and back doors of a home open in the 5600 block of 19th Street West, across the street from his residence.
A deputy arrived and found Bouchard looking at the home across the street, and confirmed both doors were open. He asked Bouchard why he thought something was wrong.
“I have a feeling,” he answered.
The deputy went across the street and asked a woman in the home if something was indeed wrong, and during that conversation, Bouchard called 911 and told a dispatcher “the deputy who responded to the call was making out with the prostitute that lives at the house.”
The sheriff’s report said it was the third 911 call Bouchard had made that day.
Another deputy arrived based on that 911 call and investigation revealed that Bouchard had called 911 on 15 other occasions since Feb. 15, and had previously been warned not to make non-emergency calls on the 911 system, according to the sheriff’s report.
The deputies then arrested Bouchard and took him to the Manatee County jail, where he was being held on $1,500 bond. The initial deputy who responded wrote that Bouchard had used 911 service to make a false report accusing him of “making out” with the woman across the street.
On the way to the jail, Bouchard threatened that his arrest was not going to put a stop to his 911 calls, according to the report.
“Yeah, I’ve called 911 17 times and just because I’m going to jail doesn’t mean it’s going to stop,” he said.
Florida law states that 911 service can only be used by the public to report an emergency, and any other use such as reporting a false alarm or false complaint is a misdemeanor. But it takes four such convictions for it to become a felony to misuse 911 service.
It is also criminal misuse to knowingly call 911 for any purpose other than obtaining public safety assistance, according to the law.
In a recent case involving the Bradenton Police Department, an officer arrested a man, Javier Mares, on March 7, after Mares’ wife called police to act as peacekeeper during a domestic dispute.
Mares’ wife had called for a police presence as she wanted to get her belongings out of the couple’s apartment after an argument. When Bradenton Police Officer Ryan Vaughn arrived, he said Mares became confrontational.
Vaughn stated in his report he felt threatened because no other officers were available as backup, and also told Mares that if he called 911, he would be arrested.
“Mr. Mares was instantly unhappy and pulled out his cellular phone,” Vaughn wrote. “I informed him that if he dialed 911 that he would go to jail for misuse of 911.”
“It’s because I have a record. I went to prison for eight years, but I paid my debt to society. I really think the officer abused his power,” Mares said.
Bradenton Chief Michael Radzilowski reviewed Vaughn’s reports the day after Mares’ arrest and said Vaughn acted properly, saying Mares did not need to call 911 because on officer was already on the scene.
“An officer was already there, why did he need to call 911?” the chief said at the time. “We can’t have people tying up 911 lines, it’s extremely dangerous.”
The chief recommended instead that the complainant comply with the officer and call a non-emergency line to request a supervisor. If a person feels they were wrongly treated, to later file a complaint at the police station, Radzilowski said.
Sarasota defense attorney David Haenel said sometimes the public has no choice but to call 911, and went on to say it is not illegal to make a 911 call when a law enforcement officer is present if there is legitimate fear of abuse or brutality.
“What is someone supposed to do if they feel they are in danger? Go inside find the phone book, flip to the blue government pages and find the non-emergency phone number? That’s not what people do in any other emergency situation,” Haenel said.