The State Attorney’s Office today presented its inaugural Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer awards to seven members of various Fourth Judicial Circuit agencies who exceeded the call of duty in 2017.
The idea originated after State Attorney Melissa Nelson last year met with Jacksonville Beach Police Department Detective Dan Watts. He introduced the concept and served on a committee with State Attorney’s Office members that received nominations from agencies and reviewed each to determine honorees.
“I cannot say enough about the good work performed by our Fourth Circuit law enforcement partners,” said Nelson. “Our goal with these awards is to showcase exemplary individuals for their efforts and say ‘thank you’ for their service to our community.”
The ceremony took place during National Police Week, which honors the service and sacrifice of law enforcement. This year’s event was especially poignant after Officer Lance Whitaker, a 17-year veteran with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, died in the line of duty responding to a traffic crash. A moment of silence was held in his honor during the awards.
The office would also like to provide a special thank you to Ronald Foster and his team at Stellar, who graciously provided for the awards that were presented to those recognized.
The 2017 OLEO awards were presented to:
Officers Gary Stucki and Rick Wood — Neptune Beach Police Department
On May 16, 2017, Stucki and Wood responded to a call at Neptune Beach Elementary School, where they found a passenger in a vehicle having a heart attack. The man was not breathing and did not have a pulse. Both officers assessed the situation and deployed lifesaving measures to resuscitate the man until medical personnel arrived.
Officer David Alexander — Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
On May 30, 2017, Alexander was on Jacksonville’s Northside when he was flagged down by an electrical contractor crew on the side of the road. Two individuals were performing CPD on a male who was unconscious, not breathing, and had no pulse. Alexander administered his Automated External Defibrillator and used his pocket mask for continue ventilations on the man until rescue personnel arrived. It was later determined the man had been electrocuted while working on a transformer. The swift actions of the man’s coworkers and Alexander’s actions saved him.
Deputy Jacob Hawkins — Clay County Sheriff’s Office
On Sept. 26, 2017, Hawkins responded to a reported shooting in the parking lot of a supermarket on Oakleaf Plantation Boulevard. Upon arrival, he saw a victim who had been shot several times. The victim, Hawkins realized, was U.S. Customs Federal Agent Drew Stokes. Hawkins immediately used his trauma kit to provide first aid and treat the gunshot wounds, which were profusely bleeding. Aid required tourniquets and quick clot gauze in a severe upper torso wound. Stokes survived, returned to work, and continues on the road to a full recovery thanks to Hawkins’ lifesaving efforts.
Detective Dustin Kling — Jacksonville Beach Police Department
In the early morning hours of July 5, 2017, several unknown suspects fired multiples shots in a crowd at Latham Plaza in Jacksonville Beach. One person was killed and a second victim sustained serious injuries. Kling coordinated the response and efforts of detectives, evidence technicians, and multiple officers to process a crime scene that spread out over four city blocks. Over the course of the next several months, Detective Kling spearheaded a complex investigation while working with numerous law enforcement agencies, technical laboratories, and the State Attorney’s Office. As a result of these efforts, three suspects were identified and arrested.
Additionally, Kling was instrumental in the investigating a cellphone theft ring in which 75 high-end cellphones were stolen from bar patrons. He identified the suspects and recovered phones, a vehicle and $5,000 in cash. Three suspects were apprehended.
Detectives Glenn Warkentien and Margaret Rhatigan — Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
On July 10, 1998, newborn Kamiyah Mobley was kidnapped from a Jacksonville hospital by an unknown female posing as a hospital nurse. Following a citywide search and more than 2,000 tips, the case went unsolved until January 2017. A tip confirmed Kamiyah Mobley was in South Carolina with the woman who kidnapped her almost 20 years ago. Gloria Williams was subsequently identified as the person responsible for kidnapping Kamiyah.
In another long-time case, on May 22, 1974, Freddie Farah was shot and killed in an armed robbery at his Jacksonville convenience store. Fingerprints were found on a box of cake mix and a can of frosting left at the scene, but no match could be made in 1974.
In December 2017, the JSO cold case team conducted another review that resulted in a match to an individual identified as Johnie Miller. Detectives Rhatigan and Warkentien worked with New Orleans police and tracked down Miller, who was a well-known French Quarter entertainer. He was arrested and extradited to Jacksonville, where he subsequently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
The perseverance and dedication by Detectives Rhatigan and Warkentien on these two cases cannot be overstated. Their efforts brought closure for two families and answered many questions our community had for decades about these crimes.