State Attorney’s Investigative Report on Bunnell Police Department and City Commissioner Jimmy Flynt:
Part 1 of 6
FlaglerLive | August 15, 2010
For an analysis of the report, see
“State Report Details Disturbing Patterns at Bunnell PD and Favors For Commissioner Jimmy Flynt“
Office of the State Attorney
R.J. Larizza, State Attorney
City of Bunnell, Florida
James A. Parker, Investigator
March 2, 2010, I previously met with members of the State Attorney’s administrative staff. I was briefed on a battery complaint our office received regarding an incident that occurred at Payless Auto Sales in Bunnell Florida. I was tasked with reviewing the complaint due to the battery allegation involving Bunnell City Commissioner, James “Jimmy” Flynt.
March 4, 2010, at approximately 1000 hrs, I responded to Payless Auto Sales at2201 E. Moody Blvd. and met with Mr. Donald Kokenge (phone number deleted). Mr. Kokenge advised that Jimmy Flynt, owner of Saxon’s Wrecker, towed a car to their business earlier in the week. Mr. Kokenge was not comfortable with the car being delivered back to Payless Auto Sales because it had already been sold (purchased by Jamie Dalton) and was no longer their responsibility. Mr. Kokenge said Jimmy Flynt and his driver showed up at their business on Friday, February, 12, 2010, trying to collect $165.00 for towing the vehicle to PayLess Auto Sales. Mr. Kokenge did not feel he was responsible but agreed to pay because they were both doing business in a small town. Mr. Kokenge wanted to delay paying Flynt until the following day but, according to Mr. Kokenge, Flynt became belligerent and threatening. He said Jimmy Flynt began pushing him. Mr. Kokenge said he then tried to call Payless Auto Sales owner, Mr. Shane Dennis. He said Jimmie Flynt started yelling than he was the City Commissioner and, “Irun this town”. Mr. Kokenge said Flynt had a police radio with him and started trying to call someone. At some point Mr. Ed Sweeney (friend of the Payless employees and part-time assistant) walked outside of the business. According to Mr. Kokenge Jimmy Flynt began pushing Mr. Sweeney. He said he was very upset because Mr. Sweeney is elderly and had not done anything to Jimmy Flynt. Mr. Kokenge said Corporal Lisa Murray of the Bunnell Police Department (BPD) arrived. He said she only collaborated with Jimmy Flynt and his driver and ordered him and Mr. Sweeney back into the business. Mr. Kokenge said he was on his cell with Mr. Shane Dennis when Cpl. Murray walked in and ordered him off the phone. He said he was trying to explain the problem to Mr. Dennis when Cpl. Murray removed her handcuffs and threatened to arrest him if he did not hang up the telephone and pay Jimmy Flynt the $165.00. Mr. Kokenge said Cpl. Murray took the money from him and gave it to Jimmy Flynt. He said Flynt and his driver left the scene. Mr. Kokenge said Mr. Sweeney picked up the office telephone and tried to call 911 for another officer or supervisor to respond. While on the phone with dispatch Cpl. Murray took the phone from him and cancelled any other officer from being dispatched (see the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Computer Assisted Dispatch log (CAD) for details. According to Mr. Kokenge he and Mr. Sweeney were provided statement forms and told to complete their statements regarding the incident. Mr. Kokenge and Mr. Sweeney both said they were told to modify their statements because Cpl. Murray was not satisfied with their original statements. Both said the modified statements were taken by Cpl. Murray but their original statements were not (see both handwritten original statements for complete details).
I spoke briefly to Mr. Shane Dennis (phone number deleted), owner of Payless Auto Sales. He said while on the telephone with Don Kokenge he could hear Lisa Murray threaten to arrest him if he did not hang-up the telephone. I explained to Mr. Dennis, Mr. Kokenge and Mr. Sweeney that I would coordinate with the prosecutor assigned to this case and that I may need a sworn statement at a later date.
Writers note: On April 29, 2010, Mr. Donald Kokenge and Mr. Edward Sweeney (phone number deleted) responded to the Flagler State Attorney’s Office (SAO) and provided sworn videotaped statements. Please refer to the videotape for exact details. On May 12, 2010, Mr. Shane Dennis also responded to the Flagler SAO and provided a sworn videotaped statement. Please refer to the videotape for exact details.
At approximately 1115 hrs, same date, I met with BPD Sergeant Frank Gamarra. He said that he was assigned by BPD Chief Jones to investigate incident at Payless Auto involving Commissioner Flynt as well as the actions by Cpl. Lisa Murray. I told Sgt. Gamarra that I could not collaborate on any active or future IA investigation involving Lisa Murray. I did ask for any initial incident reports related to the battery complaint at Payless Auto. He said that Cpl. Murray had completed her initial offense report the day after the incident and it had already been submitted, approved and filed as a public record. Sgt. Gamarra said he interviewed the victims at Payless Auto Sales as well as Commissioner Flynt and his driver. I advised Sgt. Gamarra that I had also interviewed the victims on the initial battery complaint but suggested he temporarily suspend any possible administrative investigation until I could collaborate with our prosecutors regarding this incident. I also learned that Cpl. Lisa Murray was married to Lieutenant John C. Murray of the BPD. Sgt. Gamarra said that he thought they had been married for a year or two. Sgt. Gamarra said Lt. Murray was the second highest ranking BPD officer and reported directly to Chief Arthur Jones. I asked Sgt. Gamarra if there had been any other similar complaints of interference or favoritism involving Commissioner Flynt or anyone with the BPD. Sgt. Gamarra said he knew that the owner of John’s Wrecker had filed a public records request with the BPD related to a complaint of wrecker favoritism toward Commissioner Flynt. I asked Sgt. Gamarra if there were any towing records that may suggest favoritism or misconduct involving Flynt. Sgt. Gamarra said he and BPD Administrative Assistant Angela Hatfield had started compiling some preliminary information pursuant to the records request.
March 12, 2010, at approximately 1000 hrs, I met with BPD Chief Arthur Jones. He thanked me and the State Attorney’s Office for assisting his agency with reviewing the incident at Payless Auto Sales. I thanked Chief Jones for the support Sgt. Gamarra and Mrs. Hatfield were providing and requested any additional police reports generated during or as a result of the original battery complaint against Commissioner Flynt. I also asked for copies of any non-active IA investigations involving Lisa Murray. Once this was provided I asked Chief Jones about a wrecker complaint his office received. He advised that John Rogers and his attorney; Mr. Steve Alexander filed a public records request for the BPD towing reports from October 2008 until December 2009. Chief Jones said Sgt. Gamarra and Mrs. Hatfield were in the process of compiling the requested information. Chief Jones said his office would provide any necessary documents and/or assistance I needed. I thanked him and advised that once I coordinated with the assigned prosecutor I would update him on any additional needs.
March 19, 2010, I spoke with Sgt. Gamarra and advised him that Assistant State Attorney (ASA) Bryan Feigenbaum was the prosecutor assigned to the battery complaint and I had already updated the employees at Payless Auto Sales. I asked Sgt. Gamarra to update Chief Jones on the assigned ASA. I asked if there were additional witnesses that may have seen the alleged battery as well as any BPD officers, not previously interviewed subsequent to any active IA investigation that might have first hand information. Sgt. Gamarra said he did not identify any additional civilian witnesses during his initial response and has not interviewed any BPD officer regarding this incident. I requested Sgt. Gamarra obtain the CAD print-out and voice dispatch information from the FCSO.
March 23, 2010, l called and updated ASA Bryan Feigenbaum. I explained that 1 had not identified any additional witnesses to the battery incident. ASA Feigenbaum said he also spoke with the victims at Payless Auto Sales and was continuing his review. I advised that I was continuing my investigation as well as reviewing the actions by Cpl. Lisa Murray. I said the FCSO CAD printout supported some of the actions taken by Murray, as described by the Payless employees. I told ASA Feigenbaum that I received unrelated complaints by other active law enforcement officers, of improper behavior, favoritism and misconduct by Cpl. Lisa Murray and her husband, Lt. John Murray. I said I received a copy of a Florida Ethics Commission complaint by a current BPD officer and that I would continue my investigation of the Payless incident along with any related or potential criminal violations.
At approximately 1600 hrs, same date, I met with Sgt. Gamarra of the BPD and obtained copies of past (non-active) IA complaints/investigations involving Cpl. Lisa Murray. Sgt. Gamarra provided me with some historical background on the BPD and confirmed that Officer Hristakopolous had generated an ethics complaint focusing on Lt. Murray. He said the complaint was generated as a result of the demotion of Hristakopolous and promotion if Lisa Murray who took his place. I thanked Sgt. Gamarra for his assistance and advised I would be meeting with he and the chief within the next few days.
March 24, 2010, at approximately 1130 hrs, I contacted the owner of John’s Towing, Mr. John Rogers. He advised that he did make a complaint of towing favoritism toward Commissioner Jimmy Flynt. He said the incident of “wrecker throws” started in October 2008 and briefly stopped after a verbal complaint. He said it started again in January 2009 and has occurred off and on since then. Mr. Rogers said Lt. Murray was in charge of the BPD traffic check-points and this is usually when the wrecker favoritism occurred. I asked Mr. Rogers to respond to the Homicide Investigative Unit (HIU) in St. Augustine for a more detailed interview.
March 25, 2010, at approximately 1410 hrs, I interviewed Mr. John Rogers, owner of Rogers Towing (1103 N. US-I Bunnell FL 32110, phone number deleted). Mr. Rogers provided historical information on the rotation wrecker schedule developed by the FCSO. Mr. Rogers said he first noticed his wrecker calls slowing down. He says that the BPD tow a lot of cars and the slow-down was very noticeable. He said he and his wife were in Starbucks in Palm Coast when Lt. John Murray came in. He said Lt. Murray told him to get ready because they were conducting a traffic checkpoint and to have his drivers on stand-by that weekend for the increased tow calls. John Rogers said this “traffic sting” was during October 2008. Mr. Rogers said he had one of his drivers spend the night at his towing facility in preparation for the event. He said he never received a call the night of the operation. Mr. Rogers said his driver learned that the BPD towed seven vehicles that night. John Rogers said he called the FCSO dispatch and they told him they had not dispatched any wrecker calls for the BPD. He then drove to downtown Bunnell and spotted Jimmy Flynt. He said he asked Flynt what was up, that he had the rotation and that Lt. Murray told him to be prepared for the increased tows. John Rogers said Flynt told him that he handled the tows for the BPD and that Lt. Murray called him on the phone and requested he (Flynt) handle it. Mr. Rogers said he confronted Flynt about the favoritism but he didn’t have much to say. Mr. Rogers said just after the sting he contacted the Mayor and City Manager Martinez about the favoritism. He said he and Pastor Brocke Adkins met with the Mayor and the City Manager and complained. Mr. Rogers said Mr. Martinez told him the BPD had a “wolfpack” and couldn’t wait for him so they used Jimmy Flynt for the increased tows. He said that Mr. Martinez told him they were having another “wolfpack” and that he (John Rogers) would get his tows back and this would quit (out of rotation towing). Mr. Rogers said the next operation was sometime in January 2009 and supposedly the schedule was adjusted on his behalf. He said he believed the “wrecker throws” still continued but remembered getting some tows during that operation. He said toward the end of 2009 he again noticed a slow-down in his wrecker calls. Mr. Rogers said he heard Jimmy Flynt was having financial problems and that a few BPD officers (could not recall who) told him Flynt was still being fed tow calls but their hands were tied. Mr. Rogers said at this point he had enough and contacted his attorney and filed a public records request with the BPD. He said his records request was just prior to the Payless Auto incident. He said Jimmy Flynt confronted him when he learned of the records request to the BPD. Mr. Rogers said they exchanged words and Jimmy Flynt said he wasn’t worried about the Payless incident but was visibly upset about the public records request. Mr. Rogers said that Jimmy Flynt had a police radio that he used to monitor the towing calls and none of the other wrecker drivers had one. I concluded the interview and thanked John Rogers for his assistance. I advised him that I would probably need a sworn statement from him at a later date.
Writers note: On April 29, 2010, Mr. John Rogers responded to the Flagler SAD and provided a sworn videotaped statement. Please refer to the videotape for exact details.
At approximately 1800 hrs, same date, I met with Sgt. Gamarra at HIU North in St. Augustine. I questioned him about the required BPD traffic check-point after action reports from October 2008 until December 2009. Sgt. Gamarra said he would pull the reports and provided copies of the BPD towing sheets that generated the complaint by John Rogers. I advised him that I received an FCSO towing rotation schedule from Mr. Rogers. Sgt. Gamarra said that he and Mrs. Hatfield had identified several tow sheets that were incomplete and/or outside of the established wrecker schedule. He and I reviewed these tow sheets and I advised him that I would need to obtain the originals depending on what was discovered.
March 26, 2010, at approximately 1130 hrs, I met with Chief Arthur Jones at the BPD. I provided him with a memo requesting the termination of any active IA investigation involving Lisa Murray, if that was occurring. Chief Jones said that his office would cooperate with and welcome any investigation necessary by the SAO. I then asked Chief Jones about a BPD administrative fee when a vehicle was towed. He said their policy was that anyone arrested for drugs, prostitution or DUI would have their vehicle towed by the on-call rotation wrecker. He said the BPD would then charge a $350.00 administrative fee before the arrested driver or owner could retrieve the car from the wrecker company. I questioned Chief Jones about the authority for such action. He said there was an ordinance established in 2002 governing this process.
March 30, 2010, at approximately 1245 hrs, SAO Investigator Harrell and I met with Chief Jones at the BPD. I served him with a subpoena requesting copies of all traffic deployment after-action reports along with the supporting documentation. I was provided with three of the operational packets with the October 2008 packet missing. Chief Jones said there were four total operations and Lt. Murray was the on-scene commander of each one. Chief Jones said Lt. Murray was also responsible for completing all required after-action reports. Sgt. Gamarra pulled copies of three operational deployments but could not locate the October 2008 packet. Lt. Murray was then called to the BPD by Chief Jones and asked to locate the missing packet. He unlocked his office and began to search for the reports. I noticed several items of physical evidence, packaged as such, throughout his office.
For an analysis of the report, see
“State Report Details Disturbing Patterns at Bunnell PD and Favors For Commissioner Jimmy Flynt“