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Fugitive Who Taunted Sheriff on Facebook Is Arrested; Deputy Injured in Violent Struggle

| February 15, 2018

Even after he was tased and handcuffed, Leslie Pitter repeatedly motioned toward deputy Conway with threatening body language as if to intimidate the deputy, whose shoulder at that point Pitter had dislocated. The image is from a video still captured on a deputy's body camera.

Even after he was tased and handcuffed, Leslie Pitter repeatedly motioned toward deputy Conway with threatening body language as if to intimidate the deputy, whose shoulder at that point Pitter had dislocated. The image is from a video still captured on a deputy’s body camera.

It was probably not a good idea for Francisco Valdez to taunt the sheriff on the sheriff’s own Facebook page—in the thread about Valdez’s fugitive status.


Sheriff Rick Staly was appearing in his weekly Friday video, what he calls “Fugitive Friday Bingo,” on Feb. 9, alongside Cpl. Scott Wetherhold, who pulled Valdez’s number out of the bingo machine.

“This is a burglar and somebody was in the house when he did the burglary,” Staly tells the camera, “which could have turned into a very serious and dangerous crime.”

Actually Valdez had gone to his ex-girlfriend’s house on Palm Coast’s Westmoreland Drive to see his two young children in May 2015, when his ex was allegedly keeping his children from him, though Valdez unquestionably smashed a window to crawl in, battered his ex in an altercation and threatened to put her “to sleep” as they fought—just when cops arrived and ended the confrontation. He was found guilty of burglary and domestic battery that December, served 11 months at the county jail and was placed on community control for two years. Last March he violated probation: he’d used drugs and failed to complete a batterer’s intervention program. His probation was extended and he was ordered to Bunnell’s Open Door Ministry, a recovery program, once a bed opened. In January he violated probation again, resulting in a warrant for his arrest, then his fugitive status, reducing him to one of those numbers the sheriff pulled out of his bingo machine.  

Francisco Valdez

Francisco Valdez.

“So call us with your tips and let’s put this burglar in the Green Roof Inn,” the sheriff said in the video, referring to his preferred way name for the county jail. The sheriff gave CrimeStoppers’ number and added: “Maybe you can get a reward of up to $5,000.”

Valdez, who goes by Rico, apparently wasn’t impressed by the reward. “I need 10k for the feature nigga,” he told the sheriff in a Facebook comment.

The sheriff—or his stand-in on the Facebook page—was willing to negotiate, if tongue in cheek: “Turn yourself in and we’ll talk,” the sheriff’s reply came.

“You want a track go get 10 for a feature nigga,” Valdez replied. “Tell them boys I want 10 for a feature nigga Wait a minute I get deeper wit it.”

It was apparently “a first,” according to the sheriff—a fugitive engaging with the agency on the thread relating to his own fugitive status. And it wasn’t the last. Valdez also dropped a comment on the sheriff’s Facebook posting about the jail’s new “Green Roof Inn” sign, which drew considerable attention last week not just locally.

And Wednesday evening, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office arrested Valdez on a fugitive warrant. Flagler sheriff’s fugitive unit had determined that Valdez was in Citrus and asked the Sheriff’s Office there to assist. Valdez was with a female companion at the time. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” Staly taunted back in a release issued today. “It is not a good idea to taunt us.”

One third of the inmates featured on the sheriff’s “Fugitive Friday Bingo” have been arrested. (The inmates are often also featured in CrimeStopper ads, which also run on FlaglerLive: three of the fugitives featured in those ads have been captured so far).

“Taunting the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office will only make you a bigger target on our radar,” Staly said. “If you want to break into homes or commit crimes in Flagler County we are coming for you. If you think you can run – you will only go to jail tired. He will now get a very good look at the new jail signs which he finds ‘hilarious’ when he is booked in to the Green Roof Inn.”

Valdez, 24, seems to have a couple of passions–his children of course, but also a streak for dark, often vile or sleazy humor, which he copiously displays on his Facebook page. As often as not, his humor is an insight into his personality–and his future: “I got a better chance at going back to jail then [sic.] being in love,” he’d written on new Year’s Day. Staly has yet to accuse him of being inaccurate. 

In a separate incident, a sheriff’s arrest report filed on Wednesday began this way: “I, Deputy Bender, am completing this 707 on behalf of Deputy Conway due to him being injured. On the force less than a year–he was hired last March–Philip Conway ended up with a dislocated shoulder when Leslie Pitter, a 42-year-old with a history of resisting arrest, assaulting police and injunctions resulting from domestic violence, resisted arrest on Wednesday. 

There was an injunction on Pitter since January, regarding a 20-year-old woman he’d allegedly been stalking. On Feb. 13 he called the woman and left a voicemail. He was upset that she hadn’t called him on his birthday. He also messaged the woman on Facebook with an aggressive line: “Roses are red, violets are blue, this holiday sucks and so do you!” Injunctions extend to social media: those under an injunction are barred from contacting the person they’re enjoined from regardless of the manner or medium. So deputies went to Pitter’s home to arrest him for a violation of an in junction. 


Deputy Conway’s Body Cam

“This caused [Conway’s]Body cameras captured parts of the encounter, with Pitter in one of the cameras’ fottage appearing outside a house, standing in front of a deputy, and refusing to get on the ground. Conway had to pull his Taser at one point to get Pitter on the ground in a  position where he could be handcuffed.

Pitter then kept yelling out, refusing to put both his hands behind his back so he could be handcuffed–a different form of taunting than Valdez’s. Deputies moved in to cuff him anyway, but a struggle ensued. Pitter claimed he wasn;t resisting (the video tells a different story) and yelled out, “look at what you’re doing to me,” then, Pitter, who weighs 230 pounds, “tossed Deputy Conway over his shoulder,” according to the arrest report. (The video is blurred by the action, but the sound of Conway’s Taser skittering off the driveway is clearly heard.)

left shoulder to strike the roadway and become dislocated as well as sustaining a laceration to his chin.” Bender, the other deputy, managed to get both of Pitter’s arms behind his back but Pitter allegedly kept resisting and said he didn’t care anymore, lashing out with expletives: by then Pitter is in a rage, seemingly not understanding why he was being arrested.

Conway tased him in the stomach, Pitter was brought to ground and handcuffed. “How can I relax I’m getting arrested?” he tells the deputies as he is being handcuffed. He also said, possibly playing to the body cameras, “I can’t breathe” twice, words made famous in the arrest and choke-hold of Eric Garner, the New Yorker who died in that 2014 encounter with police. Pitter’s circumstances appear incomparably different in the video, where deputies, once he is secured, reason with him and address him respectfully. 

Conway requested an ambulance. Pitter needed one too, to have the Taser darts removed from his stomach.

As he sat up, Pitter accused Conway of wanting to tase him “from the get-go.”

Leslie Pitter

Leslie Pitter.

“I had a problem with you and now I know you can’t beat me he was just protecting you,” he said, according to comments transcribed in his arrest report and heard on the video. “I know you are weak as hell I just tried you, I’m not threatening you I’m just telling you, you’re weak as hell.” But he did appear to threaten the deputy, according to the same statements: “If he didn’t come and save you I would have had your ass.” And between those statements he keeps asking the deputies if he can call his mom. Through it all Conway stands by, not speaking back or inflaming the situation. If anything, the deputies–with Conway’s shoulder out of joint and Conway likely in more pain than Pitter, who, calmer now, walks around and speaks to the deputies in a conversational tone–further reason with Pitter, explaining to him why he was being arrested. He had no idea of the severity of the charges he would soon face. 

Conway had to be taken to Florida Hospital Flagler and be sedated to have his shoulder restored in place. At the jail, Pitter continued the taunting, bragging that he’d put a deputy in the hospital. 

But he also now faces a charge of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, with his own statements recorded on video to prove it, a first degree felony that exposes him to 30 years in prison. That, instead of what would have been a simple misdemeanor arrest for which he would have most likely had to be a matter of hours in jail, with the possibility of probation, if that, when the case was to be disposed. 

“Let me make this clear, if you think you can attack my deputies, we’re going to go after you with the full force of the law,” Sheriff Rick Staly, who was having a Valentine’s dinner with his wife when informed of the alleged attack, said. “This was a simple misdemeanor arrest and he violently resisted and is now charged with two additional felony charges because he thought he was a tough guy.  I hope the prosecutor and the courts throw the book at him and this dirtbag goes away for a long time.”

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22 Responses for “Fugitive Who Taunted Sheriff on Facebook Is Arrested; Deputy Injured in Violent Struggle”

  1. woodchuck says:

    This is how perps get shot and then the family sues.Deputies had more patients than I would.

  2. Just the truth says:

    Sheriff Staly your The Best.

  3. Jenn says:

    Wow what a POS send his ass to prison prayers for there a deputy for a full recovery.

  4. Jenn says:

    These officers handle this situation extremely well I am proud of them this guy is a jerk and I hope they throw the book at him they even offered this man water asked him if he was okay you got this Punk threatening an officer on camera you’re a real winner and I don’t care if he is your family member he’s a POS

  5. Dave says:

    Ordered to Bunnell’s Open Door Ministry?! So they can order you to go to religious institutions now!? Why and how does this even happen? Can you force people into religion now? Seems any rehabilitation should be non denomination

  6. Buck Troesch says:

    People seem to have absolutely no regard or respect for persons of authority. Our justice system has become so flawed that crime perpetrators do night fear law enforcement or the courts. Maybe corporal punishment is needed.

  7. Pogo says:

    @Sheriff Rick Staly

    Your deputies’ conduct in these instances, as in so many others, is exemplary. Your leadership and cooperation with others in many matters, e.g., the current initiative on domestic violence are worthy of high praise. Your conduct in public, and on public occasions, e.g., ceremonies honoring fallen LEO has been dignified and inspiring.

    I see no need for the leader of a public agency of any purpose, and law enforcement in particular, to sink to the level of a lynch mob. Dirtbag? I believe you’re better than that. Your Green Roof Inn is okay for comic books, television scripts, etc. but actually reflects no credit on you. Inmates and convicts having a corny nickname and/or epithet for everything gets them what? Employing a nickname for the county’s jail ought to be beneath you. A jail is no laughing matter.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Rico guys a real genius CYA

  9. Mark says:

    Obviously the “community” didn’t do a good job of controling Valdez. He should be in jail until he is old and grey.

  10. Really says:

    @Pogo disagree. Creates camaraderie goal setting and procedure etc.. Anything LEO can do to make a little light of a very serious situation I am ok w/it. Look its US vs. The criminals and they are the first line of defense

  11. Concerned res says:

    Love Sheriiff Staley’s passion and he got jokes

  12. Pogo says:

    @Really

    Really said, “Pogo disagree. Creates camaraderie goal setting and procedure etc..”

    At best a non sequitur. At worst it describes a mentality that protects a bad cop from being brought to justice when he breaks a law himeslf. One for all, and all for one brotherhoods depend on a code of silence. Don’t you hold LEOs to a better and higher standard than the Mafia, M13, etc? I do. Everyone need’s a sense of humor to live in the world. There is a time and place for everything.

    Prosecutors are called the State’s Attorney because criminal law is not about personal offense, feelings, wrongs and/or revenge. We are, or so it is said, a nation of laws, not of men.

    Really said, “Anything LEO can do to make a little light of a very serious situation I am ok w/it. ”

    Does that apply to the private e-mail of FBI agents too? Look, all people joke about their work. I’ll bet a lot of surgeons would be truly chagrined if patients heard the conversation that goes on after the gas is passed.

    Anything is a damn broad license. Especially in the hands of people authorized to arrest and use deadly force.

    Really said, “Look its US vs. The criminals and they are the first line of defense”

    So you’re besieged by crime? Sorry to hear it. They, btw, is all of us.

  13. Lol says:

    Valdez was quoting a song by a rapper by the name of tee grizzly… on

  14. Really says:

    Oh one more thing old school telling it like it is

  15. Really says:

    Damn good LEO

  16. flagler resident says:

    My entire family voted for Sheriff Staly and I think he is a good sheriff, but I wish he would not be a Trump want to be. I do not understand the highest profile local elected official in this county using terms like dirtbag and hanging a sign at the jail that makes a joke of the serious place it is and always saying “my deputies” when they make an arrest but never when they make a mistake and he wants to discipline them. I hope the men and women who serve this community do not think that the people they serve are dirtbags even if they are being arrested. I hope the deputies do not joke and laugh about the green roof inn when transporting someone to jail. This county needed a professional law enforcement officer to lead and I had hoped that he would lead by his actions. If the sheriff thinks the residents of this county are dirtbags, then the deputies will also think that soon and they will begin to treat us all as dirtbags. People being arrested are human and the Sheriff should always remember that, even when he is trying to make a headline. How about saying the deputy’s name or just deputies when referring to them instead of MY DEPUTIES. Is Sheriff Staly afraid of anyone’s name but his being in the media? Is this why the deputies do all the work and the sheriff’s shows up when the cameras do to do all the press releases and interviews? I ‘m sorry, not interviews, but a comedy routine with funny names for everyone and everything. I watched former Orange County Sheriff Berry for years and he never had to call Orange County residents names or give 5 year names to public places..
    I keep hoping the editor of the news site will also share his views on this subject with a editorial piece.

  17. Hunter says:

    I noticed it said that one of “Rico” (Valdez) passions is, “of course his children…”. I would hold off on jumping to that conclusion. I have a feeling I, as a taxpayer, is feeding and supplying his children, NOT HIM. He clearly is illiterate and speaks like an idiot. Who will hire someone like that. Why these women have children with these losers just amazes me. USE BIRTH CONTROL if you can’t resist (Ugh) these winners, because I don’t find them attractive and would prefer not to pay for their night of passion for 18 years, plus more if they choose to go to university… Probably no chance of that, thr apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  18. Sadie says:

    LOL, the story about fugitive friday is on Fox News.

  19. jim says:

    I agree w/ u Pogo ….the Sheriff and his videos, comments and acting skills are becoming an embarrassment. A deputy would /should be reprimanded for speaking unprofessionally the way the Sheriff does… Grow up

  20. Figures says:

    Flagler resident hit the nail on the head . The sheriff has done a good job with transitioning from manure and his non engagement tactics to a better policing model that is working so far but it’s too early to tell due to the low crime rate of this county overall. Now this man has developed a sense of narcissism that we have slowly become front seat to. Everything is a new brief or press release and everything includes him at the fore front of any incident . I get it !! You are in charge but where are the photos of your deputies doing good jobs tirelessly that make you look good so you can go in tv and say my deputies ? This guy has managed to allow new media to park their vehicles outside the department in repetition two times a week for his own antics .. not to recognize a deputy who may have saved a life or helped a less than fortunate person. It’s all about him and if you notice or pay attention nobody else can speak on anything from this place with exception. To his buddy mark strobridge… it’s funny because he speaks of morale but he is kind of autocratic in how he runs things ….he always puts himself then his deputies because he truly believes that… and eventually that will wear thin through the ranks…my church buddy who works there told me the man came in and erased the entire awards ribbon medal set up so that no deputy standing next to him looked more decorated than him!!!! That tells you a lot about this man….he has done a good job but that’s not what being a leader truly and solely is your subordinates hVe to envision themselves in your shoes and so far it seems like it’s the department of the celebrity apprentice

  21. MannyHMo says:

    Singapore style caning works quite well in Singapore. It should be considered to establish respect to authority. Repeat offenders are rare and those who reoffend are either insane or true criminals deserving a much longer sentence.

  22. C'mon man says:

    Amazing how they tracked someone down 4 hours away. Good job to whoever did that.

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