Last Updated: Dec. 22, 2021.
Note: the State Attorney’s Office on Dec. 17 announced its intention not to prosecute the case below.
It was 9:50 p.m. when the Flagler County Sheriff’s dispatch center got a call from a patron at Tortugas, the popular restaurant and bar in Flagler Beach, alleging that a drunk patron carrying a young child was attempting to leave in a car. The man was “extremely intoxicated” after being at the bar several hours, according to the caller. The caller said he’d offered to call a ride for the man, as had others, but the man repeatedly refused.
What followed, according to V.A.’s arrest report, was an example of a 34-year-old man repeatedly given the opportunity by a cop–Flagler Beach Police officer Evan Scherr–to be driven home by a rideshare service, a taxi or a friend, repeatedly warned that if he were to drive himself home he’d be endangering himself, his young daughter and others, and repeatedly given the chance to avoid arrest. V.A. insisted he was fine, rejecting the cop’s offers every time, and finally ending up arrested, and the child claimed by her mother.
The Flagler Beach police officer who responded to the bar found V.A. unsteady on his feet, his eyes bloodshot and his facial features droopy. His BMW’s car key hung from his neck. The officer asked him if he could find him a ride. “If I need one,” V.A. said, “I will call you. V.A. said a friend would pick him up, but it was apparent to the officer that he intended to drive himself. The officer, expressing concern for the child, offered to drive him home in the patrol car. “If, if, if, if it was a necessity,” V.A. said, his speech slow and incoherent, “I would use it.” He was also evasive when the officer would ask him how he intended to get home. The officer asked him if he had a rideshare app on his phone. V.A. did, but said he’d already called a friend to pick him up. When the officer asked to see proof, V.A. told him he’d have to get a judge’s order to do so.
The officer told him V.A. was within his rights, but that he was still concerned about him and his child. “The point I’m trying to make is I don’t need any police involvement,” he said, getting belligerent and using foul language. “I’m going to go my own way and you’re going to go yours. I’m out of here.” The officer followed him out as V.A. walked with his child on his shoulders. He insisted he was not drunk, and told the officer that if he was endangering his child, “then arrest me right now for it.” The officer didn’t arrest him, but detained him, and again tried to reason: his priority was V.A.’s safety and that of his child, he told him.
“If it saves me an arrest, call me an Uber,” told the cop, who told him he couldn’t do so since he didn’t have the app. But he could call him a taxi. “I can literally tell you I am perfectly fine to drive my own fucking child to my own fucking residence,” V.A. said, according to the report. V.A. is a resident of Palm Coast.
“I cannot drive you a car,” the officer said, and at that point arrested V.A. on a third-degree felony charge of child neglect. At the jail, V.A. was reported to have made suicidal statements, and a Baker Act form was completed, but he was booked at the jail at close to midnight, and released on his own recognizance the following day, but under orders to have a so-called SCRAM bracelet within 72 hours. The acronym is short for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring.