Dedorius Latrell Varnes, a 28-year-old Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy on the job two and a half years, was arrested Friday on a felony charge of aggravated stalking after an investigation revealed he’d allegedly made more than 50 intimidating and racist phone calls to a 67-year-old man, threatening to rob him and beat him up.
The recipient of Varnes’s calls, Thomas Pappas, had been the alleged victim of a battery by a neighbor, Patell Troutman, 42, and had pursued charges against Troutman, who’d sought to have the charges dropped. The subsequent investigation revealed that Varnes made the alleged calls to Pappas, apparently because he thought it was funny.
Varnes had been among the many deputies who’d responded to Pappas’s house during the course of the investigation into the battery incident, but not the initial night. Yet bizarrely, investigators never established a link between Varnes and Troutman.
“I was shocked, disappointed and angry to find out that an employee of this agency was behind these atrocious phone calls,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release issued late Friday night. “He took an oath and is supposed to serve and protect this community and instead he actively participated in threatening and tormenting a resident. He abused his status as a law enforcement officer and we will do everything we can to have the state revoke his license so he can never work in law enforcement again. He has let down this community; he has embarrassed this agency and tarnished his badge and dishonored law enforcement officers everywhere. No one is above the law and that is why he is in jail where he belongs.”
Staly has apologized to Pappas. Pappas and the sheriff plan to meet next week. Varnes is being held at the Flagler County jail without bond. He’s been suspended without pay pending further investigation. His firing is “pending,” according to the sheriff’s office.
The original incident took place on Feb. 26, involving Pappas, Raymond Muller, 74, and Troutman. According to a sheriff’s arrest report, Pappas was in his garage with Muller, watching television and having a beer, when Troutman walked up. Pappas invited him in. Troutman and Pappas have known each other since 2014 and hung out regularly (according to Troutman). Pappas had recently loaned him $340 to buy baby formula and other children’s items. At some point a discussion about racism and the military started, then an argument broke out between Troutman and Muller.
According to Pappas, he tried to defuse the argument, though a neighbor who witnessed the incident reported to police that Pappas called Patel a “F’n N’er,” according to the arrest report. Troutman described it differently. He said he and Muller wanted to see if they could push Pappas’s buttons, that Pappas got upset and told Troutman to leave.
Muller and Troutman left, but soon after Troutman returned and “attempted to start a physical altercation” with Pappas, at one point allegedly shoving him. In Troutman’s version, he pushed Pappas to get away from him, in self-defense, and had returned to Pappas’s house only to apologize, by which time Pappas had already called 911.
After calling law enforcement, Pappas reported to a deputy that he felt like he’d been “swung around like a ragdoll.” Pappas’s outside video footage, while not pointing at the scene of the incident, showed “shadows” indicating one individual was pushing another before Troutman appears in the frame bear-hugging Pappas before Pappas breaks free of him. Pappas then gets hold of “what appears to be a sledge hammer” from his garage, and Troutman leaves. Pappas described Troutman as three times bigger than him. The witness who spoke to police described Pappas as the aggressor at one point in the argument.
Even as sheriff’s units were at the scene and after they left, Pappas reported receiving phone calls from a restricted number he thought was Troutman’s–though he’d never given him his phone number–and that Troutman was asking him not to pursue charges. Pappas wanted to pursue charges, and did.
Troutman was charged (but not arrested) on March 15 with battery on a person 65 or older, a third-degree felony. The charge was forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney announced on June 8 it would not pursue the charge.
On June 24, Flagler County Sheriff’s detective Gabe Fuentes began an investigation into allegedly harassing calls Pappas had been receiving on his cell phone from the restricted number. Fuentes traced 53 calls between March 19 and May 5 to what turned out to be Varnes’s phone, and that according to Pappas’s notes, Pappas was “being watched and being threatened.” He feared for his life, worried that people were being sent over to beat him up, was subjected to racial slurs, and was told repeatedly that he was being watched and would be robbed. “I’ll rob you again like before and will beat you up again. You’ll see,” was one of the alleged threats, which ended with an obscenity. “Fuck you white motherfucker,” he’d allegedly told him in another call. (Varnes is black. Pappas is white.)
Fuentes secured Varnes’s AT&T records by subpoena. The records show that Varnes repeatedly used the *67 function to hide the calls’ point of origin. Fuentes found out that Troutman had, in fact, called Pappas the night of the incident to ask him to drop the charges, and would subsequently call him in early March, for a total of 15 calls. Those calls had not been aggressive. But after mid-March the calls became so.
When confronted with the allegations, Varnes, according to his arrest report, told another deputy that he had messed up, “that he did not think he was going to get in trouble and thought it was funny.”
A forensic analysis of Varnes’s phone revealed 40 restricted calls to Pappas–just 40, because the call log was writing over itself, according to the investigation.
“The fact that he could look this victim in the eye and listened to just how upset these phone calls where making him and then continued to call him again and again is an indicator that he has a serious problem,” Staly said of Varnes. “In reviewing his personnel file and talking to his supervisors and those on his interview board and reviewing his psychological background there were no indicators that he would do anything like this. In my 45-years in law enforcement, this is the most bizarre behavior I have ever seen by a law enforcement officer. I want to assure the community that his behavior is not a reflection of the many men and women that serve our community in a professional manner every day.”
There is no indication on the sheriff’s jail website of Varnes’s booking record.
Weldon B. Ryan says
Just like a ham sandwich can be indicted anyone can be arrested for any crap! Certainly this dep acted discraceful and shouldn’t have been hired but the impetus for all of this is just a dispute, which by the way, was not being pursued by the DA. So the consequence is retribution at a scale unequal to what had happened. Time for reform with this disasterous system of justice. Restorative justice now!!!
R.U. Kidding? says
Huh? So you think it’s okay that this deputy called Pappas over 40 times, at all hours of the night, was a responding officer to one of the complaints and continued doing it? All because he thought it was funny? That is a SERIOUS lack of good judgement, not to mention severe immaturity. He is supposed to serve and protect. No matter what the impetus is, he is not above the law. If he thought he could torment an old man “for fun,” what else would he think he could do “for fun?”
Weldon B. Ryan says
You obviously didn’t read or understand what I had written! As for serious crimes this is not one of them worthy of putting this dumb cop under the jail. You stated it yourself stating that it was severe immaturity. In hindsight I see the racial disparities in this one. Most of the people strong on crime and punishment in Flagler defend cops that kill unarmed black people. Everytime an officer of color has issues they are front and center as an instrument of show that the Sheriff cleans its own house. I respect and admire most of the deps in the county but I’ve had a couple of discourtious one also. For the most part they do their jobs and are polite to me but I feel this case goes way too far from inception to conclusion! It was a silly dispute reported by the said victim as an asault. The impetus. He’s ruined and there is other means to handle calls like this one without further destructive consequences! The cop is an idiot with underlying issues of superiority cop mentality! This is why I call for Restorative Justice to handle disputes of this nature. Using a pounded sledge hammer on a peanut to open it up for the nut to pleasure your taste buds is senseless.
Christopher W Baker says
The original crime was not persued, but the harrassment is a totally separate crime. Please explain your logic because to me it makes no sense.
Weldon B. Ryan says
This incident is bazarre. I also understand its a separate crime but it stems from the false report of an assault which the DA saw through. What compelled Varnes is a mystery but it was an abuse of power and privilege on both parties.
“In jail without bail … Never work in law enforcement again … Serious problem.”
Can’t help but wonder if this officer were white we’d be reading these kinds of words? Would a white man just be dutifully fired and shown the door and not have this vitreal press release from the sheriff? Why is bond denied on this? What does the sheriff do to provide proper sensitivity training to his deputies? How does a deputy learn this behavior? Is it on the job perhaps from piers?
What he did ain’t right for sure and was a career limiting action, but not so certain about this communal lynching of a black officer in a department with very few other black officers in a deep southern town with a tiny black population.
This is a matter of right and wrong, not black or white.
Gooses…. totally ABSURD!
Why introduce vile claptrap into a stupid argument among men who were probably victims of more than one beer. Yes, police officers and anyone else who breaks the law get arrested. Melanin content not withstanding.
Give it up already. Nobody is buying it.
Not sure where you got held without bail. He couldn’t be by law. He got bail $20k. You can’t see his booking information because he is/was law enforcement and ex-law enforcement should have some protections, simply for the safety of the person and the difficulties presented to the facility of keeping that person safe. People really should educate themselves on how the system works
The third sentence begins with “Varnes is in jail with no bond.”
Read above. “Varnes is being held at the Flagler County jail without bond. “
Seriously?? You think he was treated more harshly because he’s black? Wow. He called this man over 50 times with threats, the old man was living in fear for months…and you think a white man would have been treated with less consequence. Holy shit, man. See…this is why shit is never going to end with racism. I can show you news article after news article where a white police officer was treated the same for acting like a scumbag. But I’m sure neither of you are interested in seeing them because of that narrative and all.
And what does the racial population have to do with anything?? Give me a break.
What that man did was creepy and not normal for anyone, much less for a man of the law. He clearly has issues he needs to work out. You don’t learn that type of behavior. He had it in his head he could do whatever he wants and get away with it.
He is responsible for his own actions…no matter what color he is. Stop making excuses and claiming he’s the victim here.
I’m all for equal treatment of all races, I love people of every color, but no way am I going to ignore the seriousness of what he did and the consequences he deserved just because he’s black.
I hope he gets the help he needs.
There’s a difference between needing sensitivity training and needing anti-stupidity training. The latter is and should be disqualifying regardless of skin pigmentation. Nice try at injecting the race card, however.
Only Me says
Sheriff Staly sorry to read this and to tarnish what a great Sheriff’s Department you have and is well respected in the community.
Very childish behavior and you would have thought he would have known better in the position he held. He just ruined his career and it will follow him for the rest of his life.
Do some research and you will be surprised – not what you think !!!
This story will be buried in the main media broadcasts.
Trailer Bob says
Are you saying that will be because he is African American?
Just trying to see where you are coming from.
Ironic, just a couple stories prior to this is nothing but praise for the sheriffs dept on how they handled the shooting. (Dont get me wrong, the officers did a great job in a bad situation)
Trailer Bob says
The kid did something stupid and hateful. I don’t think he talked about the potential for him to do this when he was being interviewed. Stuff happens…that’s life.
This guy varnes is a bad cop and for whatever reason decided to pick on an old man and make it a racial situation,when he said according to the article”fuck you white motherfucker”, this should fall under the category of a hate crime. I really think varnes should never be allowed to be in law enforcement for the rest of his life. This wasnt just a spur of the moment thing, varnes made over 50 calls to harass pappas and thought it was funny.
A. J. says
Why waste time calling someone about 40xxxs. I do not understand. I will suggest to every person of color, please do right and keep yourself clean. Just because you are in the law field, does not mean the law is not against you. Please people of color do what is right. White cops kill people especially people of color and get away almost all the time. I suppose white America think that is O. K. Remember the law was made by the white man for the white man. Just saying. People of color please do what is right. You will make your life better for you and your family
Elliot Hoffa says
Excellent investigation by the FCSD but sadly is was a member of the FCSD doing the STUPID Threatening Cellphone Calls! WHY? Does it really matter at this point? The important point is that the FCSD ‘cleaned it’s own house’ by dealing quickly with this case!
Hes LEO and didnt think he would get caught or in trouble but at same time knows the tools Detectives use to solve cases and continues the antics for his sick personal satisfaction using his position to enable breaking the oath he took to serve and protect. Dude has major issues and see ya.
Thinking about this incident one would have to wonder what else this clown did that hasnt surfaced yet.
Land of no turn signals says says
Time to hit the streets ‘NO JUSTICE NO PEACE’ Ha, not with this one.
Oh but it clearly DOES reflect the general behavior at the FCSO!!! You will not win this one Staly- nope nope
Let’s see how Staly handles this. I have no faith in this grandstander.
SMH, if the cop was white and his victim was black, this story would be a CNN headline today and Al Sharpton would be booking an Air B&B in Palm Coast this week!
This was not funny. And it does not reflect on all LEOs. Racism is a two way street. We need to stop all this hate. This is so out of control. This emergency officer shouldn’t be permitted in law enforcement in any capacity.
Lance Carroll says
I believe Varnes is not the only deputy using a phone to harass and intimidate while pretending to not be law enforcement. I have a phone. Anyone like to trace the number in it?
A slap on the wrist and he will be back on the job . Finn just got his job back and he was responsible for someone dying !!!
The guy is not mature enough to be a Police officer. There are bad eggs in every profession, every race, every walk of life. Fire the guy and move on.
It is sad this young man has ruined his career and will most likly serve jail time as this is considered a hate crime and a crime against the elderly. With that said I have no idea how this will play out. However if this was a White Police officer and the victim was a Black elderly man. This would be the lead story on CNN for the next 7 days and people would be calling for the officer to spend life in jail and riots and looting in Flagler
Is this the only victim that Deputy Varnes has intimidated, threatened or otherwise terrorized? Seems like this should be a much bigger story in the current “Police News” climate. Was this not a racially motivated hate crime?
Clearly wrong says
NO BOND!! That is ridiculous. There is no way he shouldn’t have a bond. Come on… Let’s look at every other white person who was charged with a similar crime and see if they were refused bond!!
Here we go again says
Yes this person did do wrong. Calling someone to threaten them more than 40 times is wrong. But the thing is he knew it was wrong when he used the *67 number to hide where the call was coming from.
Let’s see how the all white police union will defend this cop.
the police union is NOT all white
Weldon B. Ryan says
I’m reading from comments about race crime, Come on man! Most of you have NO Clue! Look at your own back yard and tell me what the F*@K is going on with Trump and Floridian? This cop made bad decisions not racist decisions! Get off your high horse and get your minds right! The biggest bad judgement this dep made was to think he’d be treated like every other dep in his department. But he got caught doing nonsense and then is hung out to dry! There is your racism!
This story should be way bigger than it is ! A bad cop can be any race/ethnicity!! If this was a white officer & black elderly man this story would be all over the place.