Robert Lee Emanuel was a 60-year-old Bunnell resident. On September 15, he was the victim of a beating at his home at 2250 Old Moody Boulevard, Unit 97. He was taken to Florida Hospital Flagler, and the Bunnell Police Department took a report on the beating.
Emanuel died of his injuries either this week or last week. Not even Tom Foster, the Bunnell police chief, knows exactly when: he was at the week-long Florida Association’s annual competition and vendor show in Orlando all week, until this evening. It is also not clear at what hospital Emanuel died, at least officially. (FlaglerLive learned he died at Florida Hospital Flagler.) What is certain is that the Bunnell Police Department launched a murder investigation into Emanuel’s death–the fifth murder in Flagler County this year, and the second murder in two years in Bunnell. That of John Stubbs at Thanksgiving in 2015 remains unsolved.
But the Bunnell Police Department is refusing to release any information on Emanuel’s death, as is Foster who, when asked when Emanuel died, said: “This week sometime, a couple of months after the incident.” He said he’d be meeting with a state homicide investigator on Monday, but didn’t explain why that meeting hadn’t taken place, or why the investigation was dragging. “It’s an active investigation right now, nothing is available yet for public record,” he said.
That was not accurate.
The Bunnell Police Department has releasable records of the original incident about the beating (as the city attorney later proved), it has Computer Assisted Dispatching notes, and may have–but is not likely to have–investigative reports, since it appears not to have investigated the case beyond the Sept. 15 beating. All local law enforcement agencies release such things as CAD notes and incident reports, selectively and legally redacting portions of the documents that may compromise the investigation–assuming an investigation is ongoing: that’s more speculation than fact in Bunnell’s case at this point: people familiar with the case say the agency may have bungled the investigation rather than carried it out according to protocol, which may explain the city not even acknowledging the homicide or its circling of wagons when queried about it.
Little is known about Emanuel beyond a brief but minor police record: he’s had a few arrests between 2009 and 2014, but all for minor charges including several that would not have resulted in arrests in many other jurisdictions–trespassing, possession of small amounts of pot. For many years he’d rented a place at Palm Terrace, the small community off of State Road 100.
FlaglerLive learned of Emanuel’s death late this week. Bunnell city commissioners were told of the homicide investigation just before 6 p.m. Wednesday when Dan Davis, the city manager, sent the following email to commissioners, without naming Emanuel: “A battery victim of a couple months ago has passed away, and was then ruled a homicide. So the PD will continue to investigate. More details to come.” The subject line was “Open Murder Investigation.”
It was the first acknowledgment beyond the city administration that a homicide had taken place in the city. Davis did not return a call Friday afternoon. (Commissioners had previously criticized Davis about his lack of communications, saying specifically that they did not want to find out about goings on in their town through FlaglerLive before finding it out through their administration.)
On Friday morning, Kristen Bates, the deputy city clerk, responded to the records request this way: “At this time, the City is not able to provide the records you requested. The information you are seeking is part of an active investigation (see below). If you check back with the City sometime mid-next week, there may be a change in the classification of the records you are requesting.” Bates’s email included an explanation from Warren Beau, the city police’s records manager, who said “this is an active investigation and falls under the purview of the exempt status as to releasing information,” and that since FlaglerLive had the name of the deceased, it was “limited” to that information “at this time.” He said he was confident there would be “a public information release strategy” once “homicide investigators” and Foster meet on Monday.
The city’s response violated Florida’s public records law in two regards: first, by not citing the specific section of law that justified the exemption, and second, by suppressing all documents wholesale, including the original report on the assault incident. When FlaglerLive contacted the city’s attorney, Wade Vose, Vose provided the original incident report, but with its narrative entirely blacked out–again, in sharp contrast with other local law enforcement agencies, whether in Flagler, Volusia or St. Johns, whose narrative reports are legally but selectively, not entirely, redacted. (See the report here.)
Vose was asked for further details. He replied by email: “It is my understanding that Kristen has gone home for the weekend, and that Warren does not work on Fridays,” by way of explaining why additional information, such as CAD notes, was not made available. As for the censored report, he cited various section of law justifying the wholesale black-out, and said Bunnell police staff “will be in touch with you next week to advise as to any further records responsive to your request that are not exempt from disclosure.”
By then, however, it was becoming clear that Bunnell police had been scrambling to catch up on an investigation it had not yet even begun.
On Wednesday Flagler County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Steve Brandt of the Investigative Services Division received a phone call from the medical exam office in St. Augustine wanting to know what detective was assigned to the Emanuel case.
“That’s the first time we even became aware that there was a case,” Sheriff Rick Staly said this evening. Brandt researched the question and found out that Cpl. Shane Tully of the Bunnell Police Department was assigned to it. Tully, known as a sharp policeman in the department, had reported on the original incident. Brandt recommended to Tully that he contact the State Attorney’s Office’s investigative unit, and briefed the sheriff. The sheriff spoke with Foster and offered “any assistance they need from our agency, but it’s their case–whether it’s CSI or detectives and so forth.”
“But that is the extent we have been involved in,” Staly said. “There’s no crime scene that my agency is aware of that we can assist.”
Staly’s detectives and crime scene investigators have worked on four homicide investigations this year, including one in Flagler Beach, which has its own well-seasoned detective. But that detective was out of town the night of the April 30 murder of Lucas Gore by his father. The Flagler Beach Police Department welcomed a sheriff’s detective to be the lead investigator in the case. Gore’s father, Bobby Earl, who is to be sentenced in December, has since confessed to the murder. (All four of the Sheriff’s Office’s four murder investigations this year have yielded either confessions or arrests.)
“We have offered any assistance that Bunnell needs,” Staly said. “As far as any active involvement [from] our agency, we’re not, they haven’t asked for any further assistance.”
Bunnell has no detectives.
Foster, who does not generally tolerate questions beyond basics and bromides, was immediately on the defensive late Friday afternoon when a reporter attempted an interview by phone. He said he would meet with the State Attorney’s Office on Monday and was waiting on the medical examiner’s report. But when asked why no information about the most serious crime since Stubbs’s murder in Bunnell was being released, Foster, startlingly, said, “don’t threaten me,” and hung up on the reporter. When the reporter called him back, Foster’s first words were, “I’m not going to be threatened by a reporter.” When told that he was not being threatened–and told that his claim of being threatened was, in fact, “bullshit,” in the reporter’s words, itself a veiled threat of using police authority to silence questions, Foster said, “Good bye sir, I’m documenting it,” and hung up on the reporter again.
A third call was not initiated.
He would meet with the state attorneys office…..ha, ha, ha—what a joke. This agency has had the largest staff turnover multiple years in a row and it’s like a bunch of keystone cops. This agency is just as much of an embarrassment to this state as is the Orange County state attorney.
Anonymous as well says
How many more murders are going to go unsolved because this city does not want to concede that they need to be absorbed by the Sheriff’s office? This is ridiculous. They can’t handle a medium, let alone major incident. There’s never any patrol units in the high crime area of south Bunnell, whether they’re understaffed or scared… it doesn’t matter. It’s ridiculous that this place is still allowed to be a functioning agency. They need to be absorbed ASAP!
Come on gents says
Just let the sheriff take over already The people of Bunnell are paying more money for far worst police services. It’s time
Komodo Dragon says
Damn, how fucked up. This man, regardless of appearance or finances deserves to have his killers brought to justice. By the poor handling of the crime scene and the disregard for an investigation, one would be swayed to believe that there is a massive cover up. Did law enforcement do this? Not unheard of and won’t be the last.
A special prosecutor is in order to solve this human beings murder and hold these position of authority holders accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
That’s one sad response the top guy is out all week on tax payer dollars enjoying a trade show that his agency can’t afford anyways and leaves nobody in charge ? How come they don’t have an admin seargant and by admin I mean a command staff officer that is present when the chief is out ! And not a CPL who works the road? To be missing from police activities an entire week may be acceptable at a larger agency who has the support to have him out of office but this is unsatisfactory for this agency when the city is composed of the most urban area of the county and requires more police presence …mean while he is down I orlando hanging with his old police buddies. Drinking it up and eating it up on our dime as if he is actually financially able to buy stuff for that agency when they can’t even afford new police cars or officers right now !!!
The Geode says
The Bunnell Police Department is a total JOKE! How can’t they solve a murder case in a city that’s 5 miles square? They seem to think their jobs only consist of trying to find speeders and other traffic violations. You know, …the things that don’t require much interaction, work or brain power. I don’t know if it’s just a lack of “policing” in the black community or indifference but something needs to be done.
Problem: high murder rate
Cause: Inadequate policing (for one)
I don’t understand why Palm Coast does not have their own police force. A highly trained police force, even in a small city, is a good deterrent to many crimes, including murder.
This story is troubling due to what may or may not have happened after the murder of Mr. Emmanuel. I hope that a full investigation is in the works (of the Bunnell Police Officers involved)
Sounds like a cover up to me. All too often when a Black person dies, LEO’s are involved one way or the other and too often not in a good way!
Angie new says
What if Bunnell had a police department involved in the Major problem in the city DRUGS!
If anyone really cares to look, this murder comes from the drug problem.
Bunnell police just stand back and watch as our families, and town is over taken by the drug trade. The police are either afraid, or lazy, or paid off, you pick. I have lived here a long time, and have watched, while nothing is done to even slow it down. Breaks my heart.
Bad bad attitude with the media of the Bunnell Police Chief…Is he forgetting that he is a public official and the public has the right to know..?
The bunnell police are a bad joke, crooked indeed, bunnell needs saved from its lazy police force. Lazy Lazy Lazy
The county and the FCSO are many times working together; an explanation is due as to why they are not doing so with this death. The Chief of Police of Bunnell….. has demonstrated that he is not the man for the job–Commission at the next meeting action needs to take place to get him replaced!!! There is no excuse for this to be hushed and for other agencies to not provide assistance. We the people deserve to know what is going on in our community. Actions by Bunnell PD and the Bunnell Police Chief do not make me feel safe! Heads need to roll………………………….
Look at the officers patrolling ! Most are uneducated and out of shape for Bunnell! As far as them solving any major case crime is a total JOKE! I’d be embarrassed to work for that department! So unprofessional!
Anonymous as well says
Another serious issue is that there’s hundreds of people out there who know who killed this man and may have even witnessed the incident but they won’t come forward and talk to the police… they’ll just write R.I.P. Chubby on Facebook and think they did their good deed for the day. It’s a cultural issue of not talking to the police no matter what. Its disgusting. Bunnell PD is pathetic but their jobs would be easier if they got more cooperation from the south Bunnell population.
Police Chief Tom Foster needs to be externally investigated!! I would like to hear what this mans family and friends have to say about the way Bunnell has handled this horrible situation and the loss of their friend, neighbor, loved one.
Looks to me like we have a overzealous reporter that wrote a story without all the facts!
Gimp: glad you understand the point of the story.
Al Zeimers says
Ya, Palm Coast having it’s own fuzz department is going to prevent all crimes in the city. That’s
because they are going to be so brilliant they will know where the crimes are going to be committed
and be there before the crime is committed and arrest the pervs. And to have these geniuses along with new super cruisers ( 5 liter mustangs with super chargers) isn’t going to cost the tax payers anything.. The city will purchase the winning power ball ticket every year exactly at budget time. The other way, much more practical, is keep the scum out of Palm Coast.
C Granderson says
When is the next city election these commissioners should wake up or be voted out. Davis should of been fired already, Foster needs to go with him, they should contract with the FCSO a professional law Enforcement agency. They shut the wrong department down they should’ve kept the fire department and shut this embarrassment to all qualified law enforcement officers down.
These Idots so called cops have no information, I am sure they never investigated the matter now they can’t say what happened. Bunnell should eliminate the PD and hand over responsibility to the FCSO.
New York 13 says
Sounds like a cover-up to me. I guess officer Tully dropped the ball on this one. I’ve spoken to Chief Foster on c e and he is arrogant and rude. Hand over the case to the sheriff’s office. I he has family and they look into this matter.
C'mon man says
I’m sure BPD has a suspect and are gathering the evidence. Relax people there is no cover-up. Information like this is a need to know basis and putting it out can harm the investigation.
Still waiting to learn of the details in the death of this man. Is this going to be just swept under the rug? There is a reason why the city of Bunnell is closed mouthed. Only in Flagler County do you see and hear of things like this. The leadership in Flagler County is deplorable!
@anonymous…”.only in flagler county do you see and hear things like this”? Wrong! It happens everywhere. I have talked to retired officers from Jersey and New york that tell me stories while they are laughing about it….in the back of my head im thinking WTF….