Vehicle Burglary and Theft Groups Targeting Safe Neighborhoods Including Punta Gorda

Posted: March 29, 2021

The City of Punta Gorda has recently seen an increase in the number of vehicle burglaries and vehicle thefts occurring in our community. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been thirty vehicle burglaries and seven stolen vehicles reported. Almost all of these crimes can be directly attributed to juvenile groups from outside of Charlotte County, specifically the St. Petersburg, Bradenton, and Fort Myers areas.

These groups, predominately made up of juveniles males between the ages of fourteen and eighteen , target safe communities where residents are more likely to leave their vehicles unlocked and keys or key fobs inside their cars. In fact, during a recent investigation it was discovered that a suspect involved in one of these groups had searched the internet for “safest neighborhoods nearby” on their phone before committing these crimes. Surveillance video has repeatedly shown that these groups are looking for unlocked vehicles and vehicles with keys or key fobs left inside. Every residential vehicle burglary involved an unlocked car and every vehicle stolen from a residence had the keys or key fobs left inside. These are not professional car thieves who are “hotwiring” vehicles or utilizing high-tech equipment to steal cars. These are juveniles who are simply entering unlocked vehicles and pushing the ignition button. If the vehicle starts, they drive away. If the vehicle is locked or does not start, they move on.

Two suspects find an unlocked vehicle with key fob left inside and quickly drive away.

Due to the nature of these crimes they can be extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute. Even when arrests are made juveniles are often back out on the streets quickly or are being replaced within the groups by other juveniles. The best possible defense against these kinds of property crimes is prevention. These groups continue to come to Punta Gorda because they are successful in finding unsecured vehicles and vehicles with keys or key fobs left inside. We are asking everyone in our community to assist us in changing that by doing the following:

  • Always lock your vehicle when arriving at home. While these crimes are happening overnight, it is much easier to get into habit of simply locking your vehicle when you get home than to remember to lock your vehicle before bed. It may also be helpful to set a reminder or alarm on your phone to double-check your vehicle before you retire for the evening.
  • Never leave valuables, weapons, or keys in your vehicle. Thieves can’t steal what isn’t there. Leaving a key or key fob in the vehicle could mean the difference between your vehicle being in your driveway in the morning or not.
Suspect finds both vehicles locked and quickly heads back to the waiting suspect vehicle.

“We love that Punta Gorda is the kind of community where residents feel safe enough to leave their vehicles unlocked,” says Chief Davis. “Unfortunately, that same feeling of security can be taken advantage of. If we all work together we can make Punta Gorda the kind of community these criminals don’t even bother coming to.”




Punta Gorda Police and ABT Team Up for Underage Alcoholic Beverage Sales Enforcement Sweep

Posted: March 26, 2021

Punta Gorda Police Detectives and State Investigators from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) Bureau of Law Enforcement teamed up on March 25, 2021 for an enforcement sweep in the City of Punta Gorda targeting the sales of alcoholic beverages to minors. The operation included compliance checks at nine local commercial establishments in the City of Punta Gorda licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. Two of the establishments were closed, seven of the establishments open for business were found to be in compliance, and two establishments were out of compliance.

Florida ABT & Punta Gorda Police

The commercial establishments that were found to be in compliance and did NOT sell alcohol to a minor were:

  • Circle K/Shell (3035 Tamiami Trail)
  • PGI Liquor (615 Cross Street)
  • Walgreens (3795 Tamiami Trail)
  • Dollar General (1300 Tamiami Trail)
  • CVS (1949 Tamiami Trail)
  • Publix (2310 Tamiami Trail)
  • 7-Eleven (3139 Tamiami Trail)

The commercial establishment that was found NOT to be in compliance and DID sell alcohol to a minor was:

  • Old Towne Convenience (311 West Marion Avenue)
  • Antar’s Food Mart/Marathon (1002 Tamiami Trail)

This operation was the result of a continuing partnership between ABT and the Punta Gorda Police Department to curb the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages and tobacco to minors. The Punta Gorda Police Department, along with Drug Free Charlotte County and ABT, will continue to work constructively with local retail establishments where violations occur to ensure that employees are educated regarding Florida law. Operations like this one will continue.

Chief Pam Davis urges all individuals to report the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages and tobacco to law enforcement. Violations within the incorporated city limits of Punta Gorda can be reported to the Punta Gorda Police Department by calling 941-639-4111.




Punta Gorda VCAT Members Receive Attorney General’s Back the Blue Award

Posted: February 18, 2021

Attorney General Ashley Moody came to the Punta Gorda Public Safety Complex this morning to present Captain Nahra and the members of the Veteran Crisis Assistance Team (VCAT) including Officer Brandon Meddaugh, Officer Fiorino, Detective Delgado, Officer Gray, and Officer Vetri, with the Attorney General’s Back the Blue Award.

Attorney General Ashley Moody speaking at the Punta Gorda Public Safety Complex

The Back the Blue campaign highlights law enforcement officers, citizens, and organizations taking extraordinary steps to forge positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

The VCAT was started in 2020 with the purpose of helping to ensure that the Punta Gorda Police Department has the ability to effectively handle situations involving military veterans experiencing mental health crisis or who are in need of assistance. The VCAT is made up of Punta Gorda law enforcement officers who have served, or are currently serving, in a branch of the United States military.

VCAT Members
VCAT members from left: Officer Fiorino, Officer Vetri, Officer Gray, Officer Meddaugh, and Detective Delgado.

The members of the VCAT have received specialized training in de-escalating situations involving military veterans in crisis. They also work closely with community organizations to assist veterans in receiving needed services and conduct follow-up to help veterans avoid further crisis.

Chief Pam Davis said, “We are honored that Attorney General Moody came to Punta Gorda to recognize the great work being done by our men and women. We are very proud of what the VCAT has already accomplished for our veterans and look forward to the work they will do going forward.”




Punta Gorda Middle School Evacuated After Student Makes Comment About Bomb

Published: January 11, 2021

Earlier today an eleven year old student at Punta Gorda Middle School made a comment to a teacher as they entered the classroom about having a bomb in his backpack. The teacher reported the comment to school administration and school resource officers in accordance with school district policy. When the student was confronted they became upset and stated that they had only been joking.

Out of an abundance of caution the school was evacuated and nearby schools were placed on lockdown. A search of the building and the student’s belongings was conducted with the assistance of the Lee County Port Authority K9 Unit. It was determined that there were no explosives in the building, so lockdowns were lifted and middle school students returned to class.

During further investigation it was determined that the comment made by the student was a quote from a movie the student had watched with their father the previous night. The teacher confirmed that they and the student had a history of talking about movies and quoting movie lines to each other. The teacher also confirmed that the student had made the comment in a playful manner and did not appear to be serious, but that district policy required that he report the incident. The teacher stated that they did not realize that the comment was a movie quote at the time.

Based on the information received during the investigation it was determined that the student did not intend to make a false report of a bomb. However, it was determined that the student’s inappropriate comment had caused a major disruption to the school day and the student was issued a civil citation for Disruption of a School Function. Any disciplinary action taken by the school is handled by school administration.




Punta Gorda Police Create Veteran Crisis Assistance Team

Posted: December 21, 2020

The Punta Gorda Police Department is excited to announce the creation of the Veteran Crisis Assistance Team (VCAT). The purpose of the VCAT is to help ensure that the Punta Gorda Police Department has the ability to effectively handle situations involving military veterans experiencing a mental health crisis or who are in need of assistance. The VCAT will be made up of sworn Punta Gorda law enforcement officers who have served, or are currently serving, in a branch of the United States Military. These officers will engage with community veteran organizations to ensure that veterans in need are connected with appropriate services and assist them in receiving the military benefits they are entitled to.

Our veterans have given so much and deserve to have someone there for them in their time of need.

Chief Pam Davis

Members of the VCAT will respond to situations involving military veterans in need of assistance and have received specialized training in de-escalating situations involving military veterans and dealing with the special needs associated with veterans. The VCAT will assist veterans in connecting to needed services and will then continue to follow-up with veterans to help the veteran avoid further crisis.

VCAT members from left: Officer Fiorino, Officer Vetri, Officer Gray, Officer Meddaugh, and Detective Delgado

On December 18th members of the VCAT in cooperation with Charlotte County Veterans Services and the Military Heritage Museum hosted a Veterans Services Seminar, bringing together individuals representing organizations providing resources and assistance to veterans within Charlotte and Lee Counties. The purpose of this seminar was to allow member of these organizations to network together and gain a better understanding of each organizations mission and what they offer. The hope is that by working together these organizations can better serve the veterans of our community.

Chief Pam Davis said, “We are proud to have the opportunity to better serve the veterans of our community. Our veterans have given so much and deserve to have someone there for them in their time of need.”




Police Looking for Missing Punta Gorda Woman

Updated: November 9, 2020

Police are searching for a missing 87 year old woman. Maxine Joy Bohunsky, who left her residence at Banyan Pointe Condos on foot between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. this afternoon and has not been seen since.

Maxine Joy Bohunsky

Bohunsky was last seen wearing white pants and a t-shirt (unknown color). It is believed she is carrying a black purse.

If you have any information or locate Bohunsky, please contact the Punta Gorda Police Department by calling 941-639-4111.

UPDATE: Bohunsky returned home without incident.




OFFICERS SEIZE 73 BAGS OF COCAINE DURING PROBATION SEARCH

Posted: October 22, 2020

On October 21, 2020, State Probation conducted a search of the residence of Abimael Perez-Carmona, who was currently on probation and believed to be in possession of narcotics. During their search of the residence, which is located in the Seven Palms Apartments complex, narcotics were found.

Individual Bags of Cocaine

Punta Gorda Police Detectives then filed for a search warrant. Once approved the Punta Gorda Police Community Engagement Unit served and executed the warrant locating 73 bags of powder cocaine and crack cocaine (25 grams in total) packaged for sale inside the residence.

Abimael Perez-Carmona

Perez-Carmona was arrested and charged with Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell Within 1,000 Feet of a School, Possession of Cocaine Within 1,000 Feet of a Church, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. In addition, he was charged by State Probation with Violation of Probation.




Threatening Emails Sent to Florida Voters

Posted: October 20, 2020
Updated: October 22, 2020

We have received multiple phone calls from local residents regarding threatening emails received by democratic voters allegedly from the “Proud Boys.”

These emails appear to have been sent in an attempt to intimidate voters. Residents are advised not to click on the link included in the email or respond to the email.

This has been an issue throughout the State of Florida and the FBI is actively investigating.

If you receive an email like this, the FBI has requested that reports be made directly to their Threat Tips Operations Center by calling 1-813-253-1000 and selecting option #3.

UPDATE: John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, announced that Iran was responsible for the voter intimidation emails received by local residents and voters throughout Florida.




MIssing adult

Published: September 30, 2020

Punta Gorda Police are looking to check on the wellbeing of missing adult Thomas Paul Samsel, a 21 year old white male who left a residence unexpectedly on San Massimo Drive in Punta Gorda on the evening of September 24, 2020. Samsel was last seen wearing blue shorts, maroon t-shirt, socks, and sandals. Samsel is approximately 6′ 2″ tall with sandy brown hair and beard, blue eyes, and a slender build. It is believed that Samsel may be attempting to walk to New Jersey.

Thomas Paul Samsel Photo
Thomas Paul Samsel

If you have any information on this case please contact the Punta Gorda Police Department at 941-639-4111 (reference case #20-02971). If you locate Samsel, please contact your local law enforcement agency.




Punta Gorda Police Department to Host Community Presentation & Discussion

Posted: August 25, 2020

Dr. David Thomas, Florida Gulf Coast University

The Punta Gorda Police Department has partnered with the NAACP to bring the training course The Cost of Bias and its Impact on Policing/Community to our officers. This training will be conducted by Dr. David Thomas, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and renowned author of The State of American Policing: Ethics, Implicit Bias, and Credibility.

As part of this process Dr. Thomas will be conducting a community presentation and discussion prior to the officer training in order to answer questions community members have regarding why officers use force, officer and agency accountability, biased policing, internal affairs complaints, and police/minority relations and how these issues relate to the Punta Gorda Police Department and our community.

The community presentation and discussion will be held at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Due to social distancing requirements seating will be limited, the event will be open only to Charlotte County residents, and advanced tickets are required for admission. Tickets will be available at no cost starting on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. by visiting www.eventbrite.com and will be provided on a first come, first serve basis.

This training is being provided through the George and Mary Chapoutot Trust / Punta Gorda Police Department Endowment Fund in cooperation with the Charlotte Community Foundation and Charlotte State Bank.