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DEER DEBACLE ENDS FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT CAREER

Executive forced to resign over hunting charge

Posted on Wed, Jan. 07, 2004

By Bill Cotterell

DEMOCRAT POLITICAL EDITOR

An executive of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was forced to resign after being charged with shooting a deer in his yard, the department said Tuesday.

A. Leon Lowry II, who was inspector general of the department, faces a misdemeanor charge of hunting after dark. He could also be charged with making false statements to investigators and could lose his law-enforcement license, said FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell.

If Lowry's neighbor weren't a game warden, if he hadn't asked a friend to help him cover his tracks, if he hadn't used a state car to hustle the head and hide to Georgia or if he'd told his boss about being investigated, Lowry might not have lost his job policing the affairs of FDLE's other agents.

And if the eight-point buck had tromped into his Killearn Lakes yard a half-hour sooner, yielding to such a tempting target wouldn't have been a problem.

The veteran officer could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening, but according to an internal FDLE report, "Lowry stated that, as a hunter, he was tempted and he failed the test."

Lowry shot the deer in his yard at about 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, the report said. Lt. Thomas Haworth, a neighbor who was driving home nearly two hours later, saw a "cleaned-up bloodstain" on the road in front of Lowry's house.

The Fish and Wildlife official found a trail of blood in the driveway the next day and spoke with Lowry, who "denied any knowledge of a deer being shot the previous night," the report said. The next day, Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Charles Chafin secretly wore a recorder and talked with Lowry, who said a friend had given him some deer meat from a hunting trip in Georgia.

Fish and Wildlife Capt. Scott Runkle went to Star's Meats on Tharpe Street, where many hunters have their kill dressed. An employee there said Lowry had brought a freshly killed deer to be butchered at 6:35 p.m. on Dec. 3.

"Lowry brought the deer in for processing less than an hour after denying any knowledge of the deer to FWC Lt. Haworth," FDLE Supervisor Scott Grant wrote in his report.

On Dec. 10, Chafin and Runkle went to the FDLE, where Lowry headed the office that investigates complaints against other officers and mismanagement within the agency. The report said he again denied knowledge of the shooting but said that a friend "had given him a second deer that he had forgotten to tell Sgt. Chafin about."

"The investigators explained their investigation, including the previous taped statements and the ability to match blood samples from Lowry's driveway with the deer he took to Star's Meats," the report said. At that point, he "admitted the violation."

Lowry told investigators he had called his friend during the investigation and said, "If anybody asks, just tell them you gave me some more meat." The report said Lowry acknowledged it was illegal to shoot the animal after sunset and that he should have informed FDLE chief of staff Bonnie Rogers that the Fish and Wildlife Commission was investigating him.

He also told investigators he used a state police car to "drive up into Georgia on Dec. 5 in order to dump the deer head and cape in a location where FWC would not find them," the report said.

Tunnell, the FDLE commissioner, said he was going to fire Lowry, but Lowry asked if he could resign on Dec. 19. His resignation memo cited "personal reasons" and said, "It has been my pleasure to serve the law enforcement community for the last 24-plus years."

The FDLE did not publicly announce the resignation. Tunnell said Lowry was a highly valued employee and had a clean record.

"He essentially realized he had made a mistake in trying to cover it all up, and my purpose was not to beat up on him," Tunnell said. "Leon has invested a lot of himself in the agency, and he apologized for any embarrassment he brought to us."

Contact political editor Bill Cotterell at (850) 222-6729 or bcotterell@tallahassee.com .

2004 Tallahassee Democrat and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.tallahassee.com


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