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A year of crime and tragedy tested Longboat Police

The Longboat Key Police Department showed it was capable in the past year of crime and tragedy on the island.

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  • | 8:00 a.m. August 15, 2018
  • Longboat Key
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It’s been an “unusual” year for Longboat Key, said Police Chief Pete Cumming.

The town witnessed homicide, armed robbery and video voyeurism in the past year, felony offenses committed in a town that hasn’t seen a violent crime in five years, according to FBI crime statistics. Two other fatalities within a matter of months shook the island.

“This was after we got declared the safest city of our size,” said Mayor George Spoll. “And all the sudden we had all these events that were coincidental, and the Police Department handled them with capability.”

The past 12 months tested the Police Department, Cumming said, adding he learned a lot about the quality of his 20-officer squad, including one volunteer marine patrol officer.

It all started in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 4, when a hooded man entered the Zota Beach Resort lobby and robbed the front desk of $900, killing the night desk manager, Tim Hurley, and security guard Kevin Carter.

Five days later, through a combination of high-tech and old-fashioned police work, Darryl Hanna Jr. was arrested and charged with robbery and murder. 

“We have a good crew, a good department — we’ve got good investigators and good first responders,” Cumming said. “How you face adversity is a test of how good you are.

“I watched each of them individually and as a unit to come together — what was confirmed in my mind was I had the right people doing the right jobs. Nobody wants to have this kind of thing happen to prove that you have the right crew out there.”

First responders made a difference when it came to investigating the out-of-the-ordinary cases while maintaining the deparment’s normal level of service to the public, said Lt. Detective Robert Bourque.

Often, the first few minutes of a case can be vital. 

“Most of these major events that happened, I’ve been at home,” Bourque said. “These officers know if they didn’t talk to witnesses, if they didn’t protect the scene, if they didn’t do things properly, we’d have no case.”

First responders were pivotal earlier this year in arresting three armed men accused of stealing jewelry and money from two tourists at the Islander Club. Officers arrived at the scene within minutes and were able to broadcast a description of a suspect vehicle to other police departments in the area.

Sarasota sheriff’s deputies got that description, found the suspect vehicle and chased it into Manatee County, where officers apprehended one of the suspects.

“They captured the driver of that car, so you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the game,” Bourque said.

“You’ve got a place to start. Those things are so important and sometimes get forgotten.”

Sarasota and Manatee sheriff’s deputies helped with many of the cases the Longboat Key Police Department handled in the past year.

Manatee County helped analyze video evidence from a Longboat Key home found with hidden cameras and tapes dating back a decade. Police arrested Wayne Natt and charged him with 17 counts of video voyeurism.

Sarasota County’s forensic unit helped collect evidence that led to a suicide determination in a case at the Longboat Key Club Moorings. The investigation took weeks and was the topic of speculation among residents.

“Everybody has been very gracious in helping us through this tough year that’s been a lot of work,” Bourque said.

And despite the assistance, this past year strained the department. Police escalated its presence on the north end of the island in response to complaints of rowdy beachgoers, moved one of the patrol officers to the investigative department and fired an officer found to have taken personal photos of deceased victims at crime scenes.

“How I did that was I relied on my people who had their jobs to do,” Cumming said. “Sometimes we all get pushed to do more than we think we can.”

Through all this, the department did what it could to communicate with residents. After an armed robbery at the Islander Club, Cumming, Bourque an Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino went to the condominium complex to remind residents how to stay safe.

“That kind of interaction reassures them that we’re not just cops on patrol, that were out there doing things to prevent these crimes,” Cumming said. “We’re moving around all the time watching. That kind of reassurance helps.”

Maureen Merrigan, a resident of the island’s north end, said she felt secure on Longboat Key. 

“It’s a little bit of the state of the world,” Merrigan said. “Longboat is not immune to the larger community of Bradenton and Sarasota.”

Longboat Key Police proved themselves capable in the past 12 months, Merrigan said, an observation that reassured her of how safe Longboat Key really is.

“I think Longboat is very safe in the scheme of things,” Merrigan said.




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