Former High Springs Police Chief Tied Up in Death Investigation
Published March 24th, 2014
HIGH SPRINGS - The sparring between High Springs city manager Ed Booth and former police chief Steve Holley took a dark turn this morning after the city alleged to have found missing evidence from a death investigation in Holley’s squad car.
In a press release, Booth claims the evidence found in the police cruiser had been missing for more than six months, prompting an internal investigation.
While police investigated the death last year, a weapon in the case had gone missing, according to the press release. Officials would not identify which specific case is being examined.
City officials found evidence for the case in the back of Holley’s vehicle "when [he] turned in his vehicle" to the city after being placed on administrative leave Jan. 27th.
Multiple city officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the death investigation was for a suicide and the evidence found in Holley’s police cruiser were papers authorizing the return of the gun used to commit the suicide to surviving family members—not the weapon itself.
Booth declined to comment on his press release.
The city claims to have contacted the Jacksonville office of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the press release states, which began an investigation as of Friday.
The FDLE would neither confirm nor deny an investigation, but an FDLE source told TV20 the department’s involvement has been “greatly exaggerated.”
An official with the city government who requested anonymity said the missing evidence did not inform the decision to dismiss Holley.
In addition, the city has also begun an investigation into why the police department has “tens of thousands of dollars’ worth” of electronic equipment that it does not need, the release states.
The city is also questioning Holley’s credentials and path of promotion, according to the release.
In response, Brandon Kutner with the Florida Police Benevolent Association said in a press release that these are only allegations.
“Allegations are just that, and should be treated with unbiased scrutiny until such time as corroborating or exculpatory evidence is uncovered,” said Kutner in the press release.
Kutner’s comments fly in the face of demands made by High Springs city attorney Scott Walker that he cease and desist making public statements about the city government—particularly Booth and Walker.
“Given the threatening tone and content of the aforementioned letter, I personally find the timing of the City’s most recent press release suspect at best,” said Kutner.
High Springs vice mayor Bob Barnas said he believes this is just another move in the feud between Booth and Holley regarding how to handle the 911 dispatch center.
“When they removed Holley, they removed the only roadblock in the way of transferring 911 operations to Alachua County,” said Barnas.
Minutes from an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office command staff meeting indicate that Booth and Sheriff Sadie Darnell had met privately to discuss transitioning 911 dispatch back to the county.
Questions of impropriety also surround the selection of Holley’s successor, interim police chief Antoine Sheppard. A conflict of interest disclosure form from a 2007 grant shows that Sheppard is the cousin of current mayor Byran Williams.
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