The Pursuit

October 9, 2020 2:05 AM EST

On September 7, 2019 Officer Jerrell Ogletree activated his emergency equipment and conducted a traffic stop at McKinnon Road and Lake Butler Boulevard. Officer Ogletree of Windermere Police Department claimed Metro-State Special Services owner, Jeremy Dewitte, passed over double solid yellow center lines during a funeral procession.

Officer Ogletree’s supervisor, Sergeant Mark DeStefano, claimed Jeremy Dewitte passed on a double yellow line on Maguire Road and Park Avenue, and he and Ogletree made contact with Dewitte at Lake Butler Boulevard and McKinnon Road. Officer Ryan Miller, Officer Jeffrey Czwornog and an officer in training later responded to the call.

Sergeant DeStefano stated he never lost sight of Jeremy Dewitte even as Dewitte was obstructed by a brick wall and a 60-car quarter of a mile long funeral procession.

According to Winter Garden Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office, McKinnon Road and Lake Butler Boulevard are outside of the Town of Windermere and located in Orange County’s jurisdiction.

The line of demarcation clearly marks where the Town of Windermere ends and where Orange County’s jurisdiction begins. Maguire Road and Park Avenue to Lake Butler Boulevard and McKinnon Road is approximately a two mile stretch of road.

In order for Sergeant DeStefano and Officer Ogletree to make the traffic stop they would have to engage in a vehicle pursuit to leave the Town of Windermere.

The Town of Windermere is 1.9 square miles and located in Orange County. Members of Windermere Police Department can engage in a vehicle pursuit when they have reasonable suspicion to believe a fleeing suspect has committed or has attempted to commit or has a warrant for one of the following violent forcible felonies:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual Battery
  • Carjacking
  • Home Invasion
  • Robbery with a Weapon or Firearm
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated Battery
  • Aggravated Assault with a Firearm
  • Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer
  • Unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb

Pursuits for misdemeanor offenses, non-forcible felonies, and traffic or civil infractions are prohibited.

Jeremy Dewitte was pursued for allegedly crossing a double yellow line which is a traffic infraction in the state of Florida.

Dewitte was later charged with two felonies, falsely impersonating a police officer and unlawful use of a two-way communication device, neither of which are listed as violent forcible felonies. Dewitte was also charged with a first degree misdemeanor for resisting an officer without violence. The charge for unlawful use of a two-way communication device was dropped and a second degree misdemeanor for reckless driving was added.

Windermere Police Department’s members, supervisors and command staff have a responsibility to monitor the progress of each vehicle pursuit. All members must have pursuit training prior to engaging in vehicle apprehension tactics and supervisors are responsible for understanding the limitations of their subordinates.

An incident report must be completed by the primary pursuit vehicle and a supplement report must be completed by active participants in the pursuit. A list of vehicle apprehension tactics which were used or attempted are documented in the incident report.

The supervisor critiques the incident report and is responsible for completing a memorandum detailing the critique to the Chief of Police. It must include whether the vehicle pursuit was in Windermere Police Department’s policy, the original charge, whether the policy was followed and if the member trained to perform the task.

Each level of the chain of command must provide comments on the memorandum to the Chief of Police.

The only memorandum that was created for the September 7, 2019 arrest was in reference to Jeremy Dewitte’s Internal Affairs complaint against Sergeant Mark DeStefano.

If police officers from Windermere Police Department engaged in a vehicle pursuit that was against their policy the traffic stop would be unlawful and any evidence found during the unlawful search and any search warrants conducted after the fact could be inadmissible in court.

Today’s video demonstrates the drive from McKinnon Road and Lake Butler Boulevard back to Park Avenue and Maguire Road.