Bradenton officer cracked case that outraged public

rdymond@bradenton.comDecember 9, 2013 

Bradenton Police investigator John Morningstar helped arrest three suspects in a beating in Riverwalk Park.PROVIDED PHOTO

BRADENTON -- Nov. 5 started out as a normal work day for Investigator John Morningstar of the Bradenton Police Department's Detective Division.

He had no idea he would soon help crack a case that had outraged the Bradenton public.

Morningstar helped arrest three suspects and charged them with beating a man with diminished mental capacity in Riverwalk Park at 3 a.m. Nov. 5. Adding insult to injury, they filmed the violent incident.

For his actions, Morningstar was named Officer of the Month in December.

Morningstar was standing in a group of his colleagues hours after the beating when an anonymous email to the

Bradenton Police Department showed a cell phone video posted on a social media site of the beating of the victim along with comments from the public, which expressed outrage, Morningstar said.

The 29-year-old Morningstar, who started July 16, 2007, at the BPD after moving to Florida from upstate New York, was as angry as the public and his fellow officers that someone would beat a person who may not even understand what was happening to him.

Morningstar wanted the case.

"It's a very emotional case, which I can't go into details about now, but more will come out later," Morningstar said Sunday. "I definitely felt it was a case of a high priority that needed to be solved right away."

Morningstar had four words to describe what he did after seeing the video.

"I ran with it," Morningstar said.

"He's tenacious when he gets a hold of something," BPD Chief Michael Radzilowski said of Morningstar. "He's also very thorough and dots his i's and crosses his t's."

Without any idea who the victim was, Morningstar used his sources to find him in two hours, found he was of diminished mental capacity and immediately tried to help with his medical needs.

"Investigator Morningstar displayed a professional and caring demeanor towards the victim," said BPD Capt. William Fowler, who nominated Morningstar for the monthly award.

That same afternoon, Morningstar obtained a tip from a citizen, which led to the identification of all three suspects, Fowler said.

Morningstar shared the credit.

"Detective Troy Masterson was with me throughout the duration of this case, as were Detective Greg Price and Sgt. Dennis Staley," Morningstar said.

Within 18 hours of the beating, the remaining two suspects turned themselves in to Morningstar. All three suspects have been charged with one felony count of aggravated abuse of a disabled adult.

Morningstar said he has always wanted to be a police officer, but he is not ready to say this makes him a hero.

"It's a little overwhelming to think of yourself as a hero so I don't know about that," Morningstar said. "But I think every kid at some point dreams of being a police officer or fireman. I was in the criminal justice program in high school so I thought about being an officer back then. I think every kid thinks about that image of being a police officer."

Deputy Chief of Police Warren Merriman said: "It's pretty remarkable that Investigator Morningstar was able to bring some closure to the victim of this crime in less than 18 hours, when all he had to work with initially was an anonymous video recording. His actions speak highly of his dedication to the citizens of the city of Bradenton,

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond. tar was able to bring some closure to the victim of this crime in less than 18 hours, when all he had to work with initially was an anonymous video recording. His actions speak highly of his dedication to the citizens of the city of Bradenton,"

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond. 

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