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A 19-year-veteran with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has retired to avoid being fired after an internal affairs investigation determined he solicited an autistic 16-year-old girl by offering her a ride to school twice.
A criminal investigation by police concluded that Sgt. Dewayne Carr didn’t break any laws but found his behavior “highly concerning and suspicious,” an internal affairs report states.
Neither investigation could determine for certain that Carr had offered the autistic teen $20 to “do things,” as she said, nor could it substantiate an additional but similar incident reported by a 20-year-old autistic woman who attends the same school.
Carr denied any wrongdoing in an interview with Temple Terrace police and in an initial interview with the sheriff’s internal affairs investigators. But he later admitted to one of the encounters with the teen.
The veteran deputy insisted that he thought the 16-year-old girl was much older.
But given the time of morning, that there were at least five schools within a 15-block radius of each encounter’s location, that students wore polo shirts with the school’s logo and that he offered to give the teen a ride to school, an internal affairs investigator concluded that Carr knew that the 16-year-old victim was a juvenile. If he didn’t, as a veteran law enforcement officer, he should have known better than to approach a “young lady” who was walking in a residential neighborhood, carrying a backpack and wearing a school uniform polo shirt.
The internal affairs investigation, closed out in October, sustained violations of conduct unbecoming a deputy and failure to provide factual and truthful statements to law enforcement. After his interview with internal affairs, Carr resigned, opting to retire early rather than face termination.
Both the teenager and the 20-year-old woman are students at Focus Academy Charter School, 304 Druid Hills Road, Temple Terrace, a charter high school and transition program for students between the ages of 14 and 22 with special needs.
They were not enrolled in the same program nor do they travel to school together. When shown a photo of Carr, they both confirmed that he had been the man that approached him, according to the report.
Carr lives within miles of the encounters and was not working on either morning the encounters occurred with the 16-year-old.
On Sept. 6, the 16-year-old girl was walking past the parking lot of a 7-Eleven at the intersection of North 56th Street and Whiteway Drive in Temple Terrace on the way to school when she was first approached by Carr, according to the internal affairs report. Carr asked if she “wanted to get into the car and do things for $20,” the girl later said. She told him “no” and left.
But as soon as she got to school she saw told the school’s director of operations and said, “He wanted to drive me to school and he was weird.”
The girl was told to take a picture of the man, if he approached her again. And that’s exactly what she did. Four days later, despite taking a different route to school, Carr approached her along 53rd Street, behind another nearby charter school.
He asked her how old she was, if she was single and wanted a ride to school. Again he offered $20 if she “wanted to do something,” the girl reported. She told him she wasn’t interested and as he drove off she managed to take two photos of his car.
This time when she reported what happened to the same school official, Temple Terrace police were called to the school. It was then when this same school official learned of another similar encounter that occurred involving a 20-year-old student sometime in August.
That student claimed she was walking along Busch Boulevard near a Publix store at 56th Street when Carr approached her and asked her if she wanted to get into the car. She got scared and ran to school and told her teacher.
One day after the encounters were reported to police, on Sept. 11, the same officer who had responded to the school was patrolling the area near the Publix when he spotted a vehicle fitting the description and identified Carr as the suspect. Carr admitted to the officer he had been in the areas the encounters occurred and confirmed that it was his car pictured in the photo taken by the 16-year-old victim. But he insisted he was on his headset talking on the phone and the girl must have mistakenly thought he was talking to her.
When interviewed by internal affairs, Carr initially denied having spoken with the girls, according to the report. When specifically asked if he had offered one of them $20 to “do things,” Carr responded, “No, No! If I did, I sure don’t remember that.”
Carr got emotional during the interview and told investigator, “I love my kids.”
Eventually, Carr admitted that he had spoken with the 16-year-old victim on Sept. 6, but insisted that he thought she was an adult, according to the report.
“I love my kids. I don’t mess with no children,” Carr told the investigator. “Only, only thing I know, I went by the 7-Eleven and there was a girl walking that looked like an adult. .. .I didn’t try and get nobody in my truck. I just asked her does she have a boyfriend and that was it.”
He denied the other incidents.
But given both alleged victims were autistic, Carr was trained to know better. As part of his continuing education as a corrections deputy at the Manatee County jail he took at took at least one 40-hour course entitled “Working with special needs offenders.”
Carr had struggles from the onset of his career in law enforcement.
Before he came to work at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Carr had a brief stint with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He was initially hired as a full-time deputy, but he failed to pass the field training program during his initial six months. He went on to volunteer part-time as a reserve deputy for at about a year before being hired by Manatee.
Carr was assigned to work at the jail when he was first hired, but in mid-2001 he was suspended without pay for a week for neglect of duty after a emergency gate near one of the dorms at the jail was discovered to have been unlocked for hours when he was assigned to patrol the perimeter. He was transferred to the operations center to work as part of the telephone reporting unit, and within a few months he moved to the patrol unit.
But in 2003, he was again disciplined for conduct unbecoming a deputy and suspended for two weeks without pay and reassigned back to the jail.
Since then, requests made by Carr to transfer out of the jail and to become part of the honor guard were denied by his chain of command, citing his “past conduct” and “service record,” including letters of reprimand.