Florida

He tried to take a ride on a manatee. Then he took a ride to jail

A man seen illegally cavorting with protected manatees in Islamorada remains in jail after refusing to cooperate with law-enforcement officers.
A man seen illegally cavorting with protected manatees in Islamorada remains in jail after refusing to cooperate with law-enforcement officers. FWC

A man trying to take a ride on a manatee instead got a ride to the Monroe County jail Friday in Islamorada.

James Roy Massengale Jr., 47, apparently homeless, remained in custody at press time under a $25,000 bond, mostly for refusing to cooperate with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.

FWC Officer Courtney Baumgartner went to the Islamorada Library Beach, a small park off mile marker 81.5, around noon Friday when witnesses reported that a man in a creek was touching two adult manatees and their two calves. It’s against the law to molest manatees.

A witness advised the defendant that making contact with manatees was against the law, but the man reportedly declared, “I’m riding it!”

Baumgartner reported seeing Massengale “reaching for, touching, and lying over top manatees in the creek.”

Massengale denied being warned away from the protected marine mammal and became “verbally combative,” FWC Officer Bobby Dube, an agency spokesman, said. “A short time later, [Massengale] changed his story and admitted he did talk to the witness, but ‘wasn’t going to stop until someone with a badge’ told him to.”

Although the FWC officer planned to give Massengale a notice to appear in court on the misdemeanor manatee violation, the defendant “continuously chanted ‘Take me to jail’ ”and said he would not show up for his case.

He then was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office. During booking, Massengale was placed in isolation for refusing to provide identification information.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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