Deputy is accused of setting fire
Brevard cop under surveillance after reports of suspicious blazes
By Laurin Sellers
Sentinel Staff Writer
April 26, 2005
COCOA -- A Brevard County deputy sheriff patrolling west of Cocoa early Monday pulled a department-issued flare from the trunk of his cruiser and used it to set a wildfire, authorities said.
Investigators suspect it was at least the 10th time since January that Deputy Henry F. Schook III intentionally started a blaze while on duty in rural Brevard.
This time, they were watching.
Schook, 27, who was arrested about 2:30 a.m. on charges of intentional or reckless burning of land and illegal possession of an incendiary device, had been under surveillance for nearly two months, said Lt. Glenn Kramer of the Florida Department of Agriculture's law-enforcement office.
He was immediately suspended with pay, booked into the Brevard County Jail and later released on $5,000 bond.
The Sheriff's Office also is conducting an internal investigation.
"It's disappointing that it's a law-enforcement officer; that's for sure," said Lt. Col. Lou Leinhauser, an Agriculture Department spokesman.
Schook, who could not be reached for comment Monday, was hired in 2001 and has worked as a road-patrol deputy out of the west precinct for two years.
His father, Henry F. Schook Jr., said Monday that his son wouldn't comment on the charges on the advice of his attorney. The father called the charges "ridiculous."
"I'm afraid of saying anything more," he said.
The state began investigating Schook after the Division of Forestry reported that several suspicious brush fires had occurred in the Townsend Road area northwest of Cocoa in early February.
Although the charges stem from a single fire, investigators said evidence links Schook to more than 10 other blazes and several vehicle fires.
"There was forensic evidence, including flares and residue, left at the other fires," Kramer said. That evidence is being analyzed at the State Fire Marshal's lab in Tallahassee.
"Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we'll have additional charges," he said.
Kramer also noted that Schook had been on duty in the area when all the fires were set.
No one was injured and no homes were burned, he said, adding he did not have an estimate of the acreage burned.
Agents with the Sheriff's Office and the Department of Agriculture were watching from the ground and the air when the last fire was set off Grissom Parkway south of Camp Road. It was quickly extinguished, and the scorched flare was recovered.
Schook immediately invoked his rights and was not interviewed by investigators.
He asked to be taken back to the west precinct, where he was arrested, Kramer said.
"To have one of our own do something like this sheds negative light on the whole department," sheriff's Sgt. Andrew Walters said. "I can't imagine a motive."
Walters said Schook's personnel file contains several commendations and only one complaint from a citizen that turned out to be unfounded.
"He was not a stellar employee but always met standards on his evaluations," Walters said. "There's certainly nothing that would indicate he would be out there setting fires."
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04-26-2005, 09:35 AM #1
Deputy is accused of setting fire
04-26-2005, 05:10 PM #2
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