Friday, April 20, 2007

Police officer accused of offensive chats with teen

The Associated Press
April 20, 2007, 7:56 AM EDT

OCALA -- An Ocala Police Department veteran was charged with trying to solicit a 14-year-old girl over the Internet, authorities said.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials arrested Matthew Wayne Edmonds, a patrolman with the Ocala Police Department, at his home on Thursday.

Edmonds, 32, has been a police officer for 10 years.

The girl notified authorities after she was contacted online in December by a man claiming to be a University of Florida student in his 20s. The man told the girl he wanted a "new girl to support."

The girl replied to the instant message and said she was 14, but the man then sent another message that said it was all right "as long as she didn't tell anyone."

The girl searched for the man's screen name after the chat and e-mailed authorities when his online profile displayed a picture of an older man.

Authorities then began to track several screen names and chatted with a man who they believe was Edmonds by using fake names, according to an arrest report.

Eventually, authorities obtained a search warrant for his home.

Chief Sam Williams said his department has suspended Edmonds without pay. Edmonds has posted a $4,000 bond. It was not immediately known if he had a lawyer.

"It's a sad day for the Ocala Police Department," Deputy Chief Greg Graham told the Ocala Star-Banner. "It hurts when one of our own is accused of something like this."

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