Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fort Pierce officer charged with molesting handcuffed teen

By Rebecca Panoff

Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

December 27, 2007


Police Officer Dwight Toombs was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious battery after police say he sexually molested a 15-year-old girl while investigating a case.

Toombs, 33, who has been with the Fort Pierce department since 2001, was charged with three felony counts of sexual battery on a person 12 years of age or older by a government agent and three felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery. He was taken to the St. Lucie County Jail and his bail was set at $900,000, according to the Fort Pierce Police Department.

"It's disturbing," Police Chief R. Sean Baldwin said Wednesday evening. "It's painful. It hurts. It's embarrassing for the department. We work so hard to gain and maintain the public's trust and to have an incident like this tears away at that. It's hard on me and it's hard on every officer that works here."

Toombs had been placed on leave in several high-profile cases. He was fired by a previous police chief in 2004 after an internal investigation found he struck an 11-year-old with a belt, but City Manager Dennis Beach gave Toombs his job back.

According to a complaint affidavit in the most recent case, Toombs molested the teen he had handcuffed after being called to investigate an incident of a couple having sex in a car at Kimberly Bergalis Memorial Park on Dec. 18.

Both the girl and the 20-year-old man involved — who hasn't been charged with a crime but is being investigated regarding having sex with a minor — told police Toombs fondled her twice, the report states.

The girl told police when Toombs arrived, she and the man were in the car and she was wearing only a T-shirt. Toombs reportedly asked them both for identification, handcuffed the man, went around to where the girl was sitting and handcuffed her, the report states.

Police say Toombs drove the man and girl to another location, where "he got three gloves from his car, put two of them on" and molested her again, the report states.

Baldwin said investigators worked on the case through the holiday break and Toombs was arrested as soon as they thought they had enough evidence. The criminal investigation is continuing.

"We try to be extremely careful when considering charges against a police officer," Baldwin said.

Toombs, who was placed on administrative leave with pay last Thursday, will remain on paid leave pending the review of an administrative investigation, according to a department news release.

Previous incidents in which Toombs has been involved will also be factored into a decision about whether he will be allowed to keep his job with the department, Baldwin said.

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