Monday, November 3, 2008

TPD: Buying gun was Hoffman's idea

Transcripts released in investigation

By Nic Corbett and Jennifer Portman

It was Rachel Hoffman's idea to buy the handgun thought to have been used to kill her in May when a drug sting went bad, according to documents released Saturday by the Tallahassee Police Department.

That and other details are revealed in more than 500 pages of transcribed interviews conducted by TPD's internal-affairs investigators with the officers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents involved in the operation. Two of Hoffman's friends also were interviewed.

Included in the transcripts, which were used to compile a 199-page internal-affairs report made public in late September, is the full interview with former investigator Ryan Pender, Hoffman's main police contact.

His firing for violating nine department rules was announced the day the earlier report was released. Four more senior officers were suspended for two weeks without pay. Chief Dennis Jones and Deputy Chief John Proctor were reprimanded.

Pender said the 23-year-old Hoffman hoped that buying a gun would help satisfy the vague terms of her confidential-informant work so she could more quickly get out of Tallahassee and on with her life. Hoffman planned to go to culinary school, her friends have said.

Hoffman, a recent Florida State University graduate, had been caught with about a quarter-pound of marijuana in her apartment in April when she began working with police.

"She asked, 'Well, if I bought a gun would that ... help my charges?' " Pender told internal-affairs investigators Danielle Davis and George Creamer in an Aug. 22 interview. "I said, 'Any charge you get against him, if you bought anything stolen from him, and he's dealing with stolen property, that would be a charge. That would help with substantial assistance."

The gun she was to buy from the two men now charged with her murder is thought to have been stolen from the car-detailing shop where they worked days before the doomed operation. If convicted, Andrea Green, 25, and Deneilo Bradshaw, 23, could face the death penalty.

The fact that a gun would be purchased as part of the deal was not included in Pender's written plan. He pointed out, however, that it did say that firearms would be present.

Still, Pender conceded he was rushed to get the plan done, according to the transcript.

"It was a small mistake on my behalf as far as accuracy," he said.

Pender wasn't worried about Hoffman buying a gun, he said, despite the fact that she had no experience with firearms. He told her not to touch it and said her desire to purchase one for protection wouldn't seem strange to the suspects because she was a drug dealer who had been robbed twice before, the transcripts state.

"Now if (she) were wanting to buy stolen rims, that wouldn't have made sense," he said.

The transcripts also provide more insight into why Pender was not concerned about sending Hoffman off alone with $13,000 in cash. It would have been out of character for her to steal the money, he said, but if she did flee she'd be easy to find.

"She's a — as she called it — a very religious, family-oriented girl," he said.

Pender also said in the internal-affairs interview that Hoffman was used to handling lots of money. According to him, she admitted to moving five to 15 pounds of marijuana a week, an amount worth at least $26,000. Hoffman's friends, though, described her as a low-level dealer who wasn't selling that much marijuana.

"So what is $13,000 to her?" he said. "It would be insufficient. It would be pennies. It wouldn't be worth it."


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