Jacksonville, FL - Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt says even if all officers had acted by the book, they likely wouldn’t have been able to save 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle- but half a dozen are now facing disciplinary action regardless.
“We have policies and we have rules and if they follow those, I’m gunna stand behind them all day- we didn’t follow all of them in this case,” he says.
Four members of JSO who worked in the Communications Center and two supervisors in the Homicide unit were found to have acted wrong in some way by JSO Internal Investigations. One communications officer and one Homicide Lieutenant are being suspended for three days without pay. That same Lieutenant and a Homicide Sergeant are being moved laterally out of the Homicide unit. All officer still have the opportunity to appeal these decisions.
“I’m not faulting the work that they did at the scene, really I’m faulting some of the work that they should have done and didn’t do,” Senterfitt says.
A full recap of the offenses listed in the more than 70 page investigation obtained by WOKV is below, but among some of the problems Senterfitt highlighted include Lieutenant Rob Schoonover’s failure to respond to the scene immediately and the communications center’s failure to properly classify the initial 911 call as a child abduction. Senterfitt says those issues trickled down to have a more wide reaching effect. For example, because there were not more ranking officers on scene, Senterfitt believes the Sergeant in command may have been somewhat overwhelmed.
“Do I think that we would have found her [Cherish] in time to save her? Probably not. But if that was your little 8-year-old girl, wouldn’t you want us to try,” Senterfitt says.
Cherish’s mother, Rayne, in fact believed that if police had followed all procedures her daughter would still be alive. She says knowing about these reprimands does not make her feel any better, and she thinks there should be further repercussions, although she does appreciate the work of those officers who actively searched for Cherish.
Here’s a breakdown of each investigation, by officer:
Homicide Lieutenant Rob Schoonover, suspended without pay for three days for “failure to conform to work standards”, transferred out of Homicide Unit: Schoonover had returned from a trip to Boston that night, and was notified by Mills and via text about the investigation. He told investigators he didn’t respond initially because it the case was still in its fact-finding stage. When he was later called and gave the authorization to initiate the Amber Alert, he still didn’t respond to the scene because he felt there was already a good presence on the scene and he wanted to further see what would develop. When Mill later called giving details about the suspect in the case, they then discussed activating the CART and Schoonover notified the Assistant Chief. Schoonover also showed investigators his phone records which contradicted Mills’ statement that they had been in fluid communication that evening. There were only three calls placed from Mills to Schoonover. He responded to the scene after authorizing the CART activation.
Homicide Sergeant LJ Mills, Level 2 written reprimand for “failure to take appropriate action”, transferred out of Homicide Unit: Mills was briefed by officers on the scene gathering information, and his initial determination was either that Rayne was hiding Cherish from flying out to see her biological father the next day, that Cherish went with the suspect to another store, or that Cherish has been abducted. He did not think some of the things Rayne was doing made sense, such as moaning without crying or making comments about being a psyhcic. He spoke with Lieutenant Rob Schoonover, who was at home, and told him he would keep him posted as he wasn’t yet sure if this was a bona fide abduction. He eventually obtained authorization from Schoonover to activate an Amber Alert, but didn’t feel the need to call out resources like the Child Abduction Response Team until he had more leads. He told investigators he spoke to Schoonover several other times through the fluid investigation.
Police Emergency Communications Officer PL Robinson, suspended without pay for three days for “failure to conform to work standards”: Robinson received the call from Rayne Perrywinkle about her daughter being taken from a Northside Walmart and her concerns about what that man was going to do to her daughter. The IA investigators say Robinson initially believed she passed along all the “pertinent” information, but now admits her summary was incomplete. Robinson told investigators “it [the call] didn’t seem real” and she was hoping police would arrive on the scene and find nothing wrong.
Police Emergency Communications Officer JE Fooshee, Level 2 written reprimand for “failure to take appropriate action”: Fooshee was asked by another PECO about the availability of the Air Unit. Investigators learned he spoke with the police pilot who was driving home and when the pilot asked what was going on, Foshee said he didn’t know. The pilot told Fooshee to call if there was anything urgent, and Fooshee told the pilot to “go home”. Fooshee told investigators he did not have the authority to call the pilot back because the pilot was off-duty. He was later called by a Lieutenant Claude Ayoub to request the Air Unit, and when Ayoub asked why it hadn’t been called already, Fooshee responded “yeah, I know”.
Police Emergency Communications Officer Sergeant DA Williams, Level 2 written reprimand for “failure to conform to work standards”: Williams’ initial review of the call corresponded with a “missing person” based on information provided by the other PECOs, and she did not feel the need to listen to the 911 call based on that information. When she was told by Ayoub that an Air Unit was needed, she transferred it to Fooshee and later told investigators she should have followed up to make sure that happened. She also failed to call out the JSO Public Information Officer, which is protocol during a child kidnapping. She wondered why patrol officer did not upgrade the case from “missing person” to “kidnapping”, but never changed it herself. Additionally, Williams was later given instructions by the PIO to send a bulletin to the media mentioning a press conference would be held in reference to a child which had been abducted by a sex offender, but Williams did not include any of that information in the bulletin.
Police Emergency Response Officer Lieutenant PL Leonard, Level 2 written reprimand for “failure to conform to work standards”: Leonard was supervising the communications on the night of the 911 call and was initially given the impression that the case was a missing person, only realizing it was a potential kidnapping when Homicide Unit later responded. After listening to the original 911 call during her IA interview, she admits it sounded like a kidnapping call. She also told investigators there were several tasks that were done improperly on that night.