Osceola County, FL – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended a county commissioner on Friday after he was arrested and charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer (video below).
The incident occurred on Nov. 7, 2019 when Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins pretended to be a sheriff’s deputy to gain access to a Turnberry Reserve Homeowner’s Association (HOA) meeting in the library at East Lake Elementary School, the Osceola News-Gazette reported.
Hawkins, who is also a candidate for the Florida State House, was not a member of the HOA.
Bodycam video from the security guard who was working the door at the meeting showed the Hawkins approached her and displayed a badge to get through.
The guard told him to step back and he steamrolled her.
“I am a sheriff! I am with the sheriff’s office!” he announced in the video, holding a credentials case with a badge in it aloft. “You’re about to get arrested!”
Then the video showed he pushed past the security guard and made his way into the meeting.
The security guard was already at odds with law enforcement who were present at the event, WFTV reported.
After the confrontation with Hawkins at the entrance, security guard Ailyn DePena was arrested for allegedly shoving the deputy impersonator.
Bodycam video showed her being marched out of the building through the crowd and taken to a police vehicle.
The charges against DePena were eventually dropped, WFTV reported.
Officials with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that said that Hawkins was not a sheriff’s deputy, WESH reported.
They said the county commissioner was given the honorary title of “special deputy” along with credentials that he’s not supposed to use, according to the Osceola News-Gazette.
Hawkins, 53, does not have police powers, nor has he ever been certified as a law enforcement officer anywhere in Florida, according to the sheriff’s department’s statement.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated and charged the candidate with impersonating a law enforcement officer in July, the Osceola News-Gazette reported.
He turned himself in at the Osceola County Jail on July 20.
The governor signed an executive order on July 31 that suspended Hawkins from office without pay, the Osceola News-Gazette reported.
DeSantis said in the order that “it is in the best interest of the residents of the Osceola County and the citizens of the state of Florida that Fred Wilber Hawkins be immediately suspended from the public office, which he now holds.”
Under the order, Hawkins is prohibited from acting as a county commissioner and cannot receive any pay or allowance, the Osceola News-Gazette reported.
Hawkins’ campaign released a statement about the charges that attempted to spin what happened in the video.
“Commissioner Fred Hawkins did not impersonate an officer, as is charged and what will be proven is that he is innocent of the allegation,” Fred Hawkins for State House Campaign Spokeswoman Christina Johnson said.
“Through due process, what will be proven is the Commissioner was merely trying to gain access inside a meeting room where an HOA meeting was growing contentious and citizens getting unruly,” Johnson explained. “Hawkins was attempting to reach a deputy in hopes of deescalating the situation when he was blocked by a private security guard who was already warned not to block the door.”
“As an aside, Hawkins had requested that charges not be filed against the private security guard who was arrested for battery against him. Commissioner Hawkins has routinely cooperated with investigators in an open and honest fashion and will continue to do so in this next phase,” the campaign said.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below: