Palm Coast, FL - Flagler County Sheriff's deputy Dedorious Varnes is charged with Felony Aggravated Stalking and is being held without bond. An investigation found that he'd made more than 50 threatening phone calls to the victim in a battery case being reviewed by the State Attorney's Office.
In a press release, FCSO reports that the battery happened on February 26, 2020, when the 67-year-old victim reported he'd been battered by his 42-year-old neighbor after a discussion about racism in his garage became an argument. The victim told deputies that the suspect began pushing him in a manner that he described made him feel like he was being “swung around like a ragdoll”. Witness testimony and surveillance footage confirmed his description of events.
While investigators were on scene of the reported crime, the victim was receiving calls from a restricted number, which the victim believed belonged to the suspect. He said that he'd never given the suspect his phone number. Per the press release, 'For the next three months, the victim received 53 more threatening phone calls from a blocked number.'
The victim said the calls began with asking him to not press charges against the suspect. He said the calls came at all hours and the caller frequently used racial slurs, vulgar language, and made threats against the victim's life.
An investigation into who was making the phone calls began on June 24, 2020. Thephone number the calls were coming from was identified. FCSO records identifed the phone as belonging to Deputy Varnes and that *67 was used to restrict the phone calls to the victim.
According to the Flagler County Sheriffs Office Computer Aided Dispatch System, Deputy Varnes logged on scene once and only utilized his Axon body camera on one separate
occasion. A check of another deputy's Axon camera showed Deputy Varnes responded to the residence numerous times without recording or logging on scene. Records also indicated that Varnes was on duty when most of the calls were made.
Varnes was interviewed on July 2, 2020, in reference to the threatening phone calls. He provided inconsistent accounts as to why his phone number was on the victim's phone records. The deputy responding to the victim's requests for service was also interviewed. That deputy told investigators that Varnes told him that he messed up, stating he was the one that was calling the victim. Varnes advised that he did not think he was going to get in trouble and thought it was funny.
Sheriff Rick Staly did not think it was funny. “I was shocked, disappointed and angry to find out that an employee of this agency was behind these atrocious phone calls,” Staly said. “He took an oath and is supposed to serve and protect this community and instead he actively participated in threatening and tormenting a resident. He abused his status as a law enforcement officer and we will do everything we can to have the state revoke his license so he can never work in law enforcement again. He has let down this community; he has embarrassed this agency and tarnished his badge and dishonored law enforcement officers everywhere. No one is above the law and that is why he is in jail where he belongs.”
Numerous deputies responded to the victim’s home to take reports on the harassing phone calls and on one occasion the responding deputy was Varnes.
“The fact that he could looked this victim in the eye and listened to just how upset these phone calls where making him and then continued to call him again and again is an indicator that he has a serious problem,” Sheriff Staly said. “In reviewing his personnel file and talking to his supervisors and those on his interview board and reviewing his psychological background there were no indicators that he would do anything like this. In my 45-years in law enforcement, this is the most bizarre behavior I have ever seen by a law enforcement officer. I want to assure the community that his behavior is not a reflection of the many men and women that serve our community in a professional manner every day.”
Sheriff Staly has apologized to the victim on behalf of the FCSO, saying that Varnes behavior was inappropriate and that his behavior was not representative of FCSO employees.