Thursday, April 26, 2018
Public safety

Brooksville police captain under investigation after fight at Christmas party

BROOKSVILLE — A Brooksville police captain is under investigation after a fight at a Christmas party early Sunday, police Chief George Turner said Tuesday.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office secured a warrant Monday for Capt. Rick Hankins on a misdemeanor battery charge but withdrew it the same day after Turner presented additional evidence to Sheriff Al Nienhuis, Turner said.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney declined to release details, citing an ongoing investigation.

"The warrant was temporarily withdrawn due to the fact that previously unavailable information, evidence, and/or testimony surfaced that may or may not change the outcome of the investigation," Moloney said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. She said Nienhuis has assigned a detective to investigate.

"Once this supplemental investigation is completed, we will be working closely with the state attorney to determine if they feel a prosecutable crime was committed," she said.

According to an account Hankins gave to Turner, he and his wife were at a party hosted by Spring Hill physician Brian Kroll on Saturday night. About 1 a.m. Sunday, Hankins said, he and a longtime acquaintance, Fred Taclik, exchanged words and Taclik punched him. The men scuffled briefly, and Hankins and his wife left.

Hernando sheriff's deputies were called. Taclik told them Hankins punched him first. Turner said he was told by the Sheriff's Office that at least one witness corroborated that account.

Turner said that neither man was seriously injured and that Hankins, 39, was unaware deputies had been called until Turner contacted him early Sunday morning. On Monday, Hankins submitted to Turner a memo offering his account, along with a photo of his scraped forehead and a statement from his wife.

About 4 p.m., Turner learned from Hankins that there was a warrant out for his arrest.

"I was actually shocked," the police chief said. "I expected it all to go to the State Attorney's Office to let them look at it and weigh it out."

Turner met with Nienhuis on Monday afternoon, noting evidence supporting Hankins' account. Turner said there are other potential witnesses who left the party before deputies arrived.

"After a complete investigation and a review by the State Attorney's Office, I would be surprised if there are criminal charges filed," Turner said.

A 17-year veteran of the police force, Hankins will remain on the job while the investigation takes place, the chief said.

Hankins' attorney, Jimmy Brown, questioned why the Sheriff's Office would get an arrest warrant for a local police captain accused of a misdemeanor.

"You're not dealing with someone who is a flight risk or danger to the community," Brown said. "There's no reason to rush through it, especially two days before Christmas."

Taclik could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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