Monday, February 19, 2018
Public safety

New Port Richey police officer arrested in Hernando County on multiple drug charges

SPRING HILL — A New Port Richey police officer with a history of problems during his 13-year career was arrested Thursday on multiple felony narcotics charges.

John Nohejl, 35, had already been on suspension since April for sleeping on the job and neglecting his duties.

And it turned out, he was also the target of a separate investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

"It's disgusting that I have to stand in front of you right now and speak about one of our own officers who has been arrested," said New Port Richey police Chief James Steffens, who suspended Nohejl a few months after being named chief about a year ago.

While driving in Hernando County on Thursday night, Nohejl was pulled over at the intersection of Deltona Boulevard and Keesler Street. When the deputies stopped him, Nohejl refused to give up his identification or get out of the vehicle, the release states. Then, he drove off and was stopped again a block away.

Deputies found a hydrocodone tablet on the driver-side floorboard. They also found a bag of 27 more tablets on the side of the road where he had tossed it during the short chase, according to a news release.

Nohejl was arrested. Authorities later searched his house and found bags, pipes, scales and a trace of cocaine.

Nohejl declined the Tampa Bay Times' request for an interview.

Nohejl, whose last post at the police department was as a master patrol officer, has a lengthy disciplinary record in the agency.

Nohejl first saw trouble in the early years of his career, lying about sick days to go gambling and getting into at least four minor crashes in his patrol car, Steffens said.

He was first investigated in January 2008 when, while working as a school resource officer at Gulf Middle. A MySpace page he had set up to connect with students was linked to sexually oriented websites, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The investigation did not result in findings of wrongdoing.

He continued working at the school until that April, when a female acquaintance accused him of rape while off duty. Nohejl said the sexual encounter was consensual. Prosecutors could not confirm who was correct and did not file charges.

However, then-Chief Martin Rickus, wrote this memo to Nohejl: "It is clear that you could have handled yourself in a more appropriate and professional manner. I sincerely hope that in the future you will be more careful with whom you associate off-duty."

In August that year, a 28-year-old woman who had been accused of stealing money was riding to jail in the back of Nohejl's police cruiser. She said he pulled over for gas, then opened the back door where she sat in handcuffs and said he would let her go if she would perform a sex act on him.

She said she performed the act, but Nohejl didn't come through with his end of the deal, which is why she turned him in.

He was placed on paid suspension while FDLE investigated and found the woman to be mentally unstable. The department later determined the allegation to be unfounded.

Most recently, Nohejl had been on paid suspension since April 18, 2012, when Steffens launched another internal affairs investigation. It found Nohejl had been caught sleeping twice during the same shift, neglecting other duties. He then served 20 days of unpaid suspension. Another internal investigation was launched in November, but Steffens did not disclose details, saying it remained active. He said he hopes to be able to release details sometime in the next two weeks.

Nohejl has since been suspended without pay.

Asked why the litany of offenses and investigations, though unfounded or uncharged, had not led to Nohejl's termination, Steffens pointed to Florida law.

The police bill of rights, he said, ensures that officers under internal investigation are not fired until inexplicable evidence is found. Steffens compared the process to points on a driver's license. Offenses can rack up to a termination, but it takes time.

Jim Diamond, director of operations of west central Florida Police Benevolent Association, said he has been monitoring Nohejl's case since he was suspended, although he is being represented by his own attorney. Diamond called the process cumbersome and methodical, but necessary.

"Because these incidents involved different violations," he said, "they had to be investigated individually."

Nohejl faces charges of cocaine possession, trafficking Hydrocodone, tampering with evidence, possession of two driver licenses, fleeing to elude and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. He remained in the Hernando county jail Friday in lieu of $110,500 bail. Authorities were still investigating.

"I know it looks bad," Steffens said. "I know it's 13 years worth of instances. (Thursday) night was the culmination of investigations that confirmed our concerns, if not suspicions."

Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

Comments
Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, calls relative after being reported missing

Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, calls relative after being reported missing

Seven months ago, Jalyssa Shannon’s older sister Janessa went missing, sparking a frantic search that ended with the discovery of the 13-year-old’s body in a Hillsborough County nature preserve and, later, the arrest of the girls’ father in her murde...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputies are searching for a man who they said broke into a home and raped a 71-year-old woman on Monday.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the woman was checking on a home at 7437 Heather St. for the homeowner at about 8:15 a.m...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Police identify man found dead in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police on Monday released the identity of the man who was found dead inside an apartment last week.Officers said it was Abdirashid Ali, 50, who was discovered around 3 p.m. Friday at The Courtyard on the River Apartments, 5217 Sonora Court.De...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

DUNEDIN –– Pinellas sheriff’s detectives spent their weekend luring in unlicensed electrical, plumbing and other home improvement contractors to a vacant home wired with cameras.It took only hours before a stream of people arrived to work on the outd...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Video: Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in brief court hearing

Video: Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in brief court hearing

PARKLAND — Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has appeared in court for a procedural hearing. Cruz said nothing at Monday’s hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, the first he attended in person and not via teleconference from jail. He ke...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Teachers say Florida shooter’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

Teachers say Florida shooter’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

PARKLAND, Fla. — The real problems started at least as early as middle school and quickly intensified. There were the vocal outbursts, disturbing drawings of stick figures with guns, constant disciplinary issues. There were threatening statements wri...
Updated: 10 hours ago
This gun owner said the Parkland shooting was the last straw. So he turned his rifle over to deputies

This gun owner said the Parkland shooting was the last straw. So he turned his rifle over to deputies

The Parkland school shooting inspired a Florida gun owner to turn his beloved AR-57 over to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office."As I struggle to make heads or tails of another senseless mass shooting in the USA, I can no longer offer only my ‘though...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Candlelight vigils tonight in Tampa Bay, statewide for Parkland shooting victims

Candlelight vigils tonight in Tampa Bay, statewide for Parkland shooting victims

Several vigils are being held in the Tampa Bay area and throughout the state to honor the 17 victims of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.The Florida PTA is organizing the statewide vigils, which will begin at 7 p.m. u...
Published: 02/19/18
Head-on collision in Tampa blocks EB lanes of Courtney Campbell Causeway

Head-on collision in Tampa blocks EB lanes of Courtney Campbell Causeway

A head-on collision Monday morning has shut down many of the eastbound lanes on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.Only one lane of traffic is able to squeeze through, according to 10News Traffic.Drivers are recommended to avoid the causeway and instead ...
Published: 02/19/18
‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

Nikolas Cruz was immature, quirky and depressed when James and Kimberly Snead took him into their Parkland home. But he was pleasant and seemed to be growing happier, they said.How the 19-year-old turned into a man now arrested and charged with 17 co...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/19/18