Dunbar residents to seek hope, answers in meeting with mayor, FMPD chief

FORT MYERS, Fla. It’s a case that continues to define frustrations within the Dunbar community.

A 5-year-old, while inside his home, was struck and killed by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting.

“Ouch, mommy,” were two of the last words from Andrew Faust Jr.

Two men were arrested for the 2014 killing but were released due to lack of evidence.

The key witness couldn’t remember pointing her finger at the suspects.

Many questions remain about Faust’s killing and other unsolved crimes within the community. Dunbar residents hope to receive answers during a Wednesday evening meeting at Dunbar High School.

The free event, which starts at 6 p.m. and is hosted by The News-Press, is an opportunity for residents to speak directly with city leadership following a report detailing issues limiting the Fort Myers Police Department’s ability to solve crimes. Police Chief Derrick Diggs, City Manager Saeed Kazemi and Mayor Randy Henderson are among those expected to attend.

The forum is the second this week for Diggs, who met with hundreds of city, state and faith-based leaders on Tuesday regarding serious challenges within the police department that were highlighted in the report.

Faust’s case was one of 10 homicides reviewed by Freeh Group International Solutions, which at the request of Kazemi, interviewed more than 200 current and former FMPD employees to create an overall assessment of the agency.

What they found were a number of similarities.

Solvable murders become ‘unaddressed matters’

Those inside the department and from nearby law enforcement agencies complain that FMPD investigations are hindered by a lack of resources and poor resource management, the report said.

Detectives on homicide investigations often become overwhelmed because only one of them is assigned to each case, the report said, suggesting a team approach instead.

“The lack of concentrated energy and consistency make it difficult to strategize and overcome obstacles,” the report said. “If a murder is not solved within the first two weeks, the primary investigator is returned to the rotation of detectives eligible to assume the lead on a new case. This occurs routinely and as a result, high profile investigations, even those that could be solved, become unaddressed matters.”

Emails detailing lab results, along with logs of witness interviews and officer activities, were not properly maintained, the report said. Investigation summaries were only created if the case was presented to the State Attorney’s Office, the report said.

“There was no documentation of an investigative strategy and no identified mechanism for tracking outstanding leads,” the report said. “Records of investigative activity sometimes ended abruptly. Interviewees reported investigations were often halted quickly as a result of new crimes occurring and requiring detectives being frequently pulled away from investigations.”

Problems with evidence collection and documentation, lack of evidence storage space and a lack of crime scene technicians — which forced detectives to process their own robbery scenes — were among other investigative issues highlighted in the report.

Diggs, following Tuesday’s meeting, said he plans to assign detectives to cold cases, find safer places for witnesses to communicate with detectives and re-establish a police substation in Dunbar.

“As of right now we’re going on a 33 percent decrease of homicides, so we haven’t had a homicide in the Dunbar area for over 7 1/2 months,” he said. “So the things we’re doing, the things we have in place is working.”

The 72-page report cited a 2009 buyout as the beginning of the department’s troubles. Dozens took the buyout, which left the department void of many experienced officers.

That, in part, contributed to the erosion of police-community relations in Dunbar.

Henderson, during a February interview, was asked if the void also contributed to Faust’s case remaining unsolved.

“When you look at reports like these and assert those kinds of things, it begs the question and I think the answer is yes,” he said. “We could have done better, we should have done better.”

This story is the latest in WINK News’ continuing series about the FMPD audit.