Crime scene tape raises questions in Okeechobee County

OKEECHOBEE — Crime scene tape and stopped traffic on U.S. 441 S.E. raised many questions Sunday, June 14 as community members took to social media, asking what happened. The area was reportedly blocked off for hours with multiple law enforcement vehicles present. Rumors abound on Facebook about at least one, possibly two shootings, but repeated requests for information to the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office brought back the dreaded, “I’m sorry. We cannot release that information. It is an ongoing investigation.”

The sheriff’s office refused to confirm or deny a shooting, a crime, a victim or anything at all. There will be no press release, Michele Bell of the OCSO said, because it is an active investigation.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office incident log for June 14 lists: 8:09 a.m., shooting, 4300 block of U.S. 441 S.E.

On Facebook, posters reported seeing crime seen tape near the VFW on U.S. 441 S.E.

This was reminiscent to many community members of the Torres murder when the only information given to the public by the sheriff’s office was that a deceased male was found on Jan. 31 at approximately 10:46 a.m. in the 1600 block of Northwest 45th Terrace. No mention was made of a murder or of a murderer. Requests were met with the same answer, “It is an ongoing investigation.” Finally, on May 27, after five months of questions from family and friends on why his murder was never mentioned, a press release was issued by the sheriff’s office regarding the murder of Jesus Torres.

In contrast, surrounding counties issue press releases almost immediately. On Sunday, when FWC Officer Julian Keen was shot, Hendry County Sheriff, Steve Whidden issued a press release within hours, knowing the public would be concerned about what happened. That case was an ongoing investigation at the time.

In April, after another shooting in Hendry County, HCSO issued a press release the following day identifying the victim and the area and time it occurred, despite the fact it was an ongoing investigation.

On June 11, a shooting occurred in Belle Glade, and eight hours later, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release, despite the fact that it was an ongoing investigation.

After hearing shots in the area and seeing rumors on Facebook, community members want to know what happened.

When something happens in the Lake Okeechobee area, the Lake Okeechobee News tries provide some details in order to reassure the readers and quell rumors.

As far as the possible shooting in Okeechobee last Sunday, it was neither confirmed nor denied.

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