Article Courtesy of Florida
By Scott Powers
Published May 9, 2020
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is considering investigating an
Osceola County Commissioner who is running for the Florida House of
Representatives who was involved in a raucous homeowners association meeting
that led to the arrest of a security guard.
The security guard,
Ailyn DePena, 36, of Orlando, has since been cleared of all
charges, including battery and resisting arrest.
Now, state law enforcement authorities are looking into what
happened when she encountered Osceola County Commissioner
Fred Hawkins Jr. and two Osceola County deputy sheriffs
during a contentious Turnberry Reserve Home Owners
Association election meeting on Nov. 7, 2019.
Body camera video from DePena’s camera shows, at one point,
Hawkins pushing through a crowd, raising a badge,
identifying himself as a sheriff, and telling DePena she is
about to get arrested.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the investigation.
“This incident has been forwarded to FDLE for a potential investigation, any
additional information should be requested from that agency at this time,” OCSO
Maj. Jacob M. Ruiz responded in a statement.
FDLE confirmed it received the referral and is reviewing it while indicating the
agency has not yet decided whether to open an investigation.
Hawkins is the leading Republican candidate in the contest for an open seat in
House District 42 covering part of east Polk County and much of Osceola County
except for most of the city of Kissimmee and parts of northwestern Osceola.
Voter registrations suggest HD42 is a swing district. Republican Rep. Mike La
Rosa is leaving office because of term limits.
“I am a Special Deputy with the Osceola Sheriffs’ office. I was there to observe
the election process. The Sheriff’s office, I believe, put it in the original
report, and I am told will release a statement later today verifying,” Hawkins
wrote in an email to Florida Politics.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Hawkins was appointed a Special
Deputy on February 19, 2019.
The Sheriff’s Office defines a Special Deputy as “a volunteer, who is a civilian
representative of the community who is appointed consistent with FSS 70.045, and
able to assist the Sheriff in preserving law and order.”
“He/she may be called for assistance in the event of any threatened or actual
natural disaster, major tragedy or situations designated by the Sheriff or
designee. Except as provided by law, Special Deputies have no powers of arrest,”
“The security guard was told not to restrict entry into the building and not to
put her hands on anyone. I observed her doing that after she was told by a
deputy there not to. I simply was trying to get into the building to tell him
that things were not going as he directed,” Hawkins responded in a followup
question about his duties.
His campaign said Hawkins was not aware of an FDLE review.
“Mr. Hawkins was acting within the bounds of a special deputy and there on the
Sheriff’s behalf to help preserve law and order,” the campaign said.
The incident took place at East Lake Elementary School in northeastern Osceola
As shown in DePena’s bodycam video, posted this week on Facebook, she was
attempting to restrict access through a doorway into the school library where
the HOA election was being conducted. Earlier, a deputy sheriff had passed her
and entered the library.
DePena and another representative of the HOA had repeatedly announced in the
lobby people would be allowed into the library to vote one at a time, and they
needed to show her ID to prove they were members of the HOA before she could
permit them to pass. Many in the crowd appeared angry that she was blocking
their way, and there was considerable shouting.
There were at least three law enforcement officers at the scene, an Osceola
deputy in the parking lot, and a Florida Highway Patrol Trooper, seen in uniform
in some of the video footage. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office incident
report states the trooper had been hired to perform security. The trooper did
not appear to play any role in the events, either as described in the incident
report, or as depicted in the video.
In the video, Hawkins can be seen making his way through the crowd toward DePena,
holding a badge in the air.
In bodycam audio, DePena can clearly be heard telling him, “Step back, sir.”
Hawkins replies, “I’m a Sheriff. I’m with the Sheriff’s Office.”
She repeats, “Step back, sir.”
Hawkins then again says he’s “with the Sheriff’s Office” and, after she again
asks him to “step back,” tells her she is. “about to get arrested.”
As DePena again says, “Sir, step back, step back, sir,” Hawkins makes his way
past her, with some apparent jostling. The bodycam does not appear to capture
any images of a specific contact, just a jolt.
Hawkins later alleged the jostling was DePena shoving him.
He filed a battery charge against her because of it.
DePena later contended that the jostling was Hawkins shoving his way past her to
get through the doorway into the library.
In the next instant, she turns, and the bodycam video shows Hawkins entering the
A moment later on camera, a deputy sheriff behind DePena grabs her wrist. The
deputy is unseen in her video, except for his hand around her wrist. That deputy
then leads her, by the wrist, through the crowd to the parking lot, where he and
another deputy place her under arrest.
As she was advised she was under arrest for battery, DePena said, according to
her bodycam video, “I’m not battering anybody.” One of the deputies then informs
her, “you are resisting an officer.” She replied, “No, I’m not, sir.”
DePena was charged with battery against Hawkins. She also was charged with
battery against another person regarding an earlier confrontation in the
doorway. That person’s name was redacted from reports because the person
requested confidentiality under Marsy’s Law provisions. DePena also was charged
with battery against the law enforcement officer who led her out of the school,
who was identified in a Sheriff’s Office incident report as Osceola County
Sheriff’s Captain D. Marquith. DePena also was charged with resisting arrest
Hawkins also requested confidentiality under Marsy’s Law, according to the
incident report. However, his name was not redacted in the incident report
supplied to Florida Politics.
On March 24, Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala dropped
all the charges against DePena, informing the court, “this case is not suitable
On Sunday, another person posted about 20 minutes of DePena’s bodycam video
along with a Facebook statement from DePena on an anti-Fred Hawkins political
“I am a single mother of two kids. I have always been a law-abiding citizen, and
those that know me personally know I am 100% pro-law enforcement. The past six
months have been a nightmare for me,” DePena wrote. “Because of Fred Hawkins
Jr., and these individuals who wrote false statements against me, I was
potentially facing eight years in prison.”
DePena declined an interview request.
The Turnberry Reserve HOA also posted a copy of the video Sunday.
“The evidence clearly shows all witness statements filed against Ofc De Pena by
Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr [and others] … to be false,” the
Hawkins’ campaign offered statements in the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office
incident report to refute the charges that he had made false claims against her.
“I observed the security guard push Mr. Hawkins back in an attempt to restrict
his access to the building. At the point, I determined the security guard was
physically battering Mr. Hawkins,” Marquith said, according to the report.
Another witness also signed a statement saying she witnessed DePena pushing
Hawkins, of St. Cloud, is one of four Republicans vying for the HD 42 seat,
along with Dianna Liebnitzky of St. Cloud, Gary Allen Scott of St. Cloud, and
Benny Valentin of Kissimmee. Two Democrats are running, Barbara Cady of Lake
Wales, and Victor Sims of Kissimmee.
Hawkins campaign raised nearly $193,000 as of the end of March. Cady raised more
than $30,000, while none of the other HD 42 candidates had raised as much as