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Police response to Grove bar shooting saw total confusion


While tapes of 911 calls revealed police received conflicting eyewitness reports about who shot 31-year-old bar owner Stephan Capak outside the The Grove in the wee hours of March 31, a 32963 review of radio transmissions shows that Vero police compounded the confusion in the hours after the shooting by conflating the suspects.

The two conflicting eyewitness accounts were (1) that a black male with short-cropped hair shot Capak and sped away in a gray or black Honda, or (2) that another black male with dreadlocks who arrived at the bar a half-hour before closing time in a dark-colored Chevy SUV was the shooter.

But police dispatch communication records received in response to a public records request from the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office show that a BOLO (be on the lookout) notice was sent out at 1:58 a.m. that included the first name of the man with the dreadlocks, and said he was in the Honda, which witnesses said was apparently missing a bumper.

A few minutes later, the man’s last name and date of birth were added to the alert, along with his last known address and the detail that his driver license was invalid.

Meanwhile, the man with the dreadlocks had actually gone back into the bar to “blend in with the crowd,” according to a 911 caller. And the police report says officers made contact with the man with dreadlocks at the bar.

This means he was still on the scene when police had a BOLO out for him, supposedly driving the other suspect’s car.

A Vero police dispatcher told the Sheriff’s Office her officers had made contact with the man with the dreadlocks at 2:13 a.m., saying on a recorded line: “Looks like we’ve got the suspect.”

Then at 2:34 a.m. another BOLO was put out to officers, identifying the suspect as “Black male, 5’10” tall, short hair with light beard, last seen wearing a teal shirt and tan shorts, (who) fled in a black or dark gray 2005-2008 Honda Accord that is missing the front bumper completely.”

The man with the dreadlocks named in the police report, according to numerous Sheriff’s Office booking records, stands 6-feet, 1-inch tall.

As the confused search was taking place, the victim was taken by ambulance to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce where, since the shooter had not been located, the trauma center was instructed to go on lock-down.

When the Sheriff’s Office called Vero to ask, “That blue Chevy, is that at The Grove?” and “Do we have anything else on the Honda?” Vero replied that they had no tag number on the Honda and, “If that was on scene there, it definitely fled the scene, it’s not there any longer. The blue Chevy is still on scene there, registered to one of the shooters.”

There was also confusion over how many people were shot.  Police dispatch records show initial reports were that two people were down and ambulances from two stations were called in, but they found only Capak lying on the pavement in the middle of 14th Avenue.

The third, and probably the most troubling thing these records seem to point to is that Vero police did not take advantage of available help from the Sherriff’s office in the hours after the shooting.

Sheriff’s Office deputies were only asked to “monitor Vero channels” on the radio to help look for the Honda Accord and the suspect, and they were told at 1:57 a.m. that “the scene is secure at The Grove.”

There’s no clear indication that Vero – a department which would have had a maximum of six patrol officers on duty at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning before detectives were called in – requested Sheriff’s deputies to help establish a perimeter around the shooting scene, or to make sure no one left the area before those present could be ruled out as suspects.

Five of the seven Sheriff’s Office units available to assist were “cleared” from the call at 2:27 a.m., even though, with all the confusion and conflicting reports, there is no possibility that everyone on scene could have been interviewed and cleared as suspects only 34 minutes after the first Vero police officer arrived on scene.

It wasn’t until just before 3 a.m. that Sheriff’s Deputies found a black Honda Accord one with the bumper off, matching the description provided by witnesses at the scene. They secured the vehicle until a Vero detective could make it out to the scene at 3:54 a.m.

But more than two months after the crime, which left Capak critically wounded in the hospital during the week he was supposed to be married, the Vero Beach Police Department hasn’t made an arrest and has been reluctant to provide any details about the progress of the investigation.

No sketch or physical description of the shooter has been put out to the public for help, and police won’t comment on the black Honda or whether either of the two men said to be the shooter on the 911 calls are actually suspects.

Police Chief David Currey said last month that detectives had recently gone back and interviewed all the witnesses from the scene again; two weeks ago, Capt. Kevin Martin would only say on the record that detectives are “waiting for information to come back.”

Police also won’t comment on the record about a burner cell phone found at the scene rumored to be in evidence.

State Attorney Bruce Colton’s office has routinely attached a prosecutor to the case, but Vero is solely in charge of the investigation and, according to Assistant State Attorney Chris Taylor who speaks for the agency, it’s unclear whether or not police have sought any subpoenas for search warrants.