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Vero police chief defends Grove shooting investigation


Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey stands behind his officers’ handling of The Grove Bar crime scene in the hours and weeks after gunshots left 31-year-old bar owner Andy Capak lying severely wounded in the northbound lane of 14th Avenue.

“From my view, there was no confusion,” Currey said in response to public records showing that two different black men were identified by witnesses and 911 callers as the shooter, and that be on the lookout alerts sent out to area law enforcement conflated the two men’s descriptions.

Records from police on-board computers show that officers on patrol around the city and county were told to look for a man with dreadlocks, who was actually still on scene at The Grove Bar. A BOLO was sent out for that man driving a Honda with the bumper off – a car that actually belonged to a second suspect.

The alert was later corrected so police could look for the second suspect, a man three inches shorter with short cropped hair, but dispatch tapes show the Sheriff’s Office was told Vero police already had the suspect in hand. Currey said he has not listened to the recordings from the incident, which occurred just before 2 a.m. on March 31.

“There were conflicting reports on the scene, and that happens,” Currey said. “But if there was any confusion, it did not hamper our investigation. We continue to actively investigate this case and we’re still looking at both suspects.”

Currey was not on the scene of the shooting, but said that Capt. Kevin Martin went to the bar after the call came in and took charge of the investigation at the scene.

Currey said a dark blue Chevy Equinox (registered to the suspect with dreadlocks) is in custody, as well as two cellphones, which police are waiting to have processed. Currey said it takes time to extract information from phones, but that his agency is working with State Attorney Bruce Colton’s Office and has obtained the required search warrants to mine the phones for evidence.

“To my knowledge, no one left the scene, except the suspect who left before we got there,” Currey said of the late-night crime scene, which included the bar and sidewalk area, 14th Avenue itself and Pocahontas Park across the street.

“There were still people out fighting in the street when the officer pulled up. It would have helped if someone would have called 9-1-1 and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a bar fight going on here.’ [But] no one called until after the shooting.”

When asked if everyone on the scene was searched for weapons, Currey answered in the affirmative. In response to a question about whether or not people on the scene were tested for gunshot residue to eliminate them as suspects, Currey said, “We may have that information.”

After two and a half months with no arrests and little information shared with the public about the crime, the community has grown impatient.

Currey countered that officers have not appealed to the public with descriptions of suspects or vehicles because “We’re fairly certain that we know who they are and we don’t need that kind of help.”

“Three or four years ago, we had some big cases that were solved right away, but every case is different,” Currey said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes us, all that matters is that in the end we solve it.”

Currey said he’s sensitive to the fact that the city, area businesses and civic groups have been working to develop Vero’s downtown into a thriving cultural and entertainment hub with vibrant nightlife, and that bar and restaurant patrons need to feel safe to go down there at night.

“Our downtown is safe,” Currey said.