2016 Deputy of the Year
Detective John Lathrop is the 2016 Deputy of the Year for his persistent efforts to find the person responsible for a random killing that had no apparent suspect.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office received a call in March in reference to a vehicle crash on Summerlin Road near the intersection of Park Meadows Drive. At approximately the same time, deputies were conducting an area check in Pine Manor and reported hearing several gunshots. Deputies found the male driver bleeding from the head; Detective John Lathrop was assigned as lead investigator on this case.
While Detective Lathrop was conducting case follow-up in the Pine Manor neighborhood in April, he observed a male with what appeared to be a heavy object in his right front pocket. When Detective Lathrop drove past, the suspect tried to conceal the object. Detective Lathrop turned around and saw the suspect walking backwards, keeping his right hand tightly on the outside of his right pocket as he walked. Detective Lathrop pulled up to the intersection to speak with him and upon exiting his vehicle, the suspect took flight and ran. He ultimately was apprehended, with witnesses telling Detective Lathrop they saw him hide a gun under a car. The suspect subsequently was placed under arrest for carrying a concealed firearm.
In July, Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab test results confirmed that the handgun recovered was the same handgun that fired the projectile that killed the driver who crashed on Summerlin. This fact, coupled with other items of evidence later recovered through investigation, led to the arrest of the suspect in August for one count of manslaughter with a firearm.
Not only did Detective Lathrop maintain a persistent, feet-on-the-ground approach on this homicide case that had no viable investigative leads, but his hard-charging approach and never-give-up attitude also led to solving a homicide case previously thought to be unsolvable. He was able to bring an element of closure to a grieving family who thought they never would see the person responsible for their son’s death brought to justice.