Thursday, July 16, 2020

Shoar involved in dust-up at debate between sheriff’s candidates. (Daytona Beach News Journal. St. Augustine Record)

I've warned Robert Hardwick about being too close to Sheriff DAVID SHOAR. The last five (5) candidates SHOAR endorsed all lost their races, including Dick Williams, a County Commission candidate who came in third, and St. Augustine Beach Mayor Andrea Samuels, who was trounced by Maggie Kostka.

Last night, Hardwick's beloved controller/mentor notoriously disgraced himself, despite Hardwick saying he was practially one of S/HOAR's family owing to SHOAR's visit to Hardwick's family while Hardwick was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. My dad served with the 82nd Airborne Division, but he would not have supported S/HOAR.

In response to a brawl started by his mentor's bad manners, SABPD Chief Robert Hardwick did NOT practice de-escalation.

Instead, Robert Hardwick's stunning silence gave consent to the display of petulance, bullying and disrespect from St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who appeared on video to be a drunken fool.

SHOAR has endorsed Hardwick. (Controversial former St. Augustine Police Chief, DAVID SHOAR covered up the September 2, 2010 homicide of Michelle O'Connell in the home of Deputy Jeremy Banks. SHOAR legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994.

More than 150 people packed into the St. Augustine Shrine Club on Wednesday night to watch St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick and former sheriff’s deputy Chris Strickland tussle on the issues facing law enforcement in St. Johns County.
Instead, they witnessed an event marred by an actual tussle involving outgoing Sheriff David Shoar and some of Strickland’s faithful, according to event organizers.
A scuffle that started in the bathroom spilled into the meeting hall, disrupting the event and prompting Strickland to leave early after answering only two questions.
Strickland accused Shoar of coming to the event and instigating the altercation with his campaign team.
“We are not going to participate in this,” an irate Strickland said as he exited the venue. “You can print that. Me and my team are not going to be party to this. We’re going to leave.”
His abrupt exit quickly transformed what started off as a debate between the two leading candidates in the race for sheriff into a one-man town hall. Hardwick remained on hand and fielded questions by himself for more than an hour following Strickland’s premature departure.
The Republican Club of Greater St. Augustine hosted Wednesday night’s debate between the two Republican candidates in the race.
Strickland and Hardwick are set to square off in the Republican primary Aug. 18. The winner will face write-in candidate Scott Boutwell in the Nov. 3 general election for the right to supplant Shoar, who is retiring after 16 years atop the Sheriff’s Office.
Wednesday night’s forum marked the only live debate between the two candidates that was open to the general public.
Hardwick and Strickland faced off at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge on July 8, but only local law enforcement officers were invited to attend that event.
A June 16 meet and greet at the American Legion in St. Augustine where Hardwick and Strickland were slated to answer questions was canceled “due to unforeseen circumstances.” A debate scheduled to be held July 23 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall has also been canceled.
Most important race
The sheriff is the county’s highest elected official as evidenced by the funds raised between Hardwick and Strickland’s respective campaigns. Strickland had received $187,677 in contributions by Wednesday and Hardwick war chest stood at $368,184, Supervisor of Elections records show.
Strickland, Hardwick and organizers described it as “the most important race in St. Johns County.”
Strickland spent 27 years with the Sheriff’s Office and worked his way up to director of the Office of the Sheriff, a command-staff role in the agency, before he retired in 2016. He described his career as a strategic move designed to position him for the sheriff’s post. He emphasized his experience as a key advantage he has over Hardwick.
“Just understand that we’re at a time where experience is critical,” Strickland said during his introduction. “It’s paramount. You can come up through different offices, different departments. You can serve in the military, which I applaud my opponent for doing. But the issue that we have is that when this current sheriff takes off — when he leaves — somebody’s got to come in right then and hit the ground running.”
Hardwick has never worked for the Sheriff’s Office. But he was undaunted, touting his community service as well as the array of military and law enforcement roles he’s held down.
A former U.S. Army paratrooper, Hardwick is a combat veteran who fought in Desert Storm and the Iraq War. Between deployments, he spent years as an investigator for the State Attorney’s Office, worked for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Augustine Police Department and Florida Department of Corrections. He assumed office as St. Augustine Beach’s police chief in 2013.
“My resume speaks for itself,” he told the crowd. “I haven’t been in one position my entire career. And that’s why I think I am the best candidate here in St. Johns County.”
‘Why are you staring me down?’
About 30 minutes into the debate, after Strickland and Hardwick had both introduced themselves and been asked two questions from the audience, event organizers introduced the debate moderator, local real estate agent and retired newspaper publisher Roy Bode.
As Bode was giving his opening remarks to the crowd, a commotion broke out near the bathroom on the west side of the meeting hall. Words were exchanged and the sounds of a fight could be heard coming from the restroom.
Officers on hand and event organizers quickly rushed in to quell the ruckus. Shoar could be seen standing in the bathroom by a Record reporter covering the debate as the minor fracas unfolded and moved out into the debate chambers.
“Why are you staring me down for,” a man wearing a “Team Strickland” button could be heard shouting just outside the bathroom. That’s when Strickland got on the microphone and ordered his supporters to exit the premises.
“Team Strickland raise your hand,” he said. “Team Strickland, wrap it up and let’s go. Team Strickland, do ya’ll hear me? Wrap it up and let’s go. We’re not going to be part of this. Let’s go.”
With that, dozens of Strickland supporters cleared out, leaving through a side door that led to the parking lot.
Hardwick got on the microphone as Strickland and company exited the building and encouraged his supporters to stay put.
“Team Hardwick is going to stay here to answer the questions that were brought forward by you,” he told the crowd.
The confrontation continued outside. A video posted shared with The Record showed Shoar and Strickland supporters trading verbal jabs in the parking lot as Shoar got into an SUV. The sheriff could be heard telling one person to ”[Expletive deleted] off.” Later in the video, Shoar taunts the group of hecklers surrounding his vehicle, saying “Yeah, yeah, put ’em on Facebook. Put it on Facebook man,” as he flashes his middle finger. The video shows Strickland in the mix just feet from Shoar’s SUV.
Shoar then drives off. He waved at a Record reporter who approached him as he was leaving. He then rolled up his window as the vehicle sped away.
“He was antagonizing a lot of people here tonight, including me,” said Tom Verri, Strickland’s campaign manager. “Including Keith Perniciaro, who was a sheriff’s candidate not too long ago — he dropped out of the race.”
Verri said when Shoar entered the building, he confronted him about a recent editorial Verri wrote trumpeting Strickland for sheriff.
“I said, ‘Yea, did you like it?’” Verri said. “And he said, ‘You’re a piece of [expletive deleted].’”
No police reports were filed. Pete Royal, a Republican Club committeeman who helped emcee Wednesday’s meeting, said the club would investigate the incident to find out what happened. Preliminary reports indicated it sparked from some “bad mouthing” between Shoar and Strickland’s people, he said.
Bob Smith, the Republican Club’s 3rd District Chairman, said he tried to convince Strickland to return for the debate after he stormed out.
“I really can’t do that,” he said Strickland told him.
According to Smith, Strickland said Shoar showed up with friends and a verbal argument escalated in the bathroom and got out of hand.
“I didn’t see anything,” Smith said. “I went out strictly to see what was going on, why did he leave and would he come back in.”
Club president Marty Martin said the incident showcased some underlying hostilities between Strickland and Hardwick’s camps.
“There was no fight,” he said. “Just some feelings were hurt. Some people were passionate because it’s an important election...It’s some heavy hitters running for this office.
“At least this woke people up and got their blood flowing,” he added.
One-man debate
Hardwick took center stage once the dust settled. With no other candidate to share the questions with, he answered a rapid-fire series of queries from Bode and the audience. Hardwick lauded the Second Amendment before the Republican crowd and gave his thoughts on the current nationwide climate for law enforcement.
He explained his stance of body cameras for deputies and said he’s researched deployments of the devices, which he estimated would cost the Sheriff’s Office about $3.2 million.
Strickland has made no secret that he intends to outfit all deputies with body cameras if he is elected. Hardwick called them “a great tool.” But he balked at outright support for them, saying St. Johns is not plagued with a high number of complaints against deputies like agencies in Putnam County.
“I am not opposed to body cameras,” he said. “Things change. This profession changes every single day. I never thought we’d be in civil unrest right now with our monuments coming down and protests going on. So it’s a great tool, but it’s one of those things where I feel like I’ve got to hear from you — our citizens who we serve.”
When the topic of discussion turned to Shoar, who’s thrown his support squarely behind Hardwick,. the police chief spoke in fond terms. But he made the distinction between him and Shoar, saying he has his own leadership style.
“When David Shoar steps up and takes care of my family while I’m overseas, I don’t forget things like that,” Hardwick said. “But I am my own person. I’m my own person with my own regiment. With that being said, I stand behind my resume.”
Bode later confronted Hardwick with Shoar’s alleged involvement in Wednesday night’s altercation, directly asking him his reaction about the tiff. Hardwick appeared puzzled by the question and said he didn’t know the details of the altercation.

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