On Monday, April 3, 2023 former corrections deputy David Garcia was arrested at the Putnam County Jail after turning himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Detectives obtained the warrants for two third-degree felony charges for smuggling contraband into a detention facility, one count third-degree felony for using a two-way communication device to commit a felony and one misdemeanor count of smuggling contraband into a detention facility between Dec. 25, 2022 and Jan. 8 following a several months long investigation involving an inmate and a woman who coordinated pick-ups for Garcia.
"I want to take a moment to let our residents know that I and the dedicated members of this sheriff’s office will not tolerate corruption," Sheriff H.D. 'Gator' DeLoach said. "Let me be clear, what this individual did was criminal. Our inmates deserve the respect that is due to every resident in our community. Garcia does not deserve to ever wear a badge. His conduct is a blemish to the expectations I have of all of our agency members. He has acted in a criminal manner not once, but multiple times over a short period of time and we will pursue these charges to fruition in seeking the maximum penalty allowable. I am committed to providing a safe and secure detention facility for the inmates and staff who enter its walls each day."
During the investigation, detectives determined Garcia, while employed as a corrections deputy was contacted by Maleah Knox to pick-up narcotics and other contraband from her and deliver to Francisco Arroyo, an inmate awaiting trial for a 2021 murder. Garcia was given cigarettes, marijuana and MDMA, commonly known as Molly.
This investigation was triggered after two other unrelated incidents in January involving Garcia led to his termination. On Jan. 6, it was reported Garcia slapped a supervisor on the face. The very next day it was reported Garcia slapped an uncooperative inmate in the face and while the same inmate was in handcuffs, forcefully pushed him face first into a secure door, causing a contusion. An internal investigation and a criminal investigation was started and an interview took place on Jan. 11.
The recommendation of termination was presented and approved. Garcia’s employment was terminated on Jan. 12 and he received final notice on Jan. 13. Additionally criminal charges of battery on a prisoner with great bodily harm, a third-degree felony was forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office. On Feb. 3, the state attorney’s office filed to pursue that charge.
Following Garcia’s employment termination, Arroyo approached a new corrections deputy in his cell block. Through conversation with Arroyo, the deputy reported to supervisors Arroyo wanted him to bring contraband into the jail. Detectives with the drug unit and the corrections deputy worked together to link Arroyo, Knox and Garcia to possible contraband entering the jail.
"I would be remiss if I did not again highlight the hard work of our other corrections deputies, who serve our community proudly," Sheriff DeLoach said. "I am especially indebted to our deputy who showed exemplary decision making in his quick action and a sense of duty to his profession as he worked with detectives to bring this case to fruition. He embodies the mission of our office each day by performing his duties with integrity and honor."
Due to the safety and security risk based on Arroyo’s behavior and comfortability in approaching two corrections deputies to commit felonies as well as the safety of the corrections deputy who helped in the case, Arroyo was transferred to the St. Johns County jail where he awaits his murder and attempted murder trial. He is being held without bond.
Knox was arrested and charged with smuggling contraband into a detection facility and use of a two-way communication device during commission of a felony. She was arrested and released on bond.
"I would like to thank our law enforcement partners at the State Attorney’s Office, as well as the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this investigation," Sheriff DeLoach said.
Garcia was booked into the Putnam County Jail and released on $100,000 bond.
Garcia was hired in Oct. 2022 as a corrections deputy. He did work briefly for the agency previously, but resigned in 2021.
"Garcia should have been a bright star for the sheriff’s office as a local young man who overcame adversity to build a future for himself," Sheriff DeLoach said. "He had our full support. However, his bad decisions are a reflection of his true character and now that star is tarnished and dimmed for him. I hope he learns from this, but rest assured I am committed to seeking justice for those he harmed, whether intentional or not."