Polk deputy arrested, accused of sexual misconduct with women he arrested

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EST

The Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested one of its own Wednesday after a deputy was accused of sexual misconduct with two women he had arrested.

Deputy Julio Garcia, 26, was booked in the Polk County Jail on charges of seeking unlawful reward for official behavior, display of a firearm during a felony offense and falsifying an official document document by a public servant.

He was given a chance to resign, but refused, the sheriff's office said.

“We conduct extensive background checks on our deputies (before) hiring, including polygraph examinations and psychological testing," Sheriff Grady Judd said. "Despite our best efforts, on rare occasions, an employee will disappoint us and the communities we serve.

"When they do, we will hold them accountable for their actions."

According to an arrest affidavit, the charges stem from separate allegations made by two women who had been arrested by Garcia last year. The firearm charge is related to Garcia wearing his gun at the time of the alleged misconduct.

The case was opened last Nov. 4, when a detective was investigating an unrelated matter and interviewed a 24-year-old woman who had been arrested by Garcia on a grand theft auto charge a month earlier.

The woman told investigators Garcia drove her to the jail, but learned during the book-in procedure he would have to first take her to Bartow Regional Medical Center for evaluation of a wrist injury.

Garcia drove her to the hospital and parked in a spot near the emergency room, the affidavit said. There, the woman told investigators, Garcia offered to "probably get you out of this situation" if he showed him her body, according to the affidavit.

The woman, hoping for a break, pulled her shorts aside and raised her tank-top shirt to expose herself, she told investigators.

Garcia walked the woman into the hospital and waited for her to receive medical clearance, the affidavit said. Then, the two got back into the patrol car for the ride back to the jail.

The woman said she repeatedly asked Garcia if he was going to get her out of trouble. Garcia replied that he was "going to try," but he took her back to the book-in facility, the woman told investigators.

When confronted by investigators with the allegation on Nov. 5, Garcia refused to talk without a lawyer, the affidavit said.

The sheriff's office opened an investigation and, soon after, found a second woman, age 29, who made a similar allegation.

The woman said that after Garcia arrested her on an outstanding warrant last June 13, she pleaded with him to allow her turn herself in after the weekend. She told investigators Garcia said "he and she might be able to work her request out" and asked for permission to search her.

The woman told investigators she consented and that Garcia put his hand down her jeans and had her pull her shirt away from her body, according to the affidavit.

Garcia then drove the woman a few hundreds yards to and abandoned building, got out of his the patrol car, opened the rear door, and again reached his hand inside her pants, the woman told investigators.

As with the first arrest, Garcia then took the woman to jail after the alleged misconduct, according to the affidavit.

The sheriff's office's investigation of Garcia continued this month with surveillance over several days. Undercover detectives wrote that they watched Garcia leave his assigned area several times while on patrol and that he falsified the reports of his activities.

"When we learned of the first allegation, we immediately initiated an investigation, sought other possible victims, and then conducted undercover surveillance," Judd said. "Garcia is not worthy to wear the sheriff’s office uniform and he never will again.” 

Garcia was hired by the sheriff's office in August 2011 and earned $40,252, the agency said.