December 14, 2019

Monroe County Sheriff's Office Capt. Penny Phelps

Monroe County Sheriff's Office Capt. Penny Phelps

BY TIMOTHY O’HARA
Key West Citizen

A Monroe County Sheriff’s Office captain who was recorded using racially charged language has been served a letter by the Sheriff telling her that her employment
will be terminated as of Friday.
Capt. Penny Phelps has until Friday to change Sheriff Rick Ramsay’s decision. On Friday, she was served with a letter telling her that the recorded statements she made telling another deputy to act like a “white supremacist” and a “neo-Nazi” have been “sustained” and “I am unable to allow you to return to your post,” Ramsay wrote.
“After careful consideration of your conduct and the effect it has had on this agency and community, I cannot and will not, defend your actions,” Ramsay wrote. “Accordingly, it’s my intention to withdraw your appointment to the
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
“I will consider any information you would like to provide orally or in writing relevant to the disciplinary action to be taken in this case before I make a final decision thereon. … You are directed to immediately surrender your badge,
uniform all keys, weapons, all credit cards and any other Sheriff’s Office property issued to you at once.”
She is currently on unpaid leave.
College of the Florida Keys President Jonathon Gueverra told The Citizen on Friday that Phelps has not been terminated from her employment as an instructor there but has been taken off the teaching schedule.
In a recording entered into evidence in the “Tree House Murder” case, Phelps can be heard using racially charged language in relation to a suspect in the case. Phelps can be heard telling another officer to act so overzealously that the
black suspect will think “you are a white supremacist messing with a black guy riding a bike.” Several seconds later, Phelps is heard saying, “I want you to be the neo-Nazi picking on the black guy on the bike.”
The transcript seems to detail a tactic by Phelps to have deputies pull over the
suspect on his bike under the ruse of a routine traffic stop when the real intent was to obtain evidence and confirm his identity.
The suspect, Rory “Detroit” Wilson, was later arrested and charged by the State Attorney’s Office in the robbery of Paula Belmonte and the murder of Matthew Bonnett. Wilson is one of three men charged in the case. Franklin Tyrone Tucker
and John Travis Johnson have also been charged.
Phelps was removed from the “Tree House Murder” case in October and was removed as the head of the Major Crimes and Narcotics units on Wednesday.
tohara@keysnews.com