Deputy arrested in Fort Lauderdale airport shooting video leak to TMZ
The agency arrested a veteran deputy Wednesday, accusing him of secretly recording security video of the airport gunman
By Linda Trischitta
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrested a veteran deputy Wednesday, accusing him of secretly recording security video that showed a gunman shooting at passengers in January at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Two days after the mass shooting that took five lives, the video appeared on the gossip website TMZ.com.
Deputy Michael Dingman, 47, turned himself in to his employer’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday morning and was taken to the main jail in that city, Broward Sheriff’s spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said.
Dingman, who was hired in 1996, was charged with tampering or fabricating physical evidence; unlawful use of a two-way communication device; violation of public records law; and criminal use of a public record or public records information.
The 20-second video clip that showed the beginning of the mass shooting was a record that was not available for public release because it was part of a continuing criminal investigation, the sheriff’s office said. Dingman is accused of unlawfully giving it to TMZ, according to an arrest report.
Dingman did not appear in court Wednesday for a bond hearing and was freed on a $2,000 bail. His lawyer, Michael Finesilver, said in an email that he does not comment on pending cases.
Dingman was released from the jail Wednesday afternoon. Dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt that covered his head and wearing shorts and tennis shoes, he said, “Stay away from me.”
Dingman used a parked car to avoid being seen while waiting for his ride, a black sedan driven by a man who picked him up in the jail parking lot.
According to an arrest report, Dingman told a detective during the investigation, “Do you guys think I made money on this thing? Because if so, I didn’t. You can search my bank records if you’d like, but you aren’t going to find anything.”
Investigators allege that Dingman gave the video to TMZ, that there were several phone calls between him and TMZ and that he also contacted other media outlets.
After news reports that the airport shooting video had been leaked, Dingman is accused of switching service from the cellphone used to record the footage to another phone.
The cellphone used to record the video was reset to factory settings and submerged in water, destroying any evidence it may have contained, according to the arrest report.
The Jan. 6 shootings at the baggage claim in Terminal 2 at Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport left five travelers dead, six other people wounded from gunfire and more than 50 passengers with injuries that included sprains and anxiety.
Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, 27, of Alaska is the accused gunman. He was arrested in the terminal immediately after the gunfire and is in custody, being prosecuted by federal authorities. He has pleaded not guilty to 22 charges.
Dingman was suspended with pay in January. His annual salary was $75,673.
Sheriff Scott Israel said then that he was “disgusted and appalled” to think anyone in law enforcement would be involved in what he called “a despicable event: making a video, especially such a graphic video that is part of evidence, taking a video that is not any deputy’s property, to distribute to anybody.”
Dingman surrendered his badge and patrol car at that time.
On Tuesday, the agency changed his status to suspension without pay for allegedly disclosing or using confidential criminal justice information, discretion and conduct unbecoming an employee, according to an internal affairs memo. He will also have to surrender any firearms and his passport.
During the investigation, Dingman’s colleagues searched his Coral Springs home and seized multiple computer discs, USB drives or cards; a router; two cellphones and four iPhones; two iPads; six computers; and a camcorder, search warrants showed.
During his 21 year career, Dingman was previously reprimanded over an incident in 2011, when he and another deputy twice accessed information on a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who was being harassed for ticketing off-duty Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez for speeding.
The sheriff’s office gave Dingman a counseling form in his personnel file at that time, based on his accessing information on Trooper Donna “Jane” Watts. The agency settled a lawsuit in May brought by Watts for $6,000. She also settled with other agencies where officers had looked up her information.
Dingman’s Linked-In profile listed him as the owner of No Shenanigans Diving, where he is a scuba diving instructor. The profile said Dingman served in U.S. Army aviation from 1987 to 1995 and attended Florida Atlantic University, studying criminal justice and police science.
©2017 Sun Sentinel