After warning to drug dealers went viral, Fla. sheriff says more videos to come
Sheriff Peyton Grinnell is considering other topics — fraud, cyber crime and general public announcements — as a follow up to the controversial video
By Jason Ruiter
LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell, who became an internet sensation last week with an ominous warning to heroin dealers, isn’t done making videos.
Grinnell was flanked by masked undercover deputies in a video in which he warned heroin dealers that “we are coming for you.”
Sitting at his desk, adorned with an American flag coffee mug and Bible, Grinnell said Friday that there will be more.
“I’m going to have … weekly segments of things that are not in the news, predominantly positive things that are going on in this county regarding law enforcement,” Grinnell said.
He is considering other topics — fraud, cyber crime and general public announcements — as a follow up to the controversial video. It sparked criticism and praise on social media from some who said the law-enforcement lineup looked like an ISIS beheading video and others who labeled Grinnell a hero for taking on the bad guys.
His first national media foray included an interview on Fox & Friends and a story in the New York Times. Grinnell, who was elected in November after a decade as the agency’s chief deputy, also fielded a congratulatory call from Gov. Rick Scott.
“He just wanted me to know that he appreciated my tough stance against this heroin epidemic and that he stands with me and that he was going to make this a priority of the great state of Florida,” Grinnell said. “I think those were his exact words: ‘great state of Florida.’”
Grinnell, who heads the department, said his public-service announcements aren’t meant to be controversial but only to build the Sheriff’s Office presence and serve Lake residents. When he made the video in early April, he said undercover deputies who are passionate about their work requested to be a part of it.
Earlier this week, the Sheriff’s Office made five arrests in Groveland through undercover work and anonymous tips, seizing more than 6 ounces of cocaine, two AR-15 rifles, 500 ecstasy pills and two pounds of marijuana. Since October, Lake had 24 opioid-related overdoses resulting in four fatalities. Grinnell said he wants to train his officers to use Narcan, a fast-acting treatment for opioid overdose victims.
Grinnell said he doesn’t expect every video to spark the same outrage.
“Time changes, technology changes,” he said. “We need our public’s help.”
On the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page alone, the video garnered 1.3 million views by Friday and 3,500 comments.
Corey Pendergraft, the agency’s digital media manager, said of the roughly 40,000 likes the post fostered, only 636 were negative with Facebook’s “angry face.” About 24 percent of the views in the video came from Florida residents.
“I read every single comment,” Pendergraft said. “Positive feedback tended to be from this area.”
“Way to go!” wrote one Facebook commenter on the video post. “Thank you for protecting the citizens of Lake County.”
But to others, the video's ski masks and eerie music score was bizarre. Many mistook the video for a joke or the echo of a militarized police force.
“Is this an SNL skit?” one commenter wrote. “That was ridiculous.”
“You look either like little boys playing soldier or masked thugs,” wrote another.
“This really smacks of police state,” wrote one.
Grinnell, who was born in the area, said, “I’ll be straight up with you — I only care what people in Lake County think.”
The sheriff was elected by two-thirds of the vote last November. The former Marine — who served in the Persian Gulf War — was also a participant and winner of a local “Dancing With the Stars” competition that is a fundraiser for the Educational Foundation of Lake County.
Since being elected, Grinnell said he has pushed for a stronger social-media presence, more policing against DUI and aggressive drivers and bringing back the Drug Abuse Resistance Education to elementary schools.
Ralph Smith, owner of Lake Tire & Auto in Tavares and a Republican state committeeman, said he liked the risk Grinnell took with the video.
“I understand a few people … to be a little bit offended,” he said. “The simple reality of it is I like out-of-the-box thinking.”
Smith said he doesn’t think the issue is liberal or conservative, but in knowing — or not knowing — the role heroin has in the county.
“Maybe in hindsight it’ll be a misstep,” he said. “But by golly I like guys who take chances."
©2017 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
A message from the Lake County Sheriff's Office Community Engagement Unit.Posted by Lake County Sheriff's Office on Friday, April 7, 2017