A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested and charged Wednesday with secretly recording footage of a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January and then releasing it to TMZ, according to BSO.
Michael E. Dingman, 47, was booked at the main jail and released on a bond of $2,000 shortly after he turned himself in around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
The arrest warrant alleges that Dingman used his cellphone to secretly record about 20 seconds of footage near the beginning of the airport shooting and then illegally send the video to the gossip website. The warrant also states Dingman tried to reset his phone to factory settings and submerge the phone in water to cover his tracks.
“This is a deputy who violated his oath, and I hope the truth surfaces and justice is served,’’ said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.
On Jan. 6, Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, 27, opened fire in a baggage claim in Terminal 2 at the airport, killing five and injuring six others. Santiago-Ruiz, a U.S. Army Iraq war veteran who flew to South Florida from Alaska, was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to nearly two dozen charges associated with the shooting.
Four days after the shooting, Dingman, a 21-year department veteran who earned a base salary of $75,673, was suspended with pay as the department investigated who leaked the video. Israel said Wednesday that Dingman taped the footage on his cellphone while he and others were reviewing surveillance video of the shooting to learn if they could have handled the situation any differently.
“I remember hearing about this shortly after it happened and being really angry,” Israel said. “We had so many people working so hard and so seamlessly and to know that one of our own could do this was disappointing. It wasn’t his place to disseminate it.”
The arrest report said Dingman gave the video to TMZ, and that the deputy had also contacted other media outlets. A search of the browsing history of Dingman’s department-issued laptop computer showed he visited the TMZ website about four hours before the video appeared on the site, according to the report.
Dingman denied he had profited from the footage.
“Do you guys think I made money on this thing?” he told a detective during the investigation, according to the arrest report. “Because if so, I didn’t. You can search my bank records if you’d like, but you aren’t going to find anything.”
TMZ did not respond to an email asking whether the site paid Dingman for the video.
Dingman was charged with four counts, including tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, violating public records law, criminally using public records information and unlawfully using a communication device. He has been suspended since January; on Tuesday, his pay was suspended.
“Based on the totality of the situation and the charges brought on him, I made the decision to suspend him without pay,” Israel said.
When Dingman left the jail Wednesday afternoon, wearing a gray hoodie, shorts and tennis shoes, he declined to comment to the Sun Sentinel. “Stay away from me,” he told a reporter.
His lawyer Michael Finesilver confirmed he was representing Dingman but declined to discuss his client, saying he does not comment on pending cases.