Florida Keys

Road rage on the water as city councilman in boat brawls with swimmers, cops say

Following a July 15 fight stemming from children swimming in front of a Palmetto Bay city councilman’s boat, Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo put up fencing and new signs warning against swimming in the marina area.
Following a July 15 fight stemming from children swimming in front of a Palmetto Bay city councilman’s boat, Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo put up fencing and new signs warning against swimming in the marina area.

A fight at the popular Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo on July 15 involved a Palmetto Bay city councilman, at least one person who identified herself as an off-duty police officer from Coral Gables and irate parents of children who were swimming in the paths of boats trying to dock at the marina.

The confrontation started when Palmetto Bay City Councilman David Singer, 55, tried to dock his vessel at a slip at Gilbert’s but was prevented from doing so by 30 to 40 children swimming in the marina instead of the designated beach area. Instead of telling their kids to get out of the way of Singer’s boat, the parents yelled at Singer, who moved to another slip.

When he disembarked from his boat, he confronted the crowd, saying, “If you’re going to talk [expletive], do it when I’m on land.”

Singer said that is when he was “sucker punched” by one of the men in the group, named in a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office incident report as 45-year-old William Antonio Segovia. But Segovia’s wife, Vivian Guadarrama, 33, who told Deputy Dyllon Hansen that she was an off-duty Coral Gables police officer, said Singer grabbed her husband by the neck before he was punched.

Singer said in an interview that he did grab Segovia, but only after he was punched by him and attacked by other members of the group.

“He punched me and I grabbed him. I’d never hit anybody first,” Singer said. “That’s not in my repertoire.”

Nevertheless, Hansen’s report states Singer committed simple battery, although he was not arrested on the misdemeanor. The other people involved in the melee are listed in Hansen’s report as witnesses and one man, Benancio Segovia Rodriguez, 39, is listed as a “victim.” Hansen wrote that Rodriguez, who is William Segovia’s brother, “assisted William in the physical altercation.”

They could not be reached for comment, and Sgt. Tomas Salcedo, a public information officer with the Coral Gables Police Department, said Guadarrama is not a member of the force, and neither is Segovia.

“Those names are not associated with the Coral Gables Police Department,” Salcedo said in an email.

It’s not clear if Guadarrama showed a badge or other police credentials when she identified herself as law enforcement to Hansen.

Deputies escorted Singer and his son to their vessel at the request of the on-duty manager. But Singer said the whole incident could have been avoided if Gilbert’s staff prevented children from jumping off the docks and swimming in the marina area.

“The kids should not have been in front of the boats,” Singer said.

Growing issue

According to several Gilbert’s patrons, this is a growing problem.

“I walked down to see the ‘expanded’ beach Sunday, and turned away in anxiety at the number of unsupervised children in the water,” Miami resident Roxanne Clements wrote on the resort’s Facebook page. “Gilbert’s is out of control.”

Janeena Marie Collins also slammed the establishment last week for not doing enough to stop children from swimming near boats. She also criticized parents for not supervising their children.

“They refuse to manage the situation. Once there is a fatality, maybe they will make changes,” Collins wrote July 17 on Gilbert’s Facebook page. “I witnessed events with swimmers in boat slips both Saturday and Sunday, and no one tried to cure the madness and correct swimmers by directing them toward the beach.”

Gilbert’s, through a series of Facebook statements last week, said there are signs clearly delineating where people can and cannot swim, and that it is up to parents to properly police their children.

“We have an obvious beach area. Signs are posted and clearly visible for safety reasons. Without parental supervision, we can not control individuals who do not heed to our signage and warnings.”

This week, however, the resort installed a plastic fence between the beach area and the docks, and it posted a sign stating that anyone seen jumping off the docks will be asked to leave. According to Collins, who went back to Gilbert’s this Sunday and did not see anyone swimming outside of the beach area, the new measures appear to be working.

“Well, the fact that they did place the orange plastic fencing and the paper signs lets me know they realized there is an issue,” she said in an email Tuesday. “I hope this leads to permanence signs and fencing, but I am happy with this change as at least not one person was swimming in that area where boats dock which is a big change.”

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204

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