Florida Keys

Boater speeds away from Florida Keys marine patrol, tossing lobsters along the way, cops say

Jason Lawhon
Jason Lawhon

A Florida man led marine patrol in the Keys in a high-speed boat chase while tossing his lobsters overboard, police say.

Jason Lawhon, 47, faces a felony charge of fleeing and eluding police, another felony of tampering with evidence and several misdemeanor charges, including being over the bag limit for lobster during the two-day Florida lobster miniseason, which ended Thursday night. He was also charged with reckless driving.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Kyle Chesney’s arrest report, Lawhon’s boat “did not give way to our patrol vessel and made an erratic series of swerves to the right and left” while driving in Kemp Channel near Cudjoe Key in the Lower Keys around 2 p.m. Thursday.

Chesney and Lt. Andy Cox turned on their boat’s blue emergency lights and siren, but not only did Lawhon not stop, he “sped up and made a sharp right-hand turn, which caused him to almost fall out of his boat,” Chesney wrote.

As he was fleeing police, Lawhon was throwing lobsters overboard. Chesney said he counted Lawhon, who is from Sopchoppy, in Wakulla County on the Panhandle, tossing eight.

“Lt. Cox and I yelled at Lawhon to stop and that he was under arrest,” Chesney wrote. “He continued to toss lobster overboard.”

He finally stopped his boat, but Lawton again threw more lobsters from his vessel, according to Chesney’s report.

The two FWC officers yelled at him to stop moving and put his hands over his head. They grabbed Lawhon and placed him onto their vessel and cuffed him.

As of Friday morning, Lawhon was still in Stock Island jail. His bond information was not immediately available.

Thursday was day-two of the two-day miniseason annual event that brings thousands of people to the Keys to fish for Florida spiny lobsters ahead of the regular season, which begins Aug. 6 and lasts until March 31. The bag limit in the Keys and in Biscayne National Park is six lobsters per person, per day.

Officer Guillermo .JPG
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Guillermo Cartaya asks a diver to board her boat so he could inspect the vessel for any violations Wednesday, July 25, 2018, the first day of the two day lobster miniseason. David Goodhue/dgoodhue@flkeysnews.com

Elsewhere in the state, participants are allowed to keep 12 lobsters per day.

As of Thursday afternoon, five people were arrested in the Keys for infractions related to the miniseason, according to information provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Follow David Goodhue on Twitter @DavidGoodhue