Florida Keys

Keys firefighters fired after drug sweep. One had cocaine ‘crumbles’ in his truck, cops say

Arlen Fernandez was fired Monday as a Key West firefighter after police said they found 20 milligrams of cocaine in his Ford F-150 pickup, which was parked at a Key West fire station while he was working there. He was one of two firefighters fired in Key West.
Arlen Fernandez was fired Monday as a Key West firefighter after police said they found 20 milligrams of cocaine in his Ford F-150 pickup, which was parked at a Key West fire station while he was working there. He was one of two firefighters fired in Key West.

Two Key West firefighters were fired Monday in connection with a police narcotics investigation centered on the city’s fire department.

The firings, announced Tuesday, followed an Aug. 10 sweep of all three Key West fire stations by Key West police and Homeland Security, who were tipped off by the KWPD special investigations units that fire personnel were engaging in “narcotic activity,” according to an arrest report.

Arlen Danilo Fernandez, 26, was fired for having what officers called “crumbles” of cocaine inside his Ford F-150 pickup, which was parked outside Key West City Hall, 1300 White St, where he had gone for a drug test. He was arrested Aug. 10 for felony possession.

Fernandez’s attorney Richard Wunsch said Tuesday he can’t remember the state ever prosecuting a possession case in which the amount was so small.

“He’s a good kid from a good family,” Wunsch said. “No criminal history whatsoever. It’s sad.”

Fernandez has an arraignment set for Aug. 23 at the Monroe County Courthouse before Judge Timothy Koenig.

A second firefighter, Pedro Arencibia Jr., was also fired but is not accused of having any cocaine, his lawyer said. Police said his firing was related to the sweep but didn’t give a specific reason Tuesday.

“His car wasn’t searched,” said Nathalia Mellies, his lawyer. “His vehicle was not on city property. He was off-duty.”

Mellies said Arencibia is appealing his firing. “They alleged he didn’t follow an order,” she said.

As for the 20 milligrams of cocaine allegedly found in Fernandez’s possession, police officers have discretion in deciding whether to make an arrest, said Alyson Crean, Key West police spokeswoman.

“However, given the totality of the circumstances and the involvement of a first responder, there is not a lot of room for discretion in this case,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, Fire Chief Michael Davila announced an “internal reorganization” aimed at improving service at the department, Crean said.

He named Alan Averette the Division Chief of Operations and Danny Blanco as Fire Marshal.

“Our entire department is committed to the community service we provide,” said Davila. “We will continue the process of restoring our great reputation for excellent service and earn the respect of our community.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Pedro Arencibia Jr. had cocaine residue inside his car, due to incorrect information provided by a city spokeswoman.

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