ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy appeared distraught in court Saturday morning as he faced second-degree felony charges amid allegations that he fondled a young girl.
Jeffrey Lewis Cook, 51, was arrested and fired in response to the allegations, authorities said Friday.
He could face up to 15 years in prison, if convicted. His bond was set at $150,000.
According to the Sheriff's Office, a criminal complaint was filed against Cook. The 17-year veteran was placed under arrest following an investigation into lewd and lascivious molestation, which is said to have occurred over the course of six years.
Sheriff Shoar stated, “Anyone who has heard me speak on these types of crimes, knows that I value our children, as well as seniors, as our highest priority for protection. I am both angry and saddened by these events, and while this incident involves one individual, it is not reflective of our agency or this honorable profession.”
Detectives are still investigating. There were no indications of any other victims, investigators said.
Records show this wasn't the first time Cook was fired from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. In 1994, Cook was responding to a vandalism complaint when he got into an altercation with an African American man who was carrying a gun in his waistband.
Cook maced the man, not knowing he was an off-duty agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, records show. The NAACP contacted former Sheriff Neil Perry about the confrontation, and Cook was later fired.
According to documents, Cook sued the Sheriff's Office claiming he was wrongfully terminated. In 1995, he was reinstated with back pay.