PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – Jesse Sawyer Jr. is in police custody in the state of Florida just hours after he was detained and released by Pinellas Park Police.
A federal arrest warrant was issued for Sawyer, 25, who is accused of using his cell phone to take so-called “selfies” of himself sexually abusing several children. At least one victim was under the age of five.
The Pinellas Park Police Department says Sawyer was arrested in a strip mall parking lot in the 8700 block of 49th St. North.
Troy police said they received a call Thursday at around 10:30 p.m., with the caller reporting they knew where Sawyer was. The caller noticed he had signed himself into the Calvary Chapel mission in St. Petersburg, using his real name. Once the caller was able to identify the name from Facebook posts, they then called Troy Police.
Troy Police contacted Pinellas Police notifying them of Sawyer's whereabouts. Pinellas then found Sawyer, and detained him. That's where the details become uncertain. Pinellas Park PD says they requested electronic confirmation of the warrant but did not receive the confirmation from the Troy Police Department or FBI for roughly an hour, so they released Sawyer because they “knew where he was.”
Just six minutes after releasing Sawyer, Pinellas Police Department received a call from FBI confirming the warrant. But Troy Police and Albany FBI officials say the information was faxed to Pinellas Park within an extremely reasonable period of time.
“The FBI's Albany division has excellent working relationships with its state and local partners, here and throughout the country. The Albany division verbally confirmed the subject warrant within approximately 30 minutes of receiving the initial request. The fugitive has been apprehended as a result of the joint efforts of federal, state and local authorities,” said Albany FBI Chief Counsel, Paul Holstein in a statement.
Troy Police say it's their understanding that they had 90 minutes to get the arrest warrant to police in Pinellas Park. Pinellas Park police say they waited an hour, but they had to release Sawyer because he was never in custody and had never been charged.
“Literally as our detective was walking into the building to get our hard copy and as the FBI was making arrangements to go down in the morning to deal with Mr. Sawyer, we received a call from Pinellas that an on duty supervisor had determined that Mr. Sawyer would no longer be detained and would be released and be able to go on his way,” said Cooney.
Pinellas Police department returned to where they left Sawyer, and were unable to find him. Helicopter and K-9 units were brought in to search the area for several hours.
Sergeant Geissenberger of the Pinellas Park Police Department said in an interview with NEWS10 ABC that they immediately got in contact with the church he had been staying out to try and ascertain his whereabouts. They eventually made contact with Sawyer and he indicated he was willing to surrender. It was then that officers met him in the mall parking lot.
He will be interviewed by police and the FBI before being transferred to Pinellas County jail. The FBI and marshals will then coordinate his transfer back to the Capital Region.
“Children are safe, the monster is off the streets,” said Captain John Cooney of Troy PD.
He and the rest of the Troy Police Department are breathing a sigh of relief now that Sawyer, who had been on the run for 11 days, is now in custody.
“The FBI now has him in custody. They will have him face very serious federal charges,” Cooney said.
You can depend on NEWS10 ABC to remain dedicated to this story all day and bring you updates on air and online as the situation develops.