SEWALL'S POINT, Fla. — A Sewall's Point police officer has been arrested and is accused of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old.
The Sewall's Point Police Department was notified Tuesday that officer Juan Garcia was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Martin County Sheriff's Office. He has been with the department for five years.
The officer has been arrested on four counts of solicitation of a minor and one count of traveling to meet a minor.
Garcia was placed on administrative leave without pay pending further investigation and disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Garcia made his first appearance in court Wednesday. He posted a $750,000 bond and was awaiting his release from the jail to go on house arrest.
Sewall Point Police Chief Tina Ciechanowski said the ongoing investigation by the Martin County Sheriff's Office will receive her department's full support "to assure a complete and thorough investigation of this matter."
WPTV spoke with the 15-year-old’s father shortly after the arrest, who said he contacted law enforcement after finding concerning texts from Garcia to his son’s phone.
He said he is glad to see a longtime friend of the family behind bars.
"I just felt like where it was going, it was putting my son in a very dangerous place. I feel like my son is safe now," the father said, who is not being identified to protect the identity of his son.
The father said they met Garcia eight years ago through a youth program and that Garcia became like a mentor for his son.
"My son said that's the main reason he felt betrayed, because we treated him like family and really have supported him," the father said.
The father said Garcia also owns a taco truck where the teen had worked at one point, but recently, the father said, his son was reluctant to be near Garcia.
"My son wasn't going to work with him on his taco truck, which I thought was odd because he loved it," the father said. "Then he started trying to set up times to take my son out to eat just to mentor him and my son wasn't going with him. He would say he was and then at the last minute he would cancel. So, Sunday night I took his phone away from him and I found all the texts."
The father contacted law enforcement and detectives took the teen's phone.
"[The detective] was up with [Garcia] until 1:30 in the morning texting as if he were my son, and he sent him multiple nude photos and arranged to come over to the neighborhood park," the father said.
The father said he was soliciting his son for sex.
Now, he hopes the investigation also rules out or reveals any other potential victims.
"[I hope] at minimum that he would be on the sex offender's list and not be a police officer," he said.