LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A married Groveland firefighter is accused of inappropriately touching a 16-year-old girl then later sending her an apology message through Facebook claiming he was drunk when it happened, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said the girl was with Carl Jamison Elder, 24, and a group of other people for a birthday party and mudding outing on Oct. 5 at a property off Bay Lake Road.
Elder was on a utility vehicle with the victim and another 16-year-old girl when he asked their ages then made a comment about how young they are, records show.
Deputies said the victim was getting snacks around 9 p.m. when Elder approached her from behind, touched her inappropriately and said, "I would (expletive) the (expletive) out of you."
The victim told him to stop but he wouldn't until she sat down, according to the report. The girl mentioned something about Elder's family and he replied, "None of that matters," authorities said.
"It’s my understanding she went to get something out of a vehicle and that’s when he came behind her and grabbed her inappropriately,"Lake County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Fred Jones said.
When the two rejoined the group at the party, Elder repeatedly asked the girl to come with him to his vehicle to get drinks and she told him no multiple times, according to the report.
Elder left abruptly with his wife at about 9:30 p.m. when she came back from a mud trip.
Deputies said that around 10:15 p.m., Elder messaged the girl, "Now that I'm sobering up I have to apologize for the way I acted" and "That's no excuse for the way I behaved I just can't explain the way I felt the way I did."
"As a father, I can imagine what the victim’s father going through," Jones said. "That’s just devastating all the way around, no one wins in something like this."
During an interview, deputies said Elder claimed he couldn't remember whether he inappropriately touched the girl. He said "I don't think I did it" and "I don't believe it" but never flat out denied the accusation, records show.
"As a father, I can imagine what the Victim’s father going through," Jones said. "That’s just devastating all the way around, no one Wins in something like this."
Elder turned himself in Friday on a simple battery charge. Asked if Elder could face any sex crime charges, Lake County investigators said not at this time based on the victim's age and the circumstances.
"If he has touched her underneath the clothing it probably would have fell in lewd and lascivious, if she was 15 or younger, it would have fell in lewd and lascivious," Jones said.
Officials with the Groveland Fire Department said Elder was placed on administrative leave Friday pending the outcome of a criminal investigation and any subsequent internal investigation by the fire department.
According to the city of Groveland human resources director DEO Persaud, Elder was hired by the city in November 2015 and has no prior disciplinary history.