LEE COUNTY — A Lee County sheriff’s deputy based in the Bonita Springs area faces charges of steroid and marijuana possession after his girlfriend turned him into investigators Monday.
John Eaton, a 7 1/2-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave following his arrest, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said.
Deputies executed a search warrant at Eaton’s home Monday, finding five vials containing two different steroids, as well as a small amount of marijuana. His address isn’t listed in arrest records.
Investigators were tipped off to Eaton after his girlfriend of four years reported him for a domestic altercation, an arrest report said. Eaton’s girlfriend said he kicked her after refusing to show his cellphone call log. In reporting Eaton to deputies, his girlfriend said Eaton injects steroids and has used them “within the past couple of days,” the report said.
Eaton wasn’t arrested on any domestic violence charges.
Scott called the evidence against Eaton “overwhelming and very conclusive, which is why I’m comfortable not paying him.”
“We immediately launched a full-blown investigation and hounded him just like any other criminal and put him in jail just like any other criminal,” Scott said.
Efforts to reach Eaton for comment were unsuccessful. Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, the umbrella organization for the Lee County sheriff’s deputies’ union, said Eaton hasn’t requested legal representation. Roberts didn’t know whether Eaton is a union member.
Scott said Eaton has generally received positive evaluations since his December 2005 hiring, describing him as “a very likable guy.” His personnel file contains at least four letters of commendation from citizens.
But Eaton came to the Sheriff’s Office with some baggage.
In November 2004, about a year before his hiring in Lee County, Eaton resigned from the Naples Police Department after then-Chief Steve Moore received an anonymous letter detailing accusations of marijuana use by Eaton. He resigned one day later.
In addition, Eaton previously applied for employment at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, only to be denied after failing three polygraph tests. His employment application also includes admissions of marijuana and steroid use in the 1980s.
Scott said the blemishes didn’t preclude Eaton from employment at the time.
For one, Eaton’s rapid resignation from the Naples Police Department meant Lee County sheriff’s officials couldn’t obtain documents detailing whether the marijuana allegations were factual. Eaton also passed a polygraph examination administered by a veteran sheriff’s official, Scott said. And the admitted incidents of steroid and drug use were two decades ago, making them virtually irrelevant.
“Looking back now — and again, we’re looking at a lot of hindsight — everything we had at the time seemed to look like he was suitable for hire,” Scott said.
On the job in Lee County, Eaton had two citizen complaints filed against him, both of which were unfounded. One complaint, of excessive force against a Bonita Springs man, resulted in a lawsuit settled for an undisclosed amount.