Local News

Fired deputy drove recklessly, at high speeds, investigators say

SEBRING - When a former Highlands County deputy transported a juvenile to Tampa, he drove recklessly to the point that a witness thought someone might have stolen the patrol car, according to Internal Affairs records released Monday. "I've never called in a sheriff ever, but this guy I thought wasn't even a sheriff," the man said. "I thought he was driving around in a stolen car, cause he's missing turns left and right...," the man told the Highlands County Sheriff's Office. The deputy was Hiram Obregon, who was arrested last week along with his wife, Lissette Obregon, a couple of months after his house burned down, authorities said. An investigation of the fire, which occurred weeks after Obregon was fired, found evidence of a marijuana-growing operation at the Obregon home, authorities said.
Both were charged with growing marijuana, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, arson and owning or renting a structure with the purpose of trafficking, selling or manufacturing a controlled substance. Obregon blamed his wife, saying she was growing plants in the house, but he didn't know which type. As for the reasons he was terminated by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, the report said that in addition to the Tampa incident, an Internal Affairs investigation showed that on numerous occasions Obregon drove his patrol car at more than 90 miles per hour, although his patrol car lights were not flashing. The Tampa incident occurred on April 29 when a Tampa police officer notified the Highlands County Sheriff's Office that Obregon was "driving in excess of 70-75 miles per hour, darting in and out of rush hour traffic. At one point he (the Tampa police officer) stated, he (Obregon) drove on the shoulder and then jumped back into the lane of traffic, cutting off vehicles," the report said. The other witness who stated he suspected the car was stolen also reported that the patrol car was being driven all over the road, cutting people off, and the turn signal was not being used, the report said. The juvenile with him recalled that Obregon was cursing during the trip because the computer telling him where to go was messing up. She also agreed that Obregon drove above the speed limit and that he went off the road at times. She told investigators she had "never ridden like that before," the report said. In other incidents involving speeding, the report says, that Obregon apparently would immediately deactivate a mobile recording system in his car that is activated by speed. The report notes that in these incidents he drove at speeds around 90 miles per hour in areas with speed limits of 60 or 55 miles per hour. In at least one incident, the road was wet, the report said. Obregon, who was described as confrontational during the initial part of the investigation, later wrote a letter pleading to keep his job. "I found law enforcement late in age, but I firmly believe that this is my calling and would be honored to continue working as a (deputy) sheriff of Highlands County," the report said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834