CLEWISTON — In a public Facebook Group titled “Make Clewiston Great Again,” a post written by Nathan Johnson quickly became a hot topic across social media. The post appeared in the group of over 2,300 members on Thursday, June 25.
Johnson wrote, “So me and some friends are hanging out in the USave parking lot last night when we have three sheriffs stop us and tell us that we’re not allowed to hang out there. We’ve been told by several CPD cops before that they’d rather us hang out there because it’s a well lit parking lot and it’s right next to the highway rather than us hanging out at the tennis courts or the lake, but instead we’ve got cops wasting their time telling us that we can’t hang out there when we aren’t doing one thing wrong. What else are kids supposed to do in this town? Everyone gets mad when the kids here start going around breaking into stuff and by no means am I trying to take up for people like that, but there’s not one thing for kids to do in this town besides hang out in different parking lots and the cops wanna bother us over that.”
Chris Tito Perez-Torres wrote, “Nathan Johnson, I commend you for taking this route rather than rebel. You represent what youths should do if they feel wronged by authority because ‘fighting’ LEO’s (law enforcement officers) very well may get you shot. Bring this topic up with those running for City Commissioners and document it well.”
Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden quickly responded in a comment, “Nathan Johnson, what time was this last night? I’d like to find out the details. Thanks.”
“Steve Whidden, I think it was around 11:30 or so,” Johnson replied.
In what Facebook time stamps deemed less than 24 hours after the original post was made, Sheriff Whidden commented again, “Nathan Johnson, hey, I reviewed the body camera footage and looked into your situation. You guys did absolutely nothing wrong. There is no standing trespass from the property owners and what you were doing in no way fits the loitering and prowling statute. It was a newer deputy and he has been corrected on the issue. I do apologize for the inconvenience, and I want to thank you for bringing it to my attention. If you have any issues in the future please let me know. Thank you.”
“Steve Whidden, yes sir, thank you, I appreciate it,” wrote Johnson.
Another member, Josh Cook, commented, “I like to see a supervisor admit his employee was wrong instead of backing the blue.”
“Josh Cook, you know the ‘back the blue’ motto doesn’t mean back officers when they’re wrong. It’s more of a brotherhood motto that stands in support of each other because of what we deal with on a day to day basis. It’s a general statement that supports the need for law enforcement,” Sheriff Whidden explained.
Discussion regarding the incident continued to spread throughout various social media platforms, some in private groups, and was the topic of conversation around town even on the following Monday.