A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer accused of stalking was in back court Tuesday for the second time this year. And for the second time, a judge declined to issue a restraining order against him.
Sergeant Chad Collier has a troubled history with the department, having faced complaints of stalking or harassment from three girlfriends over the past 10 years. He also wears the scars of a February suicide attempt, in which he lost his eye.
The Sheriff's Office took his badge and gun following that incident. But neither the suicide attempt nor the allegations from previous girlfriends were introduced Tuesday. Instead, his ex-girlfriend testified that he continued to text and email her following an April request for protection, which Judge Tyrie Boyer denied. (Boyer said the 50 to 60 text messages Collier was sending daily were not proof of stalking, and that the only danger Collier posed was to himself.)
Collier’s ex introduced a formidable witness Tuesday. Detective Bryan J. Wolcott testified that the Sheriff’s Office Integrity Unit – which investigates criminal allegations -- had been tracking him for months as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Wolcott said that GPS data showed Collier’s car circling his ex-girlfriend's home and workplace on several occasions, and that his behavior “raised red flags.”
Collier’s ex-girlfriend testified she, too, had seen him driving past her home and job, and found it frightening. “I don’t want him coming by my work, I don’t want him coming by my house. That scares me. He shot himself! I have enough friends in law enforcement to know if you’re suicidal, you’re homicidal, and it’s scary to me.”
Collier’s ex-girlfriend was not represented by a lawyer, and seemed surprised when Judge Jim Daniel told her that the contents of her prior complaint in April would not be considered at Tuesday’ proceeding. “You should not assume this is somehow a continuation of the hearing that was before [Judge Boyer],” he said. “This is a fresh hearing … You need to make a new record.”
She did not bring that prior testimony, however, so the judge was told only about incidents since April – three text messages and two emails, none overtly threatening.
For his part, Collier denied stalking or harassing his ex, and said the tracking device on his car had picked up unrelated trips, like apartment hunting. His attorney John Clark asked the judge to deny the restraining order, noting it could cost Collier his job. And he prompted his client to promise to leave his ex alone.
“Can you assure the court today that if no injunction is put in against you, that you are going to stay away from her -- not contact her, not go by her job, not go by her place of business … stay away?”
“Yeah,” Collier replied. “Sure.”
In the end, Judge Daniel declined to issue a restraining order, saying there wasn’t evidence of stalking. However, he did ask that Collier refrain from any contact with his ex. “She’s indicated doesn’t want to hear from you, doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, and you need to proceed accordingly.”
Collier declined comment for previous stories. His attorney did not return calls for comment.
Collier’s ex girlfriend expressed dismay over the ruling. She noted she was his third girlfriend to accuse him of domestic violence or stalking – including a 2005 incident that result in his arrest, though the charge was later dropped. She called it “a pattern.”
“I think if he would have been any other person on the street, I would have had an injunction now for the things he’s doing,” she told First Coast News. “But because he’s a police officer, maybe they’re giving him special treatment.”
First Coast News reached out to the Sheriff’s Office for comment early Tuesday morning, and was told the law enforcement agency had no comment.
"He remains on desk duty," Undersheriff Pat Ivey said in a statement. "He has no badge (police powers) nor does he have a service weapon. The Sheriff's Office Integrity Unit continues its investigation."
Wolcott says the Sheriff’s Office criminal investigation is ongoing, and that the State Attorney’s Office is following the case “closely.” But as of Tuesday, Collier remains a full-time employee of Sheriff's Office, and retains his rank of sergeant. He told the court he plans to retire in 11 months.