Pinellas Park, FL -- The manhunt for a man accused of taking pictures of himself sexually abusing several young children is over.
Jesse Sawyer, Jr., 25, is wanted out of Troy, New York where officers there say the sex crimes happened. They got a tip that Sawyer was living on church property at the Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg off U.S. 19.
Pinellas Park police said New York police informed them on Thursday night around 11 that a FBI warrant had been issued for Sawyer for production of child porn.
Sgt Adam Geissenberger from the Pinellas Park Police Department said their officers tracked Sawyer down at the residential facility where he was living in about 10 minutes and they detained him.
"He told us he had no idea what we were talking about. He was very laissez-faire. 'You know what do you guys want? What can I do for you? Here's my name. Here's who I am.' He made no statements about anything to do with New York," Sgt. Geissenberger said.
Geissenberger said they detained him for an hour and 42 minutes.
"We didn't cuff him - he wasn't seated in the car – [we were having] open dialogue."
During that time, he said they were trying to confirm the warrant, which is something that's done electronically. He said they made the request through a computer database asking that someone from the FBI office out of Albany, New York confirm the warrant. He also said they picked up the phone to get help too.
"We made telephone communication. We could not get an actual confirmation on a warrant," he explained.
Geissenberger said after a reasonable amount of time they had to let him go because they had nothing to charge him with. Then about five minutes later, the confirmation they'd been waiting for came through, but by then Sawyer was long gone and Geissenberger said that's when police in New York started filling in the gaps about the graphic and disturbing nature of the crimes Sawyer is accused of.
"We received no other information from New York eluding to him being dangerous or the underlying offenses which are now being reported."
Troy's Police Department sent out a release that said in part:
"The warrant was faxed to Pinellas Park within an extremely reasonable period of time. It does appear, however, that their decision to release the defendant was premature. "We would hope that Pinellas Park will dedicate their energy to apprehension rather than explanation."
Late Friday afternoon, Geissenberger said they received information from someone at Calvary Chapel church that Sawyer wanted to turn himself in. Pinellas Park police spotted Sawyer at the Saigon Plaza, a small strip mall, about a mile away from the church where they arrested him.
Still, there are a lot of questions over how Sawyer was able to be so close to children at a church preschool. The church released the following statement to 10 News:
"Earlier this year, Jesse Paul Sawyer began attending Calvary Chapel Saint Petersburg and participating in our residential discipleship ministry. We welcomed Jesse with unconditional love. Because he was participating in our residential program, we checked to determine whether he had a criminal record in Pinellas and surrounding counties, and national sex offender databases. He did not. We were unaware that Jesse was wanted in New York. Had he disclosed that, we would have notified local law enforcement. We want what is best for Jesse. The best right now would involve him turning himself in to law enforcement, so that these pending matters may be addressed."
On Friday evening, Sawyer was being booked into the Pinellas County jail. He is facing federal charges. Pinellas Park Police say they made contact with Sawyer back in January when they found him sleeping at a vacant building near the church. They say he lied repeatedly about his name. The warrant for his arrest was issued on March 18 of this year.