WINTER HAVEN — A Polk County Sheriff’s Office press conference Thursday announced the arrest of an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy for sending pornographic images to a 9-year-old girl from Winter Haven.
Cansas Sadler Jr., 41, has been employed OCSO for less than a year, having been hired in July of 2018. On Wednesday, he was arrested and booked into the Okaloosa County Jail on a number of charges from both the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that Sadler first made contact with the child via a direct message on an online gaming app called “The Wolf.”
During the communication that followed, Sadler created two false personas, portraying himself as “Jade” — an 11-year-old girl — and "Jason," a fictional adult male. Officials say Sadler used these identities to manipulate the girl into sending nude images of herself and began laying the groundwork for a meeting. Sadler also send nude images either of himself or someone else.
Prior to Sadler’s employment in law enforcement, he had served in the United States Army as an Army Ranger and later would train Army Rangers.
“It’s really a sad story because … he went from a decorated war hero to a deputy sheriff for the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office and from there we determined what his inner soul really is — and that’s to be a child predator,” Judd said.
The exchanges transpired over the course of a few days and were eventually brought to light when the victim’s older sister informed the victim’s mother that something seemed awry. The victim’s mother took the child’s cellphone and — while going through it and the messages contained within — Sadler called the phone, presenting himself as “Jason.”
The victim’s mother proceeded to contact law enforcement, and Judd said his detectives were quick to take action.
“(Sadler) wasn’t just doing a mind game online — he was grooming this little girl on the telephone,” Judd said.
Sadler, who has been married since 2002 and his two children of his own, additionally send numerous messages that were sexually explicit as part of the grooming process, Judd said.
During the press conference, Judd praised his colleagues at the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office for sharing the fervor of the PCSO in tackling this case.
“Let me tell you, (Okaloosa) Sheriff (Larry) Ashley and his team are simply the best,” Judd said. “They immediately were as angry as we were — no, they were more angry and mad.”
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Ashley expressed his disappointment that one of his department’s own had committed such a crime.
“I’m always disheartened when someone sworn to serve and protect commits any crime, much less crimes of this nature,” Ashley said. “It’s an affront to all the hard-working, dedicated law enforcement officers who work tirelessly each day to keep our citizens safe.”
Judd also took the opportunity of the press conference to impress upon parents, in Polk and beyond, to be vigilant as their children are granted access to cellphones and the internet.
“There’s also a message for the parents here,” Judd said. “If you’re going to allow your 9-year-old child to have a phone that connects to the internet, you’ve got to know what they’re doing.”
Going forward, the two sheriff’s departments appeared poised to collaborate on effectively prosecuting this case and its various charges.
“The biggest part of the conversation was ‘how can we work together to make sure we can charge this guy with as much as we can charge him with?’” Judd explained. “Upon conviction, we’re going to send this guy to prison.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at email@example.com.