FORT LAUDERDALE (FL)
South Florida Sun-Sentinel [Deerfield Beach FL]
March 24, 2021
By Susannah Bryan
A Fort Lauderdale police officer — a security officer at two Catholic schools — has been arrested on charges that he engaged in sexual chats online with an undercover detective who he believed was an underage girl.
Investigators say Louis James Walsh, 29, sent a photo of himself online and exposed his private parts, unaware that he was chatting with an undercover detective in Minnesota.
Broward sheriff’s detectives arrested Walsh at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Wednesday in conjunction with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a national law enforcement network that targets child abuse and exploitation.
Walsh also works special security details at Cardinal Gibbons High School and St. Anthony Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale. He is an assistant wrestling coach at Cardinal Gibbons.
Walsh — accused of sending one photo of his private parts on Monday and another on Tuesday — faces two counts of transmission of material harmful to a minor.
Interim Police Chief Patrick Lynn has placed him on administrative leave without pay while the case is pending.
Walsh has been an officer with Fort Lauderdale Police for five years and earns $68,078 per year.
Lynn issued a public statement saying the department was “shocked and disappointed to learn of the arrest of one of our officers.”
“The details surrounding these allegations are very difficult to hear and do not reflect the character and professionalism expected of the men and women of this agency,” the statement said.
The arrest stunned the department’s rank and file, said Detective Brandon Diaz, president of the police union for the agency.
“It’s very hard for any of us to hear, that’s for sure,” Diaz said. “It does not reflect the professionalism of the men and women who work here at the department. We’ve had a rough year, and the last thing anyone wants is any kind of mark on the police department right now, or negative publicity.”
Walsh will not be represented by a union attorney because his arrest was not related to work, Diaz said.
Walsh worked on traffic details at the two Catholic schools, supervising the arrival and dismissal of students, said Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.
“The Safe Environment Office and the Superintendent of Schools encourage parents to review with their children the ‘Teaching Boundaries Safety’ lessons taught in Catholic Schools, and be aware of any suspicious activity on laptops, cell phones, IPads or desktops,” Agosta said in a post on Twitter.
As a teen, Walsh attended Cardinal Gibbons and was on the wrestling team, said Frank Pettineo, a former wrestling coach at the school.
Pettineo coached Walsh but says he doesn’t remember much about him.
“This is startling to all of us, and the school will do what’s proper for the kids,” Pettineo said.
Walsh was still in the Broward Main Jail on Wednesday evening.
Fort Lauderdale police encourage anyone who felt victimized by Walsh to call the Sheriff’s Office at 954-888-5290.
Staff writer Adam Lichtenstein contributed to this story.
Susannah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan