February 24, 2009
pulled a woman from a burning car and saved her life. He's
assisted in capturing a suspected murderer. He's arrested people
for night hunting, illegal fishing, littering, drug possession and
active felony warrants. He wrote 168 citations and warnings in
2008, which is impressive for the rural county where he works.
And now, Officer Bret Gill has been selected as the 2009 Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Division of Law
Enforcement Officer of the Year.
In 2005, Gill started his career with the FWC in Union County.
"He has earned the respect of the citizens he serves through
proactive and responsive law enforcement services and hard work,"
said Capt. Roy Brown, area supervisor. "Officer Gill possesses a
uniquely patient investigative style that has proved very
successful. If he catches a whisper of a possible resource
violation, he doggedly pursues all leads, leaving no stone
The variety of Gill's impressive caseload further demonstrates his
initiative and ability to get the job done, Brown explained.
Gill was traveling to Tallahassee for Special Operations Group (SOG)
training when he saw two Florida Highway Patrol troopers
attempting to arrest a subject who was violently resisting, Brown
said. One trooper's hand was broken during the fray, and Gill's
assistance made the difference in gaining control of the
Before spring turkey season began, Gill was flying with Pilot Joe
Johnston and located a site baited for turkeys with a blind close
by. Because the site was so remote, he had to walk more than three
miles to get to it. On opening morning of the spring gobbler
season, he cited a subject for hunting turkey over bait.
"Officer Gill assisted the Union County Sheriff's Office with a
manhunt for a murder suspect. After tracking the suspect for over
a mile, he and a Department of Corrections K-9 officer captured
the suspect," Brown said.
The officer also works complaints from landowners. Gill received a
complaint from Plum Creek Timber Company of illegal dumping on its
lands. Gill investigated the complaint and charged a suspect with
"During the Fourth of July holiday, Officer Gill, accompanied by
Officer Billy Giles, successfully rescued four children who were
tube-floating down the Santa Fe River after they became separated
from their parents. The officers located the kids several miles
downriver and returned them to their very appreciative parents,"
The new officer of the year thrives on being in the woods. Gill
arrested three subjects night hunting who had a doe deer in their
possession. He was then able to learn through a thorough interview
that the trio had killed another doe and had left it in the woods
down the road. The landowner was very appreciative, as he had been
experiencing ongoing problems with illegal hunting.
In November, Gill received information of illegal hunting activity
occurring on a piece of private land in Union County. Gill made
his way to the hunt camp on foot and set up surveillance. After
the morning hunt, four hunters returned to the camp. One hunter
was on an ATV dragging a doe deer.
Gill overheard one of the men say he had shot another doe and then
left to retrieve it. A few minutes later the man returned with the
doe deer in tow. Gill then made his presence known and charged two
subjects with taking doe deer out of season. A third subject had
warrants issued out of Arkansas for his arrest, and the
authorities there wished to extradite. He also had a felony
warrant issued out of Union County. The man was taken into
"While he was making this case, Bret was watching the men so
intensely from his concealed position that he overlooked the
five-foot rattlesnake he sat down next to. If not for the cold
weather that morning, the snake would surely have bitten him,"
Gill also saved a life. On July 18, the officer was off duty and
in his personal vehicle traveling through Lake Butler, when he saw
a woman running toward him in her nightgown. The woman told him
about a vehicle that crashed and was on fire down the street.
Gill made his way around the corner and found a pickup truck that
had struck a power pole and was on fire. He called 9-1-1 for
assistance and then ran through a crowd of spectators to the
blazing vehicle to find the driver pinned in the vehicle, burning.
Gill determined the driver was dead. He then went to the passenger
side and found a woman alive, gasping for air, and flailing about
the cab. Her legs were on fire. Gill forced the door open and
pulled her out of the burning vehicle. He then rolled her on the
ground repeatedly to extinguish the flames.
As Gill was doing what he could to aid the victim, the vehicle
"Apparently, the gas tank and ammunition stored in truck
exploded," Brown said. "There were several bystanders who said
they wouldn't have thought of going near the truck because they
knew it was going to explode."
The woman was flown to Shands Burn Center in critical condition.
In the days following the accident, the victim, Michelle Davis
Brannen, 28, of Macclenny, underwent surgery to amputate both her
legs. She continues to improve and make progress toward recovery.
"Michelle, her family and community have repeatedly thanked Bret
for his actions. And thanks to him, on Jan. 6, Michelle celebrated
her 29th birthday," Brown said. "His actions were above and beyond
the call of duty and deserved special recognition. Officer Gill
was awarded the Medal of Valor with Lifesaving Commendation."
Gill is currently on the Law Enforcement Investigator I promotion
list and is working toward attaining that goal in the future.
"Officer Gill has gained the respect of his supervisors,
co-workers and the constituents he serves as a very capable and
professional law enforcement officer," Brown said. "I'm proud that
he's part of our team."