(As originally published with bells and whistles, Sun, November 6th 2022, 4:30 AM EST)
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — He wanted to be in law enforcement but in the end, the law came down on him.
The story was widely reported back in 2017, but it only recently came to a conclusion.
Christopher Combs was a cadet with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
His father was Lt. David Combs of that same Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. Combs had an unmarked patrol vehicle.
Cadet Combs was accused of taking that car and using it “to commit multiple felony crimes in Broward County,” according to the Internal Affairs report.
At the time, CBS12 News reported the cadet was not a sworn-in deputy.
The victims of those crimes were Cadet Combs’ ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, and the report on the Internal Affairs investigation was only finished in late September.
It said the crime spree took place after midnight on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, when Cadet Combs utilized his father’s “assigned PBSO unmarked vehicle to initiate a traffic stop on a 1994 Ford Bronco occupied by Cadet Combs’ ex-girlfriend [name] and her new boyfriend [name] on Loxahatchee Road just past University Drive in unincorporated Pompano Beach.
“Cadet Combs used the unmarked patrol vehicle’s public address system to order the driver [new boyfriend] to exit the vehicle with his hands up, lay on the ground, empty his pockets, and place the contents on the ground.”
Cadet Combs wasn’t the only person in his father’s undercover car.
The report said there was a friend in the passenger seat who got out, “and allegedly placed what appeared to be a metal object to the back of [the new boyfriend]’s head, before stealing his property. Cadet Combs then used the PA system to order the passenger [his ex-girlfriend] out of the vehicle and onto the ground. Cadet Combs and [his friend] then fled the area in the unmarked patrol vehicle.”
The new boyfriend called 911 after he was robbed. The report said at 1:36 a.m., he told the operator “he was ‘just pulled over and robbed.’ … The suspect vehicle looked like a PBSO undercover Ford Taurus that was ‘identical to a car I seen [sic] in Palm Beach County.’ [The new boyfriend] stated he did not see the suspect, but believed it was his friend, [his girlfriend]’s ex-boyfriend (Cadet Combs), because the suspect’s voice sounded ‘exactly like his.’ [The new boyfriend] stated he complied with the suspect who told him via the vehicle’s PA system to step out of the vehicle with his hands up, get on the ground, and empty everything in his pockets. The passenger of the vehicle approached him, took his wallet, a can of ‘dip,’ and his pocketknife. The passenger returned to the vehicle and the vehicle took off. [The new boyfriend] stated he was not injured during the incident.”
The crime was also documented in a Broward Sheriff’s Office incident report.
A robbery detective wrote that BSO “was investigating an armed robbery” and the victims had been “hanging out in the area of a lake on Loxahatchee Road when they observed an orange-colored pickup belonging to [name] a friend of Cadet Combs drive by 4 to 6 times before it ultimately stopped in front of [the new boyfriend]’s vehicle, and the occupants yelled out to them. The orange pickup then proceeded eastbound on Loxahatchee Road out of the area.”
It said the couple left the area at about 1:15 a.m. “when they observed a gray Ford Taurus pass them and complete a U-turn in the median of Nob Hill/Loxahatchee Road. Shortly after, the Ford Taurus activated its emergency red and blue lights and conducted a traffic stop on them. [The new boyfriend] immediately complied and was ordered by one of the occupants via the PA intercom out of his truck. The person’s voice using the intercom was immediately recognized to be the voice of suspect Christopher Combs, who is an employee of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and the ex-boyfriend of [name]. [The new boyfriend] complied with the demands, which included to walk back towards the unmarked police vehicle with his hands up, to lay on the ground, and to empty his pockets, and place the contents on the ground. [The new boyfriend] also stated that as Combs ordered him out of his vehicle, he could hear Combs laughing over the PA system. [The new boyfriend], who was in fear, complied with the demands made as a result of the traffic stop. At one point, a passenger of the unmarked police car exited the vehicle, placing what appeared to be a metal object to the back of [the new boyfriend]’s head, before stealing his property which consisted of a brown and black ‘Remington’ wallet containing a Florida driver’s license, Social Security card, bank card, $25 to $30 USC, reward cards, can of Copenhagen Straight, gift card, and a Gerber pocket knife. The driver of the unmarked vehicle also used the PA system to order the passenger [the ex-girlfriend] out of the vehicle and onto the ground. Shortly after, the suspect(s) in the unmarked police car fled the area eastbound on Loxahatchee Road.
[The ex-girlfriend] subsequently provided BSO deputies information that her ex-boyfriend, Christopher G. Combs, whom she dated for approximately 5 years and recently broke up with, is a cadet with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. [The ex-girlfriend] further advised Christopher’s father, David Combs, is a lieutenant with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and he drives the exact same style Ford Taurus unmarked police car.
“As a result of the ongoing investigation, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office was in communication with Lt. David Combs who was currently out of state. [Another PBSO lieutenant] confirmed via Lt. Combs that his unmarked vehicle described as a 2015 Ford Taurus assigned to him was not at his residence, but in possession of his son Christopher who had it parked at a friend’s house. Lt. Combs advised [the other lieutenant] that he spoke to his son Christopher, confirming the vehicle had not been moved all day.
Lt. Combs’ unmarked PBSO vehicle was still hot to the touch as if it was recently driven
“PBSO deputies located the occupied 2015 Ford Taurus backed into a parking space in the area of [address] Boca Raton, which is the residence of [the friend with the pickup]. Deputies also located [the friend]’s orange Toyota pickup with black rims within the same area of Lt. Combs’ unmarked PBSO vehicle. A BSO deputy responded to the location and found that Lt. Combs’ unmarked PBSO vehicle was still hot to the touch as if it was recently driven.”
After that discovery, detectives spoke to the ex-girlfriend and new boyfriend, and made a controlled phone call to Christopher Combs.
The BSO report said, “Christopher Combs admitted to being with [the friend with the pickup] and [the friend in the PBSO car] in the orange pickup truck. Christopher Combs also admitted to seeing ‘his’ truck out on Loxahatchee Road, referring to [the new boyfriend]’s Ford Bronco, and that he knew [his ex-girlfriend] was with him. Christopher Combs also stated when he saw [the new boyfriend]’s Ford Bronco, he became upset and that was why they started ‘messing’ with them, referring to the fact they drove in front of [the new boyfriend]’s Ford Bronco and yelled out to them. [The ex-girlfriend] also advised Christopher Combs that she recognized his voice during the subsequent traffic stop. Christopher Combs responded by admitting that he was in possession of his father’s unmarked PBSO vehicle but denied using it, stating that it had been parked at a ‘Brian’s house’ all day long. Christopher Combs told [the ex-girlfriend] once he [and his two friends] left Loxahatchee Road, they drove to [one friend and then the other]’s homes, where Lt. Combs’ unmarked PBSO vehicle and [one friend]’s orange pickup were located by PBSO deputies.”
Then, a detective drafted a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Combs. A judge signed it, charging him with robbery with a weapon, impersonating a police officer, and two counts of false imprisonment.
Law enforcement from both counties’ sheriff’s offices “talked Christopher Combs and [his friend with the pickup] out of [the home near Boca Raton], where they were immediately detained pending further investigation. The residence was secured, and a search warrant was executed on it… Christopher Combs agreed to return to Broward County to be interviewed by detectives, reference the listed investigation. Detectives were also informed that [the friend] was uncooperative and refused to provide a statement without the presence of an attorney.
“[A detective] also recovered the PBSO unmarked police Ford Taurus that was used during the offense. The vehicle was secured and towed pending the execution of a search warrant.”
Then, detectives wrote, Combs “confessed to his involvement in the case in which he uses father’s unmarked vehicle. Christopher Combs also implicated [his friend from inside] as his passenger who exited the vehicle and approached the victims who were laying on the ground.
“Christopher Combs was subsequently charged accordingly and transported to the BSO Main Jail for processing.”
Then, detectives went to the home of the passenger who “provided us one statement confessing to being with Christopher Combs when he pulled over parties in his father’s unmarked police vehicle. [The friend] denied ever having a weapon as he approached the victims. [The friend] confirmed stealing the victim’s knife and a can of Copenhagen after the victim removed the items from his pockets as ordered by Christopher Combs. [The friend] admitted to discarding the can of Copenhagen out of the window of the vehicle as they drove away from the scene. He also confessed to throwing the victim’s knife into a body of water that has alligators in it.”
That was the end of the Broward Sheriff’s Office report.
The Internal Affairs investigator wrote about getting recorded interviews and, “All of the recordings reflected the same information as described above in [the Broward detective]’s supplemental report.”
Then, the investigator referred to “a sworn recorded interview from Lt. Combs on Oct. 16, 2017… Lt. Combs told [a detective] he regularly allowed his son, Cadet Combs, to utilize his assigned PBSO unmarked vehicle. Lt. Combs advised he was under the impression Cadet Combs was allowed to drive the vehicle since he was an employee of PBSO. [The detective] did not find probable cause to charge Cadet Combs with grand theft auto.”
Cadet Combs was charged on Nov. 9, 2017.
Then came delays.
Years of delays.
Finally, on June 8, 2022, Cadet Combs — now 27 years old — pleaded no contest to the crimes he committed when he was 22. Adjudication was withheld, and Cadet Combs was sentenced to three years of probation on each count to be served concurrently.
CBS12 News searched court records and found he now lives in Tampa.
The Internal Affairs investigator laid out the sheriff’s office’s rules and regulations Combs was accused of breaking and noted Combs had signed the latest version of them.
And the report said the investigator couldn’t reach Combs by phone, so he sent a Ten-Day letter by certified mail to his home on Aug. 24.
He hadn’t gotten a response by Sept. 8 and wrote the cadet “has not returned my calls. As a result, a sworn recorded statement from Cadet Combs was not obtained.”
The only witness interviewed was with the Broward Sheriff’s Office robbery detective who’d been the lead in the case, five years ago.
At the end came the recommended findings:
A preponderance of evidence does exist to show Cadet Christopher Combs violated the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Rule and Regulation on Violation of Laws, Policies or Rules and Regulations Relating to the Office of the Sheriff for pleading no contest to the charge of Robbery without a Weapon.
A preponderance of evidence does exist to show Cadet Christopher Combs violated the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Rule and Regulation on Violation of Laws, Policies or Rules and Regulations Relating to the Office of the Sheriff for pleading no contest to the charge of Impersonating a Law Enforcement Officer.
A preponderance of evidence does exist to show Cadet Christopher Combs violated the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Rule and Regulation on Violation of Laws, Policies or Rules and Regulations Relating to the Office of the Sheriff for pleading no contest to two charges of False Imprisonment.
A preponderance of evidence does exist to show Cadet Christopher Combs violated the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Rule and Regulation on Standard of Conduct since he “engaged in conduct off-duty which destroyed public respect for himself and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
A preponderance of evidence does exist to show Cadet Christopher Combs violated the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Rule and Regulation on Intentional Abuse of Sheriff’s Equipment/Vehicles since he “intentionally misused Lt. Combs’ unmarked patrol vehicle to commit multiple felony crimes.”
The report was signed on Sept. 8 and approved the next day.
In the end, on Sept. 27, Cadet Christopher Combs was formally terminated from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. That came about three weeks from what would’ve been a five-year Internal Affairs investigation.