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Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 46-year-old Shawn Fitzgerald, a Lakeland High School teacher on Friday, November 20, 2020 and charged him with 408 counts of possessing child pornography (F2). Fitzgerald, a Lakeland resident, also serves as the varsity soccer coach for Lakeland High School and a Youth Director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow.
“An arrest like this shakes the entire community. A man entrusted with the education and guidance of so many children, working closely with them, and betraying that trust in such a heinous way. Sadly, people who possess child pornography are out there, all over the world. But making these kinds of arrests are not rare in Polk County, due to the diligent work of the PCSO Computer Crimes Unit.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff.
The investigation began after the Sheriff’s Office received a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a private, non-profit organization that provides information to law enforcement from Electronic Service Providers. The report revealed that the KIK Messenger app was used to upload a video depicting child pornography on February 20, 2020.
The 20-second video showed a young female (approximately 10-12 years old) performing oral sex on an apparent adult male.
On Thursday, November 19, 2020, detectives from the PCSO Computer Crimes Unit served a search warrant at Fitzgerald’s residence. A search of Fitzgerald’s cell phone led to the discovery of a “Calculator Vault” app, an application that is designed to look like a calculator, but has the capability to hide saved images. Fitzgerald told a detective that he used the app to store images from an extramarital affair.
A forensic examination of the cell phone was performed with a total of 408 files depicting child pornography being recovered.
The images showed both male and female children being sexually battered by adults and/or engaging in sexual acts with other children, with some of the victims appearing to be as young as 10-12 months old.
The investigation is ongoing. Additional forensic searches of Fitzgerald’s cell phone and other electronic data storage devices will be performed, and additional charges are possible.
Detectives will also be attempting to determine the source of the child pornography. At this time, there is no evidence that indicates the files were made locally.
According to Fitzgerald, he was once employed as a teacher and soccer coach at George Jenkins High School.
Any inquiries regarding his employment history should be directed to the employers.