Jail deputy nabbed for pawning service gun

A detention deputy at the St. Lucie County jail who resigned late last month was arrested before his final two weeks were up after authorities determined he pawned his agency-issued firearm.

Dep. Michael Benjamin Hocker, 50, of Port St. Lucie faces a felony charge of grand theft of a firearm, among other charges.

“The public has a right to hold law enforcement officers to a higher degree of trust,” Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a prepared statement. “It is, and always will be, my expectation that the members of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office will adhere to the highest level of ethical and moral behavior. In this instance, Michael Hocker did not live up to that expectation.”

Hocker submitted his resignation with two weeks’ notice on Sept. 28. He planned to use accrued vacation time for those two weeks, the Sheriff’s Office said, which was to end Oct. 15.

That same day, he was told to return his agency-owned equipment.

Only, Hocker couldn’t return the gun because he no longer had it, according to the arrest warrant.

“You are not going to like this,” Hocker told the person tasked with collecting Hocker’s items, according to the affidavit. “I don’t have my firearm.”

Hocker then proceeded to explain that he had pawned the gun and gave the name of the pawn shop, according to the affidavit.

“Once this information was known, I immediately approved a criminal investigation into the events surrounding this gun being pawned,” Sheriff Mascara said.

Investigators verified with the pawn shop that Hocker had pawned his agency-issued firearm in March for $150. In June, Hocker defaulted on the pawn, and the gun was sold to a Port St. Lucie resident who later sold it to another person.

The Sheriff’s Office was able to recover the firearm, according to Mascara.

Hocker was arrested on Oct. 1 in Indian River County, where he was booked into jail. He is on unpaid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation.

Along with felony grand theft of a firearm, Dep. Hocker’s charges include giving false information to a pawnbroker and dealing in stolen property. Each charge had a bond amount of $5,000.

Hocker was hired in late 2002 by the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, according to personnel records. Over the years, he received commendations and citations along with his unit and fellow jail staff for their efforts in various scenarios, including quick action during an inmate’s attempted suicide.

Starting in 2006, Hocker attempted to progress to the level of sergeant. Each time, however, he was denied as his scores did not meet the average of others vying for the same title.

Regardless, annual personnel evaluations showed Hocker to be a hard worker and dedicated to the job.

“It is a pleasure to work with ‘Hoc’ at the Rock,” wrote Sgt. Sokolowski in the 2013-14 review.

Other reviews over the years have noted Hocker’s “quick wit makes for a more enjoyable work place,” a desire for more deputies at the jail to be like Hocker, and describe him as having a calm demeanor and a positive attitude.

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