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After arrest over sexual messages with teen, firefighter faces employer's probe

MDFR investigates firefighter charged with solicitation of a minor in Palm Beach

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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A series of disturbing messages sent on social media resulted in the arrest of Miami-Dade firefighter Kevin Kerlin. 

According to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records, investigators with the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force began investigating Kerlin in May. They found messages between the 45-year-old firefighter and a 14-year-old girl in Jupiter. 

Detectives examined the teen’s phone and saw that she and Kerlin had exchanged messages through the app Snapchat.

In one message, Kerlin wrote, "That [expletive] that’s going through my mind right now! I’m going straight to hell."

 In April, messages showed Kerlin wrote, "Feel like sending me something sexy?" 

Then later, "When are you able to get out," he wrote. "I don’t work till next Wednesday."

On April 13, detectives said Kerlin’s wife found a nude photo on his phone, which prompted him to tell the girl they had to "be good" for a while. He reportedly wrote, "When the time is right we will know … when to have sex without getting caught."

The report said further conversations implied the two engaged in sexual activity. Prosecutors charged him with solicitation of a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.

"Those charges are alarming to anyone," said Omar Blanco, president of Metro-Dade Firefighters, the Local 1403 chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters. He said the union is waiting for the case to move through the criminal justice system.

After the arrest in May, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials placed Kerlin on paid administrative duty until June 11, when he was formally indicted on felony charges. At that point, the department suspended him without pay pending the outcome of its investigation and the criminal case. 

"All we're concerned with is protecting their families and their livelihood," Blanco said, "but these are things outside the scope where we just rely on the criminal justice system to do their part."

Detectives said cellphone records showed Kerlin wrote a text to the girl’s father, who was a friend, just a day before his arrest to apologize.

"I know the texting was so inappropriate and wrong," Kerlin reportedly wrote, "but please believe me I did not lay a finger on her."

The court ordered Kerlin, who has worked for the department since 2000, to have no contact with the girl or anyone under 18 years of age except for his own children. 

Not everyone has been as supportive as the union. Local 10 News received a complaint from someone familiar with the case who alleged Kerlin was placed in a program and has claimed to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There is no way Kerlin can ever be trusted on a unit," the letter said. "Why is the fire department and the union trying to cover for someone like this?" 

Blanco said no firefighters have complained directly to the union regarding Kerlin’s status.

"We want all our members to be lawful citizens and we expect them to do that," Blanco said. 

Kerlin did not return calls or messages from Local 10 News. His attorney Michael Salnick said they entered a plea of not guilty and are still in the process of investigating what he said were significant issues with the case. 

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesperson Erika Benitez released a statement, and said he has had no interaction with the public since his arrest. 

The department conducted an investigation and a pre-discipline hearing is scheduled for next week. Benitez said that's when a recommendation on disciplinary action against Kerlin will be made.

"MDFR expects all employees to conduct themselves with the highest degree of integrity and professionalism, both on and off duty," Benitez said. "We realize the important role we have in providing lifesaving care to the community we serve."

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.