August 1, 2008 -- A Florida grand jury Friday blasted local police and federal law enforcement for bungling an undercover operation in May that led to the murder of Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old woman acting as their confidential informant.
"During the course of our review of the facts, it became apparent to us that negligent conduct on the part of the Tallahassee Police Department and [the Drug Enforcement Administration] attributed to Ms. Hoffman's death," the grand jury wrote.
The panel was charged with hearing evidence that the two alleged drug dealers Hoffman met as part of the operation had killed her. While the panelists dispatched multi-count indictments for the two men, Deneilo R. Bradshaw and Andrea J. Green, they also turned their ire on the Tallahassee Police Department, which had recruited Hoffman and concocted the sting, and on the DEA agents who assisted.
In a six-page document accompanying the indictments, the grand jury described how the bust became a massive tragedy of errors – despite the involvement of fifteen Tallahassee police officers, three Drug Enforcement Agency agents and a state highway patrol officer.
Those errors contributed to the death of Hoffman, a young woman who was "in way over her head," the grand jury found.
The grand jury faulted nearly every aspect of the operation, from the police recruitment of Hoffman, to their operational plan for the bust, to its failed execution.
It faulted police for failing to notify the state attorney before searching her home and using her as an informant. It faulted the department's decision to allow Hoffman to meet the men without being accompanied by an undercover officer simply because "she did not believe she could 'pull off' the deal" otherwise.
It faulted the department's operational plan for the deal, which did not show the terms of the deal, the location where it was to occur, the amount of drugs to be bought or the involvement of a firearm.
The grand jury described how the 19 law enforcement personnel involved in tracking Hoffman lost her as she went to meet Bradshaw and Green: the two men changed the meeting place, audio surveillance equipment failed, heavy tree cover blocked visibility for a DEA surveillance plane, and only one person, a police officer, was familiar with the road on which she was to meet the alleged dealers.
"Less than fifteen minutes after she drove away from the offices of TPD, [Hoffman] drove out of the sight of the officers who assured her they would be right on top of her watching and listening the whole time," the grand jury observed. "TPD handed Ms. Hoffman to Bradshaw and Green to rob and kill her as they saw fit."
The DEA, the panelists noted, refused to allow its agents to testify before the grand jury, but gave no explanation why. The DEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The grand jury recommended the Tallahassee Police Department "take corrective action immediately" to improve their policy and procedures, as well as take "whatever disciplinary action it deems appropriate" for those involved in the operation.
A spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department said he was unable to answer questions on the grand jury's findings.
The jury indicted both Green and Bradshaw for murder, robbery, and unlawful possession of a handgun. The two men earlier had pled not guilty to robbery.
In a statement, Hoffman's parents thanked the grand jury and the state attorney. "Nothing will bring [Rachel] back, but justice will give us some comfort and hopefully prevent other young people and their parents from having to experience the nightmare our family has had to endure."