Bartow Cop Jailed, Accused In Sex Videos

BARTOW -- A Bartow police officer is jailed, facing accusations that he had sex parties with high school students, some of whom were underage, made videos, and assaulted at least one girl.

Bartow police started an internal investigation of 24-year-old Markanthony Fernandez after he allegedly sent explicit Snapchat videos involving the girls to fellow officers and employees, who reported them to supervisors. An unrelated visit to his Lake Wales home convinced police that the videos were made there. Since that location was outside city limits, they brought in the Polk Sheriff's Office to assist.

Sheriff Grady Judd says detectives determined Fernandez struck up a relationship with one girl online who connected him to the others. Eventually he involved four current or former students at Kathleen and Auburndale high schools. Two were 18, the others were 16 and 17 years old. Judd says the video showed girls in various states of undress, one of whom was wearing a Bartow police jacket. Fernandez allegedly directed one of the underage girls to perform an explicit act on the 18 year old, which he also shared with his colleagues.

The sheriff says Fernandez gave the girls marijuana gummies, THC vapes, and alcohol. Judd says Fernandez also choked an 18 year old unconscious, and choked the 17 year old against her will.

Detectives are also looking into reports that Fernandez and the girls went to a party in Frostproof. Judd says they don't believe any other victims are involved but they are asking anyone aware of other potential cases to come forward.

Fernandez is jailed but refused to resign and continues to be a Bartow police officer, under provisions of the Florida Police Officers' Bill of Rights. A predisciplinary hearing is scheduled for next week.

In addition to two stints with the Bartow police department, Fernandez worked briefly as a Polk sheriff's deputy.

Photo: PCSO/Canva

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