Deputy Down

One year later, questions remain about Deputy Todd Fatta's tragic death

Kelevision2 complied, e-mailing two samples and offering to bring CDs of pornography if he could have sex with the man and his daughter.

When Spector subpoenaed AOL's billing records for the username, he discovered that the account was registered to Wilk. It appeared that Jones -- in a feeble attempt to escape detection -- was using an account registered in his partner's name.

On July 14, 2004, less than a month after being released from prison, Jones was arrested again. That afternoon, police searched Wilk's and Jones' house once more.

Sheriff Ken Jenne initially said the SWAT team wasn't needed at 1950 NE 57th St. (following picture). He was wrong.
Michael Laughlin
Sheriff Ken Jenne initially said the SWAT team wasn't needed at 1950 NE 57th St. (following picture). He was wrong.
Colby Katz

Unlike the day that detective Fatta was killed, the BSO SWAT team was deployed. But no one was home. No conflict occurred. Searchers found several CDs containing child pornography.

On July 16, 2004, Jones met Wilk for a series of jailhouse phone calls that were taped by authorities. The pair tried ineffectually to talk in code. They seemed to indicate that during the search, police did not find all of the child pornography. Wilk wanted to destroy the evidence. Jones couldn't bear the thought.

"It's 15 years for every single one of them..." Wilk said, referring to CDs of child pornography.

"Some things can't be replaced, OK?" Jones replied. "Irreplaceable."

Jones then suggested that Wilk buy a cooler, fill it with any pornography and drugs left in the house, and bury it in the backyard. He also proposed spreading coffee grounds on the cooler and surrounding soil to throw off any drug dogs.

Wilk's hostility grew. In a series of letters he wrote to his lover, Wilk provided some clues to what he might do:

August 11, 2004: "I have lost so much respect for people's lives. It's like killing people would be justified and enjoyed."

August 12, 2004: "I know that picking [a] fight with cops is insane, but I need to vent my rage over an injustice... I have several weapon[s] just laying [sic] around in case one of the nutjobs actually show up."

August 16, 2004: "I have become such an angry, bitter person. I just want to hurt something."

Three days later, hunching behind his kitchen counter, Wilk fired his .30-30-caliber Model 94 Winchester rifle at two sheriff's deputies he'd never met.

Todd Fatta saw his family for the last time about three months before August 19, 2004, when he returned to his hometown of West Seneca, New York, near Buffalo, for his high school reunion. Ten years had passed since Todd had left for a career in law enforcement.

He was the youngest of four children in a working-class family. His father was a technician in one of Buffalo's factories, his mother a housekeeper at Macy's. From an early age, his brother Joe remembers, Todd wanted to be a cop. "We'd play cops-and-robbers, and he would never want to be the bad guy." Joe, who was close to his only brother despite being 13 years older, says, "He always had to be the good guy."

Todd watched in admiration as Joe left the house to become a firefighter and paramedic in his early 20s. "In some ways, Todd wanted to follow in my footsteps," Joe says. After moving out, the older brother left his dumbells for Todd, and the younger Fatta could often be found pumping iron in his spare time. Even then, his brother says, he was preparing for life as a cop.

After graduating from high school, Todd enrolled in Erie Community College, in Williamsville, New York, and earned an associate's degree in criminal justice while working part-time at a department store. Immediately following graduation, in 1991, Fatta enrolled in the Air Force. The government stationed Todd in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He got his wish when he was named a military police officer.

Four years later, Todd decided to leave the service in hopes of landing a job policing civilians. One of his sisters had recently moved to South Florida, and in 1994, with Broward's population booming, Todd figured he could find work.

On January 31, 1995, he filled out an application at BSO headquarters on Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. He was eager and honest. Where the application asked if he'd ever used illegal drugs, he answered: "Once took a drag from a marijuana cigarette in high school." Fatta was a good guy, not an angel.

The psychologist who interviewed Todd was impressed with his maturity, honesty, and experience, according to BSO personnel records. "This is an exceptional candidate," the psychologist wrote.

"Todd would seem shy at first -- until you got to know him," Joe remembers. "Then he'd become very charming and talkative. Once you had a little bond, he loved to talk. Everybody loved him."

In spring 1995, BSO offered him a job as a road patrol deputy in the Tamarac division, earning about $30,000 per year.

"Todd was a topnotch cop, always well-respected, and never hesitated to lend a hand," remembers Jeff Snyder, a former BSO deputy in Tamarac who now runs a company that provides drug-sniffing dogs. "He had a passion for his work."

Todd first worked in the patrol unit, then transferred to BSO's auto theft division and later to narcotics. "There was always the concern of potential dangers," Joe says. "He always went ahead and trained himself and kept physically fit. For example, he was issued a bulletproof vest at BSO, and he took it upon himself to buy the next grade up. That's how seriously he took the risk."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help