BSO keeps searching canal for evidence in Reyka murder
Posted: Dec 24, 2013
— Buried in the mud and muck at the bottom of a Broward County canal, police believe there sits a piece of evidence that will solve the 2007 murder of Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Reyka.
But they can’t get to it. BSO divers have spent 1,000 hours over the past year searching the 8.1 miles of the main Cypress Creek Canal and its offshoots, but the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t found the evidence, said BSO Captain Wayne Atkins.
Reyka’s murder in the parking lot of a Pompano Beach Walgreens in August 2007 is the only unsolved murder of a police officer in the state of Florida, Atkins said.
BSO is hiring the private underwater salvage firm Commercial Diver Services to excavate the bottom of the waterway using a vacuum system that is also used in underwater archeological digs at shipwrecks in Florida waters. Sheriff’s Office spokespeople said the dive will take place “in the coming months.”
This is a “key piece of evidence that will put closure to this murder,” Atkins said. The Sheriff’s Office isn’t releasing just what the piece of evidence is or how the investigation led to the canal, a BSO spokeswoman said.
Over the past six years, BSO has searched portions of the canal along Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach several times. The searches began in December 2007 when men arrested in connection with a string of drugstore robberies suggested the gun used to kill Reyka might have been tossed into the canal.
The renewed search for the evidence will last up to eight days and cost up to $304,000, depending on how long it takes. The city of Pompano Beach will foot the bill, using seized funds.
Reyka was running the license plate of a suspicious car when its occupants got out and one fired 10 shots, hitting him at least five times. Despite a massive manhunt and years of investigation costing $3 million, no one was arrested or charged in the murder.
But now BSO is confident that the evidence buried in the Cypress Creek Canal will close the case, said Atkins.
“For those of us who were at the scene, at the hospital, and at the Reykas’ family home soon after, the images will remain with us forever,” he said. “We have spent over $3 million to try to solve this horrendous murder. We’ve put in countless man hours. We’ve gone overseas to seek expert analysis. This investigation has never ended.”
The most recent breakthrough in the case came this summer, when BSO announced that the deceased Shawn Labeet was a person of interest in the investigation. Labeet was killed in a different police shootout in September 2007.
Labeet is still a person of interest in the investigation, and the Sheriff’s Office still hopes that anyone with information on the man under his real name or his longtime alias Kevin Wehner call the Reyka tip line at 954-880-3950. They are particularly interested in information on whether he handled firearms or had a white vehicle.
To find the evidence, Commercial Diver Services will extract sediment and muck through a filter, excavating up to one foot of depth of sediment at a time. BSO crime scene investigators will be on hand at the dive to immediately restore and recover any evidence. BSO has not set a time frame yet.
The Cypress Creek Canal, also called the Pompano Beach Canal, runs mostly along Atlantic Boulevard and includes offshoots of that main canal that wend northward through Pompano Beach, Coconut Creek, Margate and Coral Springs. BSO declined to say whether they have narrowed it down to a certain portion of the canal, citing the open investigation.
Evidence collected in the last 18 months suggests that Shawn Labeet, who was killed in a shootout with police the following month, may have been involved in Reyka’s slaying.
Posted: July 2, 2013
Reyka, 51, was gunned down in a Pompano Beach Walgreens parking lot.
BSO declined to release any further information about their evidence.
Although Labeet is dead, the reward of $278,225 remains.
Detectives ask that anyone who knows Labeet’s friends, or saw him with a gun, or saw him in a white vehicle should call a tip-line at 954-880-3950.
Labeet spent many years living in Miami-Dade under the alias of Kevin Wehner. He had a fraudulent driver’s license, and when he was stopped by police, he received traffic tickets and even paid them. He also purchased firearms under this alias and completed the necessary paperwork to comply with federal law.
BSO homicide detectives have been able to determine that Labeet had strong ties to Broward County, specifically the Palm Aire community in Pompano Beach, which was not far from the murder scene. He also had ties to the Oakland Park area, where the license plate on the suspect vehicle was stolen.
More importantly, detectives believe that Labeet, who went to high school in Oakland Park and had friends and associates in Pompano Beach and Oakland Park, was near the Walgreens, 960 S. Pompano Parkway, on the night of Aug.10. Two witnesses have given sworn statements placing Labeet at a business and an apartment complex the night Reyka was murdered.
It was a murder that weighed heavily on his BSO colleagues.
Investigators traveled overseas to check out new forensic technology. More investigators were added to the team. During his swearing-in ceremony in January, Sheriff Scott Israel said the solving of the Reyka’s slaying was one of his four priorities. Former Sheriff Al Lamberti wore a replica of Reyka’s badge number 9463 near his own sheriff’s star.
However, in nearly six years of investigating, deputies have not been able to arrest the gunman who sprayed Reyka with bullets from a semi-automatic weapon before disappearing into darkness.
Reyka, on patrol, had pulled into the parking lot of the Walgreens and noticed a suspicious car. He entered the license tag F168UJ into his computer system and stepped out of his cruiser.
That’s when the killer opened fire, striking him five times. Moments later, surveillance footage showed an American-made, white, four-door sedan pulling away.
Deputies believed the murder weapon was tossed into a canal. Divers scoured nearby waterways. They found several guns but none matched ballistics taken from the bullets that struck Reyka.
The shootout Labeet had with Miami-Dade police was just 34 days after the murder of Sgt. Reyka. Police officers working a crime suppression operation tried pulling him over in his own neighborhood. Labeet kept driving, and then went into his home where he armed himself with an assault rifle and shot four police officers.
One officer, Jose Somohano, was killed. Later that day, Miami-Dade police tracked Labeet to an apartment complex in Pembroke Pines, and Labeet was shot and killed by the Miami-Dade SWAT team.
Miami-Dade police were not able to uncover a clear motive for what led to Labeet’s actions.
Reyka was sworn in as a BSO deputy in 1999 after the sheriff’s office took over the Pompano Beach department. He had a decorated career and received several commendations. He reached the rank of sergeant in June 2004 and began working the night shift.
Reyka, who lived in Wellington with his wife Kim, was the father of four: Ashley, Sean, Autumn and Spencer.
Sean Reyka has followed in his father’s footsteps, and was sworn in as a BSO deputy last September.
Brian Donnelly / 954-695-0260