‘Speedy’ DeWitt: Legendary Brevard County Lawman
By Brevard County Sheriff's Office // February 13, 2014
33 years OF Law Enforcement Service
RELATED STORY: ‘Speedy’ DeWitt Tactical Firearms Challenge Supports Law Enforcement In Their Time of Need
When Sellen Robert “Speedy” DeWitt Jr. picked up his new badge with the Sheriff’s Office in 1963, John F. Kennedy was the president and Vietnam was just another obscure place on the other side of the world.
When then Sheriff Leigh Wilson promoted Speedy to Captain, Lyndon Johnson was the President and Vietnam wasn’t obscure anymore.
Through 25 years of the greatest social upheaval in American history, through a population boom that took Brevard from a mostly rural county to a sprawling Space Center community, Speedy questioned suspects, followed investigative leads, made cases and rose through the promotional ranks.
He was known for his uncanny memory and his attention to detail, traits that made the difference in criminal investigations.
ABOVE VIDEO: Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey recognizes ‘Speedy’ DeWitt’s family and welcomes the participants of the 2014 ‘Speedy’ DeWitt Tactical Firearms Challenge. The challenge was created to honor the memory of DeWitt while raising awareness and funding for deputies and police officers during serious medical hardships. This year’s event will serve as a fundraiser for our newly created Brevard County Public Safety Fund that supports Public Safety Officers and their families during a time of need.
CAUTIOUS AND THOROUGH, INVESTIGATOR OF 300 HOMICIDES
Coming to the Sheriff’s Office with 12 years’ experience accumulated with the Homestead Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol, Speedy would eventually investigate 300 homicides and successfully dodged six bullets along the way.
Cautious and thorough, he was fast building a reputation in Florida law enforcement.
In 1968, Florida Attorney General Earl Faircloth asked that Speedy take an eight-month leave of absence from the Sheriff’s Office to investigate a pair of disputed murders in the Panhandle.
Speedy’s personnel file is filled with letters of appreciation and commendations from Florida’s Governors, Attorney Generals, Sheriffs and Police Chief’s.
If there was a single key to his success, it may have been the note on a small piece of paper tucked into the corner of his desk blotter:
“I am more powerful than the combined armies of the world. I have destroyed more men than all wars of nations. I massacre thousands of people a year. I find my victims among the rich and poor alike, the young and old, the strong and weak. I will give you nothing and rob you of all you have. I am your worst enemy… carelessness.”
That was among the many lessons Speedy hammered into the generations of young officers who sought his advice.
After Dewitt’s untimely death of a heart attack on May 31, 1987 at the age of 59, Sheriff Jake Miller was called upon to eulogize his long-time friend and said:
“We in law enforcement spend so much time telling these young people what they can’t do… Speedy delighted in telling them what they can do and to do it effectively. Speedy had been where they are going, he had one foot in the past and another in the future.”
COP, TEACHER, HUSBAND, FATHER, FRIEND
Speedy was a cop, teacher, husband, father and friend. Speedy was a baseball coach when he wasn’t working. He was on sidelines every Friday night with the Merritt Island Mustangs during football season.
One longtime Brevard County Sheriff’s Office veteran said, “He was my baseball coach, recruited me to the Sheriff’s Office and only asked me one question in my interview: When could I start?
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the Sheriff’s Office, Speedy was posthumously promoted by Sheriff Miller to the agency’s highest rank, “Chief Deputy.”
As further honor, his personal identification number “72” was retired from service. Requesting the retirement if ID#72, the Sheriff’s Command Staff said:
“Chief Deputy DeWitt was unmatched in his experience and dedication. We feel that the retirement of ID#72 would serve in a small way to memorialize this fine man who gave us so much.”