An Osceola deputy has been fired and arrested after being accused of helping a suspect, who was a friend, avoid a felony charge of having sex with a minor in Okeechobee County, according to Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez.

Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez said during a news conference on Thursday that 30-year-old Arturo Dominguez, who worked as a deputy with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office for two years, has been arrested and is facing four felony charges. Dominguez is accused of repeatedly utilizing law enforcement databases to assist a suspect, 36-year-old Omar Ayala, who is a high school teacher and coach facing allegations of engaging in sexual activity with a minor. The investigation into Dominguez began in the second week of May when a detective from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office who was working the case involving Ayala raised concerns and reported discrepancies in Dominguez’s responses to questions.

During the investigation, the Okeechobee detective discovered that Deputy Dominguez had been repeatedly searching for Ayala’s name. The Okeechobee detective asked Dominguez whether he had made contact with the suspect. Dominguez initially claimed that he had run Ayala’s name because he had pulled him over in a traffic stop. Osceola Sheriff Marcos Lopez, who provided additional details, said was “just a flat-out lie.”

Further investigation revealed that there was no traffic stop as claimed by Dominguez. Instead, it was discovered that Deputy Dominguez and Ayala were childhood friends. The investigation uncovered that Dominguez had been searching Ayala’s name to determine whether there were any warrants for his arrest in the system. Dominguez’s intention was to inform Ayala in advance, giving him a heads up if the police were searching for him. Lopez emphasized that this behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable, especially considering the nature of the crime involved.

During the interview with the sheriff’s office, Deputy Dominguez admitted to conducting research on Ayala, and confessed to lying to the detective about the traffic stop and that he had conversations with Ayala about his arrest warrant. Shockingly, Dominguez also advised a suspect involved in a sex case with a minor to flee. During the news conference Lopez said that law enforcement’s role is to protect and serve, not to aid and abet criminals, particularly in cases involving crimes against children.

“He told a suspect in a sex case involving a minor to flee. That’s pretty disgusting. That’s pretty sick. You know, we’re here to protect and serve, not to aid and abate anyone, especially a crime in this nature where, you know, we are here to protect our children,” Sheriff Lopez said.

According to Lopez, Dominguez is now facing multiple charges including unauthorized access to a computer device, official misconduct by obstructing an investigation, disclosure or use of confidential criminal justice information, and being an accessory after the fact to unlawful sex activity with a minor.

Law enforcement is still searching for Ayala, the suspect involved in the case, who, at the time of the news conference, was not in Osceola County.

“I take no joy in that one of my deputies broke the law and violated our oath. “We treat everyone the same, whether in civilian clothes or a police uniform. If you break the law, we will investigate and hold you accountable. When a deputy violates the law, it feels personal to me. It will not be tolerated, Lopez shared during the news conference.”