LAKELAND, Fla. - When Sue Eberle appeared in front of news cameras last week, she didn't say a word about the Lakeland Police Department's sex scandal. Her attorney did all the talking.
"I think there was literally a feeding frenzy," said David Linesch, who plans to sue the city on behalf of Eberle, a crime analyst with the Lakeland department. "They smelled the vulnerability and they pounced."
Now for the first time, the woman at the center of the scandal is describing, in her own words, how she was sexually exploited by her co-workers --- men who wore badges.
Although Eberle hasn't spoken publicly about the incidents, she's been interviewed for hours by the Polk County State Attorney's Office. The ABC Action News I-Team has obtained recordings of those interviews.
“It's not like I want to be here telling you guys my story," Eberle said on one recording. "I don't want to tell work my story. You know, I don't want the whole world to know my story.”
Eberle describes her childhood as filled with sexual, physical and emotional abuse, which led to psychological issues as an adult. Eberle believes that led her male colleagues to take advantage of her.
“I think every sexual encounter I’ve had, I've thought that's hurtful,” Eberle said.
When asked if she ever wanted to say “no,” Eberle said: “Multiple times I did.”
Eberle became the target of an investigation when a sergeant on patrol discovered a secret rendezvous between Eberle and Officer Steve Sherman at Without Walls Church. The two admitted to investigators they met there for sex while he was on duty.
She also had sex with Sherman at the now-abandoned Old Carpenter's home, at a police substation, and in her car.
During three interviews with the state attorney's office, Eberle detailed sexual encounters with more than a dozen other officers, including Capt. John Thomason.
"He took my phone into the LPD bathroom on the first floor and took a picture of his penis," Eberle said of Thomason. "And when he came back, he was kind of laughing it off."
Eberle talks in depth about other high-ranking officers, including former Assistant Police Chief Charles Thompson, whom she says asked her for sex and kissed her.
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In the interviews, Eberle also says Lt. Al Wilson touched her and forced her to touch him. "He had taken my hand and placed my hand on his, his penis... for me to feel," she said. "His actual, his penis, but that was on top of his clothes." Wilson later admitted to investigators that he touched her between her legs, but said it was a "flirtatious thing that got out of hand."
Eberle also reported Fire Inspector David Bivens had sex with her at his station while they were both on duty.
Eberle's allegations have been corroborated by the state attorney's office through other interviews.
"For some reason, some people have protection. But other people, they don't protect," Eberle told investigators. "They just go after you like you're in the lion's den."
An investigator asked Eberle: "Are you describing what you consider to be the culture at the Lakeland Police Department?"
"Yeah," Eberle replied, "because they're going to protect who they want to protect."
Police Chief Lisa Womack says she had no idea about any of the questionable behavior going on during her two-year tenure at the Lakeland department. Womack promises swift disciplinary action, as soon as an internal investigation is completed by the department.
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