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Florida Students Walk Out in Support of Staff Who Flouted Desantis Trans Ban

Florida’s director of the controversial elections security office, who died last year right after a meeting in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, lay unattended for 24 minutes before being found, new records released by state law enforcement show. 

Pete Antonacci, 74, had left abruptly during a contentious meeting on Sept. 23 last year in a conference room in the governor’s office with 11 attendees, including Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials and attorneys for Byrd and DeSantis. 

Antonacci, a native of Hialeah in Miami-Dade County, was known as a “Mr. Fix-it” for his wide-ranging roles in state government over the years. He had been named by DeSantis to head the recently-created and controversial Office of Elections Crimes and Security. 

FDLE Director Scott McInerney, who was in the meeting, said an “agitated” Antonacci “abruptly” rose from his seat and walked out. There was no record of what was discussed during the meeting or what may have prompted Antonacci to exit the gathering alone. 

The FDLE’s account, made public more than a year after Antonacci’s death, was first reported by the Florida Bulldog news site. The law enforcement agency’s reports disclose that cameras in the conference room and in an adjacent hallway captured him staggering upon exiting and collapsing on the floor.  

He did not appear to move after collapsing, reports said. 

Florida official found 24 minutes after he died

Time stamps on the recordings show Antonacci left the meeting at 1:46 p.m. that Friday afternoon and was not discovered until 2:10 p.m. He was found by Glass, who by then had also stepped out of the conference room to speak with the governor’s general counsel, Ryan Newman. 

Glass began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Antonacci, assisted by FDLE Chief of Staff Shane Desguin. 

Capitol Police also attempted to use an automated external defibrillator on Antonacci. But the records released by FDLE said the “machine never indicated that a shock was advised,” suggesting it would be of no use. 

Police continued to administer CPR until Leon County Emergency Management Services arrived and took over. 

Antonacci’s face was “purple and blue,” and he had no pulse, Glass said, according to the reports. A scrape on top of Antonacci’s head indicated he may have hit a doorknob on his way to the floor. 

Antonacci’s wife and primary doctor later told investigators that he had a long history of heart disease and cardiac issues, resulting in several surgeries. Antonacci was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the reports. 

Desguin, who has since retired from the agency, told FDLE investigators that Antonacci was frustrated during parts of the meeting but observed no “signs of Mr. Antonacci having a medical issue.”

Antonacci’s office accused of voter intimidation

At the time of Antonacci’s death, the Office of Elections Crimes and Security had drawn criticism for spearheading the arrests of 20 Floridians, mostly Black, for having voted illegally in the 2020 elections. Although these voters had registered to vote, they had been convicted of crimes that still made them ineligible under a 2018 constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to some felons. 

Those arrests occurred just before the August 2022 primaries and were seen by critics as an attempt by DeSantis to intimidate some voters, especially people of color, from legitimately casting ballots. 

Antonacci took on the new position for DeSantis after serving as chief judge of the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings. 

Earlier, he held a series of high-profile jobs under DeSantis’ predecessor as governor, now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Among them were general counsel to the governor, Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Palm Beach County state attorney, and executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. 

Antonacci also had served for years as a top deputy to former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat. 

Source: USA Today