Deputies Bust Cantonment Man Red Handed During Armed Robbery

January 28, 2016

A Cantonment man was caught red-handed by deputies after he allegedly held an employee hostage at knife-point as he tried to rob a coffee shop on Perdido Key.

James Maitland Jones, 45, was charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery using deadly weapon, kidnapping and two counts of petit theft. He remains in the Escambia County Jail without bond.

Jones allegedly entered the businesses and held a large knife to a clerk’s neck, forcing her to empty all of the cash from the register and her purse. He then used a rope to tie-up the clerk, continually threatening to kill her if she screamed. He then began to ramble at the clerk, telling her not to smoke crack because crack had made him commit the robbery, according to an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office report.

As the robbery was taking place, the clerk at an adjoining business, Perdido Pack and Ship, heard the commotion and saw the clerk being held with a knife to her neck. The shipping  store called 911, and deputies were on scene within two minutes.

Deputies entered the coffee shop and ordered Jones to drop the knife. He was detained without further incident.

“I was in constant fear of him killing me and I was terrified for my life,” the coffee shop clerk told deputies.

Jones was on felony state probation for armed burglary, having been released from prison last May. He has an extensive criminal history, according to Florida Department of Corrections records, having served time in Florida on two dozen felony charges, including multiple counts of burglary, grand theft and weapons charges from Escambia County.

Volunteers Needed For West Florida Library Board Of Governance

January 28, 2016

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners is seeking county residents interested in volunteering to fill vacancies on the West Florida Public Libraries Board of Governance.

The duties of the Board include establishing policy and overseeing the management of Escambia County library services and to make recommendations to the BCC regarding the annual budget according to the purposes and authority set forth in resolutions, interlocal agreements and other agreements, as well as state and federal laws. These duties also include establishing an annual plan of service and the long-range strategic planning of library services.

West Florida Public Libraries provides service to all of Escambia County, with the Board typically meeting on the fourth Monday of the month from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Residents interested in serving on the board are asked to submit a resume and letter indicating their desire to serve by close of business on Tuesday, February 9. Resumes should be submitted to Todd J. Humble, Director, West Florida Public Libraries, 239 N. Spring Street, Pensacola, FL  32502 or by email to

Molino Park Students Dress As 100-Year Olds

January 28, 2016

Molino Park Elementary School students celebrated the 100th day of the school year Wednesday by dressing up like 100-year olds.

For more photos, click here. photos by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.

Becoming Warmer, 70’s For The Weekend

January 28, 2016

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

Thursday Night: Clear, with a low around 34. West wind around 5 mph.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 63. Northwest wind around 5 mph.

Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 35. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 69. South wind 5 to 10 mph.

Saturday Night: Patchy fog after midnight. Otherwise, partly cloudy, with a low around 48. South wind around 5 mph.

Sunday: Partly sunny, with a high near 73. South wind 5 to 10 mph.

Sunday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers. Areas of fog after midnight. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 57. South wind 5 to 10 mph.

Monday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 72.

Monday Night: Areas of fog. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 60.

Tuesday: Showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 72. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Tuesday Night: A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 49.

Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 60.

Florida House Backs High Profile ‘Fracking’ Oil Drilling Bill

January 28, 2016


After an intense debate spread over two days, the Florida House on Wednesday approved a bill that would revamp regulation of the controversial oil and gas drilling process known as “fracking.”

The bill, in part, would bar local governments from imposing moratoriums on fracking, while requiring the state Department of Environmental Protection to undertake a wide-ranging study that would include looking at potential risks and economic benefits of the process.

The bill (HB 191) dealing with oil and gas drilling spurred heavy debate Tuesday and Wednesday and passed in a 73-45 vote that was nearly along party lines. Republicans Halsey Beshears of Monticello, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, Mike Miller of Winter Park, Holly Raschein of Key Largo, Greg Steube of Sarasota, Jay Trumbull of Panama City and Charles Van Zant of Keystone Heights crossed party lines to vote against the measure.

Supporters of the bill point, in part, to efforts to gain energy independence. Also, they say oil and natural-gas drilling has taken place in parts of Northwest Florida and Southwest Florida for decades.

Rep. Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican who has helped sponsor the bill, said the measure includes safeguards, such as the Department of Environmental Protection study. After conducting the study, the department would develop proposed fracking rules, which would have to be ratified by the Legislature.

“Wishing for a zero-risk process or some absolute safety is not possible,” Pigman, a physician, said. “I acknowledge that oil and natural-gas production is an untidy process. So is all of mining, so is farming, so is industry, yet our society needs energy, we need food and we need the finished products made from natural resources.”

But Democrats railed against the bill, with Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, saying it would put out a “welcome mat” for fracking. The process, more formally known as hydraulic fracturing, has spurred controversy across the country, with critics arguing it can lead to problems such as contamination of water supplies and earthquakes.

“Why would we even want to consider a bill that is going to potentially poison our drinking water? What we’re doing is we’re injecting toxic fluids in the ground,” Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton said. “What’s wrong with us here? I mean, something’s going on. And you know what’s going on, this fracking bill is really called the anything for money bill.”

Democrats also pointed to numerous local governments that have voted to prohibit fracking in their communities. Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, read a list of counties scattered throughout the state.

“Our county scientists in Broward as well as Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County and beyond have looked at this issue and have determined that fracking is not a good thing, it is not a good thing for our state,” Jacobs said.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican who has sponsored the bill, said he recognizes that the proposal is in a “center of a storm of controversy.” But he pointed to historical examples such as Florida allowing electricity in homes, clearing the way for automobiles and being home to the space industry.

“If you look at our history, challenges and controversies have always confronted this chamber, and the choices have always been the same — are we going to react with fear, are we going to react with pessimism or are we going to be cynical? Or are we going to react with courage, are we going to react with optimism, and are we going to seek the ideal?’ Rodrigues said.

A similar Senate bill (SB 318), sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, has been approved by two committees and awaits a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Pictured above: Quantum Resources in Jay. file photo, click to enlarge.

Florida Lawmakers Give Nod To Fantasy Sports Industry

January 28, 2016

While officials in some other states try to shut down the games, Florida legislators are speedily moving measures that would shield the daily fantasy sports industry from the state’s gambling laws.

House and Senate committees Wednesday approved proposals that would create regulatory oversight for the fast-growing industry, which is the subject of a federal probe and lawsuits in Florida.

Echoing industry representatives, sponsors of the Florida measures insist that the contests are games of skill, not chance, which are outlawed under most state gambling laws.

“… I don’t concede that this is gaming,” Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told the Senate Regulated Industries Committee before the panel signed off on his measure (SB 832) by an 8-4 vote.

Negron, who will take over as Senate president after the November elections, said his proposal is aimed at making sure that people who participate in office pools — or who play the online games — don’t get into trouble.

“I don’t want there to be ambiguity about what citizens are engaging in,” he said.

Negron’s proposal, which would create an “Office of Amusements” to oversee the games, would “make sure we’re not exposing someone who is engaged in fantasy sports contests to breaking the law.”

The measure would require fantasy contest operators to pay $500,000 for licenses and would give the Office of Amusements the authority to investigate, monitor, audit and license their activities. The bill, in part, also would bar employees of fantasy sports businesses from playing the games. The fantasy sports companies would also have to put up $1 million surety bonds to cover negligence or fraud.

But committee Chairman Rob Bradley said he wasn’t convinced the games don’t equate to gambling. Attorneys general in states such as New York, Texas and Illinois have said they believe the industry involves gambling.

In fantasy sports, players draft rosters of actual athletes, with the winners of fantasy games determined by the statistics of the athletes. Many games, like office pools, last all season. The questions about illegal gambling do not focus on those games. Instead the questions focus on online daily fantasy games offered by sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

“No one in the world is interested in criminalizing” the old-fashioned office pool, Bradley said.

“Where I think the question changes is when you get into these daily sports where things are happening quickly. And I think, that to me begins to look more and more like what we consider to be traditional sports betting. … It’s like, what’s your definition of obscenity,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told reporters after the meeting. “You kind of know it when you see it.”

The daily fantasy sports industry dumped thousands of dollars into legislative leaders’ political campaigns prior to the start of the 2016 session.

The House Finance and Tax Committee approved a similar measure (HB 707) that would give the Department of Business and Professional Regulation the authority to regulate the industry.

Committee Chairman Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who sponsored the measure, said he believes the daily fantasy sports games are games of skill and not games of chance.

Asked why the industry doesn’t involve gambling, Gaetz, who acknowledged spending $20 on a fantasy football pool while in high school, replied “in my mind it is not.”

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, said he supported the bill due to the projected number of people playing fantasy sports in Florida.

“The free market has demonstrated the support for this activity,” he said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Northview, Jay Girls Qualify For 1A State Weightlifting Meet

January 28, 2016

Five Northview and Jay high school girls placed at the Region 1A Weightlifting Meet held recently at Choctaw High School.

From Northview: Audriene Odom placed second, Myisha Syria placed fifth and Breanna Campbell placed fifth in her division. Laurie Purdy also competed. Odom qualified for the 1A state meet to be held Friday, February 5 in Kissimmee.

From Jay High School: Michaela Stewart from Jay High School place first at the regional meet, while Haylee Waston placed third. Both advance to the state finals on February 5.

Pictured top:  (L-R) Myisha Syria, Audriene Odom and Breanna Campbell from Northview. Pictured below: The Region 1A weightlifting meet at Choctaw High School. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Ransom Middle Placed On After School Lockdown

January 28, 2016

The Ransom Middle School campus was placed on a brief lockdown late Wednesday afternoon, after most students were already gone for the day.

According to Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross, an assistant principal at the school heard gunfire just off campus about a half hour after dismissal. The school was placed under the short lockdown while the situation was evaluated and law enforcement was contact, Ross said. No threat was found.

He said only a few staff members and a volleyball team were on campus at the time.

Florida Sends Trucks For D.C. Blizzard Cleanup, Funny Message Included

January 28, 2016

The Florida Department of Transportation has sent 15 dump trucks from the Sunshine State to help dig Washington, D.C. out from the snow. Each truck has a friendly message on the back from VisitFlorida — “Sharing the sunshine” and a hitchhiking snowman holding a sign that says “Florida Bound”.

“Florida is glad to help Washington, D.C., dig out from the snow I have seen on my visit here this week,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “Our state will provide 15 dump trucks with a message of ‘Sunshine’ to encourage residents as they clean up and recover.”

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold (FDOT) said, “The Florida Department of Transportation is proud to provide important equipment to the residents of the District of Columbia. Our trucks will not only help with snow removal, but will also remind Washington D.C. residents that the Sunshine State welcomes their visit anytime.”

Will Seccombe, president & CEO of Visit Florida  said, “While Florida is proud to help out the nation’s capital in the aftermath of this storm, we also want to send a friendly reminder to our chilly northern neighbors that we have plenty of sunshine and warm weather for them to enjoy here in the Sunshine State.”

FDOT will provide the 15 dump trucks and 31 state employees to assist with snow removal from the recent storm. The equipment and personnel are from Northwest Florida, Northeast Florida and Central Florida.

Photo for, click to enlarge.

Cantonment Man Sentenced In Beating, Robbery And Hostage Case

January 27, 2016

A Cantonment man has pleaded to a lesser charge after being accused of kidnapping, beating, robbing and holding another man for ransom in July 2015.

Jeffrey Ervington Rivers, 33, was originally charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping an adult for ransom, grand theft and robbery with a  weapon. He was convicted of a reduced charge of  battery and sentenced to 199 days in the Escambia County Jail with credit for 199 days served.

The victim told Escambia County deputies that he was putting water in the radiator of his car int he parking lot of a credit union on Fairfield Drive when a man, later identified as Rivers, approached him from behind, struck him in the back with a hard object and forced him into a vehicle. He told deputies he was held hostage by Rivers inside a house on Lillian Highway, while Rivers threatened to beat and kill him.  The following day, Rivers allegedly forced the victim to call his wife and demand that $500 cash be dropped off at a Lillian Highway bar. When Rivers learned that the victim’s wife had called authorities, he allegedly beat the victim with a bat and leather strap.

Rivers then said he was going to buy drugs and then return to kill the victim. The victim was able to escape when a female in the house brought him his keys and wallet and told him leave.

The victim was able to later identity Rivers from a photo lineup, according to an arrest report.

According to the State Attorney’s office, the victim twice failed to appear for depositions in the case, and the victim’s version of the story involving the kidnapping was not credible and did not support the additional charges against Rivers.

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