ECSO: Molino Man Points Shotgun At Man, Kids Outside Dollar Store
A Molino man is accused of pointing a shotgun at a family, including three children ages 7-12, and threatening to kill them outside the Family Dollar Store in Cantonment.
Forest McCoy Hope, age 65 of Crabtree Church Road, was charged with four felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one felony county of [...]
From The Farm To The City: A Thanksgiving Bounty For The Needy (With Gallery)
About 200 students from schools in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties worked in fields near Jay Monday to harvest turnips and bag sweet potatoes that will feed hundreds of needy families later this week for Thanksgiving.
The event at the University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center was part of Farm-City Week, bringing the [...]
Jay Woman Seriously Injured In Crash Trying To Avoid Deer
A Jay woman was seriously injured in a traffic crash after she tried to avoid hitting a deer.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 60-year old Catherine Steele Jones was northbound on Market Road near Highway 87, about five miles east of Jay, when she said a deer ran out in front of her 2013 Ford [...]
Video Shows Armed Robbery Of Highway 97 Convenience Store
The search is continuing for the suspect in the Friday armed robbery of a Highway 97 convenience store , and a surveillance video has revealed new details about the crime.
The male suspect entered the Davisville BP about 7:45 p.m. and and demanded cash. In the video, he walks directly to the counter, then walks further [...]
Photos: Escambia Academy Wins State Championship
The Escambia Academy Cougars from Canoe, AL, won the AISA Class AAA state championship Friday night with a 35-28 defeat of Bessemer Academy at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, AL.
For a bonus photo gallery, click here.
For the game story, click here.
NorthEscambia.com photos by Ditto Gorme, click to enlarge.
Molino Fire Holds Live Burn Demonstrations (With Fire Videos)
The Molino Station of Escambia Fire Rescue held an open house and special fire safety demonstrations Saturday.
In live burn scenarios, the department demonstrated holiday and winter fire dangers in the home — from grease fires and a toaster fire in a mock kitchen to a dried-out Christmas tree in a living room setup.
In less than [...]
Motorcyclist Airlifted To Hospital After Crash
One person was injured in a single motorcycle accident near Bratt Saturday morning.
The accident occurred about 9:50 a.m. on North Pine Barren Road just south of Highway 168. The motorcyclist failed to properly negotiate a curve, lost control and ran off the roadway. He was airlifted by Life Flight to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola in [...]
Firefighters Hold Annual Toy Drive For Needy Kids
The Atmore Fire Department held their annual toy drive Saturday in Atmore, collecting Christmas toys for needy children in the Atmore area. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.
Local Unemployment Rate Dips Slightly, Florida’s Rate Lowest Since 2008
The latest job numbers released Friday show the unemployment level decreasing in the North Escambia area.
Escambia County’s unemployment slipped from 6.0 percent in September to 5.8 percent in October. There were 8,198 people reported unemployed during the period. One year ago, [...]
Escambia Academy Cougars Win State Championship
The Escambia Academy Cougars from Canoe, AL, won the AISA Class AAA state championship Friday night with a 35-28 defeat of Bessemer Academy at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, AL. It was the first football state championship ever for the school just outside Atmore — in fact, it was the first final game appearance ever [...]
Other Top Stories:
Fatal Shooting Under Investigation In Escambia County
A fatal shooting is under investigation in Escambia County. A woman told deputies that she came home to her residence on Galvin Avenue and found her boyfriend with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced deceased on the scene by first responders. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office has said narcotics were found in the home, but no other details have been released. Read More →
Search Underway For Pensacola Man Reported Missing In Escambia County, AL
[Updated 3pm] The Escambia County (AL) Sheriff’s Office is searching for a Pensacola man last seen early Sunday morning at a hunting camp. The Sheriff’s Office received a report of a missing person, 39-year old Daniel Eric Doelker. He was described as being about 5-feet, 10-inches tall. Doelker was last seen in the Brewton area November 23 around 1 am. Doelker should be driving a 2004 Toyota Tundra extended cab truck with Florida tag number G699FL. He is a member of a hunting club off of Mancil Rock Road outside of East Brewton near Highway 29. He had been at the hunting camp over the weekend. Authorities and family members spent most of Tuesday searching for Doelker and his vehicile, including an aerial search. The search was concentrated around the hunting camp, which is an extremely remote area near the Conecuh National Forest, and on the roadways around the camp. At this point, Escambia County (AL) Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said the incident is being treated as if foul play “might” be involved, only because his department works all missing persons cases in that manner until foul play is ruled out. Anyone who has information or comes in contact with Doelker should notify Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Alabama at (251) 809-2154 or your local law enforcement agency. Pictured top: A photo of a truck similar to Doelker’s vehicle. Photo provided by the Escambia County (AL) Sheriff’s Office. Read More →
Execution Set For Escambia County Murderer
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a death warrant for an Escambia County man found guilty of committing first-degree murder and sexual battery during a home-invasion robbery in 1993 in Escambia County. Scott signed the warrant for Johnny Shane Kormondy, 42, to die by lethal injection on January 15. The execution will be the 21st since Scott took office in January 2011, equaling the number overseen by former Gov. Jeb Bush, which is the most for any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Kormondy was found guilty in 1994 in the death of Gary McAdams, a local banker who was shot in the back of the head during a home-invasion robber in the Thousand Oaks subdivision off Chemstrand Road. McAdams and his wife, who was repeatedly raped during the attack, had returned home from a Woodham High School school reunion when confronted at the front door by Kormondy and his two accomplices. According to a release from the governor’s office accompanying the death warrant, Kormondy was the leader of the attack, recruiting the accomplices, providing transportation and casing the McAdams’ neighborhood. Kormondy’s accomplices, Curtis Buffkin and James Hazen, received life sentences. Law enforcement was able to close the case when a person to whom Kormondy confessed went to police seeking a $50,000 reward for information. Kormondy also threatened to kill witnesses who testified at his trial, including Mrs. McAdams, if he were ever released. The robbers reportedly left the house with $20. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report. Pictured below: The death warrant for Johnny Shane Kormondy signed Monday by Gov. Rick Scott. Read More →
Florida Corrections Chief Mike Crews Stepping Down
Gov. Rick Scott’s corrections chief, Mike Crews, announced Monday he is retiring from the agency grappling with reports of abuse by prison guards, allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers and a multimillion-dollar deficit. Crews, who ended months of speculation about his departure during a conference call with high-ranking staff Monday morning, is the first agency head to step down since Scott’s re-election Nov. 4 and is retiring after 30 years of employment with the state. Crews told Scott in a resignation letter dated Monday that he decided to leave his Department of Corrections post “after much deliberation, discussion and prayer” with his family. In a telephone interview with our Tallahassee news bureau, Crews acknowledged that he has “dealt with some significant issues over the last few years.” He also offered some advice for his temporary successor, Tim , a deputy secretary of the agency who will take over as interim secretary after Crews leaves Sunday. “Stay the course on the things that we are doing and have implemented and that we’re doing right,” Crews said. “The most important thing is don’t ever stop caring about doing the right thing and caring about each other. When you have an agency as large as we are, you’re going to have challenges. You’re going to have things that are going to happen that you’re going to have to deal with, that’s a part of it. But there are some of the most incredible men and women that work for that department that do things that would astonish most people. And they do them during a time when it has been some of the most difficult times that our agency has ever had.” Crews, 53, was the third Department of Corrections secretary appointed during Scott’s first term in office. Crews launched a crusade to clean up the corrections agency this summer after reports of inmate deaths and abuse at the hands of prison guards. Crews, who began his career as a prison guard, fired dozens of prison workers, initiated new standards for conduct and asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where he spent nearly three decades before becoming the corrections agency’s deputy secretary in 2012, to investigate more than unresolved 100 inmate deaths. Black leaders are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to expand an investigation into wrongdoing at several Florida prisons. And a group of corrections investigators who work for Scott’s inspector general filed a lawsuit against Crews, Scott and others earlier this year, alleging they were retaliated against for exposing the death of an inmate that opened a floodgate of questions about inmate abuse. Scott’s first prison chief, Ed Buss, was forced to step down after less than a year on the job after being at odds with the governor’s office over contracts and a massive privatization attempt that the Legislature failed to endorse. Buss was replaced by Ken Tucker, a longtime Florida Department of Law Enforcement official and one of Crews’ mentors. Tucker stepped down two years ago as part of a longtime plan to participate in the state’s retirement program. In December 2012, Crews took over an agency with a $2 billion budget that was $120 million in debt and was tied up in a court battle over privatization of inmate health services. Crews initiated a variety of cost-cutting measures, including having inmates sew their own clothes, make their own laundry soap and wash dishes by hand. Crews said he hoped to whittle the deficit down to $15 million this year. Crews urged the next secretary to advocate for raises for corrections workers, who have not received the same increases that have gone to other law enforcement employees such as Florida Highway Patrol officers. “While those people deserve it, leaving out correctional officers and our probation officers out of that discussion, that’s a tragedy. For at least 12 hours a day, they’re inside a closed-in fence with the same people that committed the crimes that the officers who are stopping and making arrests and subjecting themselves to life-and-death situations. They’re in the same environment where they’re closed in with them for at least 12 hours a day, every day. To not recognize that and put them at the forefront of consideration, I think is a tragedy,” Crews said in an interview Monday. But Crews’ major headaches came this summer after the Miami Herald reported that Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate at Dade Correctional Institution, died after guards allegedly forced him to shower in scalding hot water as punishment two years ago. Rainey’s death prompted Crews to fire the warden at the prison and clean house at other institutions where inmates have died under questionable circumstances. The FBI is reportedly scrutinizing Suwannee Correctional Institution, where an inmate-led riot injured five prison guards in October. The April 2 death of inmate Shawn Gooden at the facility is one of more than 100 inmate deaths being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In the lawsuit filed by the group of investigators, the whistleblowers claim they started a probe into allegations of prison guard misconduct at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2013. That investigation revealed that an earlier probe into the 2010 death of inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo, who died in solitary confinement after being repeatedly gassed with noxious chemicals, “was false and misleading.” Several of the guards involved in Jordan-Aparo’s death have since been fired. Crews has also wrestled with widespread gang activity aided by corrupt guards. As an example, two former prison sergeants are awaiting trial after being accused of ordering an inmate to be killed last fall to protect the guards’ role as kingpins of an institution-wide gang operation at Taylor Correctional Institution in North Florida. For more than a year, at least five guards allegedly helped the “Bloods,” “Folk” and “MPR” gangs by smuggling drugs, cell phones and cigarettes into the prison in exchange for thousands of dollars in payments, according to probable-cause affidavits. Cell phones, which can sell for up to $600 inside prisons, are a problem in correctional systems throughout the country, Crews said last month. “You have individuals who say, ‘If I bring in 10 of those, I’m probably sitting on $5,000 or $6,000.’ Some people can’t turn down that temptation,” he said. “Yeah, we have gangs in prisons just like are out on the street right now. It is a constant battle to make sure we keep monitoring those and try to minimize their effectiveness inside the institution, and outside the institution, honestly.” Crews also struggled to change the culture of the prison system, which oversees more than 100,000 inmates, and which is the best — or only — job in many rural counties, especially in North Florida, where the institutions are located. In some areas, guards are third-generation employees of the corrections department whose family members and neighbors also work at the prisons. Crews tried to convince prison staff to report wrongdoing, but fears of retaliation and shunning are common in the system. Crews assured workers that he would protect them if they expose abuse or corruption. “There’s no doubt there are still people who work in this agency that are fearful of coming forward for doing the right thing. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. We didn’t get into the position that we’re in today overnight. We’re not going to get out of it overnight. This takes time. And when you’re trying to change a culture you have to do it from the top down and the bottom up,” he said in an October interview. In September, Crews threatened to stop payments to Missouri-based Corizon, which won a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide health care to the majority of the state’s prisoners. Crews accused Corizon of failing to follow through after audits revealed shortcomings in multiple areas, including medical care, nursing and administration. by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Authorities Searching For Accused Sex Offender
Local authorities are on the lookout for a man wanted for sexually abusing a juvenile. According to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, 23-year old Stephen Troy Webb has an active warrant for a molestation of a juvenile (a life felony) and sexual assault. Investigators belive Webb is in Escambia or Santa Rosa counties. Anyone with information related to the whereabouts of Stephen Troy Webb is asked to contact the Santa Rosa County Crime Stoppers at (850) 437-STOP or their local law enforcement agency. Read More →
FSU Shooting Victim Paralyzed, But Determined To Graduate
The student who was critically injured in Thursday’s shooting at Florida State University is paralyzed from the waist down, but still determined to realize his dream of becoming a biomedical engineer, his sister told reporters Monday. Farhana Ahmed, the older sister of FSU student Farhan “Ronny” Ahmed, said her brother’s condition has been upgraded from critical to serious at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where he was taken after the shooting and where she met with reporters. “Despite his injuries, he’s alive and we’re so grateful he is here with us,” she said. Ronny Ahmed, 21, was shot three times. He was the most seriously injured of the three people attacked at FSU’s Strozier Library early Thursday morning, when a gunman, Myron May opened fire in the lobby. The library’s security measures kept at least 450 students who were studying for exams out of harm’s way, while May was shot and killed by FSU and Tallahassee police who were on the scene in less than five minutes. Farhana Ahmed credited law enforcement for sparing other students from May’s bullets. “Ronny himself was probably saved by the quickness of their actions,” she said. University employee Nathan Scott, 30, was shot in the leg and was released from the hospital Friday. The third victim, Elijah Velez, 18, suffered what police called a “grazing” wound. Farhana Ahmed said she spoke to reporters on behalf of her family to respond to messages from across the country. “We’ve gotten so many teddy bears and letters and calls and messages of support saying they are with Ronny and they hope he recovers soon and that he is part of the Tallahassee community,” she said. At her side was FSU President John Thrasher, who pledged his full support to the Ahmed family. “Florida State University is 100 percent committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to fulfill Ronny’s dream, as Farhana said, of achieving his goal of graduating from Florida State University,” Thrasher said. “We are going to work with her and her family to do that and continue to support them in every way we can.” Friends of the Ahmed family put up a fundraising website to help with Ronny’s medical expenses, and donations are pouring in. Farhana Ahmed said her brother grew up in Orlando and graduated from Lake Highland Preparatory School. He has a year and a half to go to complete his bachelor’s degree at FSU. by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Tax Free Turkey? Florida TaxWatch Talks Thanksgiving Dinner
Floridians have another reason to be thankful this holiday season – Florida is not one of the 14 states in the nation that tax groceries, according to Florida TaxWatch, a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan research institute. While most food that Florida residents prepare themselves for a Thanksgiving feast is exempt, some of the items on dinner tables may be subject to the state’s sales tax, ranging from six to 7.5 percent. In Florida, groceries are generally exempt as long as they are not prepared in-store. For example, a raw turkey is tax exempt, but a prepared turkey is taxed. However, there are some nuances. Deli foods prepared off-site are not taxed as long as the grocer leaves them in their original sealed container. Bakery products are only taxed if items are sold for consumption at in-store dining facilities. Deli meats and cheeses are not taxed unless they are arranged and sold in party platters, and fruit and salad platters are exempt unless they are packaged with utensils. “Understanding Florida’s tax laws can be very difficult for Florida shoppers, so Florida TaxWatch is helping taxpayers understand their tax obligations, and get a better sense of what they are buying this Thanksgiving,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. In nearby Alabama, tax on that Thanksgiving turkey can be as much as nine percent or more. Read More →
Ernest Ward Middle Names Students Of The Month
Ernest Ward Middle School has named Students of the Month for September and October. They are (pictured L-R) October – Crystal Douglas, 8th grade, and Savannah Spence, 7th grade; September – Liby Pugh. Not pictured is Abenia Diggs, 6th grade, October. Submitted photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Let The Miracle League Fry Your Turkey
Want a fried turkey but afraid to try it yourself? Volunteers from the Miracle League of Pensacola will fry your turkey for you on Wednesday, November 26, saving you the time and trouble while benefiting the charity. And there is still time to make an appointment. Completely thaw your turkey, removing all of the inside packaging and giblets. Write down exactly how much your turkey weighs so it is fried perfectly and take it to the Miracle League Park at 555 East Nine Mile Road from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Wednesday. For a monetary donation to Miracle League, the volunteers will fry your turkey to perfection. A minimum of $20 per turkey is necessary to help cover costs, and any additional donation will benefit the Miracle League of Pensacola. Call Greg Wiggins at (850) 529-2155 or Paul Hinson at (850) 450-8319 with questions or to schedule your time (leave a message if no answer). Reservations should be made early as they number of time slots is limited. Read More →
Turkey Time: Extension Service Offers Thawing Tips
It’s Thanksgiving week, time for family and friends to gather and give thanks. And time for cooks to ponder the correct way to prepare their turkey. Today, we are taking a look how to make sure your turkey is properly thawed with tips from Dorthy Lee, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for the Escambia County Extension Office. Following four simple food-handling practices—clean, separate, cook, chill—will ensure a delicious and safe meal. Frozen turkeys should be thawed—at a safe temperature— prior to cooking. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey — in the refrigerator at 40°F or less; in cold water; and in the microwave. Frozen Turkeys Allow 1 pound of turkey per person. Keep frozen until you’re ready to thaw it. Turkeys kept frozen in the freezer should be cooked within one year for best quality. Thawing Your Turkey In the Refrigerator (40°F or below) Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen. When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey. 4 to 12 pounds = 1 to 3 days 12 to 16 pounds = 3 to 4 days 16 to 20 pounds = 4 to 5 days 20 to 24 pounds = 5 to 6 days In Cold Water When thawing in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. 4 to 12 pounds = 2 to 6 hours 12 to 16 pounds = 6 to 8 hours 16 to 20 pounds = 8 to 10 hours 20 to 24 pounds = 10 to 12 hours In the Microwave When thawing in the microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and plan to cook the turkey immediately after thawing because some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook during microwave thawing. For more information, call the Escambia County Extension office, (850) 475-5230. Read More →
Northview Cross Country Team Members Honored
The Northview High School Cross Country team honored their outstanding members recently during their annual banquet. Award winners included: Most Improved female runner: Mary Sullivan Most Improved male runner: James Attes Fastest female runner: Moriah McGahan Fastest male runner: Brandon Korinchak Junmi Ross Award: Moriah McGahan Jim Ross Award: Joshua Borelli Coach’s Award: Triston Reaves Read More →
Former Principal’s Wooden Santas On Display At Molino Library
Hand-carved wooden Santas created by a former principal are on display this month at the Molino Branch Library. Dale Cooey was principal of Molino Elementary School and Molino Park Elementary School from 1997-2007, and was also principal at Barrineau Park Elementary school during the consolidation into Molino Park. He apprenticed under his uncle was a master wood carver. Through a one year grant from the Florida Folk Art Association, Cooey and his uncle began showing their carvings and received several blue ribbons. The “Santa with the Tree” carving included in the display case won a blue ribbon this year at the Pensacola State Fair. His carvings are made from cypress knees and bass wood. Pictured: Wooden Santas on display at the Molino Branch Library. Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Florida Lifts Ban On Silencers For Hunting Deer, Other Game
Florida hunters can now muffle their shots when hunting deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday agreed, with little comment, to issue an order that immediately removes a prohibition on the use of noise-suppressors, or silencers, with rifles and pistols. Florida becomes the 33rd state to allow the noise-suppressors for game hunting. Florida had been the only state in the Southeast to have such a ban, which was lifted at the request of hunters, said Diane Eggeman, director of the agency’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. Eggeman said silencers cut noise by about 30 decibels, and it’s a common misconception that such noise-suppressers eliminate sound from the weapon. “You can hear it from a long way away,” Eggeman said. “It’s a significant noise.” Florida already allows the use of suppressors on shotguns for game hunting. A suppressor can also be placed on a rifle or pistol when hunting on private lands for non-game wildlife, including hogs and armadillos. During the commission meeting, held in Key Largo, Fish and Wildlife staff and a couple of hunters defended the proposal as a means to protect hunters’ hearing, lessen the impact of hunting on others and help while introducing people to the sport. Buck Holly, an owner of C&H Precision Weapons in LaBelle, told the commission that silencers also improve communications among hunters in the field, and he noted his 17-year-old daughter prefers using a silencer on a rifle as it reduces the recoil and sound. “None of my kids are afraid to hunt with rifles because there is no longer the loud bang,” Holly said. “There is not a lot of recoil, they all think it’s fun.” Holly added there has been an uptick in silencer sales in Hendry County in anticipation of the prohibition being lifted. Concerns have been expressed to the commission that lifting the ban would reduce safety and increase opportunities for illegal activities. But Eggeman said wildlife officials from other states haven’t reported an increase in illegal activities as few hunters use suppressors because they are expensive and highly regulated. To purchase a silencer, a hunter must pay a $200 registration fee with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and pass an FBI background check. The cost of a rifle suppressor has been estimated between $450 and $2,000. by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Weekend Gardening: What To Do Before November’s End
Here is your November gardening calendar from the University of Florida/IFAS Extension: What to Plant Bedding Plants: Create a display of fall colors with cool season plants. Some to try are pansy, viola, and chrysanthemum. Bulbs: Bulbs to plant this month include amaryllis, crinum, and daylily. Plant Lycoris (spider lily) in partial shade. Plants will produce foliage in winter and beautiful red flowers emerge in late summer. Herbs: Continue planting herbs from seeds or plants. A wide variety of herbs like cooler, dryer weather, including cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, sage, and thyme. Vegetables: Continue planting cool season crops such as beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, kale, and lettuce. What to Do Citrus: If freezing temperatures are predicted, protect small citrus trees by watering well at least a day before the freeze. You may also use covers that extend to the ground for protection. Scale on ornamental plants: Now that temperatures are lower, use dormant oil sprays to control scale insects on trees and shrubs. Irrigation: Plants need less supplemental watering in cooler weather. Turn off systems and water only if needed. Flowering Trees: Taiwan cherry is an ornamental cherry suitable for north Florida. Late winter will bring pink buds so consider planting one now. Birds: As you prune your plants during the cooler months, make a small brush pile in the back of the yard for birds. Camellias: Add some of the new cultivars for bright spots of color in winter. Disbudding, or removing some buds now, will insure larger blooms later. What to Do Every Month Adjust irrigation based on rainfall. Deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms. Monitor the garden for insects and disease. Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials and water until established. Read More →
Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Celebration And Tragedy In Tallahassee
A week that began with scripted formality ended with an event for which no one can write a script. Monday and Tuesday brought a sort of celebration to Tallahassee, as members of the House and Senate gathered to officially elect their leaders and set in motion the next two-year term of the Legislature. Well, at least Republicans were celebrating, as they moved to formally swear in a two-thirds majority in the House and prepare for the inauguration of Gov. Rick Scott for a second term. If there was any positive feeling on the Democratic side of the aisle, it might have been relief. Senate Democrats dodged the fate of their House counterparts, clinging to enough seats to avoid irrelevance. And nothing more than battered feelings ultimately came of a threatened rebellion against House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. Then came the early hours of Thursday, when an attorney who graduated from Florida State University in 2005 opened fire at the campus library, injuring three people, including one critically, before he was killed by police. Classes reopened a day later, but it was a solemn and shocking end to the week. SPOILER ALERT: LEADERS STILL WON House Democrats were set up for a showdown Monday, after Rep. Dwayne Taylor of Daytona Beach had threatened to challenge Pafford for the right to lead the minority caucus during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. Taylor based his case on the loss of six Democratic seats in this month’s elections, giving the GOP a free hand in how it runs the House for the next two years. But after some strong pushback, including a comment by Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant that those backing Taylor were “bed-wetters” who “need to shut up,” Taylor announced he wouldn’t run because he couldn’t work with the party’s leadership. That set the stage for a less-gripping if still-tense caucus meeting Monday evening. Despite the infighting, Democrats tried to say they had come together. “We have many differences amongst us,” said Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens. “But we are united behind Mark Pafford this evening.” Signs of division still remained, including in a speech by Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg — himself pushed out as Democratic leader after a fundraising clash with Tant — that took a not-so-subtle swipe at the state party chairwoman. “We were not elected to come here and be told to shut up,” Rouson said. A Republican vote, and the full chamber vote that followed Tuesday, were less dramatic. Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who rose to be in line for the top spot after a surprise election loss in 2012 by former Rep. Chris Dorworth, was officially named House speaker. Crisafulli promised to respect all members equally, regardless of their party, but also tried to take an early stand against any Democratic shenanigans. “I absolutely welcome robust debate on the issues between the majority and the minority parties,” he said. “But I expect honesty and respectful discourse. We can all agree on so many of the issues that come before us in this chamber. So let’s not play games and score political points; let’s get it done for the constituents that elected us to represent them.” Across the way, Republican Sen. Andy Gardiner of Orlando was officially tapped for the Senate presidency. Gardiner, a triathlete and father of three, was lauded by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, as a “servant leader” who will be able to unite Republicans and Democrats in the GOP-dominated chamber as lawmakers grapple with health care, education spending and other high-profile issues during the legislative session that begins in March. “The Senate is in really good hands, folks. The state of Florida is in incredible hands because Sen. Gardiner will put families first before politics, and that’s what we need in the Senate and the state of Florida,” said Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah. Gardiner, first elected to the House in 2000 and to the Senate in 2008, said he intends to shrink Senate committees, meaning senators will have fewer committee assignments. “What I really envision is for (committees) to be smaller so that there will be close votes. I think that that’s good. It empowers the minority. You may have a committee where it’s a 5-4 vote,” Gardiner told reporters. “The ideal thing would be for members to be on five or six committees and they know that they really have the opportunity to participate and really become a leader on them.” TRAGEDY AT FSU The rest of the week was supposed to be relatively calm in Tallahassee, with lawmakers leaving until early 2015 and the holidays right around the corner. But that was before a shooter who police identified as Myron May showed up at Florida State University’s Strozier Library shortly after midnight and opened fire. May died after being shot by university and Tallahassee police who responded to the scene, according to Tallahassee police chief Michael DeLeo. “Mr. May was in a state of crisis,” DeLeo said. “We have not found any information at this time to indicate why he chose this morning to act, or why he chose the Strozier Library as the place for his actions. Based on all our evidence at this time, we continue to believe that Mr. May acted alone, and there is no further threat to the students, the university, the workers or the community.” The story did reach into the Legislature, sometimes in unexpected ways. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and Florida State graduate, said on Twitter that May was an FSU student senator in 2002. “Shocked that Myron May has been identified as the FSU shooter,” Gaetz tweeted. “I knew him in undergrad. He was so kind. This is just awful for everyone.” Meanwhile, former Sen. John Thrasher was confronted with the crisis not long after taking the job as FSU’s president. “We are going to get back to normal tomorrow,” Thrasher promised during a Thursday news conference. “We’re moving ahead and continuing to pray for the victims and Florida State University, but we are going to get through this with the great family we have.” May, 31, had returned to Florida in recent weeks from Texas, where he graduated from the law school at Texas Tech University in 2009 and practiced law. He’d shown up twice in FSU police records, Perry said, once on suspicion of using marijuana in 2002 and as the victim of a vehicle burglary in 2003. But a journal May kept and his recent postings on Facebook showed that “Mr. May’s sense of being and place in our community was not what most people would refer to as a normal status,” DeLeo said. “He was in a sense of crisis, and he was searching for something.” Students returned to class Friday. Thrasher and Provost Garnett Stokes welcomed students at the doors of Strozier Library, while Thrasher praised a prompt response that likely saved lives. That included praising Dean of University Libraries Julia Zimmerman, whose security measures prevented the gunman from getting past the lobby of Strozier, where 450 students were studying at the time. STORY OF THE WEEK: A gunman injured three people, including one critically, before being killed by police officers at Strozier Library at Florida State University. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Normalcy is a funny word, and I don’t know that we’ll get back to it or ever forget. But at least I think from a standpoint of some of the things that went on yesterday, I think our campus is alive and well and working toward the goals of being a great university.”—Florida State University President John Thrasher. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Robbery Of Highway 97 Gas Station Under Investigation
The search for a suspect is continuing after the BP gas station on Highway 97 in Davisville was robbed Friday night. The male suspect entered the store about 7:45 p.m. and demanded cash. The clerk was extremely startled by the incident, but otherwise uninjured, according to Deputy Courtney Clanton, spokesperson for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The clerk was not immediately available to provide a good description of the suspect, but investigators were reviewing surveillance video in their effort to develop a suspect. He fled the store in an unknown type vehicle in an unknown direction of travel. More information will be published when released by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone with information on the robbery is asked to call the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 436-9620 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 433-STOP. Pictured: The BP station on Highway 97 in Davisville minutes after a Friday night robbery. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge. Read More →
Perdido Man Killed In Single Vehicle Crash
A Baldwin County man died in a single vehicle wreck early Thursday morning in Perdido, AL. William Jonathan Ammons of Perdido was pronounced deceased following the 5 a.m. crash on Baldwin County Road 47, near Perdido Elementary School. According to Alabama State Troopers, Ammons lost control of his 2007 Honda Civic, left the roadway, struck a culvert and collided with a tree. There were no passengers in the vehicle. Pictured top and below: A 2007 Honda Civic after being removed from a wooded area Friday morning in a fatal Perdido, AL, crash. Pictured inset: The vehicle still in the wooded area. Reader submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
High School Playoff Finals
Here are Friday night’s high school football finals from around the area: FLORIDA 7A — Niceville 34 Tate 0 [Read more...] 6A –Choctaw 35, Navarre 14 5A — Tallahassee Godby 41, West Florida 6 1A — Vernon 30, Baker 14 – FINAL ALABAMA 2A — Washington County 60, Flomaton 0 AAA-AISA STATE CHAMPIONS Escambia Academy 35, Bessemer 0 [Read more...] Read More →
Authorities Searching For Alabama Pharmacy Armed Robbery Suspect
Authorities across the Gulf Coast are on alert for 27-year old man wanted in connection with an armed robbery Thursday in Baldwin County, AL. William “Jake” McMillan of Bay Minette was identified on surveillance video as the suspect who robbed the Lillian Pharmacy at gunpoint, demanding all of the store’s hydrocodone. The suspect fled the store in charcoal gray Ford pickup truck after getting 1,700 hydrocodone pills during the robbery. A short time before the robbery, he allegedly took an undisclosed amount of cash from a register and safe from his workplace, the Las Vegas Discount Golf & Tennis at Tanger Outlets in Foley. McMillan is wanted for first degree armed robbery and theft. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office at (251) 937-0202 or their nearest law enforcement agency. Read More →
7A: Niceville Tops Tate
The Tate High School’s playoff run came to an end Friday night as the Aggies lost to Niceville 35-0 in the Region 1-7A semifinal. The Aggies finished the year at 9-3. Niceville will be Oakleaf next Friday night in the regional finals. For more photos, click here. Photos by Jennifer Repine for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. - Read More →
Florida State ‘Coming Back Together’ After Library Shooting
The trustees of Florida State University on Friday stood to applaud the campus police chief and prayed for two victims — one critically injured — as the school tries to recover from a shooting incident early Thursday that left three people wounded and the gunman dead. FSU President John Thrasher told the university’s board of trustees that students were back in class and that Strozier Library, where the tragedy occurred, had re-opened Friday morning. “The campus in my opinion is coming back together,” said Thrasher, who has been in his job less than two weeks. “We all hurt for the folks that are in the hospital, and we are trying to be diligent in our efforts to help them and support them, without being intrusive into the privacy that they expect.” The board led a standing ovation for university Police Chief David Perry, whose officers arrived on the scene of the shooting in less than five minutes. Officers exchanged more than 30 rounds with the gunman, FSU graduate Myron May, who died outside the library after failing to penetrate its security. “I tell thousands of parents and students at orientation that we are the ones that run toward the danger when everyone else is running the opposite direction,” said Perry, who hadn’t slept in 52 hours. “So when I got that first call, I was just as emotional as everyone else, but I knew that we had a job to do, and I knew that we were going to rely on our training to get the job done.” University and Tallahassee police officers rushed to the library after May, a 31-year-old attorney, showed up with a semi-automatic handgun. He shot one student in the lobby and then went outside, where he shot a university employee and another student. Tallahassee police late Friday afternoon released the names of the three victims. Police said one of the victims, Farhan Ahmed, 21, was being treated at a local hospital and that his family had asked for privacy. University employee Nathan Scott, 30, was shot in the leg and was being treated at a hospital. The third victim, Elijah Velez, 18, suffered what police called a “grazing” wound and was treated and released. The trustees saw a video of a Thursday night vigil on Landis Green, where students lifted candles and sang “Amazing Grace.” During the trustees meeting, Chairman Allan Bense also led a silent prayer for the victims and their families, with whom he’d been spending time. Thrasher, whose selection as president had drawn protests from some students and faculty members, said the university had come together. “Normalcy is a funny word, and I don’t know that we’ll get back to it or ever forget,” he said. “But at least I think from a standpoint of some of the things that went on yesterday, I think our campus is alive and well and working toward the goals of being a great university.” On Friday morning, Thrasher and FSU Provost Garnett Stokes — along with law enforcement — welcomed students at the library doors. With them was Dean of University Libraries Julia Zimmerman, whose security measures kept May from getting past the lobby of Strozier, where 450 students were studying at the time. “We’re ready to get back to work,” Zimmerman said. “This is a busy time for the library, as exams are coming up. Our building is going to be packed to the gills for the next two to three weeks with students, and we are ready to work with them.” About 100 students lined up at the library doors, saying they, too, were ready to pick up where they’d left off — more or less. “It shocked a lot of people and it rocked a lot of people, but we’ll get back to normal pretty soon,” said Joe Pelt, a freshman biology major from Tallahassee. “It’s going to be in the back of our minds going in and out of Strozier and being around campus for a while, but we’ll bounce back. It’s what we do.” Also Friday, the FBI intercepted a package May had sent to a friend in Texas. Other packages to other friends are expected. On Thursday, Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo described May as having been “in crisis,” and the investigation into his actions is continuing. by Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Basketball: Tate Beats Pace In OT
The Tate High School Aggiest beat Pace in overtime Friday night 74-72. With the win Friday night and a season-opening win last Tuesday over Milton, the Aggies are now 2-0. The Aggies will host Gulf Breeze Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Read More →
Grand Send-Off For Escambia Academy Cougars
The Escambia Academy Cougars won the AISA Class AAA state championship tonight in Troy, AL, being Bessemer Academy 35-28. Earlier Story: A grand send-off was held Friday afternoon for the Escambia Academy Cougar football team as they left Canoe, AL, and headed through Atmore on their way to the AISA Class AAA state championship game tonight in Troy, AL. Fans lined the highways to wave and wish good luck to the Cougars. Escambia Academy will play Bessemer Academy at 7 p.m. at Troy’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Troy State Trojans. Pictured: A celebratory send-off for the Escambia Academy Cougars Friday afternoon in Canoe, AL, as they head to the AISA state championship game in Troy, AL. NorthEscambia.com photos by Ditto Gorme, click to enlarge. Read More →
Deputies: Beulah Shooting Was Domestic Violence
A shooting death Friday afternoon in Beulah was an act of domestic violence, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to the 7500 block of Mobile Highway, near Beulah Elementary School, to find one person deceased from an apparent gunshot wound. A “person of interest” was taken into custody at the scene. Authorities have not released any names in the incident, and they have not revealed the relationship between the victim and the person of interest. Beulah Elementary School was under a brief lockdown for a short time period, and Mobile Highway was closed temporarily as a result of the shooting. Pictured: A fatal shooting occurred on Mobile Highway Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy WEAR 3 for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Man Charged With Kidnapping, Armed Robbery, Battery Of Woman
An Escambia County man who kidnapped and sexually battered a woman Thursday has been arrested. Kyheem Scott, 26, was charged with kidnapping, sexual battery and armed robbery. The incident occurred between 3 and 4 a.m. in a vacant lot on North C Street. The 44-year-old woman told Detective Shannan Briarton she was walking home from her mother’s house when the suspect approached her and offered to walk with her. The woman declined, but as she walked away, the suspect followed. In an attempt to avoid him, the woman walked onto several streets but Scott ran toward her and told her he had a gun, which she believed he placed on her neck. She then was forced into the vacant lot where he ordered her to remove items from her pockets and to perform oral sex on him. The man then fled the area and the woman called police. Scott was identified during the investigation, and had the victim’s cell phone in his possession when arrested Thursday afternoon. Read More →
Molino Park Receives $25,000 Tech Grant; Students Reach For The Stars (With Gallery)
Molino Park Elementary School celebrated the receipt of a $25,000 technology grant Thursday night that is allowing students to reach for the stars. The grant from the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program was used to purchase iPads to advance technology in implementing core standards in reading, science and math for third and fourth grade students. Earlier this year, Molino Park turned to NorthEscambia.com to encourage local farmers to nominate and support the school’s efforts to win the grant. “I appreciate the farmers showing their support in taking their time to nominate us as this solidifies the community spirit at Molino Park that continuously carries us,” said Principal Alice Woodward. “Farmers are the heartbeat off our community, and their actions have allowed us to continue to flourish in our endeavor to educate students.” Molino Park also held a stargazing event Thursday night, with students creating space related crafts indoors, and heading outdoors for hands-on activities. They were able to use an iPad app to see a virtual sky map as they panned from horizon to horizon, and telescopes were set up behind the school for a closer looks at stars and planets. For more photos, click here. Pictured top: Molino Park Elementary School was presented a symbolic $25,000 check Thursday night from the Monsanto Fund to purchase iPads. Pictured inset: The actual funds were previously received from the grant, and the iPads are already in use. Pictured below: A time lapse photo showing a group in near total darkness star gazing behind Molino Park Elementary Thursday night. Pictured below: A student uses an iPad with a star mapping application to map the night sky. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge. Read More →
ECUA Sells Main Street Property For $5.2 Million, Elects Officers
The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority approved the sale of the former Main Street sewage treatment plant property at their Thursday yearly organizational meeting. The 19-acre site is being purchased by Quint and Rishy Studer for $5.2 million. The property has been vacant since 2011 when the sewer plant — known as “Old Stinky” — was demolished in 2011 after it was replaced by the Central Water Reclamation Facility in Cantonment. The plant was first constructed in 1937 and underwent several expansions. Studer’s offer was less ECUA’s asking price for the property at $8.9 million, and about $2 million less than was offered to a Texas-based developer in a deal that went nowhere in 2013. Studer will reportedly work to add athletic fields, concession areas, restrooms and parking to the property. Also at Thurday’s meeting, the ECUA board elected officers and made appointments for the upcoming year. District 2 representative Lois Benson was elected as chairman and District 5 member Larry Walker was elected vice-chair. Elvin McCorvey of District 3 was elected chairman of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, and Vicki Campbell of District 1 was elected vice-chairman. Deborah Benn, Charles Green, Chuck Kimball, Hurey Smith, Tim Common, Kelley Thompson, and Louise Ritz were unanimously re-appointed to serve as members of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. Read More →
Trial Postponed For Molino Murder Suspect
Trial has been delayed for on Molino murder suspect, while another suspect awaits sentencing next month. Zachary Greer, 24, was due in court this week, but his next court appearance was continued at the prosecution’s request to late December. He is charged with first degree murder in the 2013 death of Harvey Ray Smith. His co-defendant, 24-year old Debra Burge, has pleaded no contest in September to a lesser charge of second degree murder charge in the death of Harvey Ray Smith. She will be sentenced in December. The body of Smith, age 43 of Pace, was found stuffed into a trunk behind a Motel 6 on Davis Highway the morning on May4, 2013. Smith had been reported missing in Santa Rosa County. Family members located his vehicle at the motel and then discovered the body. Reports state Burge and Greer conspired to rob Smith. Burge allegedly lured Smith, her acquaintance, to her home in the 3900 block of Highway 97 in Molino. She told deputies she went inside while Smith and Greer remained outside. When she later exited the home, she found Smith on the ground of the Molino home bleeding. She told Sheriff’s investigators that Greer told her he stabbed Smith and put his body in the trunk of the car that was later driven to the Motel 6 on Davis Highway in Pensacola. Read More →
Escambia Man Indicted For Insurance Fraud Scheme
An Escambia County man has been indicted on federal charges for an insurance fraud scheme. Kevin D. Webster, 44, was indicted for 11 felony counts of wire fraud. The indictment alleges that Webster, an insurance agent licensed in Florida and other states, defrauded high profile clients and their financial advisors by falsely representing to them via email that he had secured umbrella insurance policies for them when, in fact, he had not. According to the indictment, between 2008 and 2011, Webster accepted approximately $140,000 meant for umbrella insurance policy premiums for policies that Webster never secured or even attempted to secure. Webster pled not guilty, and his trial is scheduled for Monday, January 12, 2015, before Senior United States District Judge Roger Vinson. The charges result from an investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services and the FBI. Read More →
Escambia Heath Department Encourages Flu Vaccine For Residents
The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County is encouraging residents to get vaccinated against the flu. Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes lead to death. The flu season usually begins in early October and lasts until May, peaking in January and February in Escambia County. Pregnant women are especially encouraged to get vaccinated. Pregnancy’s effect on the immune system can cause a more severe infection leading to poor outcomes for both mother and baby. Others who should get vaccinated include caregivers of infants younger than 6 months, infants and children older than 6 months, and adults 65 and older. It is also important for those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart or lung disease to get vaccinated. Flu vaccine may be given as a shot or a nasal spray. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. The nasal spray is approved for use in people 2 through 49 years of age who do not have underlying medical conditions and are not pregnant. Flu vaccines are available at many physicians’ offices, clinics, and local pharmacies. The vaccine takes approximately two weeks to become fully effective. Symptoms of the flu may include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and fever. Some people may also experience diarrhea and vomiting. Health officials advise individuals who are at risk of complications from influenza to contact their physician immediately if flu symptoms appear. Individuals should see a physician early, as antiviral medications may be effective in reducing the severity of symptoms or the length of the illness. Individuals can protect themselves and their families from the flu by practicing preventive behaviors. While the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year, frequent hand washing is another important key to prevention. Other healthy behaviors such as avoiding close contact with those who are sick, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, and eating nutritious food can also help to prevent getting the flu. Individuals can spread the flu to others before they even know they are sick. The most effective ways to avoid spreading the flu are by covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow rather than the hand and by staying home when sick. Read More →
State Asks Court To Continue Gay Marriage Ban
Attorney General Pam Bondi this week asked a federal appeals court to at least temporarily keep in place Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, pointing in part to another court’s decision that upheld similar bans in four states. Bondi’s request to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came about three months after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in two combined cases that Florida’s ban was unconstitutional. Hinkle, however, placed a stay on his ruling to allow time for an appeal. That stay is scheduled to expire January 5. Bondi asked the appeals court this week to keep the stay in place until appeals are complete. “This court should extend the stay because, on balance, it is in the public’s best interest to wait for an appellate decision before implementing an order of this significance,” Bondi argued in a document filed this week. Several appeals courts have struck down bans on same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up appeals of those rulings. But Bondi pointed to a decision this month by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. She said appeals of that decision have been filed in the Supreme Court. Read More →
Grand Jury Finds Insufficient Evidence Of Any Criminal Wrongdoing In Jail Explosion
An Escambia County Grand Jury has found that there was insufficient evidence to establish an criminal charges in connection with the April 2014 explosion at the Escambia County Jail. According to the grand jury’s findings, gas clothes dryers are seen on video pulling away from a wall in the flooded basement of the jail. At about the same time, natural gas records show a substantial spike in the amount of natural gas flowing into the Central Booking and Detention Center. The spike continued through the day and night of April 30. During this time, both jail staff and inmates reported the smell of natural gas to jails supervisors and maintenance employees. A maintenance employee located what he thought was a leak at a propane tank farm located north of the facility. He cut off a valve which he believed stopped the leak. But reading taken from the tanks show the same level of propane before and after the flood; the grand jury found that the propane tanks were in no way responsible for the odor of gas within the jail. At 11:15 p.m. on April 3, a spark from an unknown source ignited the natural gas causing an explosion. Two inmates were killed and hundreds of staff and inmates were injured in the blast. The grand jury recommended that: The Central Booking and Detention Center and the main jail be returned to the supervision of the sheriff for the most efficient operation of the facilities. The corrections facilities are currently under the control of the Escambia County Commission. No future jail be built on the current site of the Central Booking and Detention Center. Improvements be made in safety procedures. Employees believed they were limited in making emergency reports only to their immediate supervisors. It was recommended that a safety officer be appointed or designated on each shift. The basement area of the Central Booking and Detention Center should have never been rebuilt following a 2012 flood. “We recommend that Escambia County make a full disclosure as to how this decision was made,” the grand jury’s report states. Escambia County concentrate on storm water control measures, first on county owned facilities, then on Escambia County as a whole. Pensacola Energy should review and locate any cut-off valves so that they are located outside flood prone areas. In addition, main gas lines should be marked to allow immediate access in case of an emergency. The grand jury report concluded by commending the corrections officers and staff of the Central Booking and Detention Center for the outstanding job they did during the flood and subsequent explosion. Read More →