Florida Forest Service Sends Crews To Battle Wildfire In California

June 30, 2015

Florida has sent 40 land firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in California.

“Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters are a key component and valuable asset among the national firefighting community. We are committed to protecting lives, homes and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire both at home and abroad,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

Two initial-attack hand crews, consisting of 35 Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters and five firefighters from partnering agencies, traveled to California, where they will receive assignment to the highest priority wildfire. Hand crews assist with front-line firefighting and mop-up operations using hand tools such as shovels, axes and rakes to manually create a fire break or fire line around the wildfire perimeter.

“This type of work can be exhausting and hazardous due to California’s extreme terrain and intense flames. By assisting other states, our wildland firefighters will build upon their first-class training and experience to become an even stronger firefighting organization for the citizens of Florida,” said Jim Karels, State Forester.

Escambia Man Gets Federal Prison For Child Porn

June 30, 2015

An Escambia County man was sentenced to prison Monday on child porn charges.

Thomas Victor Sway, 25, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for receipt of child pornography.

At trial, the government presented evidence that, between November 2012 and May 2013, Sway received and possessed child pornography, including videos depicting images of minors less than  years of age engaged in sex acts.  Undercover law enforcement officers discovered and downloaded the pornographic files from a public file sharing network that could be traced to Sway’s computer.  After agents executed a search warrant at Sway’s residence, a forensic analysis of his hard drive revealed at least 140 video files containing images of child pornography.  Additionally, the system file history indicated a pattern of Sway using dozens of distinct search terms to locate child pornography on the internet.  Sway was convicted on April 15, 2015.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, the Pensacola Police Department, and the other agencies that are part of the Northwest Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, whose joint investigation led to the charges in this case.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Ryan Love.

“This sentence is just one example of the hard work of our district’s prosecutors and law enforcement professionals to combat child exploitation crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Marsh.  “These cases illustrate how dangerous the internet can be, and we will continue to investigate and charge those who target children.”

“Protecting children is a top priority for HSI, and we will continue to work in partnership with other agencies, like the Pensacola Police Department and the Northwest Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to stop the exploitation of our children,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “It is imperative for law enforcement to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Supreme Court Signs Off On Lethal Injection Protocol

June 30, 2015

.A sharply-divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the lethal-injection protocol used in Oklahoma and other states, opening the door for executions to resume in Florida.

In the 5-4 majority opinion issued Monday, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Oklahoma prisoners failed to prove that the use of the drug midazolam, the first of the three-drug lethal cocktail used also used in Florida, “entails a substantial risk of severe pain.”

The petitioners also failed to offer an alternative execution method that would be less painful, Alito wrote.

The Florida Supreme Court in February halted the execution of convicted killer Jerry William Correll, saying it “must err on the side of extreme caution,” until the high court ruled on the issue. The lethal-injection protocol used in Oklahoma is nearly identical to Florida’s.

Attorney General Pam Bondi quickly filed a request with the Florida court on Monday, asking that the justices lift the stay on Correll’s execution.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which cites Florida’s brief multiple times, states that the use of midazolam in our lethal injection protocol is constitutional, reaffirming that the state has been correctly administering executions,” Bondi said in a statement.

An aide to Gov. Rick Scott, who signed more death warrants in his first four years as governor than any of his predecessors, said his office “respects the court’s decision and will continue to follow the law.”

Scott’s “foremost concern is for the victims of these heinous crimes and their families,” his spokesman John Tupps said.

Lawyers for Oklahoma prisoners in the Glossip v. Gross case had argued that midazolam hydrochloride does not effectively sedate inmates during the execution process and subjects them to pain that violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Florida and other states began using the sedative as the first step in a three-drug execution cocktail in 2013, after previously using a drug called pentobarbital sodium. The states switched because Danish-based manufacturer Lundbeck refused to sell pentobarbital sodium directly to corrections agencies for use in executions and ordered its distributors to also stop supplying the drug for lethal-injection purposes.

“…Because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether,” wrote Alito, in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia.

But, in a harshly-worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that it is essential that the first drug effectively render inmates unconscious because the following two drugs “in a tortuous manner” cause “burning, searing pain.”

Allowing the use of midazolam, Sotomayor wrote, leaves inmates “exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined Sotomayor’s dissent.

In a separate dissent Breyer went even farther, questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty altogether.

“Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose,” Breyer wrote.

And he blasted the majority for upholding the current lethal-injection protocol in part because prisoners failed to provide a less painful option.

“…Under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake: because petitioners failed to prove the availability of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, the State could execute them using whatever means it designated,” Breyer wrote in an opinion joined by Ginsburg.

Despite Bondi’s almost immediate attempt to get executions back on track in Florida, one lawyer with a long history of representing Death Row inmates was heartened by Monday’s ruling.

“It’s merely a failure of proof, not a statement that midazolam is OK. They’re saying that the petitioners didn’t present enough proof, which I think is an important distinction,” said Martin McClain, a lawyer representing at least 10 prisoners condemned to death. “It means that the issue isn’t dead. Other people can raise the issue and present additional evidence.”

McClain also said that Breyer’s dissent, coupled with a recent opinion in a separate death-penalty case, lays the groundwork for a broader challenge regarding the constitutionality of the death penalty.

“I’m going to get busy and figure out what to do,” he said.

Escambia Academy Names New Softball, Baseball Coaches

June 30, 2015

New baseball and softball coaches have been name at Escambia Academy outside Atmore.

Allie Park has been named the new softball coach. Park played for Charles Henderson High in Troy, AL, where she was Super 12 Player of the Year in 2005. She also played for Alabama Community College and Webster University. Her coaching experience includes Clayton High in St. Louis, MO, Hooper Academy near Montgomery and Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy, AL.

Jeffrey D. Price, Jr. has been named the new Escambia Academy baseball coach. The 2009 EA graduate red-shirted at the University of West Florida, pitched at Faulkner State and pitched at at the University of Mobile where his ERA record was 5th best all-time in school history.

Pictured: Escambia Academy softball coach Allie Park, athletic director Hugh Fountain and baseball coach Jeffrey Price Jr. Photo by Ditto Gorme for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Stuck Car Carrier Slows Highway 29 Traffic

June 30, 2015

A stuck car-carrier created minor traffic delays on Highway 29 Monday evening. The car-carrier trailer bottomed-out in the driveway of the Shell station at Highway 29 and Kingsfield Road. Photos by Andrew McKay, NewsRadio 1620 for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Blue Wahoos Drop Game, And Series, To Mississippi

June 30, 2015

Barrett Astin made a good showing in his Double-A debut for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos after getting called up from the High-A Daytona Tortugas.

He left the game after 5.1 innings of work with the game tied, 2-2, but the Mississippi Braves scored twice in the seventh inning to win the game, 4-2, over Pensacola and capture the series, 3-2, Monday at Trustmark Park.

Astin, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the fall, compiled a 4-3 record and 2.29 ERA at Daytona before moving up. On Monday, Astin gave up eight hits, walked two and struck out four and currently has a 3.38 ERA in his first start in the Southern League.

Mississippi pulled out the victory when catcher Matt Kennelly singled to center field to score left fielder Sean Godfrey to go up, 3-2. Then the Braves added another run to go ahead, 4-2, when center fielder Matt Lipka scored on a ground out by first baseman Kevin Ahrens to shortstop.

Pensacola scored first in the top of the second inning when Blue Wahoos catcher Kyle Skipworth singled and was driven in by left fielder Sean Buckley’s single to left.

Mississippi then tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of that inning when third baseman Rio Ruiz doubled in Ahrens.

The Braves went on top, 2-1, in the third inning when Kennelly doubled and scored on a KD Kang triple, his fourth of the season, to right field.

Skipworth singled to center and scored for the second time Monday to tie the game, 2-2, in the fifth inning when second baseman Ray Chang grounded out to shortstop.

June was a good month for several Blue Wahoos, including Chang, who hit .329 in 22 games with eight RBIs.

Pensacola right fielder Jesse Winker hit two homers and knocked in eight, while batting .325 with a .415 on-base percentage. In the first series after the Southern League All-Star break, Winker went 8-19 or .421 with a homer and two RBI against Mississippi and now has a seven-game on-base streak.

Finally, first baseman Marquez Smith—who went 0-4 Monday, ending his six-game hitting streak—hit .312 and had a .384 on-base percentage in June.

Register Now For Camp Fire Wild And Wise Day Camps In Century Or Pensacola

June 29, 2015

Space is available for July at Camp Fire Gulf Wind’s WILD & WISE Safari camp in Century, Pensacola or Milton.

Each week, campers will explore different environmental themes such as flying wild and aquatic wild. Weekly camps will continue through August 14, with registration open now for one or more week. Weekly rates start at $85 per camper in Century or Milton and $100 per camper in Pensacola.

For more information, visit campfirekids.com or call (850) 476-1760.

Council on Aging Offers Cool Tips For Beating The Heat

June 29, 2015

As summer approaches and temperatures begin to rise, the elderly will be particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults, especially those taking medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature, should be aware of the following cool tips for beating the heat:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.

Older adults and their caregivers are also encouraged to learn the signs and first aid response for heat-related illnesses. Warning signs may include:

Heat exhaustion symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Skin cold, pale and clammy
  • Weak pulse
  • Fainting and vomiting

If heat exhaustion symptoms are present:

  • Move to a cooler location.
  • Lie down and loosen your clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
  • Sip water.
  • Seek medical attention if you have vomited and it continues.

Heat stroke symptoms:

  • High body temperature (above 103 degrees F)
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Possible unconsciousness

If heat stroke symptoms are present:

  • Call 911 immediately – this is a medical emergency.
  • Move the person to a cooler environment.
  • Reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or a bath.
  • Do NOT give fluids.

For more information on how you can protect yourself against heat-related illnesses, call Council on Aging of West Florida at 850.432.1475.

FWC: Summer Best Time To Take A Hunter Safety Class

June 29, 2015

With the dog days of summer almost upon us, it’s sometimes hard to even think about hunting. But if you’re age 16 to 40 and haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s a good time to be thinking about signing up. Don’t put it off – summer is the best time to take a class in your area.

Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast during hunting season as people scramble to get certified. So the summer months offer smaller class sizes and a better opportunity for students to take a class, because they have more free time than they will once school cranks up and they get busy with homework and school-related activities.

People born after May 31, 1975, must complete the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone. A law passed a few years ago by the Florida Legislature enables individuals to hunt without having to complete the state’s hunter safety certification, but they may only hunt while under supervision.

It’s called the Hunter Safety Deferral, and it allows people the opportunity to purchase a license to hunt while under the supervision of a licensed hunter who is at least 21 years old and meets the hunter safety requirement. It’s designed to encourage experienced hunters to teach novice hunters safety, ethics, wildlife and hunting skills and respect for the great outdoors.

It’s a great incentive for getting more people to try hunting. Also, I hope, the experienced hunters among us can hook some new folks on the sport we love. However, to hunt by yourself unsupervised, you still have to take and pass a hunter safety class and purchase a regular hunting license.

If you’re a youngster and already a hunting fanatic, I suggest you go ahead and take a hunter safety class before you turn 16. Of course, until then, you may hunt under adult supervision without having to take the class or buy a license.

Even if you were born before June 1, 1975, and are exempt from having to take the class, it’s still a good idea, because you’ll learn so much. The FWC encourages beginning hunters to do so. Even the most experienced hunter will learn something new, which will help him or her become an even better hunter – and a safer one.

Also, if you’re new to our state, these classes will make you aware of Florida’s hunting laws. Or, if you just relocated from another town, the classes are a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.

You can register for a hunter safety class by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office. Also, for your convenience, there are two ways to take the course.

Two course options

There’s the traditional course, which is 12 hours of classroom instruction plus a four-hour skills day. If you’d prefer to get most of the classroom stuff out of the way from the convenience of your own home, you can opt for taking the online course. But, you’ll still have to sign up for the skills-day part of the course, which includes time at the shooting range.

The traditional course is offered during four weekdays or on a Saturday-Sunday. If you take it during the week, each session is three hours and offered after normal working hours. On the weekend, you’ll spend eight hours Saturday and four hours Sunday morning in the classroom. For the remainder of the Sunday session, you’ll move to the shooting range to complete your certification.

During the traditional hunter safety class, each segment is roughly 50 minutes long, followed by a 10-minute break. The first thing you’ll learn about is Florida’s hunting laws/regulations. An FWC law enforcement officer gives this introduction. Volunteer hunter safety instructors teach the remaining curriculum.

And speaking of that, if any of you reading this are older than 18 and would like to give something back to the sport of hunting, you might consider becoming a certified volunteer hunter safety instructor in your community. The FWC is always in need of people who possess good hunting and gun safety knowledge. If you’re interested in learning more about this great teaching opportunity, go to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or call 850-413-0084 to find out how to get involved.

One segment of the program teaches ethics and hunter responsibility. You’ll also learn the parts of a firearm, gun and hunting lingo and the proper way to shoot a firearm. This is the longest section of the program, and you’ll spend approximately two hours going over all that.

You’ll learn the differences between all the various bullets, calibers and gauges and how to identify different animal species. You will also hear about wildlife conservation and discover best management practices for native game species.

In addition, you’ll find out about outdoor survival techniques and learn how to administer first aid in the field. You’ll gain knowledge of the parts of, and how to shoot, a muzzleloading gun. Furthermore, you’ll be taught archery and the fundamentals of how to hunt with a bow.

In your last hour in the classroom, you’ll be given a standardized test of true-or-false and multiple-choice questions. You need to score 80 percent or better, and then you get to move outside to the shooting range for the last part of the hunter safety certification – the skills day portion.

If you choose instead to take your hunter safety class online, you’ll learn all of the material that’s taught in the traditional classroom setting, and you’ll be given a practice test, which will go over what you’ve learned and prepare you for the last segment of the requirement – the skills day.

Skills day

Skills day takes about five hours to complete, which includes time on the shooting range and serves as the completion for both the traditional course and the online class.

Skills days start with a law enforcement officer discussing hunting laws and ethics. After that session, you’ll pass through four different stations. The first station reviews safety rules, then the students demonstrate proper firearms carry positions, safe zones of fire, how to cross obstacles with a firearm and tree-stand safety.

The second station covers safe, effective shot placement; then students walk down a trail where they are presented with shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. The third station discusses clearing, matching, loading and unloading.

After an instructor’s brief presentation, students practice selecting the proper ammunition, loading each of the five major firearms actions, and demonstrating how to properly clear the firearm of ammunition. At the last station, students review marksmanship skills and have different opportunities to practice or demonstrate their skills.

Most students shoot a rifle from various positions, many get to shoot clay pigeons with a shotgun, and others practice archery skills by shooting a bow. Most courses provide a muzzleloader demonstration, where you’ll have the chance to shoot one if you’d like. All guns, bows, targets and ammo are provided. All you have to do is take aim!

The last steps

After you complete the skills day, you’ll be given your hunter safety card. At that point, you can purchase your very first Florida hunting license and be ready for opening day. Youth under 16 – no matter how young – can purchase their first annual license that will be good until their 17th birthday. This allows the FWC to count the youth’s license in their annual license sales until the license expires on their 17th birthday. This benefits a wildlife restoration program by approximately $7 per year for the additional years the child holds a license.

Just a couple of things for parents to remember: The course is designed for youth ages 12 to 16. If your child is younger than 18 years old, you must fill out our parental release form and present it to the instructor at all courses. This will enable your child to participate in the live-shooting exercises. Also, if your child is younger than 16, you are required to accompany him or her to all classes.

Register for a hunter safety class today, ’cause the 2015-2016 huntin’ season is just around the corner.

Submitted by FWC.

Escambia Sex Offender Busted In FDLE Operation

June 29, 2015

An Escambia County sex offender was among 42 arrested during a month and a half long operation coordinated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals and other agencies to hunt down offenders violating registration laws.

George R. Reddick of Escambia County was arrested in Geneva County, AL, by the Geneva County (AL) Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with FDLE and is awaiting extradition back to Florida. He was convicted in Escambia County in July 2001 of lewd assault sexual battery on a victim under 16.

“Operation Summer Heat should send a strong message to all sex offenders that Florida law enforcement is serious about registration,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.  “We are just beginning our work.  If you are a sex offender and you violate registration laws, we are looking for you.”

Arrests were made from either warrants initiated by FDLE’s EIS Unit or were the result of investigations by local sheriffs or police departments.  EIS was created in 2014 to assist local and federal agencies to locate sex offenders who have absconded, many of whom cross jurisdictional lines. Offenders who intentionally avoid registration requirements are arrested. In addition to the arrests, seven offenders were brought into registration compliance.

“The sex offender registration system is a critical tool in monitoring sex offenders and ensuring they are compliant with the terms of their release,” said Sheriff David Shoar, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “Florida Sheriffs and deputies worked diligently during Operation Summer Heat to find and arrest offenders who sought to evade authorities. We are sending a very clear message: if you cannot follow sex offender registration laws, you will go to jail.”

“Sex offenders should know that Florida will not tolerate noncompliance with our registry laws,” said Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow, President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “Our police departments throughout the state will continue to enforce these laws because they help protect our families and neighborhoods.”

Florida’s Sex Offender Registry began in 1997.  Florida laws require sexual offenders to register with local sheriff’s offices to be maintained publicly online at http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us.

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