December 4, 2016
Pensacola Police are searching for a man who shot at an officer and then ran from the scene late Friday night.
The officer – Matthew Mercado – was not injured in the incident, which occurred in the area of Torres Avenue and Tunis Street.
The incident occurred during a Violent Crime Suppression Operation, which had additional officers saturating known problem areas. Since September, the city has experienced an increase in gun related crimes.
Around 10:30 p.m. Friday, officers responded to Highland Drive after a male confronted a resident while armed with a handgun. The woman said the male approached her vehicle after she backed out of a driveway, and confronted her while holding the gun. Fearing for her safety, she accelerated her vehicle to escape and the man fled. Mercado found the suspect on Sixth Avenue near Tunis Street.
The suspect turned toward Mercado, fired one shot and fled the area on foot.
Sgt. Stephen Bauer, who is coordinating the operation for the department, said the suspect is wanted for attempted murder on the officer and aggravated assault. The suspect was described as a black male, thin build and wearing dark pants and a dark jacket with a hood.
During a K-9 track for the suspect, officers smelled marijuana coming from a residence in the 3000 block of North Torres Avenue.
A search of the home resulted in the seizure of six firearms – one of which was stolen – and approximately 425 grams of marijuana. One person was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Also during the operation, officers saw several people gambling in the area of the Fricker Center, 900 North F St. Two males were charged with possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana and gambling.
The suspect in the shooting was not located.
The Violent Crime Suppression Operation lasted approximately 11 hours, and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Anyone having information on the attempted murder of the police officer is asked to contact the Pensacola Police Department at 435 – 1900 or Crime Stoppers at 433 – STOP. Callers can remain anonymous.
December 4, 2016
A volunteer firefighter, who also works as a corrections officer at the county jail, was assaulted early Saturday morning as he stopped to render aid at a traffic accident.
The volunteer, Kurtis Clark, was near the accident on Mobile Highway and Fairfield Drive when it was dispatched. First on scene, Clark arrived to find a man assaulting a women. The man, later identified as 25-year old David Danyel Lawrence, allegedly bit Clark on face.
Lawrence was transported to a local hospital before being arrested on charges of battery on an officer, resisting an officer, aggravated battery on a firefighter and DUI. He remains in the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $59,500.
Clark was treated for minor injuries at an urgent care facility.
December 4, 2016
Cantonment Baseball is looking forward to a great spring season. Work is underway on field improvement at the Cantonment Sportsplex, and online registration is now open.
To register, click here for the Cantonment Baseball website.
Pictured: Volunteers worked on baseball field improvements Saturday at the Cantonment Sportsplex. Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
December 4, 2016
The calendar turned this week to the last month of the year, but many in Florida seemed to be getting a jump on new beginnings.
The state’s main business-recruiting agency finally hired a new president. The Florida Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing for a convicted murderer. Gov. Rick Scott could officially consider appointing a new justice to the Supreme Court. And a newly elected senator moved toward restarting one of the more divisive Republican battles of Scott’s tenure.
There was one notable ending this week: Hurricane season officially drew to a close, after two hurricanes caused damage in a state that had avoided the big storms for a decade. The only start anyone in Florida wanted to see on that count was perhaps the start to a new stretch of quiet skies.
NEW BOSS OF JOBS
Chris Hart is taking a job advertised as paying around $175,000 to $200,000 a year. He might want to look into the possibility of combat pay.
Hart, a former state lawmaker, was unanimously chosen by the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors to take over as president and CEO of the job-hunting organization. Along with the titles and the office comes a place in an ongoing fight between Scott and some conservative lawmakers who have taken aim at spending on business incentives. Hart is expected to start work with the public-private Enterprise Florida on Jan. 3.
Hart’s knowledge of the Legislature, through the CareerSource Florida leadership position he’s held since 2007 and as a former two-term House member from Tampa, was considered a valuable selling point by members of an Enterprise Florida executive committee that recommended him for the new job.
Enterprise Florida Vice Chairman Alan Becker, also a member of the executive committee, said Hart’s legislative knowledge “might come in handy this year.”
That’s because while Scott and allies are looking for $85 million for business incentives in 2017, new House Speaker Richard Corcoran is not a fan of “corporate welfare.”
“When you’re taking money out of the masses’ pockets and then giving it literally — to the Democrats’ argument — to the top 1 percent, to the detriment of everybody else, that is de facto socialism,” Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said in October during a panel discussion hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit conservative think tank.
Hart said his job is to establish “trust” between the House speaker and Enterprise Florida, something he said may be a little easier as he believes they have common goals.
“What he’s doing, which I think — appropriately so — in his role, is he’s asking a lot of questions and interjecting a lot of his opinions, but we all do that,” Hart said of Corcoran. “He’s looking at having a prosperous Florida. We’re looking at a prosperous Florida. He wants to ensure that it’s for all Floridians.”
BACK TO THE BATTLEFIELD
The fight over incentives was a notable intraparty battle for Republicans in recent years. Another was a 2014 scuffle over in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrant students, an issue that pitted Scott and a different House speaker against the Senate.
Now, a new senator wants to repeal the outcome of that confrontation, which led to the Legislature approving a law authorizing the lower, in-state rates for immigrants who have attended secondary school in Florida for three years before graduating from high school.
Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who voted against the 2014 bill during his time in the House, said that in seeking a repeal during the 2017 session, he is following through on a campaign promise after hearing concerns from constituents.
“It was quite frankly a big issue with a lot of people during my election, especially during the primary,” said Steube, who was appointed this week to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Steube’s legislation drew a sharp rejoinder from Rep. Jeanette Nunez, the No. 2 Republican in the House and the sponsor of the bill that extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
“Clearly, it seems to me that Senator Steube is still in campaign mode and has not transitioned to governing mode,” said Nunez, R-Miami.
The dynamics around the issue are complicated: Corcoran and new Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, both opposed the 2014 measure. But the House and Senate presiding officers have also stocked their leadership teams with lawmakers from Miami-Dade County, where the tuition measure tends to be more popular.
“In some ways, this is going to be a test of their leadership,” said Elbert Garcia, state director of Florida’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy organization.
A SIGNAL ON THE DEATH PENALTY?
As lawmakers and judges struggle to come to terms with the new realities of Florida’s death penalty, they are looking at capital-punishment cases before the state Supreme Court to try to decipher what the future holds. This week, justices threw out a death sentence and ordered a new penalty proceeding for a convicted triple-murderer, which some took as an indication of where things are headed.
The 4-1 decision in the Polk County case of Paul Beasley Johnson — who already has twice avoided execution — is the latest in a series of death penalty rulings since the state high court struck down a new Florida law as unconstitutional because it did not require unanimous jury recommendations for the sentence to be imposed.
Public defenders maintain that the Johnson decision and another recent ruling mean that scores of condemned inmates will likely be given a chance to avoid the possibility of execution through new sentencing hearings. But prosecutors, and even some defense lawyers, cautioned against overstating the significance of the decisions, saying they expect the Supreme Court to handle similar direct appeals on a case-by-case basis.
Thursday’s majority opinion in the Johnson case offered insight into the Florida court’s application of a January U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, that struck down the state’s death-penalty sentencing system as unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in October that part of a new state law passed in response to the Hurst decision was unconstitutional. That part of the law did not require unanimous jury recommendations before inmates could be sentenced to death, an issue not addressed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hurst decision.
Thursday’s ruling in the Johnson case focused on the issues of aggravators and mitigating circumstances, which was a key issue in the Hurst decision. Justices vacated Johnson’s death sentence and ordered a lower court to hold a new penalty proceeding because a jury did not weigh the aggravators and mitigating circumstances in his case.
The majority included Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and James E.C. Perry, who dissented in part. Justices Charles Canady and Peggy Quince were recused, and Justice Ricky Polston dissented.
Perry will soon be replaced by a justice appointed by Scott. On Monday, the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission sent three potential picks to Scott, including a lawyer who once worked to keep David Duke off the presidential ballot in Florida and two appellate judges who pledged to use judicial restraint.
The three names — Fifth District Court of Appeal Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson, appellate Judge Wendy Berger and Orlando lawyer Dan Gerber — weren’t a surprise to anyone who’s followed the legal gossip about the open position. All three have links to the Federalist Society, a prominent conservative legal group that formed in the 1980s.
HURRICANES, HURRICANES, GO AWAY
There was some unquestioned good news for Florida residents hit by two hurricanes this year: There’s no more watching the skies for one of the storms, at least until the season comes back around. The 2016 warning period ended Wednesday.
When Hurricane Hermine came on shore near St. Marks, a coastal community south of Tallahassee, in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, it ended a record string of 3,966 days, or 10.87 years, without a hurricane making landfall in the state most prone to being hit by tropical storms, according to a new analysis by Colorado State University.
Prior to Hermine, a Category 1 storm, Florida was last hit by Hurricane Wilma, a 120-mph, Category 3 storm, which struck Southwest Florida on Oct. 24, 2005.
Florida also came close this year to a direct hit by a major hurricane, as Hurricane Matthew, which was the first Category 5 storm in the Atlantic basin since 2007, came within 50 miles of Florida’s East Coast, raking the state Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 before making landfall Oct. 8 in South Carolina as a 75 mph Category 1 hurricane. Matthew did damage along Florida’s coast despite technically missing.
With data reflected through October, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said Hermine resulted in $95 million in property-damage claims. Hurricane Matthew has resulted in more than 100,000 property-damage claims, representing $606 million in value.
Citizens Property Insurance, the state-backed insurer, said it has paid out $10.7 million in claims related to Hermine and Matthew, with 84 percent of the 4,000 claims closed. The impact was relatively light for the insurer, which has more than 472,000 policies representing $128 billion in exposure. But Barry Gilway, the Citizens president and CEO, said the 2016 storm season tested the insurer’s ability to handle hurricane claims.
“We clearly showed that Citizens is ready as we received excellent feedback for our claims handling from our customers,” Gilway said. “That said, we will continue to look for ways to improve.”
STORY OF THE WEEK: Enterprise Florida has a new leader, setting the stage for a clash in the 2017 legislative session about spending on business incentives.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Politically, the challenge in this really kind of crude environment is to go beyond being against what’s not working and being for things that will work, that will lift people up. And I tried that and totally failed, miserably. I mean, like, belly flop — bam.”—Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, on his presidential bid.
by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
December 3, 2016
The Florida Highway Patrol says a Cantonment driver was at fault in a Mobile Highway crash.
According to the FHP, 19-year old Tinea Davis of Cantonment turned her 2013 Ford Fiesta into the direct path of a 2015 Honda driven by 27-year old John Joyner of Pensacola. Joyner was ejected in the crash, which occurred at Mobile Highway and Washbash Street.
Joyner was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital with serious injuries. Davis was not injured.
Davis was cited with failure to yield by the FHP.
December 3, 2016
Someone is over $55,000 richer this morning after purchasing a winning Florida Lottery Fantasy 5 ticket in Davisville.
The ticket sold at the State Line Gift Shop, 11208 Highway 97, was one of four winning tickets sold for Friday night’s drawing worth $55,345.54. Other winning tickets matching all five numbers were sold in Palm Bay, Beverly Hills and Delray Beach.
The ticket was the third winning Fantasy Five ticket sold this year at the State Line Gift Shop.
The 307 tickets matching four numbers won $115 each. Another 8,873 tickets matching three numbers are worth $11 each, and 88,646 ticket holders won a Quick Pick ticket for picking two numbers.
Friday’s winning numbers were 16-20-23-28-33.
December 3, 2016
Students at Jim Allen Elementary School presented their Christmas program “Dear Santa” Friday morning.
Photos by Savanna Calhoun for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
December 3, 2016
A structure fire on the 1800 block of Atlanta Ave. in Pensacola represents the first red bulb on the “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety wreath. Escambia County Emergency Communications received a phone call reporting the residential fire at 12:55 a.m. on Friday. Crews arrived on scene at 1:02 a.m. to find a working fire covering approximately half a single-wide mobile home. Two adults and one child were transported to local hospitals in stable condition. The fire was called under control at 1:23 a.m. with the home being deemed a total loss and the Florida State Fire Marshal called to investigate.
The “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign is a collaborative initiative with the city of Pensacola to promote fire safety during the month of December. During the month-long campaign, five-foot wreaths are on display at 18 county fire stations and five city fire stations, with wreaths also placed outside Escambia County’s Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building downtown, the Escambia County Public Safety Building, Pensacola City Hall and Cordova Mall near the food court entrance. Each time firefighters respond to a residential fire with damage, a green light bulb will be replaced with a red one to remind citizens of the dangers posed by fires in residential home.
December 2, 2016
A woman was struck by her own vehicle Thursday in the Bogia community.
The 53-year old woman reportedly exited her vehicle in a pasture to open or close a gate when the vehicle began to roll. She was reportedly struck by the vehicle’s door in the accident, which occurred off Pine Barren Road near Bogia Road.
The woman was transported by Escambia County EMS to Baptist Hospital with injuries that were no considered serious.
The accident is under investigation by Florida Highway Patrol. Further details were not released.
NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.
December 2, 2016
The Century Town Council held a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Thursday night at the Nadine McCaw Park. The Byrneville Elementary School Chorus led Christmas carols during the event. The lights are on nightly in the park, which is located on North Century Boulevard at Hecker Road in Century.
NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.