Barrineau Park Road Bridge Reopens

February 17, 2018

The bridge on Barrineau Park Road across the Perdido River into Alabama has reopened. It was closed last Monday due to flooding. The photo shows the bridge on Monday. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Tate Lady Aggies Beat Milton

February 17, 2018

The Tate High School Lady Aggies defeated Milton Friday in Cantonment.

Tate 2, Milton 0

In varsity action, Tate topped Milton 2-0.

Hannah Brown pitched the win for the Aggies, giving up three hits while allowing no runs and striking out seven.

Shelby Ullrich was 2-2 with an RBI, Belle Wolfenden recorded an RBI, Deazia Nickerson was 1-2 with a run, a Ryleigh Cawby had a run for the Lady Aggies.

Tate 16, Milton 1

In junior varsity action, Tate powered past Milton 12-1.

Escambia Jail Medical Director Terminated

February 17, 2018

Escambia County Medical Director for Public Safety Paul Henning, who also served as the medical director at the Escambia County Jail, was terminated on Thursday, effective immediately. The reason for that termination has been not been provided by the county.

Henning took over jail medical services in January 2016.

FDOC: Century Work Camp On Lockdown

February 16, 2018

The Century Work Camp has been under lockdown since Tuesday, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

“In an abundance of caution, Century CI’s Work Camp was placed on lockdown Tuesday following a contraband search and discovery. There were no disturbances or injuries to inmates or staff. Inmates are on a partial lockdown. Inmates still have access to the dining hall, showers, medical services, etc,” Ashley Cook, press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections told NorthEscambia.com.

The contraband discovery is currently under investigation by the Florida Department of Corrections Inspector General’s Office.

Cook declined to identify what type or quantity of contraband was located inside the facility on Tedder Road just west of the Century Correctional Institution.

“Inmates found in possession of any type of contraband are subject to disciplinary action, and visitors found with any type of contraband are subject to arrest, she stated.

“Contraband is defined as any article or item that you have in your possession, or in your property, that was not issued, and has not been approved by the Department,” according to the FDOC’s “Inmate Orientation Handbook”.

“The Department has absolutely zero tolerance for contraband introduction, and we are always looking for new and innovative approaches to reduce contraband introduction into our prisons. In April of 2016, the Department’s Office of Intelligence was created to better integrate intelligence-led corrections and formulate data-driven analytics to aid in operations throughout our institutions,” Cook said.  “In July 2017, the Department initiated new Enhanced Search Procedures to further combat contraband and ensure the continued safety and security of our institutions.

The Department has also recently acquired some new forms of technology to help combat the introduction of contraband. One of the enhancements being used are x-ray machines at all of staff and visitor entrance points.

Pictured: Bunks inside the Century Correctional Institution. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.

Three Escambia Teens Arrested With Guns In School This School Year

February 16, 2018

Editor’s note: Escambia County School District Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross said after the original publication of this story that suspect Terrance Anton Harris, Jr. is accused of having a gun at George Stone Technical Center, not West Florida High School as originally indicated.  Both schools share the same physical address at 2400 Longleaf Drive, according to their respective websites, and the West Florida High School SRO responded to the incident.

Three Escambia County students have been arrested with guns on school campuses this school year, including a sixth grader with a loaded handgun this week at Ransom Middle School in Cantonment, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

“We take these cases very seriously and will prosecute them aggressively,” State Attorney Bill Eddins said. “We review each case individually but most of the time we seek to transfer cases like this to adult court.”

Dinari Delon Shields, 14, was arrested last October at Bellview Middle School, 16-year old Terrance Anton Harris, Jr. was arrested with a loaded gun in January at George Stone Technical Center, and Ashton Blake Ferguson-Resmondo, 13, was arrested with a loaded gun and a razor knife Tuesday at Ransom Middle.

Officials at Ransom Middle School received information from an anonymous tip that Ferguson-Resmondo was in possession of a weapon on the school campus.  He was escorted off his school bus by a school resource officer. He reached for his waistband when asked if he was in possession of any forbidden item, according to an arrest report.The sixth grader was placed in handcuffs at which time a loaded Sterling .25 caliber automatic pistol was recovered from his waistband.

He was escorted to the SRO’s office, where his bookbag was searched. The report states a razor knife and three prescription medication pills including Ziprasidone, an antipsychotic drug, and Lisdexamfetamine, a drug commonly used to treat ADHD, according to the National Institute of Health.

Ferguson-Resmondo was transported to the Department of Juvenile Justice  and charged with possession of a concealed weapon, brandishing a firearm or destructive device on school grounds, and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. All of the charges are felonies, and he has been charged as a juvenile.

Court documents reveal on Monday, just a day prior to his arrest, Ferguson-Resmondo turned over two pocketknives and two .25 automatic rounds of ammunition to a teacher under the Escambia County School District’s Safe Harbor program that allows the surrender of prohibited items.

On January 25, Harris was charged with possession of a weapon on school property, a third degree felony. He will be tried as an adult.

The firearm incident began when a teacher observed Harris not doing his classwork and using his cellphone, against classroom rules. He refused to place his cellphone in a designated area, a teacher reported. Inside his backpack, officials reported finding a black handgun tightly wrapped in a pair of gym shorts.

Court documents say the backpack contained a .380 caliber Glock handgun loaded with five live rounds and a magazine.

In late November, Harris threatened several staff members at Camelot Academy, stating “I will fire you up and spark your ass”, according to court documents.

Details concerning the arrest of Shields at Bellview Middle were not immediately available. He was charged as juvenile.

Editor’s note: Escambia County School District Associate Superintendent Norm Ross says suspect Terrance Anton Harris, Jr. is accused of having a gun at George Stone Technical Center, not West Florida High School as originally indicated.  Both schools share the same physical address at 2400 Longleaf Drive, according to their respective websites, and the West Florida High School SRO responded to the incident.

Bratt Elementary Dedicates Little Free Library In Century

February 16, 2018

Bratt Elementary School dedicated their second community Little Free Library in Century Thursday afternoon, two years to the date that an EF-3 tornado ravaged Century.

The Little Free Library is located on the lawn of  Escambia Community Clinics Century Pediatrics and Pediatric Dental Clinic on Church Street.

In an effort to promote literacy, Bratt Elementary collected over 500 children’s books to stock new Little Free Libraries in Century and Bratt.

The Little Free Library concept is simple — anyone from the community may borrow a book or keep a book or add a book to the library. Anyone taking a book or two from library does not need to return that exact book, and there are no due dates. The library is currently supplied with mostly children’s books, but donations of more books for adults would be greatly appreciated.

Bratt students also dedicated a Little Free Library on Wednesday at the Travis Nelson Park in Bratt. Both libraries are open sunrise to sunset daily.

To read more about the Bratt Little Free Library, click here.

Fore more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos.

Killer Of UWF Student Exhausts State Death Sentence Appeals

February 16, 2018

With the scheduled execution a week away, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Death Row inmate Eric Scott Branch

Justices issued a 15-page unanimous opinion that included denying Branch’s request for a stay of the February 22 execution.

Branch, now 47, was sentenced to death in the 1993 sexual assault and murder in Escambia County of University of West Florida student Susan Morris.

In the appeal, Branch’s attorneys argued, in part, that Branch was 21 at the time of the murder and that brain development continues into the mid-20s, according to court documents. As a result, they contended he should be considered like a juvenile for death-penalty purposes.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the death penalty for people under age 18 because it would violate an Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the argument that Branch should be considered like a juvenile, saying that “the United States Supreme Court has continued to identify 18 as the critical age for purposes of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence.”

The Florida Supreme Court last week also denied another stay sought by Branch on other legal grounds.

“Branch will most likely appeal this decision to the federal courts,” the State Attorney’s Office said Thursday. “However, this concludes his state appeal process.”

Mental Health Money Sought As Florida Reels From School Shooting

February 16, 2018

Less than 24 hours after a troubled gunman killed 17 people — most of them teenagers — at a Broward County high school, a top state senator released a plan Thursday to steer $100 million to public schools for mental-health screening and services and to boost funding for school safety programs.

Sen. Bill Galvano is also exploring what, if anything, lawmakers can do to prevent the sale of guns to people like Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder after Wednesday’s slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Like Floridians throughout the state, legislators in the Capitol were reeling as details of Cruz’s troubled past emerged.

Several Broward County lawmakers rushed to South Florida after news of the shooting broke.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a graduate of the Parkland high school, called the scene “surreal.”

“I got here last night. My high school looked like a war zone. Streets that I drive all the time looked like a war zone,” Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said in a telephone interview Thursday morning.

The neighborhood surrounding the school was peppered with mobile command centers and mass triage units on cordoned-off streets, Moskowitz said.

Moskowitz’s 4-year-old son was learning how to write his name when his teacher’s daughter was mowed down by Cruz, who had a lengthy history of disturbing behavior that prompted at least two reports to the FBI identifying him as dangerous.

Moskowitz said he doesn’t know what to say to parents who ask him what lawmakers are going to do to prevent future tragedies.

“We’ll do the same thing we’ve been doing. Which is nothing. We live in a state that if you try to do anything with gun laws and you’re a local official, we will throw you in jail,” he said. “I mean this kid was telling everybody what he was going to do. He was basically wearing a neon sign saying, ‘I am going to come and kill people.’ And yet, he bought a gun legally.”

The Parkland massacre — the second worst school shooting in the nation’s history, after a gunman killed 26 children and teachers at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 — sparked outrage from Moskowitz and other Democrats, whose attempts to pass legislation imposing gun restrictions have been repeatedly rejected by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Galvano told The News Service of Florida his efforts, for now, are focused on taking action to inoculate schools from tragedies like the one in Parkland that left 15 students and two adults dead and 20 others injured, according to reports from local authorities.

“We have to address the things that we can take immediate action on that aren’t steeped in controversy, such as being more aggressive on mental health and illness, making sure we are taking steps, physically, at our schools to make it more difficult for a perpetrator to conduct this type of activity. And then having the resources available so that schools can have the security they need,” said the Bradenton Republican, who is slated to take over as Senate president after the November elections.

Galvano’s proposal would more than double the $40 million now earmarked for a Senate plan that would create a special category for mental health in the annual funding formula for Florida’s 67 school districts. Under the proposal (SB 1434), school districts, as well as charter schools, would have to develop mental-health plans that would be submitted for review to the state.

The mental health plans would have to include partnerships with at least one community program or agency to provide “prevention, diagnosis and treatment services for students.” The services would be aimed at reducing social, emotional or behavioral problems in at-risk students and could deal with issues such as bullying, trauma and violence.

“How do we get help to the kids that have issues, so that it doesn’t escalate to where we are now. That unites us. There is no one that disagrees with that concept, no one. It’s just a question of how we do it, and how much money we put into it,” Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who’s sponsoring the legislation, told the News Service on Thursday.

The Senate’s proposed $87 billion state budget for the upcoming year also includes a $13 million increase for “safe school funding,” money that can be used to pay for school resource officers, among other things. The House budget proposal keeps safe school funding at its current $64 million level, which is 10 percent less than the state gave to school districts for the program a decade ago.

“We may have to refocus those dollars and make sure that those dollars are doing what they are actually supposed to do and not going to bonuses and things like that, and put additional dollars on top of it,” Galvano said.

According to Galvano, only 1,500 of the state’s 4,000 schools have dedicated school resource officers, although some schools rely on sheriff’s deputies to provide security.

“Some of these dollars need to be available to fill in the gap,” he said.

School districts are also required to perform safety and security audits, something Galvano said he pushed as an education committee chairman following the Sandy Hook shooting. Galvano said the audits haven’t been completed yet, “and that needs to happen.”

Rep. Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who will become House speaker in November, told the News Service his chamber is open to discussions about the mental-health funding for schools, with a caveat.

“If we take a real comprehensive view and we try to really find a solution, we don’t simply take a large amount of money, move it in a direction, and then walk away feeling like we prevented this,” Oliva said. “Especially in light of a terrible tragedy, we should rush to the conversation. We should not rush to the conclusion.”

In Parkland, Moskowitz — who said he waited with parents Wednesday night as law enforcement officials informed them whether their children had survived — welcomed news of the Senate proposal.

“Something is better than nothing. So I’ll take anything. Give me something to go back to these parents and say, ‘This time was different. We did something,’ ” he said.

Republican leaders expressed remorse and sent prayers of support to victims and survivors of the Parkland shooting. But they avoided talk of gun-control measures that would limit access to or sales of automatic rifles like the ones used by Cruz and a shooter who killed 49 clubgoers at a popular Orlando gay bar less than two years ago.

But Gov. Rick Scott, on the scene in Parkland, said Thursday he wants to explore “how to make sure individuals with mental illness do not touch a gun.”

Florida law bars people who have been involuntarily committed under the Baker Act from purchasing firearms. A 2013 law expanded that prohibition to individuals who voluntarily admit themselves for mental-health treatment.

But Scott indicated he might want an even broader prohibition.

“If someone is mentally ill, they should not have access to a gun,” Scott said.

Galvano said he, too, is exploring such a possibility, but stopped short of opening a debate on the emotionally charged gun-control issue.

“We need to explore that issue and understand both the political realities and then the physical realities of someone who has a chronic history of posting things on social media that a lay person could identify as warped. How someone like that, in the existing system, could end up with a firearm that ultimately engages in this,” he said.

But when asked where state law fell short, and what can be done, Galvano admitted he doesn’t yet know.

“I’m looking into that. We’re going to have that discussion. I don’t have a specific answer right now. But we can’t ignore that aspect of it,” he said. “While we’re off having a debate, there are things we can do today to make our students safer.”

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Century Celebrates Tornado Recovery With Tree Giveaway

February 16, 2018

Thursday, Cqentury celebrated their recovery progress following and EF-3 tornado two years ago with a tree giveaway.

The storm tore through the town with winds of up to 152 mph, damaging or destroying over 100 homes and businesses on February 15, 2016.

The Florida Forest Service made free one gallon potted shumard oak, river birch and fringe trees available to area residents.

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


Escambia Supervisor Of Elections Registers Northview Students To Vote

February 16, 2018

The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office visited Northview High School Thursday to give students a chance to register to vote. Students that were 16 or 17 years old were able to per-regsiter.  Students who missed the chance to register, or any other local citizens, can pick up a voter registration application at any local library branch, including Century and Molino, or register at a number of locations found by clicking here. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

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