Law & Order

BayNews 9

Tampa's Chamberlain High School is scheduled to be under modified lock down until school's out Friday. Police say a man had serious thoughts of committing a Columbine-style shooting there.

The man, Freddy Velazquez, turned himself in to a mental health center last week.

Tampa Police Corporal Curt Rojka says Velazquez told the counselor his plans.

"He checked himself in to the mental health crisis center last week stating that he was hearing voices in his head to do something at Chamberlain High School," Rojka said.

Sarah Pusateri / WUSF

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor dropped by the WUSF studios this morning for a talk on how preparations are going for the upcoming Republican National Convention. More than 50,000 people are expected to descend on Tampa for the four-day event.

While Castor says the majority of people who come to the convention will be peaceful, police are prepared for the minority whose intentions are anything but.

"The eyes of the world will be upon us," she says.

Abuse Victim Logs Onto Facebook for Help

May 31, 2012

A west Volusia County woman was being abused by her boyfriend and she had no means of calling 9-1-1 herself, so she logged onto Facebook instead.

Rhonda Torres told officials that her boyfriend, Edwin Otero, continued to beat her and she couldn't call 9-1-1 because he tore the phones from the wall and took her cell phone.

That's when she logged onto Facebook and instant messaged a friend for help. The friend then called the police.

The numbers are impressive: 50,000 visitors, including 15,000 members of the media from around the world. But what concerns Tampa police are the relative handful of people whose mission is to disrupt the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Bay News 9

When does a prank become a crime?

That’s the question people across Tampa Bay are wrestling with after three young men were charged with hitting a runner on Bayshore Boulevard with an egg.

Noah Grant, 17, expected his evening run on Bayshore Boulevard to go off without a hitch– until the egg struck him on the head.

It’s a seemingly innocuous object, but when fired from a moving vehicle at a high rate of speed, it becomes a perilous missile.

Courtesy of University of Tampa

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor says dogged police work by Detective Sal Augeri helped them crack the 2009 murder of University of Tampa runner Ryan McCall.

Police charged 22-year-old David Earl Williams, Junior with the murder.  He's already behind bars in South Florida.

McCall and a friend were walking home to the university in the early morning of August 19, 2009.  On the bridge on South Boulevard, they were approached by a robber who pistol-whipped his friend and shot and killed Ryan McCall. 

New Law Changes the Rules for Domestic Violence Cases

May 25, 2012

A new provision for domestic violence laws had been proposed by several groups interested in protecting abuse victims. It will allow previous interviews with the victim, like 911 calls, to be used in the proceedings, even if the victim refuses to testify.

Bradenton State Senator Mike Bennett was among the interested parties who helped pass the law. He said that the new law allows cases of domestic violence to proceed.

"Too many times on domestic violence, the victim is absolutely afraid to testify, for one reason or another,” he says.

Tampa Police Department

Tampa police have arrested a third teenaged suspect linked to the unprovoked attack of a soldier in South Tampa last week.

A security camera captured the beating and robbery by four young men that left the victim, an Army sergeant, with a broken nose and a knocked-out tooth. The black and white grainy video went viral and was picked up by national news media.

Sergeant Johnny Aparicio, based with Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, was walking home after his car had broken down during the early morning on May 13th.

Ashley Drive in Downtown Tampa Reopens

May 18, 2012
Google Maps

According to the Tampa Bay Times, one northbound lane and two southbound lanes of Ashley Drive are reopened  Friday at Polk Street. A railroad construction project in Downtown Tampa is moving along ahead of schedule.

CSX is replacing railroad tracks along Polk Street. The project was expected to take three weeks to complete. Ashley Drive was closed since May 7.

Officials say they expect to reopen all Ashley Drive lanes by next week. 

A huge trove of documents has been released by prosecutors in the Trayvon Martin case. Among the biggest revelations so far is that the autopsy reveals Martin had THC in his system. But police said the shooting was "ultimately avoidable."

ABC News, which is digging through the documents, reports:

"The autopsy report shows traces of the drug THC, which is found in marijuana, in Martin's blood and urine.

The new city ordinance regulates how many people - and which groups - are allowed to assemble in a large area around downtown Tampa during the GOP convention. That doesn't sit well with some people, including Mathew Medina of Tampa.

"I think the purpose of this ordinances is to give the police the power to arrest anyone they want at any time," he told council members, "by criminalizing everything."

Tampa Times

Two Tampa Bay area men, including one who was investigated for ties to an alleged September 11th hijacker, have been charged with taking part in an alleged $17 million tax fraud scheme.

In a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday, Osama "Sam" Mustafa, 47, and Khaldoun "Tony" Khawaja, 48, along with Khawaja's brother, Muawia "Mike" Abdeljalil of Virginia, are accused of stealing Social Security checks, filing false tax returns and lying to the federal government.

A Mother's Day Message From Trayvon Martin's Mom

May 11, 2012

The mother of Trayvon Martin has released a Mother's Day video  calling for all states to re-examine their Stand Your Ground Laws.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman claims he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges.

Sybrina Fulton says in the video released today on Russell Simon's website globalgrind.com that this weekend will be a painful Mother's Day for her... her first Mother's Day without Trayvon.

Death Came As No Surprise to Victim's Sons

May 9, 2012
Photo Courtesy of BayNews 9

William Bolling of St. Petersburg is charged with the first-degree murder of his wife, Vicki Bolling and is being held in jail without bond.

Detectives said William Bolling shot his wife three times after having an argument with her on Tuesday. She died that night.

But the victim's death didn't come as a surprise to her sons.

Courtesy Monkey Jungle

Largo Police say a man who's been arrested a number of times for DUI was taken in again today for going 70 on East Bay Drive early this morning. 

The Florida Department of Corrections says 36-year-old Eugene Carl Kotelman has served time before in Pasco County for driving with a suspended license.  And Largo police arrested him for Felony DUI.

He wasn't alone.  He also had a little monkey in the truck with him. He bonded out of jail on the other charges related to drinking and driving.  But he was arrested again, this time for Possession of Wildlife.  Florida Fish and Wildlife took charge of the monkey.

The "Clean Zone" is no more. Oh, it's still there, but now the security zone around August's Republican National Convention is called the "Event Zone.

The newly-named "Event Zone" will now allow parades by the public to last 90 minutes - not just an hour. And permitted events at city parks can go on all day, rather than just an hour. But the biggest change tentatively approved by Tampa's City Council is shrinking the no-go zone for most weapons and restricted gatherings.

Courtesy of Bay News 9

Two people are dead after a bad accident early today that snarled traffic and left drivers fuming for miles and hours.

The wreck happened at Interstate 4 and Alexander Street in Plant City at 6:10 this morning.

The Florida Highway Patrol says it all started when an aggressive driver cut off Michael Anthony Bennett and his wife Letara Tenell Bennett of Lakeland.  Bennett overcorrected and that sent his GMC Envoy ping-ponging off another car.  The Bennetts' car flipped and they were both ejected from the SUV. They both died.

The driver of the third car was not hurt.  Authorities are looking for the aggressive driver who caused the accident.  The car was a dark-colored compact. 

If you witnessed the crash, the FHP wants to hear from you at 813-631-4020.

No Gun Ban in Downtown Tampa During RNC

May 2, 2012

Florida's governor has said no to a request from Tampa's mayor to allow the city to ban concealed carry weapons in downtown Tampa during the Republican National Convention in late August.

In a  letter sent to Governor Rick Scott yesterday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn requested that Governor Rick Scott issue an executive order prohibiting the transportation of firearms in downtown Tampa during the August 27-30 RNC.

A 2011 Florida law bars cities and counties from passing local laws regulating firearms or ammunition,

Crime Drops in Hillsborough County

Apr 30, 2012

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released some data Monday that says Hillsborough County's crime index fell 12.7 percent last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The FDLE includes murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle thefts in its annual statistics.

Even though Tampa Bay area officials have been seeing an increase in tax fraud, the FDLE doesn't include that in it's data.

First, an Orlando judge ruled drug testing welfare recipients unconstitutional. Now, federal judge Ursula Ungaro from Miami has ruled Governor Scott's drug testing of state employees is also unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and another state union challenged Governor Scott's Executive Order from last year to drug test state employees. ACLU-FL said it violated fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and Thursday Ungaro agreed.

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