The Bizarre World of Florida

Teens used cellphone to impersonate cops July 14, 2014

Two teenaged boys were arrested Thursday night for impersonating law enforcement, a felony, but their family says it was all just a prank.


The teens, Angel Torres Jr., 17 and Christian Jose Iturbe, 16, both of Cape Coral are accused of attempting to use high beam red and blue flashing lights from a smartphone to pull over a driver in North Cape Coral.

It happened on Chiquita Boulevard North. A driver called police and told them a vehicle behind him was flashing red and blue lights across the front windshield, and he began to stop because he thought an unmarked police car was pulling him over.

The driver realized as the vehicle got closer to him that it was a Nissan Altima and that made him feel unsure if it was really a police officer behind him. So, he called police and gave them the license plate number.

Police found the suspect’s vehicle as it made a moving violation so they stopped it. At that time, Torres was driving and Iturbe was the front seat passenger, and police discovered they used a combination of flashing their car’s high beams and used a Youtube video of flashing red and blue lights on Iturbe’s cell phone, according to police.

Cape police said: “…this particular case looks to be a criminally stupid prank”- but added that cases like it can be dangerous.

“Impersonators can have dangerous motives for trying to stop members of the public, and impersonators like this shake public confidence and make people second guess real police officers conducting legitimate law enforcement duties,” said CCPD Sergeant Dana Coston.

Back at the police station, police say Torres’ mother was creating a scene and had to be detained. She told officers her son was a rising soccer star and couldn’t afford to get in trouble.

Police say they should have thought of that before deciding to commit a felony.

We went to both of the teens’ homes, and spoke with Torres’ mother by phone, who said she believes the boys meant no harm.

Police say the man who the teens pulled over did everything right by calling 911 with he noticed something was amiss.


Girl, 12, took mom’s car for joy ride, got jail ride instead July 10, 2014

A 12-year-old girl was pulled over Tuesday morning for speeding on North Pine Avenue in Ocala.

sfl-flduh-moms-car-joy-ride-20140709-001The girl — who had taken her mother’s car without permission to visit a friend — ended up being arrested after she gave the officer a bogus name and age, according to the Ocala Police Department.

Officer William Joedicke was doing radar checks in the 800 block of North Pine when he noticed the white Chrysler in a southbound lane going 52 in a 35-mph zone.

He followed the vehicle, which turned right onto West Silver Spring Springs Boulevard. The driver stopped after several blocks.

Joedicke asked the girl for her driver’s license and registration, according to an OPD report. She told him she had lost her license and didn’t have the registration.

She did give him a date of birth, but only after thinking about it and asking her 15-year-old passenger, a friend, if she had it right.

The officer checked the information and determined it was false. He asked her to get out of the car, and she was taken to the juvenile detention center.

The girl’s mother was notified and was upset, officials said.

The girl told the officer that she was on her way to a friend’s home to talk with her because the friend was having problems. The girl waited until her mother was asleep before taking the keys and her wallet.

Her mother told Joedicke the girl’s real age, which is 12. The girl told him she didn’t know why she hadn’t told him the truth.


BUSted: Boy, 12, took school bus on 14-mile cross-county jaunt June 26, 2014

sfl-flduh-school-bus-joy-ride-20140625-001 Deputies have arrested a 12-year-old boy after an early morning joy ride across the county in a school bus.

Employees of the Wal-Mart at 10270 Front Beach Road notified aBay County deputy of a school bus awkwardly maneuvering through the parking lot at about 5 a.m. Tuesday, according to a news release. Though not causing a safety concern, it seemed strange the driver could not quite figure out how to park.

“It was just odd the way they were driving it,” said Roy Hoover, a Wal-Mart employee. “He was having a hard time parking it, like he’d never drove one before.”

When the deputy pulled behind bus 746 with his emergency lights on, young driver Michael Wade Propst stepped out. He initially said a man named “ Constantine ” asked him to get gas for the bus.

Deputies later discovered the school bus had been taken overnight from a residence at 508 Maine Ave. in Parker, and driven nearly flawlessly across Bay County to the Front Beach Road Wal-Mart. The actual bus driver apparently had left the keys in the bus, and Propst admitted to taking it by himself, police reports stated. The child’s motive is unknown.

No disciplinary action was taken against the bus driver Tuesday, but Superintendent of Schools Bill Husfelt said he plans to meet with the bus driver today.

Deputies contacted the child’s mother, who asked deputies to talk to him “since she was not having any impact on him,” an incident report said.


Police said the 8 year-old brought the loaded gun onto the bus so he could amaze his classmates at show and tell May 2, 2014

untitledAn 8-year-old boy took a loaded handgun on a school bus Thursday because he wanted to show it to classmates at Geneva Elementary School, according to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

The agency is looking into how the youngster obtained his father’s .45-caliber Glock, and a misdemeanor charge for improper storage of a firearm may result from the investigation, said Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma.

The boy will face some form of discipline by the school district, but the possibility of a criminal charge appeared remote.

“We have an 8-year-old who is in the third grade,” said Lemma. He added that the sheriff’s office wants “what is best for the child” and described him as a good student and “remorseful and extremely emotional.”

Relieved that a potential tragedy was averted, Lemma stressed that the sheriff’s office wants to raise awareness about safe storage of firearms and is offering gun locks and advice to anyone contacting the agency.

Similar incidents have ended in deaths.

In 2006, a Seminole County student was shot and killed by a sheriff’s SWAT team member after bringing a realistic pellet pistol to Milwee Middle School. In 1995, a boy at Lake County middle school was shot to death by a classmate.

“I know we’re very fortunate in this situation that we had a school-bus monitor,” said Lemma, referring to a school district employee who noticed some of the nine children on the bus whispering. After questioning them, the monitor took a backpack holding the gun from the student while the driver used the bus radio to summon help.

The gun was discovered shortly before 8 a.m. when the bus carrying nine students drove from Sanford toward Geneva. The parents of all the children were notified. The incident is being investigated by the Brevard-Seminole State Attorney’s Office and Child Protective Services.


Deputies: Heartsick teen staged her own abduction May 1, 2014

lavenderThe 16-year-old girl who told her parents she was pulled into a truck by two men Tuesday night has admitted she made up the story to try to get sympathy from her ex-boyfriend, Clay County Sheriff’s Office Col. Craig Aldrich said on Wednesday morning.

Investigators said the girl had recently separated with her boyfriend and was actively evading being found during a short but intensive search for her.

Authorities say Ankita Lavender called her father around 7:20 p.m. claiming she had been abducted near Ridaught and County Road 220.

LISTEN: Parents’ 911 call to Clay County Sheriff’s Office

Lavender’s mother called the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, saying, “The father is talking to her right now and she says she was kidnapped by two guys in a pickup truck.”

Officials said the phone had been shut off after Lavender made the initial call.
Over the next couple of hours, 40 Clay County deputies assisted by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office helicopter searched the area north of Middleburg for any sign of the girl. An Amber Alert was issued, but public notifications were not made before she was located.

About 10:25 p.m., a motorist driving on Henley Road at the intersection of Carlotta spotted a girl lying on her back on the shoulder of the road — less than one mile from where Lavender claimed she was abducted — and called 911.

Deputies said Lavender was emotionally upset and complaining of injuries from being thrown from the vehicle. She was taken to Orange Park Medical Center to be examined.

When questioned by detectives, Lavender admitted making up the story. She said she was despondent over her break up with her boyfriend and “decided to play the sympathy card.”

Neighbor Tanja Bennett, who lives just down the street from Lavender, said the neighborhood was lit up Tuesday night by the search light of a helicopter searching for the teen.

“I’m locking the doors, making sure everything is secure, and you know, I just went to bed thinking about it,” Bennett said. “Because it was late when we were reading about it. It was the last thing on my mind.”

Prosecutors will review the case for possible charges such as filing a false police report, a misdemeanor.

“My personal opinion is that she should be charged, but that’s a matter for the state attorney’s office,” Aldrich said.

Aldrich said the Sheriff’s Office throws all available resources at a missing juvenile case like this, “because you never know which ones are legitimate.”
He estimates Tuesday night’s search cost $5,000-$6,000, and they will seek reimbursement from the family through the courts.


Teacher Fired for Orchestrating Attack on Seventh Grade Student April 15, 2014

teacherAfter Florida teacher Dru Dehart got into an argument with seventh-grade student Radravious Williams, Dehart allegedly ordered a pack of older teens to attack Williams.

Dehart, who claims that Williams threatened her, is a veteran teacher at Northport K-8 School in Port St. Lucie.

Security camera footage from inside the school shows Dehart pointing to Williams and walking away. Mere moments later, a group of boys surrounds the teen and assaults him.

As the boys beat him up, Williams falls to the floor. The attack left him injured and traumatized.

Dehart was suspended without pay last fall.

On Thursday, after half an hour’s deliberation, the county’s school board came to the unanimous decision to fire Dehart.

David Miklas, a school district representative, said that Dehart “made a very poor decision that day” in using “students to carry out discipline.”


Vampires, nudists, snakes: Nobody does wacky like Florida April 7, 2014


By: Scott Maxwell

Last week, news broke that a congressional candidate in Gainesville had a secret pastime: impersonating vampires. And superheroes.

Some people would call this nutty.

In Florida, we just call it Tuesday.

Seriously, that’s not even our highest-profile vampire story. Remember the “vampire killings” from Lake County?

Some of our stories are heartbreakingly tragic. But so many are also mind-numbingly strange.

In Florida, we do weird the way Kansas does wheat.

Here, giant pet snakes escape. And breed. And then invade our national parks.

We have fish that eat people, alligators that eat people and people who eat people.

Two years ago, when news of the “cannibal attack” broke, the nation let out a collective gasp … until learning it was Miami. Then it all made sense.

We have killer amoebas, hanging chads and diaper-wearing astronauts. (All of which would make awesome rock-band names, by the way.)

We have a town named Christmas … where it never snows. We have the world’s smallest post office and a couple trying to build America’s largest house.

I used to think Florida attracted wacky people. Now I think it creates them.

Take my grandfather, for example.

Early in his life, he was a NASA engineer in Virginia — and as strait-laced and buttoned-down as they came. His passions were photography and crossword puzzles.

Then he moved to Florida. After Grandma died, we worried that our sober and contemplative grandfather would become listless and uninspired.

He became neither of those things. Instead, he became a nudist. (Lending more credence to the notion that it’s never the people you want to see naked at a nudist resort.)

At first, we were all: What the heck, Granddad?

But you know what? He found new life and inspiration. He’d travel down Interstate4 from Ormond Beach to Cypress Cove, where he’d pay strict adherence to the two main rules: Never take pictures, and always place a towel on the bar stool before you sit down.

Florida liberated him. And he spent the remaining, widowed years of his life happy. So you go, Granddad.

By the way, nudity is another one of our weird themes.

•”Nude man found dead on killer whale’s back”

•”Florida Lotto winner seeks to open a nude dude ranch”

•”Blind woman sues nudist colony over heavy dog”

Florida newspapers carry such headlines the way other papers carry horoscopes.

Some of that is understandable. It’s hot down here.

And I don’t mean happy, sand-at-your-toes, wind-in-your-hair hot. I mean sweaty-thighs-stuck-to-your-car-seats, armpit-stains-like-dinner-plates hot. It’s enough to make anyone nutty. And naked.

But it cuts both ways. When it’s hot, it makes us crazy. When it’s pleasant, we attract other states’ crazies. I mean, if it’s January and you’re already planning to run a scam, con or heist, would you rather do it in Buffalo or Boynton Beach?

This state is also lousy with newspapers and TV stations, meaning we have more ink-stained wretches and blow-dried broadcasters than your average state to tell all the weird stories.

Finally, there’s our melting-pot effect.

You simply can’t throw so many different cultures together and not expect some fireworks.

But you know what? That is also part of what makes this state so splendidly unique.

We have character and texture — a bouillabaisse of native and newcomer, sinner and saint, scholar and simpleton.

It’s a fusion that produces a weeklong bacchanalia in Key West and pioneering medical research at the Burnham Institute.

It’s the reason Orlando can turn out just as many people for a Veterans Day parade as it does for Come Out With Pride.

And it explains how a mild-mannered rocket engineer can feel inspired to start a new life by ditching his pocket protector — along with everything else he’s wearing.

And, yes, it’s also how we end up with some of the wackiest politicians in America — including a vampire-impersonating, superhero-mimicking, punk-rock lawyer running for Congress.

Just what we need … another lawyer in Congress.



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