Posts tagged Florida
Posts tagged Florida
This is one of those stories that just makes your blood run cold: Ronald William Brown of Largo, Florida, the 57-year-old proprietor of “Puppets Plus,” has been charged with the possession of child pornography and of conspiring with another man to kidnap and then eat a child.
The Christian Television Network kids program Joy Junction regularly featured Brown and his ventriloquist dummy “Marty,” who would warn about things like… pornography.
Brown, an active member of the Gulf Coast Church in Largo, and an accomplice, Michael Arnett, were planning to abduct a specific child who was a member of the church and who took part in Brown’s “Puppet Ministry Kidz Zone” youth ministry program.
Homeland Security agents who searched Brown’s home and tool shed yesterday discovered images of bound and gagged kids, photographs of dead children and a flier for a missing child.
Spy School — a Tampa Bay History Center program specially designed for teens — will instruct youngsters about surveillance, information gathering and disguise.
Agents and experts will teach children ages 12 to 18, offering tips on how to enter the espionage career field.
The two-part spy series is part of the history center’s traveling exhibition, “Spies, Traitors, Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America.” Spy School begins Saturday and offers a guided tour with curator Rodney Kite-Powell.
The program costs $60 per student but history center members get a $5 discount.
The Tampa Bay area might not seem like an obvious spy hub. But many retired FBI, CIA and military members live in the area, and one of the nation’s more high-profile spy court cases unfolded in 2001 in a U.S. District Court in Tampa. Also, United States Special Operations Command is based in Tampa.
For information on Spy School, call (813) 675-8960 or email Jennifer Tyson, the center’s assistant curator of education, at jtyson @tampabayhistorycenter .org.
No, there was no smell of napalm in the morning.
But there was the thunderous whump whump of low-flying helicopters, and even the jarring blast of explosions at the abandoned Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove early Tuesday during a military training exercise that jolted many unsuspecting residents from their beds.
“It was quite a shocking experience,” said Jane Muir, who was awakened around 1:45 a.m. by the sound of military choppers that later dropped rappelling soldiers onto the Grand Bay’s rooftop. “It was kind of that bizarre feeling that you were surrounded by wind.”
From her third-floor balcony, Muir then watched the soldiers fire off flares and smoke bombs before searching floor by floor through the darkened hotel, their paths marked by flashlights and the pop-pop-pop of gunshots. “The show of force was so overwhelming,” she said.
The maneuvers were part of a “realistic urban training” exercise for about 100 military personnel, and organized by the U.S. Special Operations Command, said Maj. Michael Burns, a U.S. Army spokesman. The exercise also included three military helicopters, and the use of simulated explosions and gunfire to mimic real-life military scenarios.
“They have to train in a realistic environment,” Burns said. “We didn’t use any real bullets,” he added reassuringly.
Miami police assisted in overseeing the exercises — but they were instructed to keep quiet about the exercises until late Monday, for security reasons. The police also blocked off roads around the Grand Bay during the exercise, Muir said.
“It was the federal government’s call on what was being done. We were courteously advised,” said Miami commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes Coconut Grove.
Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss said that a news release about the training was sent out around 5 p.m. Monday, but it went largely unnoticed.
The explosions, however, did not. A handful of alarmed Grove residents called the police and City Hall to ask about the armed choppers flying over their homes.
Muir, for one, would not have minded a heads up beforehand.
“I thought it was kind of rude, to tell you the truth,” she said. “One neighbor was swearing, he was so annoyed.”
But despite the neighborhood anxiety, the exercise went off safely and quickly, Burns said.
“It seems very high drama, but to us it’s kind of simple,” he said.
Miami Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.
Miami Beach police are intensifying enforcement efforts this Memorial Day weekend to control massive crowds and avoid last year’s chaotic finale.
Terrance Smith hasn’t had much difficulty selling South Beach as a Memorial Day weekend destination this year. The promoter, who since 2001 has pumped up Miami Beach as the spot to be for several hundred thousand members of what he calls the “hip-hop generation,” says bookings for hotel rooms remain as popular as ever — despite police-involved shootings during the weekend last year.
“People don’t think about something that happened 12 months ago,” Smith said.
Maybe not outside South Florida.
But when the expected crowds return to South Beach this month — Memorial Day will be observed Monday, May 28 — they will find that wounds inflicted by years of raucous, days-long street bacchanals were ripped open last year when 11 officers unleashed a barrage of bullets on Collins Avenue during their chase of a driver they said was armed.
The driver died. Four bystanders were hit by bullets.
This year, the heavy police presence, which some argue contributed to the tension, will intensify significantly. A checkpoint. Watch towers. Police in pairs on every corner. Drivers on all three causeways leading into South Beach — the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle — will be affected, with police surveillance on the MacArthur and Tuttle.
“What we’re trying to control is just the volume [of people.] We reach a breaking point that we just can’t handle,’’ said Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez, named chief in March.
Among the changes:
• Dozens of officers told to enforce what city officials have dubbed a “zero tolerance” policy will weave through crowds on the street and beach. In addition, pairs of police will be stationed up and down Fifth Street, Ocean Drive, Collins and Washington avenues. Assisting agencies have been told that after years of declining numbers, police expect to exceed the 1,010 arrests that in 2006 drew allegations of racial profiling from the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP.
• Come Friday of the holiday weekend, Ocean Drive will be closed, Collins Avenue will be one-way heading north, and Washington Avenue will be one-way heading south, creating a loop to control cruising and lead drivers into city parking lots. Roadblocks will be erected on many of the cross streets off Fifth, Ocean, Collins and Washington.
• Police will stage a DUI checkpoint from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday on the MacArthur Causeway, east of the entrances to Palm and Hibiscus islands. They will not stop every car, but if you are stopped and have an expired registration, you’ll get a ticket. If you have an outstanding warrant or fail a DUI roadside test, you will be arrested, police say. This is the first time police are establishing a checkpoint since the parties began in 2001.
• The Venetian Causeway will be open only to Miami and Miami Beach residents, although restricted access will be based on the honor system.
• License plate readers that use multi-angle scanners to record vehicle tags will be placed along the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur causeways to record just about every car that drives into South Beach. Recorded tags will be entered into a database that police will use to find outstanding warrants, cars reported stolen, expired registrations and other potential violations. Vehicles with tags that kick back violations to police will be stopped.
• Cameras that see up to a mile will be perched on four towers placed where officers can rewind and view video. The towers will be stationed in Lummus Park, on Collins Avenue and on the east end of the Lincoln Road Mall.
Police say they hope the new tactics and equipment will control the crowds that come to town not just for club events but for the jam-packed, nonsanctioned street parties on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue that have come to define the weekend since 2001.
Neo-Nazis are currently conducting heavily armed patrols in and around Sanford, Florida and are “prepared” for violence in the case of a race riot. The patrols are to protect “white citizens in the area who are concerned for their safety” in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting last month, says Commander Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement. “We are not advocating any type of violence or attacks on anybody, but we are prepared for it,” he says. “We are not the type of white people who are going to be walked all over.”
Because nothing diffuses racial tension like gun-toting racial separatists patrolling an already on-edge community.
Schoep, whose neo-Nazi group is based in Detroit, tells Riptide the patrols are a response to white residents’ fears of a race riot.
A group called the New Black Panther Party recently offered $10,000 for a citizens’ arrest of George Zimmerman, Martin’s shooter. Schoep said the bounty is a sign that “the possibility of further racial violence… is brimming over like a powder keg ready to explode into the streets.”
The patrols are comprised of between 10 and 20 locals and “volunteers” from across the state, including some from Miami, he added. He couldn’t go into specifics on what kind of firepower, exactly, the patrols had with them.
West Palm Beach, Florida, police are going undercover as giant Easter bunnies. As morning commuter traffic slowed to a crawl earlier this week, motorists saw a bunny with a sign reading “Have a safe, hoppy holiday. Buckle up!” And through the large, netted eyes of the bunny costume’s large head, the cop was watching them right back, making note of who had a seatbelt on and who didn’t, so nearby officers could ticket them as part of the state’s “Click it or ticket!” campaign. A similar program in Glendale, Calif. was shut down in 2010 for being “breathtakingly dangerous,” but in Florida, it has been pretty successful so far: In just two hours, 50 motorists were cited.
Nineteen days before Trayvon Martin was gunneddown by self-appointed block “captain” George Zimmerman, Manuel Loggins wasmurdered by an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy in the parking lot of SanClemente High School. Loggins, a deeply religious man, often visited the school to walk on thetrack and discuss the Bible with his daughters, who were with him on themorning he was murdered.
According to the most recent of several official versionsof the incident, theDeputy was concerned by Loggins’ “irrational” behavior, which involved crashingthrough a gate and attempting to leave the scene. Even this rendering of theepisode, however, doesn’t explain why a Deputy would shoot an unarmed manbehind the wheel of an SUV containing two young girls.
The Deputy initially insistedthat he “felt threatened” by Loggins. Within a day or so of thestory becoming public, the story had undergone a critical revision: The Sheriff’s Office claimed thatLoggins had to be shot in the interestsof “the perceived safety of the children.”
So zealous were the officers forthe safety of two young girls who had just seen their father murdered in frontof them that the department took them into custody held them incommunicado forthirteen hours while the official narrative was being worked out. In the words of the family’s attorney, “They just incarcerated them.”
Sgt. Loggins was black; his killer, Deputy Darren Sandberg, iswhite – and he’s back on patrol duty,without facing criminal charges or administrative punishment of any kind. Hisunion, displaying its customary gift for arrogant self-preoccupation, insistsLoggins was entirely to blame.
“It is heartbreaking that ManuelLoggins created a situation that put his children in danger and ultimately costhim his life,” oozed police union spokesperson Tom Dominguez said. “It isunfortunate that his actions put his own children into immediate danger andresulted in his death.”
That smarmy, dismissivestatement irresistibly reminds me of the radio exchangebetween U.S. troops involved in the Baghdad massacre documented in the“Collateral Murder” video.
Eleven Iraqis were massacred inthe unprovoked attack, and several others – including two small children – wereseriously wounded.