Make us your home page
Instagram

Buckhorn's joke about pointing machine guns at media draws fire

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a  Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year.

TAMPA — At a time when journalists are under fire both literally and figuratively, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s “joke” this week at a military conference about pointing twin 50 caliber machine guns at journalists and watching them “cry like little girls” rankled several reporters in the room.

Buckhorn’s remarks at the Special Operations Industry Conference quickly became fodder for the Facebook page of Military Reporters & Editors, which represents about 300 journalists.

“Personally, I was appalled,” wrote Susan Katz Keating, a freelance writer and organization board member who was in the conference room Tuesday for Buckhorn’s keynote address. Katz Keading had guns pointed at her while covering unrest in Northern Ireland in 1988.

Buckhorn said his critics are being overly sensitive. “I think that is a silly reaction,” he said of those upset by a story he has told “a dozen times.”

But some journalists in the room said they weren’t being thin-skinned. No skin is thick enough to stop a bullet or bomb blast, something Daily Beast national security reporter Kim Dozier knows all too well. …

Full Story

Post reports: Russia probe reaches current White House official

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 19 in Washington.

Olivier Douliery | Abaca Press via TNS

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 19 in Washington.

WASHINGTON — The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, the Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

According to the Post, these people say the senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president. The Post said they would not further identify the official.

Separately, the New York Times reported Friday afternoon that President Donald Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing FBI Director James B. Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him. The Times’ report cited a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the New York Times, which said the document, was read to its reporter by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.” …

Full Story

Mating season is just one of the factors why two alligators have been struck on Tampa Bay roads this week

In April, a gator snarled morning traffic as it stood in the southbound lanes of the Veterans Expressway and reportedly snapped at cars attempting to pass it.

[Florida Highway Patrol]

In April, a gator snarled morning traffic as it stood in the southbound lanes of the Veterans Expressway and reportedly snapped at cars attempting to pass it.

In one week, two alligators have been involved in separate nighttime crashes in the Tampa Bay area.

Such instances are rare — but the phenomenon leading to these collisions is not.

A convergence of factors — it’s mating season, and hot and dry weather — are all coming together to make alligators more active. Especially at night.

“It depends on the temperatures in the air and water, as to how active they are,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Gary Morse said. “As we move toward summer, they tend to become more active between dusk and dawn.”

On Thursday night, a motorcyclist was seriously injured after crashing into a 10-foot gator on State Road 674 in Lithia.

Two days earlier, a mother of four escaped serious injury when her sport-utility vehicle struck a 9-foot alligator crossing Interstate 75 in Sarasota.

And just last month, a gator snarled morning traffic as it stood in the southbound lanes of the Veterans Expressway and reportedly snapped at cars attempting to pass it.

After the Sarasota crash, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Gregory S. Bueno told the Palm Beach Post that crashes involving alligators are rare along that stretch of I-75 in southwest Florida. …

Full Story

Lutz man takes troopers on three-county car chase and is later arrested hiding in a barn

David Russell Frey, of Lutz, faces charges after he was accused of leading troopers on a three-county chase in a stolen car and fled following an arrest attempt.

[Florida Highway Patrol]

David Russell Frey, of Lutz, faces charges after he was accused of leading troopers on a three-county chase in a stolen car and fled following an arrest attempt.

A Lutz man is accused of taking Florida Highway Patrol troopers on a three-county chase in a stolen car on Thursday, then fleeing the scene once officers stopped the vehicle in Pasco County. 

Investigators were able to find the man, Russell Frey, 36, five hours later hiding in a barn.

On May 18, just after 11:30 a.m., troopers in Sumter County noticed a stolen blue Toyota traveling east on County Road 48. The troopers tried to pull him over at a nearby Walmart, but the vehicle fled and troopers began a pursuit on County Road 48, then south on U.S. 301.

Troopers say Frey went through Sumter, Hernando and then into Pasco County.

Troopers used PIT maneuvers — pursuit intervention techniques — to force the car to stop near State Road 50 and Strickland Trail. Then, troopers say, Frey started to run away.

He left his passenger, 29-year-old Tatiana Santillan, behind. She was detained and sent to the hospital with minor injuries. Charges against her are still pending. 

FHP worked with Hernando and Pasco County Sheriff’s office to create a perimeter in their search for Frey. They found him in the area of Dashbach Street and Kettering Road. …

Full Story

Texas police officer faces murder charge in 15-year-old Jordan Edwards' death

Hope Waters, left, her brother Jeremiah, center rear, and their mother Yulise, center right, light candles with Linda Abrasion Evans, right, during a candle light vigil Thursday for Jordan Edwards in Balch Springs, Texas. The prosecutor's office investigating the death of a black teenager who was shot by a Dallas-area police officer had once filed a complaint over that officer's aggressive behavior, according to records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

Tony Gutierrez | Associated Press

Hope Waters, left, her brother Jeremiah, center rear, and their mother Yulise, center right, light candles with Linda Abrasion Evans, right, during a candle light vigil Thursday for Jordan Edwards in Balch Springs, Texas. The prosecutor's office investigating the death of a black teenager who was shot by a Dallas-area police officer had once filed a complaint over that officer's aggressive behavior, according to records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

DALLAS — A white Texas police officer has been charged with murder in the shooting of a black teenager for which the officer was fired, according to an arrest warrant issued Friday.

The warrant for Roy Oliver, a former officer in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs, was issued by the Dallas County Sheriff's Office for the April 29 shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. In a statement it released announcing the warrant, the sheriff's office cited evidence that suggested Oliver "intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death."

Oliver fired a rifle at a car full of teenagers leaving a party, fatally shooting Edwards. The teen's death led to protests calling for Oliver to be fired and charged. On Tuesday, the same day that the officer was fired, news broke of the Justice Department's decision not to charge two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the shooting death of a black man in 2016. And a white officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, pleaded guilty that day to federal civil rights charges in the fatal shooting of a black man in 2015. …

Full Story

Update: 5-year-old Florida girl found; amber alert canceled

The information released by the Marion Sheriff's Office about Alexandria Green and her possible companions.

Marion Sheriff's Office

The information released by the Marion Sheriff's Office about Alexandria Green and her possible companions.

An amber alert has been issued for Alexandria Green, a 5-year-old girl last seen in Dunnellon.

Alexandria is a little under 4 feet tall and weighs about 70 pounds. She was last seen in the 10,000 block of SW 186th Avenue, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

She was wearing dark colored shorts possibly black or blue, an orange T-shirt with the wording “Mac and Cheese,” and flip flops.

The child may be with Alan Green, a white male, 55, 6 feet 3 inches tall, 220 pounds, balding brown hair, and blue eyes.

They may also be in the company of Mechealine Mazakis, a white female, 47 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall.

Alan has a tattoo on his left bicep and on the left side of his chest.

They may be traveling in a 2014, blue Scion XB, Florida tag number AMLC10.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of this child please contact the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at 352-732-9111.

Full Story

TECO reports power outage in Citrus Park

About 2,830 residents are without power in the Citrus Park/Keystone area due to a transformer malfunction.

According to Tampa Electric's outage map, the outage is expected to be resolved by 7:15 a.m.

The affected area includes Sickles High School.

Full Story

Tampa Bay home sellers make big profits but nothing like 2006

Tampa Bay homeowners who sold in the first three months of this year realized an average gain of $30,100 over what they originally paid, a new analysis shows.

[Times files]

Tampa Bay homeowners who sold in the first three months of this year realized an average gain of $30,100 over what they originally paid, a new analysis shows.

Worried that Tampa Bay’s housing market is getting overheated again? Consider this — the average gain on a home sale today is less than half of what it was during the boom. 

That’s the finding of a new analysis out today that shows just how frothy the real estate market got in the mid 2000s and how much sellers lost when it crashed. 

Tampa Bay homeowners who sold in the first three months of this year realized an average gain of $30,100 over what they originally paid, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, the parent company of RealtyTrac. 

While that’s $12,600 more than it was at the same time a year ago, it’s nearly $45,000 less than at the peak of the boom in 2006. 

Another finding: People are keeping their homes longer. During the bubble, Tampa Bay homes typically resold in four years or less. But people who sold in the first part of this year had owned their homes an average of 7.5 years.

Nationally, “the first quarter of 2017 was the most profitable time to be a home seller in nearly a decade, and yet homeowners are continuing to stay put in their homes longer before reselling,” said Daren Blomquist, ATTOM’s senior vice president.  …

Full Story

Two U.S. troops die fighting ISIS in Afghanistan

Two American service members were killed and another received a minor injury during a ground assault against Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan Wednesday, according to the U.S. military. 

The U.S. forces were accompanying Afghan troops on the raid when they came under attack by the Islamic State Khorasan group in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, according to Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, the U.S. military spokesman in Kabul. He said a number of IS fighters were also killed. 

The U.S. and Afghan troops had flown in by helicopter then advanced on foot. The raid was in Mohmand Valley, the same region where the U.S., two weeks ago, dropped what is called the "mother of all bombs" on an ISIS complex. 

The bombing came just days after a U.S. Army special forces soldier was killed in the region. The bomb is the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat by the U.S., and it killed several dozen militants. 

The U.S. has been battling the Islamic State group in Afghanistan for months and estimates that it now includes about 800 fighters there.  …

Full Story

Fire at Clearwater storage facility causes nearly $1 million in damage

A fire at a Clearwater storage facility Wednesday night damaged 18 units and caused an estimated $1 million in damage, according to law enforcement officials.

Largo Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to the Public Storage facility, 14770 66th St. N, around 10:38 p.m. after receiving a report of smoke.

When crews arrived, they spotted the blaze and upgraded the response to a three-alarm fire.

“(The units) have a lot of combustibles in them — a lot packed tight,” Largo Deputy Fire Chief David Mixson said. “It takes awhile to get to all of the stuff.”

The size of the fire, along with the difficulty of gaining access, are among the factors that slowed crews down, officials said.

It took more than an hour to control the blaze, which caused about $300,000 in building damage, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it is not believed to be suspicious in nature, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokeman said.

 Times Staff Writer Kathryn Varn contributed to this report. Contact Samantha Putterman at sputterman@tampabay.com. Follow @samputterman.

Full Story

Suspect in Land O' Lakes slaying arrested in Hernando County

Jonathan Cobb, 39, is being sought in the death of Bobby Jordan, 52, who was shot and killed on April 26, 2017, on Hanson Road in Land O' Lakes. Deputies said it appeared the two men knew each other.

[Pasco County Sheriff's Office]

Jonathan Cobb, 39, is being sought in the death of Bobby Jordan, 52, who was shot and killed on April 26, 2017, on Hanson Road in Land O' Lakes. Deputies said it appeared the two men knew each other.

Hernando County deputies have arrested the suspect in a fatal shooting in Land O’ Lakes.

Jonathan Cobb, 39, was arrested Thursday around 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Hampton Inn, 30301 Cortez Blvd. in Brooksville.

He was being sought in connection with the shooting death of 52-year-old Bobby Jordan on Wednesday on Hanson Road. Cobb was wanted on charges of second-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm, deputies said.

Detectives first found the car believed to be driven by Cobb, a 2000 Dodge Ram 1500, in a Winn Dixie parking lot on Commercial Way in Spring Hill on Thursday morning, deputies said.

Deputies said it appeared the two men knew each other and were in the middle of a dispute when the shooting occurred. 

Cobb is in custody at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and is expected to be transferred to the Pasco County Jail on Thursday, deputies said.

Cobb is the husband of Debbie Cobb, vice president of Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Tarpon Springs and granddaughter of the original facility’s founders. Jonathan Cobb also previously served as treasurer of the sanctuary.

BACKSTORY: Battle over who runs Suncoast Primate Sanctuary leads to monkey death, lawsuit states …

Full Story

Police investigating after man found dead in East Tampa

Tampa police are conducting a homicide investigation after a man was found dead near Lake Ave. Liquors in East Tampa on April 27, 2017. Police, responding to a 911 call near N 23rd Street and E Lake Avenue, found the unidentified man suffered severe trauma to his upper body.

[TONY MARRERO | Times]

Tampa police are conducting a homicide investigation after a man was found dead near Lake Ave. Liquors in East Tampa on April 27, 2017. Police, responding to a 911 call near N 23rd Street and E Lake Avenue, found the unidentified man suffered severe trauma to his upper body.

Tampa police are conducting a homicide investigation after a man was found dead early Thursday morning.
Police, responding to a 911 call near N 23rd Street and E Lake Avenue in East Tampa around 12:45 a.m. found 39-year-old Curtis Eugene Thomas, of Tampa, had suffered severe trauma to his upper body.
The circumstances behind his death are not yet known, police said.
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

Full Story

Three thoughts on the speeches of the RNC

1. The most talked about speech of the convention was the one in which a disheveled Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair. This means bad things for Republicans and worse things for Americans.

2. Marco Rubio's speech was the best of the week. It wasn't even close. Politico compiled five good lines but didn't pick what was my favorite part:

My Dad used to tell us: "En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos" "In this country, you will be able to accomplish all the things we never could."
 
A few years ago during a speech, I noticed a bartender behind a portable bar at the back of the ballroom. I remembered my father who had worked for many years as a banquet bartender.
 
He was grateful for the work he had, but that's not the life he wanted for us.
 
He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.

I would've snipped that last "of a room" and ended on "front." Better period punch. Still, though, I was listening standing up in the lower level of the Forum, and when he said that my eyes got wet. It was the only time that happened all week.

3. Which is disappointing. What happened to speeches? Eastwood's speech was exceptional because it was so regrettable and Rubio's speech was exceptional because it was ... good. The rest were awful. Worse than silence. They said nothing and said it poorly.

Full Story

And they're gone

Snapped by Trip Gabriel of the New York Times.

Full Story

In defense of Tampa

Scott Finn of WUSF:

I find it strange that so many reporters were putting us down, because Tampa and the surrounding area, Hillsborough County, looks more like America than perhaps anywhere else.

Definitely. You can say the same thing, too, about Florida as a whole. Make fun of us and you make fun of ALL of us. The Gift of Florida: What happens in Florida is that all of what is up there somehow ends up down here, and so it's the most interstate, real estate, dredge-and-fill, boom-and-bust hothouse manifestation of the lying, climate-controlled moment when everybody in this country thought they could have it all, forever and ever. Florida is not some funhouse mirror. It is a vivid reflection. To mock is too easy.

Full Story