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Morning watch: Pasco theater shooting case heads to 'stand your ground' hearing; why Tampa Bay has one of the worst public transit systems in America; free parking returns to Tampa's Hard Rock Casino

The latest news and developments to help you get ready for the day ahead.

PASCO THEATER SHOOTING CASE HEADS TO 'STAND YOUR GROUND' HEARING

Was it self defense when Curtis Reeves killed Chad Oulson in a Wesley Chapel movie theater that Sunday afternoon three years ago? A judge will have to decide. Starting Monday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle will begin weighing >whether Reeves, 74, should be immune from prosecution in Oulson's death under Florida's stand your ground law. Otherwise, Reeves will head toward trial on a second-degree murder charge.

WHY TAMPA BAY HAS ONE OF THE WORST PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTEMS IN AMERICA

In Tampa Bay, local leaders have debated ways to fix the area's limited public transportation system for 30 years — then time and again, chosen to do nothing, the Tampa Bay Times has found. We tell you why the system does far less to get people around than those in virtually every other similar-sized place in America in a special analysis piece.

TEEN GUNNED DOWN AT KIDS PARTY HAD SELMON, GONZMART AS MENTORS

Last Saturday night, Tee'on Milledge was murdered at the Tampa Park Apartments housing complex where he was celebrating the birthday of a 9-year-old with family and friends. What is happening to our society? How have we come to this situation where murder is the result of a birthday party disagreement? asks Richard Gonzmart, a mentor to Milledge, who he met as a 12-year-old fatherless boy five years ago.

TRUMP PREPARES FOR A CAMPAIGN RALLY IN FLORIDA

President Donald Trump is holding a campaign rally Saturday in politically strategic Florida — 1,354 days before the 2020 election.Huge rallies were the hallmark of Trump's presidential campaign. He continued to do them, although with smaller crowds, throughout the early part of his transition, during what he called a "thank you" tour. The Florida event will be his first such one as president.

TAMPA, HAVANA AQUARIUMS BEGIN DESIGNING A CORAL GREENHOUSE

Employees of Havana's National Aquarium of Cuba spent February 5 through 11 working with their Tampa counterparts on starting designs of a greenhouse to be built in Cuba and that will serve as an arc to grow and maintain coral in a controlled environment once that science is mastered. This coral would then be replanted in waters to restore the reefs.

EX-ENTERPRISE FLORIDA HEAD SAYS HOUSE GOP VIDEO IS MISLEADING

A propaganda video that House Speaker Richard Corcoran is using to build support for killing Enterprise Florida includes a heavily manipulated quote that makes it appear that even the former head of the agency has turned on it, when he hasn't. In the 3 minute video, the former CEO of Enterprise Florida Gray Swoope appears to say "Enterprise Florida may have lost its way." But the quote is a trimmed version of the sentence he actually said and takes him out of context, Swoope told the Times/Herald in an interview.

THICK SMOKE FROM BRUSH FIRE PROMPTS ROAD CLOSURES IN POLK COUNTY

Smoke from the brush fire that scorched 4,000 acres in Polk County earlier this week has prompted state authorities to close County Road 630 and State Road 60 Friday morning. The brush fire forced the evacuation of at least 800 homes Wednesday and has destroyed nine mobile homes and two single-family homes, according to Polk County Fire Rescue.

MAN FACES CHARGES AFTER DRIVING CAR INTO TAMPA LAKE

A man faces charges after police say he drove a vehicle into a Tampa lake early Friday morning. Leroy Henry was charged with fleeing to elude, driving with a suspended or revoked license, reckless driving, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage and violating parole, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

NEW PORT RICHEY WOMAN KILLED IN OVERNIGHT TARPON SPRING CRASH

A New Port Richey woman was killed in an overnight crash in Tarpon Springs Thursday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The man who troopers say caused the crash, 29-year-old Dustin Lee Rhoades, of Clearwater, was later arrested and faces charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide after providing a BAC of 0.16.

FREE PARKING RETURNING TO TAMPA'S HARD ROCK CASINO

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is getting rid of its controversial parking fee. In a news release, the casino said the decision to get rid of the $10 charge instituted six months ago is due to "guest concerns," as well as the re-opening of nearly 500 parking spaces that had been closed due to construction.

AFTER HANDLING LIFE'S CURVEBALLS, BASEBALL'S A BREEZE FOR GATORS CATCHER

Mike Rivera sat down on his parents' bed, knowing something was wrong. For months, his mother, Maria, had told him she was just sick with a mild liver problem. But after enrolling at the University of Florida on a baseball scholarship, he returned home early in his freshman year and sat down with his mom, dad and sister, Elsie. For Mike and Mike, it was time to learn the truth. "Cancer," his dad said.

Morning watch is a weekday feature from tampabay.com. Check in Monday through Friday for updates and information on the biggest stories of the day.

Former Tampa Police captain Curtis Reeves Jr., attends a pretrial hearing with his attorney Richard Escobar, right,  before Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City in January 2014. [Times files]

Former Tampa Police captain Curtis Reeves Jr., attends a pretrial hearing with his attorney Richard Escobar, right, before Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City in January 2014. [Times files]

Morning watch: Pasco theater shooting case heads to 'stand your ground' hearing; why Tampa Bay has one of the worst public transit systems in America; free parking returns to Tampa's Hard Rock Casino 02/17/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 9:16am]
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