New Cell phone plus 911 calls add up to arrest
The first two times Gary Alan Pockrandt called 911 early Wednesday, he complained to dispatchers that his cell phone wasn't working, authorities said. Deputies came to his St. Petersburg home and found no emergency. Three hours later, he called again. This time, he told dispatchers he was upset because his drug dealer was mad at him. After that, he landed in jail. Pockrandt, 51, was charged with misuse of a wireless 911 system for making the bogus calls. An arrest report noted that Pockrandt appeared to be intoxicated when he made the calls. He was cooperative the first time deputies came to his home at 5905 39th St. N, authorities said. But not the second time. Before they took Pockrandt into custody, deputies noted that he had apparently taken his cell phone and smashed it on the ground. "This was a new phone," an arrest report states. "So it is believed it only dials 911 until it is activated which (Pockrandt) could not do in his intoxicated state of being." Pockrandt was held on $150 bail for the misdemeanor charge.
Crews put out fire near county line
Firefighters responded to a brush fire Wednesday that raged through 40 acres of land near the Hillsborough-Pasco county line. Eight units from Hillsborough Fire Rescue and personnel from the Florida Forestry Service put out the blaze at the Two Rivers Ranch, 40 River Ranch Road, near Thonotosassa, Fire Rescue officials said. There were no injuries or structural damage. The fire was ruled an accident.
Foreign license bill approved by House
The Florida House has passed a bill repealing a law from last year that requires foreign visitors to have international driving permits. The bill (HB 7059) passed Wednesday by a vote of 116-0 and now goes to the Senate. It is expected to pass there. Under the law that took effect in January, foreign drivers who didn't have the $25 permit translating their license information into English could have been charged with driving without a license. But the state highway department learned that the permit requirement violates an international driving treaty. Canadian tourists who drive to Florida rallied to change the law. About 14 million Canadians visit Florida each year. International visitors still must have a valid license from their country to drive in Florida.
Bill adds to limits on funeral protests
The Florida House has approved legislation that would expand a ban on protesting to all types of funerals. The "Funeral Buffer" bill (HB 15) was passed Wednesday by a vote of 116-0. It next goes to the Senate. The legislation mostly is a response to military funeral protests by a Kansas-based church. The Westboro Baptist Church congregation claims God is punishing the United States for tolerating homosexuality. Protesters often carry signs saying "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." The House bill prohibits protesting or picketing within 500 feet of any funeral or burial. The proposed law would apply from one hour before to one hour after the ceremony. A violation is a first-degree misdemeanor.