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Monday's Quick Hits: Respecting life; airport suit, Part 2; Friday night football

A story by Times staffers Danny Valentine and Tony Marrero confirmed my thoughts about Hernando County Sheriff's Office Detective Rocky Howard: He was back on the job too soon.

Howard was one of two off-duty law enforcement officers involved in the shooting death of a disoriented, naked and armed woman, Inga Marie Swanson, on Oct. 20.

Howard returned to duty nine days later. Meanwhile, the Tampa Police officer who was with him at the gathering in Spring Hill where Swanson was shot has been assigned to administrative duties until both external and internal investigations into the shooting are completed.

Most of the other agencies Valentine and Marrero checked with handle fatal shootings by officers the same way as Tampa.

As they should because, as I've said before, a fatal shooting by a law enforcement officer is a big deal.

By all accounts, Howard is an effective detective. Nienhuis says he doesn't want to needlessly deprive the public of his services, solving property crimes. He also said he was satisfied from meetings with Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers that Howard followed the law and Sheriff's Office policy.

Okay. But as odd as it seems to have to remind anybody of this, death is important. It's at least important enough to allow the FDLE and the State Attorney's Office time to complete their reviews of the case. It's at least that important to Swanson's family and friends. It's at least that important to Howard's psychological health — to recognize that he needs more time to recover from this, and to assess its potential long-term emotional consequences, than to get over a bad head cold.

And it's at least that important to the public and other officers. Because Nienhuis, by sending a detective back to work before he can tell people exactly what justified this shooting — before it has been thoroughly investigated — is sending a disrespectful and dangerous message: Taking a life is not really such a big deal.

•••

Back to another issue I wrote about last week — the Hillsborough Aviation Authority's decision to sue its Hernando County counterpart and the Hernando County Commission for adopting the name Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport for what has been known as the Hernando County Airport.

Turns out, people in our county are not as united on this issue as I thought. Many of the pilots and other residents who opposed the recent construction of an air-traffic control tower at the airport also oppose its renaming. They let me know in the comments under my column and in a couple of emails.

One of their points is certainly valid. The money spent fighting this suit — and who knows how much that will turn out to be — could be better spent upgrading the airport itself. And, yes, it's true the folks involved with the Hernando airport should have known this suit was coming.

Still, here's what I see out of the Hernando authority and the Office of Business Development: energy, planning, maybe even a little bit of vision.

That we in Hernando are in a tough spot is becoming more apparent all the time. Not only did we bet too heavily on housing, but unlike regions farther to the south the market for new homes has shown few signs of recovery.

We need a new economic strategy, which is why claiming the right to promote our large, under-utilized airport and its access by rail and highway is worth fighting for. It's the most solid foundation we have for building a new business identity, one that would be a lot healthier in the long run than home construction.

Any of you critics have a better idea?

•••

A teenager's sense of embarrassment can be a powerful force, which is how my younger son, a sophomore at Nature Coast Technical High School, and I were basically forbidden to attend a public event Friday night by my older son, a senior at Springstead High School.

And that's how I came to introduce my younger son to the time-honored American tradition of watching football in bars, in this case the close, exciting game between the two schools, which we watched at Evom Lounge, near the corner of Powell Road and Barclay Avenue.

After a nice dinner at the nearby Chefs of Napoli restaurant, we noticed the game was playing on the bar's television and knew that it wouldn't be on at our non-cable-connected home. So we decided, what the heck, let's stick around and watch for a while.

For clarification, we weren't in the bar, though I don't particularly see anything wrong with that, having spent many happy Saturday afternoons with my Pop, set up with a bottomless glass of Coke and endless bowls of cheese popcorn, listening to Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek broadcast baseball's Game of the Week.

No, we stayed outside, at a table on the sidewalk, where we were surrounded by cigarette-smoking fans, parents and alumni of the two schools, and watched the big-screen TV through the big windows.

This reminded me of being a kid in another way. I've talked about how Brooksville unites around the Hernando High School team. But the same thing happens in cities like my hometown, where neighborhoods and suburbs and Catholic parishes harbored tribal alliances to Vikings, Bombers or Crusaders.

It's silly in a way, to invest so much in a sometimes-brutal game played by kids. But it was fun, too, this loyalty, tradition and passion, this cheering and trash-talking.

With my allegiance divided, I didn't do much of this Friday night.

Having been impressed by seeing Springstead beat Hernando a couple of weeks earlier, I was slightly disappointed that it didn't get to complete its perfect regular season.

But thinking about how my younger son and I had been deprived of seeing the game at the center of all this passion, at a packed Booster Stadium in Spring Hill, I kind of thought my older son had it coming.

Monday's Quick Hits: Respecting life; airport suit, Part 2; Friday night football 11/05/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 2:16pm]

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