Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  2. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse


    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  3. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30


    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  4. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  5. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge


    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    His attorney said Jason Jerome Springer, 39, just talked, and there was “no true threat.”