Saturday, June 23, 2018
Public safety

37 treated after pepper spray incident at Brandon middle school

BRANDON — Thirty-six Brandon students and a school employee were hospitalized Friday afternoon after a student discharged pepper spray at McLane Middle School, authorities said.

It happened about 2:30 p.m. in a crowded hallway, with students moving between classes, said Hills­borough County school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

Authorities say 93 students and three teachers were affected — "coughing, watery eyes, scratchy throats," Hegarty said. A 12-year-old girl was taken into custody Friday afternoon on a misdemeanor charge of disruption of school function, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. She was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, where she was set to be released to a parent.

Solanch Echevarria, 14, described the incident as chaotic and "like a horror movie."

She was in hall 200, which contains mostly sixth-grade classes, when, according to Solanch, "all of a sudden someone started spraying Mace."

"Everybody was running out of the 200 building," she later told reporters. "There was crying and screaming."

Two of her friends were affected by the spray. One girl's eyes started burning, Solanch said, and the other girl's nose started burning and she had trouble breathing.

Authorities evacuated the hall and set up a triage in the school's cafeteria. And though many were affected, all injuries appeared to be minor, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office — including those of three students who had pre-existing respiratory problems, such as asthma.

Those three students were taken to Brandon Regional Hospital by Hillsborough Fire Rescue's "advanced life support" ambulance as a precaution, according to the agency.

Fourteen other people were taken to the hospital by AmeriCare ambulances, and 20 more were transported by a school bus. All were treated and released, the Sheriff's Office said.

At 5:30 p.m., authorities were interviewing a 12-year-old suspect in the school's office, at 306 N Knights Ave.

"Pepper spray does not have lasting effects, but it is really painful in the sense of burning in the eyes and coughing and that, of course, was the intent," Hegarty said. He later said criminal charges against the child are possible. Authorities did not release the child's name. Sheriff's Maj. Clyde Eisenberg said deputies are investigating whether the incident was premeditated.

McLane principal Frank Oliver said he thinks the student did not anticipate this type of reaction.

"We live in a time where kids don't take things as seriously as they should," Oliver said. "I'm sure the person who did this didn't know all of this was going to happen and didn't expect there would be all of this attention."

Oliver said he was very disheartened.

"We just got through a good testing season," he said. "I'm very disappointed with all this commotion."

Times researcher John Martin and Times staff writers Marlene Sokol, Keeley Sheehan and Will Hobson contributed to this report.

Comments
Authorities find

Authorities find "inmate" who walked away from Bilirakis event

The 23-year-old man who authorities said walked away from a New Port Richey political event while under supervision of a treatment center on Saturday has been located.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office described Nicholas Moore, 23, as both an "inmate"...
Updated: 4 hours ago
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Published: 06/23/18
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Published: 06/22/18
Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

CLEARWATER — Police detectives are searching for a man coined the "Bic Bandit" based on reports that he’s stolen dozens of lighters from the same 7-Eleven.According to Clearwater police, the man has swiped the lighters four times in the last month, t...
Published: 06/22/18
FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

DADE CITY — A Dade City man was killed and three others were seriously injured after a pickup truck and motorcycle crashed head-on Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Floyd Williamson, 72, of Lakeland, was driving northbound on U....
Published: 06/22/18
Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Georgia detectives on Friday recovered the body of Mitzi Marie Babb, a 43-year-old Hernando park ranger who had been missing since Tuesday.Her boyfriend, arrested Thursday on unrelated charges, has been called a person of interest in her disappearanc...
Published: 06/22/18
A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

PORT RICHEY — A 41-year-old Uber driver was arrested Friday after police said he pointed a firearm at another driver because he was annoyed that she was texting and driving.Philip Macchio was driving near State Road 52 and U.S. 19 around 12:30 a.m. F...
Published: 06/22/18
Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

A 28-year-old cheerleading coach faces charges for engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with a 16-year-old girl, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Victor Martin Valenty faces 10 counts of traveling to meet a minor, distributing ob...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership. Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, o...
Published: 06/21/18
St. Pete police: Three lieutenants lied about their work hours

St. Pete police: Three lieutenants lied about their work hours

ST. PETERSBURG — Three lieutenants responsible for supervising the police officers who patrol the city were found to have been faking their work hours instead of showing up for duty on time.In some cases, the watch commanders submitted time sheets st...
Published: 06/21/18