Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Roof collapse at St. Petersburg apartments displaces residents

ST. PETERSBURG — Her daughter lay beside her, so when she woke to a cool sensation her first thought was that the 3-year-old had wet the bed.

"Oh my God, girl!" Selena Johnson shrieked. "You better get up and get to the bathroom."

As she grabbed her daughter, Johnson's eyes moved up toward the ceiling, where the overnight rain seemed to fall unencumbered into her first-floor bedroom. With her daughter in tow, she roused her son in the next room and headed outside, where residents of the 24-unit Lakewood Terrace apartment complex gathered to escape their slouching ceilings. About 40 people stood there, wondering where they would go.

The complex, on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street S and 34th Avenue S, has a history of mold, leaks and code violations, according to the new co-owner, Aurelijus Baltusis, who closed on the property only days before. Months ago the city labeled three units on the second floor "unfit for human habitation." Many of the residents here were drawn not by views of Lake Maggiore, but because the previous owner offered no deposit and cheap rent.

Next door, Johnson's neighbor placed a plastic bin beneath a leak in his ceiling, but as it quickly filled, Keon Dawson abandoned hope and walked outside with the others.

A fire marshal from the St. Petersburg Fire Department arrived around 9 a.m., surveying the apartments, telling residents their ceilings were likely to collapse. The fire department passed out black tarps to cover mattresses and TVs; then the complex's power was shut off for safety.

Mayor Bill Foster even came, catching an earful when he told residents where they would have to stay — on cots in a church.

"Why would the Red Cross tell us there are too many people to relocate anywhere other than a church?" Louise Burr, who runs a nonprofit, asked in a tone one octave short of yelling.

"I don't know," the mayor said.

"Well, that's what we need, Foster," she said beside a crowd of mothers and children.

"If people can relocate to a friend or family's for the weekend … or maybe a motel," Foster said.

"We want a motel," the crowd chimed in.

Foster referred the residents to a city social worker on the scene.

He visited with Johnson and entered her neighbor's home. His shoes sloshed over wet carpet in a room that smelled like a sour dishcloth. Furniture, food, family pictures, work uniforms — all ruined.

Johnson stood outside with the neighbors, who sat on the steps and stared at the concrete.

Several residents questioned aloud and within earshot the mayor's power and vowed to vote for his opponent. After much cajoling, Foster led the social worker into the parking lot.

The social worker returned, flipped through his phone and placed a call to a motel.

"Do you have rooms available?"

The social worker arranged for eight, all on the city's dime.

Comments
Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds

Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds

His words and his pleas are similar to what we’ve heard from others in recent days.Kids deserve to feel safe when they walk into a classroom in Florida. More security is needed. More boots on the ground would be helpful. Mostly, more money must be de...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, calls relative after being reported missing

Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, calls relative after being reported missing

Seven months ago, Jalyssa Shannon’s older sister Janessa went missing, sparking a frantic search that ended with the discovery of the 13-year-old’s body in a Hillsborough County nature preserve and, later, the arrest of the girls’ father in her murde...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputies are searching for a man who they said broke into a home and raped a 71-year-old woman on Monday.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the woman was checking on a home at 7437 Heather St. for the homeowner at about 8:15 a.m...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Police identify man found dead in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police on Monday released the identity of the man who was found dead inside an apartment last week.Officers said it was Abdirashid Ali, 50, who was discovered around 3 p.m. Friday at The Courtyard on the River Apartments, 5217 Sonora Court.De...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

DUNEDIN –– Pinellas sheriff’s detectives spent their weekend luring in unlicensed electrical, plumbing and other home improvement contractors to a vacant home wired with cameras.It took only hours before a stream of people arrived to work on the outd...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Video: Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in brief court hearing

Video: Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in brief court hearing

PARKLAND — Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has appeared in court for a procedural hearing. Cruz said nothing at Monday’s hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, the first he attended in person and not via teleconference from jail. He ke...
Published: 02/19/18
Teachers say Florida shooter’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

Teachers say Florida shooter’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

PARKLAND, Fla. — The real problems started at least as early as middle school and quickly intensified. There were the vocal outbursts, disturbing drawings of stick figures with guns, constant disciplinary issues. There were threatening statements wri...
Published: 02/19/18
This gun owner said the Parkland shooting was the last straw. So he turned his rifle over to deputies

This gun owner said the Parkland shooting was the last straw. So he turned his rifle over to deputies

The Parkland school shooting inspired a Florida gun owner to turn his beloved AR-57 over to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office."As I struggle to make heads or tails of another senseless mass shooting in the USA, I can no longer offer only my ‘though...
Published: 02/19/18
Candlelight vigils tonight in Tampa Bay, statewide for Parkland shooting victims

Candlelight vigils tonight in Tampa Bay, statewide for Parkland shooting victims

Several vigils are being held in the Tampa Bay area and throughout the state to honor the 17 victims of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.The Florida PTA is organizing the statewide vigils, which will begin at 7 p.m. u...
Published: 02/19/18
Head-on collision in Tampa blocks EB lanes of Courtney Campbell Causeway

Head-on collision in Tampa blocks EB lanes of Courtney Campbell Causeway

A head-on collision Monday morning has shut down many of the eastbound lanes on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.Only one lane of traffic is able to squeeze through, according to 10News Traffic.Drivers are recommended to avoid the causeway and instead ...
Published: 02/19/18