Alex Orlando, Times Staff Writer

Alex Orlando

Alex Orlando covers crime, breaking news and features in Pasco County.

Orlando, who joined the Tampa Bay Times in 2012, is a second-generation Floridian who grew up in the city of Alachua. He is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he started his journalism career at the Independent Florida Alligator. He previously interned at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., the Tampa Tribune and the North Florida Herald in High Springs.

Phone: (727) 869-6247

Email: aorlando@tampabay.com

Twitter: @SAOrlando

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  1. Pasco sheriff, PHSC reach agreement on law enforcement academy

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco Sheriff's Office and Pasco-Hernando State College agreed Tuesday night on jointly running a law enforcement academy.

    After more than a year of conflict between the two agencies, the college's board of trustees approved the contract unanimously in a matter of minutes.

    "We've toiled in this vineyard for a while," said board chairman Leonard Johnson.

    The crux of the agreement, proposed and signed by Sheriff Chris Nocco on Aug. 18, allows the Sheriff's Office to appoint an academy director, who will be an agency member. The appointment, according to a news release, will give the Sheriff's Office more say in the academy's instructor hiring....

  2. Dade City's Wild Things damaged in weekend storms

    Wildlife

    DADE CITY — Kathy Stearns was tending to the leopards Sunday night when a crashing sound tore through her zoo.

    Heavy rains last week had saturated the soil at Dade City's Wild Things, a 22-acre nonprofit zoo that offers tours and animal encounters, enough to give up the roots of an old oak tree. The behemoth tree gradually tipped, bringing four other trees with it on top of two tiger and panther cages and a concession stand, flattening a drink cooler....

  3. Pastor saddened by burglary at Hudson charity's warehouse

    Crime

    HUDSON — The Rev. Jim Campbell unlocked the warehouse door that's been boarded up with plywood for years. On the wood, spray paint spelled out a plea to conspiring vandals: "Nothing left."

    The doors have been that way since before Campbell's organization, the Rope Center, which gives food and living assistance to the homeless, bought the warehouse. The words aren't true: the building holds 30,000 blankets, thousands of ready-to-eat meals and other provisions for the needy. Now it serves as a reminder of how even a charity can fall victim to greed....

    The Rev. Jim Campbell’s organization, the Rope Center, keeps 30,000 blankets, thousands of ready-to-eat meals and other provisions for the needy at this warehouse in Hudson, which was burglarized and vandalized recently.
  4. Pasco spice arrests net three suspects

    Crime

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Everyone involved was arrested Saturday afternoon when, police say, two teens robbed a synthetic marijuana dealer at gunpoint.

    According to a New Port Richey Police Department report, Clarence Moore, 19, and his 15-year-old accomplice walked into room 210 at the Rodeway Inn, 6826 U.S. 19, where Virgil Lyons was living.

    Moore would later tell officers that Lyons owed him money in previous drug deals, according to police Sgt. Erik Jay. Moore brandished a gun and put it to Lyons' back. Then he and the other teen, whom the Times is not naming because of his age, filled a bag with 36 packages of spice that Lyons was selling....

  5. Port Richey men found asleep in road, arrested

    Crime

    Mark Yerkes

    Mark Yerkes, 29

    Jonathan Ortiz

    Jonathan Ortiz, 22...

  6. San Antonio plans lawsuit against St. Leo in warehouse dispute

    Local Government

    SAN ANTONIO — The city plans to sue the adjacent town of St. Leo for its approval of a university's plan to build a warehouse along a residential street.

    San Antonio commissioners voted Tuesday to have their lawyer Brian Bolves draft a lawsuit against the town on the grounds that the approval violates St. Leo's comprehensive land-use plan and land development code. The suit also contends that building the warehouse would create a potentially dangerous situation on Pompanic Street, a narrow road whose center line serves as the border between St. Leo and San Antonio....

  7. CSX vows changes after train stoppages in Dade City

    Public Safety

    DADE CITY — After being blasted by public officials, railroad giant CSX vowed to change its practices in the future.

    The company pledged to notify local officials when a train is stopped — something it failed to do during two incidents in the past six weeks — and said crews have been told to separate train cars at railroad crossings to let drivers through.

    "We understand the frustrations of residents and local officials and are making operational adjustments," wrote Kristin Seay, a CSX spokeswoman. "CSX will make every attempt to keep trains running through Dade City except under emergency circumstances."...

    A CSX train stopped Tuesday morning in Dade City for about an hour an a half, prompting police to have to escort residents to the lone intersection left clear. Five weeks earlier, a separate train sat on the tracks for five hours and blocked access for east side residents to the rest of the city. CSX has apologized for the incidents and promised change.
  8. Northwest Elementary custodian accused of sex with teen

    Crime

    Todd Swearingen

    Todd Swearingen, 50

    HUDSON — A custodian at a Pasco elementary school was arrested Monday after, deputies say, he had sex numerous times with a 14-year-old girl....

  9. Three Zephyrhills teens charged with RV park arson

    Crime

    ZEPHYRHILLS — Three teens were arrested Saturday after, deputies say, they set three fires in an RV park, causing thousands in damage.

    Spencer Callahan Burton, 18, and two 17-year-old boys who are not being named due to their age, were drinking before they set out in Hillcrest RV Resort, 4421 Lane Road, according to a Pasco Sheriff's report.

    The teens set fire to the unoccupied mobile home in lot 205A and the blaze damaged the adjacent home, the report states. They torched an unoccupied vehicle nearby that burned so much deputies could not identify its make or model for the report....

  10. Argument leads to fatal shooting in Zephyrhills

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 26-year-old man died after being shot in the abdomen Monday morning, authorities said.

    An argument broke out between Joshua Moore, 26, and the mother of David Brian Usry at a home at 36008 Valleybrook Drive, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report says.

    Usry's mother later drove off in her car, and then Usry, 35, confronted Moore, sparking another argument that ended with Usry's shooting Moore in the abdomen, authorities said....

    David Brian Usry, 35, was booked into jail on a charge of second-degree murder. 
  11. Suspect held in Holiday hit-and-run that injured baby

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — Troopers have arrested a man they say hit a teen couple and their baby with his car last month and then drove away.

    The Florida Highway Patrol named Damian Ray Eagan, 29, as a suspect Wednesday afternoon and later arrested him in Brevard County.

    On July 26, Dakota Harwood and Jordan Johnston, both 17, were walking with their 4-month-old, Jayson, in a stroller on the sidewalk near Cincinnati Drive and Chatlin Road about 3 p.m. when a blue Crown Victoria drove off the road and hit all three, according to a report from the FHP....

    Damian Ray Eagan, 29, has had several arrests and convictions in Pasco County, records show.
  12. No one was restrained in crash that killed mother and infant

    Accidents

    TAMPA — No one was restrained in the van crash early Sunday morning that killed a 30-year-old woman and an infant, Florida Highway Patrol reports state.

    The driver, Ruben Molina — whose wife and infant daughter were killed — could face charges, troopers said. Records show Molina, 29, has a spotty driving history.

    FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said Florida law requires a driver to ensure that any passenger under 18 is restrained. He said an investigation is ongoing....

  13. Tampa Police end Sunday morning standoff

    Crime

    TAMPA — A seven-hour SWAT standoff that prompted police to block streets and evacuate neighbors early Sunday morning ended peacefully in the afternoon with a man's arrest.

    Alex Ray Crouse, 41, barricaded himself in a home in the 1300 block of 18th Avenue, according to Tampa police, in a standoff stemming from a domestic abuse report.

    His girlfriend left the home and ran to a neighbor's to call the police early Sunday. Officers were dispatched at 6:46 a.m. The woman was transported to an undisclosed hospital and treated for minor injuries....

    Tampa police officers gather outside a home in the 1300 block of 18th Avenue on Sunday where police say a man barricaded himself in after a domestic abuse report from his girlfriend.
  14. New Port Richey police make arrest in 2007 murder

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Authorities on Friday arrested a man in a gang-related murder committed nearly eight years ago.

    New Port Richey police say James Andre Paulin's shooting death on Jan. 4, 2007, was a retaliation between rival gangs. Paulin, 30, was found dead just before midnight with a gunshot to his back outside a mint-green modular home on Celeste Lane. It was Pasco County's first homicide of that year. ...

    Ramon J. Perez-Velez Jr. is a top-ranking member of the Latin Kings gang, police said.
  15. Pasco deputies: Electric shopping cart bandits nabbed

    Crime

    HUDSON — They meant to take the electric shopping carts all the way.

    Joseph Harmon, 23, and his 17-year-old compadre rode out of the Walmart parking lot, 12610 U.S. 19, each astride his own cart, with no destination in mind, a Pasco sheriff's report states.

    They made it roughly a half mile early Wednesday morning before the law caught up.

    Deputies seized the vehicles, each valued at $3,300, and arrested Harmon and the teen whose name is not being released because of his age. The duo said they "were going to take (the carts) as far as it would take them," according to the report....