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Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer

Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and founder of the narrative journalism website Gangrey.com.

Montgomery grew up in Oklahoma and studied journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2006.

In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called "For Their Own Good," about abuse at Florida's oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.

Email: bmontgomery@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Gangrey

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  1. Review: Mullen's 'Darktown' a compelling history-based crime novel

    Books

    Thomas Mullen's latest novel, Darktown, was snatched up by Jamie Foxx's production company to be made into a television series before it even hit shelves last fall. Just a few pages in and one can see why.

    The captivating murder mystery and police procedural is precisely right for this time, when it would do good for many Americans to learn something about the complexity of race relations and policing in the post-World War II South. This suspenseful novel penetrates that historical void in American policing that's easily forgotten but was the foundation for what has come to be known as modern community policing....

    Darktown is inspired by the real-life story of the first black police officers hired, due to political pressure, by the Atlanta Police Department.
  2. Epilogue: Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, 'the funniest guy in the room', died while on a run

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — When young Jamie Gaar began courting the woman who would become his wife, he tried to impress her by making oatmeal pancakes for her birthday.

    "They were awful," she said recently.

    He tried again, but made brownies this time.

    "I don't know how you mess up brownies," she said. "But he did."

    Alas, as the lovestruck are inclined to do, he kept trying. He devoured cooking videos on YouTube. He consumed columns from Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times. He asked chefs he bumped into why certain spices work well together on the palate while others clash....

    An improv comic and culinary wizard, Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, 32, was equally comfortable entertaining onstage as he was at home entertaining with his wife of eight years. He died Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.
  3. Closing of Ringling Bros. circus brings back 146 years of memories

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    You've heard, of course. The curtain has come down on The Greatest Show on Earth. Barring unexpected salvation, Sunday's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show will be the last here. In May, after 146 years, it all comes to a stop.

    The news has given way to nostalgia.

    "I was 6 months old my first time," said Richard Knight Sr., 35, sitting outside Amalie Arena earlier this week, waiting on the show. "I've seen the pictures, me smiling. Dad was rarely around. My mom always told me, 'You were happiest at the circus.' "...

    Children dance along as clown Brian Wright does the robot at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus "pre-show" at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. The circus has announced it will be shutting down in 2017 after more than a hundred years in operation.
  4. Seminole Heights hipsters wake up to a sign of the times … and they revolt

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The prankster went to work under the cover of darkness, sometime after last call. When the sun came up one recent Saturday morning and the tattooed denizens of Old Seminole Heights began to trickle into the Independent Bar and Cafe, they noticed the sign on the opposite side of Florida Avenue, planted near the edge of a recently cleared construction site.

    "COMING SOON!" it taunted. "WORLD OF BEER."...

    This photo was circulated earlier this month after a mystery prankster erected a fake World of Beer sign on Florida Avenue.
  5. Ruskin man who landed gyrocopter on Capitol lawn is free from prison

    Human Interest

    RUSKIN — Doug Hughes, the former mailman who landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last year to protest government corruption, returned home on Wednesday, his 62nd birthday, after serving three months of a four-month prison sentence at Federal Detention Center Miami....

  6. Boys' remains from troubled Dozier school to be buried in Tallahassee, memorial to be erected on school grounds

    Human Interest

    MARIANNA — The bones came up from the red earth of Jackson County, from a forgotten corner of the campus of Florida's oldest reform school. Putting them back into the ground, deciding how and where the remains of boys who died in state custody should spend eternity, proved hard.

    After a tense, emotional, five-hour meeting of a task force charged with making that decision, the nine-member board voted to recommend that the legislature rebury the boys somewhere in Tallahassee and erect some sort of monument at the reform school, acknowledging the school's history....

    The exterior of the White House, a small building on the campus of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys where dozens of men have alleged they were beaten by members of the schools staff. [Times (2014)]
  7. Review: 'One in a Billion' a gripping true story of scientists' race to save a little boy

    Books

    Imagine you have a 4-year-old boy with bright blue eyes and a high-pitched voice, a boy who won't remove his Batman mask and loves Bagel Bites so much he cuddles with a bag of them at night. Now imagine that the boy has an illness that has stymied his growth and causes him scream-session pain, an illness that creates fistulas, or tiny holes, in his intestine, causing stool to drain into his abdomen and leak out unnatural holes in the surface of his skin....

    One in a Billion: The Story of Nic Volker and the Dawn of Genomic Medicine is a gripping and true story of humanity, science and the fight for survival.
  8. Deputy improperly fired concussion round at Army veteran in Pasco County Jail (w/video)

    Public Safety

    On the evening of Aug. 5, an Army veteran with a history of mental illness was in the throes of an episode inside his solitary cell in the J wing of the Pasco County jail. Matthew Trevino, 29 at the time, had stripped off his clothes and was combative and mouthing off to a handful of detention deputies trying to conduct a routine search for contraband in his cell.

    A video of the incident, filmed by a detention deputy at the jail, showed Pasco County sheriff's deputies trying to get Trevino to "cuff up" — to extend his hands through the food slot in the metal door so they could handcuff him and execute the search. Trevino instead grabbed his genitals and mumbled incoherently through a small window in the locked door....

    A video screen grab shows a detention officer shooting at inmate Matthew Trevino through a jail cell food slot last August.
  9. Gyrocopter pilot reports to Miami prison to do time for protest in Washington (w/video)

    Human Interest

    TAMPA – He'll miss Father's Day and the Fourth of July. He'll miss those once-in-a-while mornings when his wife brings him Folgers in bed. He'll miss his daughter, and the newspaper, and 120 days of freedom.

    For his brash act of telling the United States government that it has been corrupted by the influence of big money in elections, albeit by landing his gyrocopter on the green grass in front of the U.S. Capitol building, Doug Hughes turned himself in Tuesday to the Federal Detention Center in Miami, where he'll serve four months of hard time....

    Flanked by his wife, Alena, left, and daughter, Kathy, Doug Hughes reports to the Federal Detention Center in Miami on Tuesday while his friend Mike Shanahan walks behind them. Hughes plans to keep his head down during his four-month sentence. 
  10. Before Orlando massacre, killer Omar Mateen visited parents one last time

    Public Safety

    PORT ST. LUCIE — Hours before Omar Mateen attacked an Orlando nightclub on Sunday, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded, he did something not out of the ordinary for him:

    He stopped by his parents' house to visit with his father.

    In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Seddique Mateen, 59, said nothing about his son seemed amiss during that Saturday visit.

    "It was just a normal day of life for him," the father said Monday. "I didn't notice anything. Not a single thing wrong."...

    Sitora Yusufiy, ex-wife of Omar Mateen, gives a statement to the media in Boulder, Colo. She fled from him in 2009.
  11. Omar Mateen: Angry, pious 'lost soul' driven to kill

    News

    FORT PIERCE — Inside the humble little mosque where Omar Mateen regularly came to pray, a handful of worshipers gathered Sunday evening and struggled, along with the rest of the world, to understand what had driven him to kill.

    On Friday, Mateen had faced east with the other regulars at the Islamic Center and bowed to a God who prizes justice and peace above all else, said Imam Shafeeq Rahman, who leads prayers at the center....

    A bomb disposal unit checks for explosives Sunday around the Woodlands Condominiums in Fort Pierce, where Omar Mateen lived.
  12. Former mailman Doug Hughes gets 4 months in prison for gyrocopter protest at U.S. Capitol (w/video)

    Criminal

    WASHINGTON — For 13 years, Doug Hughes delivered the mail for the United States Postal Service without issue. Now he's being sent to live in a prison cell for trying to deliver the most important message of his life.

    The former mailman from Ruskin, who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building last year to protest how political campaigns are financed, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 120 days in prison. Hughes also received one year of probation, and he can't enter the Capitol building or the White House without special permission from the court....

    Doug Hughes, center, arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Washington on Thursday with his wife, Alena, and his daughter, Kathy, 12. Hughes, from Ruskin, was sentenced to four months in prison for flying a gyrocopter into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C. [Cliff Owen | Associated Press]
  13. Awaiting his sentence for landing on Capitol lawn, gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes still seeks campaign finance reform

    Human Interest

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The protesters gathered under a gray sky in front of Union Station. They wore ball caps and skullcaps and stocking caps and yarmulkes and carried signs that said OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED and Democracy, not DOLLACRACY and Stop Legalized Bribery. One hundred or so had marched here from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, 140 miles through wind and cold and rain. A few hundred more had just finished learning how to be arrested peacefully....

    Doug Hughes reads some of the letters of support that he had received at his Ruskin home since he landed his gyrocopter on the west lawn of the U.S. Capital.  [ JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times (2015)]
  14. Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes ends challenge to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

    Blog

    Doug Hughes, the former mailman from Ruskin who landed his one-man flying machine on the lawn of the United States Capitol last April to protest big money in elections, has ended his run to unseat South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. ...

    Doug Hughes speaks to reporters outside federal court in Washington after a May hearing.
  15. Two more sets of remains identified from Dozier reform school excavation

    State Roundup

    Some of the boys from the reform school use to take lunch down to the graveyard. They'd eat bologna sandwiches and wonder aloud about the boys buried beneath their feet. The dead boys' names were lost to time and neglect and, if you believe the men who made it out of Florida's oldest reform school alive, the callous hearts of guards who took home paychecks signed by the state.

    It was always a mystery for Michael Littles, 58, from Tampa, who was sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys outside Marianna the first time when he was 12, in 1969....

    Anthropologists from the University of South Florida worked to exhume gravesites at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in 2013. A total of 51 sets of remains were found on the campus. [Times files]