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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. 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."...

    Neighbors on Facebook reacted to this World of Beer sign, posted on Florida Avenue earlier this month, across the street from the Independent Bar and Cafe.
  2. 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....

  3. 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)]
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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."...

    Omar Mateen was frequently seen at Pulse in Orlando, said two drag queen performers. Other witnesses, though, say they never saw him there.
  8. 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....

    Omar Mateen, 29, the gunman at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, was described as antisocial and withdrawn.
  9. 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]
  10. 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 faces up to 10 months in prison when he’s sentenced on Thursday for flying his gyrocopter to the Capitol.
  11. 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.
  12. 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]
  13. Teen bowler finds himself on path of perfection toward sport's holy grail

    Human Interest

    CRYSTAL RIVER

    Everyone at Manatee Lanes had long since quit what they were doing and gathered behind the boy bowling on Lanes 9 and 10. This was a Saturday morning, Halloween.

    The adult men's tournament going on had all but stopped as the bowlers peeled off to cluster behind the kid throwing strikes. Nobody dared to speak as they bore witness to his magic. They didn't want to jinx him. Heaven forbid someone say "Good luck" and ruin this moment, this unbelievable thing they were watching....

    Christian Miller, 15, of Homosassa waits for his turn to bowl while competing  in a Tuesday Youth League meet at Manatee Lanes in Crystal River on Nov. 17, 2015. Preparing to bowl, at left, is Youth League member Hannah Roof, 16, of Inglis.
  14. Influential Salt Rock chef Tom Pritchard dies after battle with Parkinson's

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chef Tom Pritchard, who lied his way into the food and service industry and rose to become one of the most inventive and influential chefs in Florida, died Wednesday morning at his home in St. Petersburg. He was 74.

    He died from complications after a surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

    Mr. Pritchard was executive chef for Baystar Restaurant Group, owner of Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores, Island Way Grill in Clearwater, Rumba Island Bar & Grill in Clearwater and Oldsmar, Marlin Darlin' in Belleair Bluffs and Salt Rock Tavern in Oldsmar. He trained or inspired many of the Tampa Bay area's most recognized chefs. Known for his connections in the industry and his penchant for storytelling, Mr. Pritchard is hailed by many as a legend....

    Chef Tom Pritchard of the Salt Rock Grill prepares Portaranzas Cobia, using local fish. [Times]
  15. Florida mail carrier Doug Hughes, who landed gyrocopter on Capitol lawn, pleads guilty

    Criminal

    WASHINGTON — The Ruskin mail carrier who landed his lightweight gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in April to protest how money corrupts U.S. politics pleaded guilty to a single felony on Friday.

    Doug Hughes, 62, faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for operating a gyrocopter without a license. While prosecutors have asked for no more than 10 months in prison, Hughes' lawyers will argue that he should get probation....

    A Capitol Police officer flashes a thumbs up after inspecting Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter after it landed on April 15.