Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers military life, news and features in eastern Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 661-2443

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. Riverview boy mauled by dogs remembered for independent spirit

    Public Safety

    RIVERVIEW — Not expecting 4-year-old Logan Shepard to later wander outside the Riverview home he was visiting Saturday night, the boy's uncle let two pit bull terriers out of their cages to roam the yard. Moments later, they mauled the boy to death, Logan's father said Monday.

    The screams of Logan's mother, who discovered the gruesome scene, attracted the attention of deputies who happened to be nearby....

    Relatives say Logan Shepard was a smart boy who was excited about starting preschool. 
  2. Tampa teen beaten by Israeli police tells his story (w/video)

    News

    TAMPA — At times, it doesn't feel real. But then Tariq Khdeir looks at the marks on his wrists from where the zip ties cut into his flesh and he remembers.

    The reminders are everywhere: the ache in his ribs, his face on the news, the viral video that shows the police kicking him repeatedly. Now that he's home, it's almost surreal, the Palestinian-American teen says. Occasionally, he has to remind himself the boy in the video is him....

     Tariq Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American who has gained international attention after being brutally beaten by Israeli police and held in jail earlier this month, sits in his living room in Tampa, Florida, Sunday afternoon, July 20, 2014. Most of Khdeir's physical wounds have healed, but there are still visible marks from the zip tie handcuffs that were put on both of his wrists when he was taken into custody. He and his family recently returned home to Tampa this past Wednesday, July 16, after being released.
  3. Tampa teen beaten by Israeli police tells his story (w/video)

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — At times, it doesn't feel real. But then Tariq Khdeir looks at the marks on his wrists from where the zip ties cut into his flesh and he remembers.

    The reminders are everywhere: the ache in his ribs, his face on the news, the viral video that shows the police kicking him repeatedly. Now that he's home, it's almost surreal, the Palestinian-American teen says. Occasionally, he has to remind himself the boy in the video is him....

    Suha Khdeir, left, and her son, Tariq Khdeir, 15, sit in their living room in Tampa during an interview Sunday when Tariq recounted being beaten by Israeli police and held in jail earlier this month.
  4. Four-year-old mauled to death by uncle's pit bulls in Riverview

    Accidents

    RIVERVIEW — The deputies rushed to where they heard the boy's screams, but by the time they arrived the two pit bull terriers were standing over his body, and his ice cream bowl lay by his side.

    The dog's owner quickly crated the animals, deputies said, just as he'd done before 4-year-old Logan Shepard and his mother came to visit.

    The child was dead before the ambulance arrived....

    Logan Shepard, 4, died after being attacked by the two dogs Saturday in Riverview. The dogs were surrendered to authorities by the boy’s uncle, Billy Frederick Sr., and were euthanized.
  5. New fire stations coming to Valrico, Brandon

    Fire

    BRANDON — Several new fire stations will be coming to the area in the next few years, with one opening near Primrose School of Bloomingdale by next summer, county officials said.

    Construction on the new fire station on Bloomingdale Avenue between Hurley Road and Springvale Drive will begin in August, said Tim Donahue, facilities manager for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

    The new station will be an upgrade and replacement for Station No. 7, about 2 miles down Bloomingdale Avenue near John Moore Road. The building, which is more than 40 years old, was originally staffed by volunteers, Donahue said....

  6. Less traffic, Elvis and Boca on the way in the "The Mix"

    Human Interest

    Cop shop

    The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is collecting school supplies for students in need. People can donate supplies at any of the four district officers or the operations center in Ybor through August 10. While all school-related supplies are welcome, HCSO has identified the following items as most needed: crayons (8-pack, large), glue (bottle/stick), blunt scissors, pencil box, Ziploc bags, handwipes, two-pocket notebooks, one-subject notebooks, composition notebooks, spiral-bound notebooks, wide-ruled notebook paper, highlighters, erasers, #2 pencils, backpacks, protractor, tissues and paper towels....

    You can grab Boca-ditos at the new Boca headed to Winthrop Town Centre.
  7. Tampa native Josh Murray pays off in 'Bachelorette' fantasy league

    The Feed

    I check my fantasy league scores every Monday.

    It's been a tough season, but thanks to a local Tampa player, I've secured a solid second place going into the playoffs. I'm talking, of course, about Josh Murray, my remaining "bachelor" in this season of The Bachelorette.

    Yes, my friends and I have taken the mundane rules for one of America's fastest-growing passions and converted them into a competition built around televised love. And you thought fantasy leagues were just for men quarreling over their mythical squads of running backs, receivers and quarterbacks. Ha....

    Last week, Bachelorette Andi visited Tampa with Murray. She was impressed enough to give him a rose.
  8. 'Deadheads,' chicken-hating cows and free Slurpees in the Mix

    Human Interest

    Cop shop

    Squad members at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office have organized a softball tournament to raise money for a sergeant's daughter, who is battling pontocerebellar hypoplasia, a rare genetic condition that affects the development of the brain. Quinn's Bucket List Softball Tournament will take place Aug. 16 at the Ed Radice Complex in Tampa. Registration is open to men's and coed teams and closes July 31. Teams can find registration information at hcso.tampa.fl.us....

    Dress up like a cow and moove yourself to Chick-fil-A on Friday on Cow Appreciation Day. Free food will be offered to people “fully dressed as a cow” and those in “partial cow attire.”
  9. Steve Otto, longtime Tampa Tribune columnist, retiring

    News

    TAMPA — Columnist Steve Otto is retiring from the Tampa Tribune after over four decades of writing about community, politics and the essence of Tampa.

    Otto's last column will run July 13. Though it will be his last publication as a full-time columnist for the newspaper, he will still be featured regularly as a freelance columnist, according to the newspaper.

    Otto said that it wasn't his idea to leave the paper, but he was thankful for the support of the company and how things were handled....

  10. Beaten Tampa teen, 15, released from Israeli jail

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — A 15-year-old boy who was beaten and arrested in Israel was sentenced to nine days of home detention and released to his family Sunday morning.

    Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian American who attends Tampa's Universal Academy of Florida, was accused of attacking police during a protest before his cousin's funeral in the village of Shuafat in East Jerusalem.

    Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, Tariq's cousin, was found burned to death Wednesday in the Jerusalem Forest in what Palestinians are calling an act of revenge for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers three weeks ago....

    Tariq Abu Khdeir is hugged by his mother Suha after he was released from detention in Jerusalem on Sunday, July 6, 2014. A court ordered Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian American who was badly injured in clashes with Israeli police, detained at home for nine days, while police investigate what they say was his participation in violent protests. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean) DV302
  11. Domestic violence survivor launches new Riverview nonprofit

    Human Interest

    RIVERVIEW — It took her 13 years to gather the courage to escape domestic violence at the hands of her husband.

    Now, Lorianne De Loreto wants to help others — both men and women — discover there is a life outside of the fear. She wants them to know there are resources to help them move forward.

    De Loreto founded Visions of Hope International as a resource center for survivors of domestic violence. Many survivors, such as De Loreto, find themselves lost and wondering about the next step after they remove themselves from a domestic violence household. Many organizations exist to help women and men during the crisis stage, but De Loreto saw the need for a service that can help survivors past that initial intervention as they rebuild their lives...

    Lorianne De Loreto says her own experience made her realize what is needed to heal.
  12. Friends of FishHawk rally to help neighbor

    Human Interest

    LITHIA — FishHawk residents are rallying together to donate items and services to a local family whose daughter was diagnosed with a neurological disease that causes blindness.

    Brittany Mathers, 21, was diagnosed less than a year ago with neuromyelitis optica, an incurable illness that caused her to lose her sight and is attacking her spinal cord.

    When neighbor and family friend Kelly Glenn Rowjohn learned Mathers was recently hospitalized, she knew she had to do something to help. ...

    Neighbors are donating items and services to help recently hospitalized Brittany Mathers, who has neuromyelitis optica, and her family. They live in the FishHawk community.
  13. Review: The Voice Tour showcases real talent amid reality-TV spectacle at the Straz Center in Tampa

    Blog

    The Voice Tour brought NBC's Emmy-winning television series to life Wednesday night at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, capturing both the powerhouse vocals and the cheesy production antics of reality TV.

    To be clear, the Voice Tour isn’t so much a concert as a recreation of the show experience. At a concert, the audience forms a connection with the artist. Layers are revealed. A deeper appreciation gained. There’s a flow to the setlist and a rapport built between singer and listener....

    Josh Kaufman, winner of Season 6 of NBC's The Voice, performed as part of the Voice Tour at the Straz Center in Tampa on June 25, 2014.
  14. HART chairman: Too late for transit tax on Hillsborough's 2016 ballot

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The chairman of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board of directors said Wednesday that he thinks time has run out on the chance to get a referendum on new taxes for county transportation projects on the 2016 ballot.

    HART Chairman Mike Suarez said he doesn't think enough progress has been made to engage voters and identify projects for a referendum that has a chance of passing by then. The ballot question would create a new countywide sales tax to provide funding for road and transit projects....

    Mike Suarez, HART official
  15. Lawsuit settlement clears the way for controversial 'big box' store in Valrico

    Economic Development

    VALRICO — A long-disputed big-box development is on track to open next to the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library after an opponent settled a lawsuit against the developer and Hillsborough County.

    The settlement reached this week follows more than a year of public outcry, including allegations that the county violated its own rules and policies in approving the site on E Bloomingdale Avenue. Fred Brown, a member of the Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, known as CAN-DO, sued the county and Redstone Development, arguing against the legality of a text amendment to the land development code that paved the way for the development....