12/02/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Embattled Hillsborough County Animal Services director Ian Hallett has been transferred to the parks department, County Administrator Mike Merrill announced Monday.
Code enforcement director Dexter Barge will serve as interim director of the Animal Services Department, which has faced growing criticism in the past several months.
Hallett, who makes $104,936, was hired 18 months ago and tasked with further dropping Hillsborough's euthanasia rate. And while the agency has done so, along with increasing adoptions, it has faced complaints from animal welfare advocates about disease and botched euthanasias....
11/28/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — In a high-tech effort to battle crime, the Tampa Police Department recently launched a free smartphone app.
With a few clicks, city residents can submit anonymous tips to police and learn about unsolved crimes and "most wanted" criminals on their iPhones or Androids.
They also can upload photos, serial numbers and descriptions of valuable items — such as electronics — which can be immediately emailed to police if they are stolen....
11/27/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — Nearly five months after the Tampa City Council banned sleeping in public, two downtown entities have donated $3,000 to help shelter the city's homeless.
On Wednesday, the Tampa Police Department and Tampa Downtown Partnership announced the gift to the Salvation Army, which normally charges $10 a night after five free nights at its N Florida Avenue shelter.
The donation is meant to be "a challenge and an inspiration," Downtown Partnership president Christine Burdick said. The agencies hope businesses and individuals will add to the pot — especially those downtown business owners who have been vocal about the problems homeless people pose, Burdick said....
11/24/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — The chief of the Sanford Police Department refers to the fallout from Trayvon Martin's shooting death as "the incident."
The accusations that his department is racist have lingered nearly two years.
And a University of South Florida professor understands why. Racial profiling has long plagued law enforcement. Officers sometimes act on prejudices. Sometimes they are wrongfully accused of doing so....
11/23/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — With one email to the most powerful lawman in town, a Tampa attorney had two top Hillsborough sheriff's detectives investigating his client's enemy.
The attorney: Stephen Diaco.
The client: loudmouth radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
The suspect: a 46-year-old AAA employee with perhaps a little too much time on his hands.
Morgan "Joshua" Morey now says Diaco used the Sheriff's Office to have him criminally investigated last year. And that's an eyebrow-raising claim, since Diaco is at the center of separate allegations that his firm used a Tampa police connection to set up a courtroom enemy for a DUI arrest....
TAMPA — Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin said Thursday she is not running for re-election.
She faced eight opponents in next fall's election for her at-large seat, including Randy Toler and Charles Brink. Griffin said she is going to be "pursuing some private endeavors" instead. She is in her second term, and has been chairwoman of the seven-member board for the past year....
TAMPA — Deputies have arrested a "sovereign citizen" twice in 24 hours after, they say, he threatened people on different occasions with guns.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office first came across Eric C. Holtgard, 27, of New Tampa, about 3 p.m. Wednesday, after he drove to the Rivard Buick GMC dealership on Adamo Drive.
Deputies say Holtgard got out of his car and started yelling at employees and customers in the dealership's lot. He then pulled a Glock .45 -caliber handgun from his waistband and pointed it at a customer, saying several times that he was going to kill the man, deputies say....
TAMPA — No one was in the attic.
About two hours after Tampa police SWAT officers entered a Palmetto Beach-area home to coax out a suspect believed to be hiding in the attic, the department announced that no one was inside.
They had thought a suspect had barricaded himself inside after they got a 911 call Wednesday morning about two men burglarizing a home at 2407 Corrine St,, just south of Ybor City near the Port of Tampa....
11/14/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — A former Newsome High School math teacher accused of downloading child pornography was sent back to jail after a hearing Thursday.
David Valesano, 51, of Brandon was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on $1.2 million bail. He faces 125 counts of child porn possession.
He was first arrested in July by deputies who say they caught the longtime teacher downloading child pornography from "known areas on the Web."...
TAMPA — For the Tampa police officers in courtroom 51, the evidence is personal. The victims are their friends.
Officers regularly testify about cases they have investigated, but in the capital murder case of Dontae Morris, they are talking about the deaths of co-workers. Some sat in the audience this week as a show of support.
Officer Steven Roy was the first to the scene on June 29, 2010, after Officers Jeffrey Kocab and Dave Curtis were each shot in the head. A sob caught in Roy's throat earlier this week when a lawyer asked him to testify about that night. He wrinkled his face and looked down....
11/12/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — In an effort to solve more gun crimes, the Tampa Police Department will collect all shell casings that officers find on duty — even if they don't appear to be involved in a crime — and gather DNA and fingerprints from every gun confiscated as evidence.
The changes may seem subtle, but Tampa police Capt. David Goodman says they are likely to help police solve more crimes....
11/11/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — More than a million smartphones were stolen last year. Tampa averages three reported thefts a day.
Though violent snatch-and-run robberies occur, the most common scenario is subtle. People often set cellphones down on tables, bar tops and benches. They leave them in cars.
"It's a crime of opportunity," said Tampa police Chief Jane Castor.
In Washington, New York and other major cities, about 40 percent of all robberies involve cellphones, according to the Federal Communications Commission....
TAMPA — For the first time since he slammed into their children with his car three years ago, instantly killing them on the Harbour Island Bridge, the parents of Douglas Kozar, 23, and Kate Kohlier, 24, got to see the Riverview dentist who did it.
In court Thursday, 37-year-old Matthew Moye wore a black suit and blue tie, a stark contrast from the ghoulish crime scene photos from Oct. 30, 2010, that show him with white Halloween makeup still on his face....
11/06/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — There they were, a truck and a minivan in the Home Depot parking lot, stuck in a gridlock of steel and will.
The Ford F-150's driver wanted the Kia minivan's driver to back up so he could turn out of the parking aisle. The truck had plenty of space, the minivan driver said. So, no, she wouldn't.
Windows rolled down, expletives exchanged. One spit at the other. The other spit back, Tampa police say....
11/05/13 Public Safety
PLANT CITY — A Plant City police officer suffered minor injuries after being thrown from his motorcycle in a crash Tuesday afternoon.
The department is investigating the crash, which happened at 1:15 p.m. This is what they believe took place:
Office Kyle Russell was driving south on Alexander Street approaching Mud Lake Road on his police motorcycle when a driver turned left into Russell's path....