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Rich Shopes, Times Staff Writer

Rich Shopes

Rich Shopes is a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times covering government and politics in Pasco County.

Before coming to Florida in 1999, he lived in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He worked at the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2012 to cover Plant City. He currently lives in Manatee County with his lovely wife, Sandy, and their squirrel-obsessed Norfolk terrier, Charley.

Phone: (727) 869-6236

Email: rshopes@tampabay.com

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  1. Dunedin man walking to Yankee Stadium to help Wounded Warrior Project

    Human Interest

    DUNEDIN — He bleeds Yankees blue and travels the country to watch the Bronx Bombers, so far hitting 24 of 30 stadiums.

    His son says he's "crazy," so naturally when retired math teacher Richard Albero said he planned to take a hike — 1,200 miles from the Yankees' spring training home in Tampa to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx — nobody doubted his conviction.

    Maybe his sanity came into question. A little....

  2. Jackie Faircloth continues slow recovery after hit and run

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Three months after being struck by a pickup truck, Plant High senior Jackie Faircloth is making "baby steps" in her recovery, her father said.

    "She's definitely progressing,'' John Faircloth said, ''but it's going to be a long road of baby steps."

    The 18-year-old cheerleader suffered a traumatic brain injury Nov. 29 in Tallahassee after a truck hit her then took off. She was in town to see a Florida State University football game with her brother....

    “Pray for Jackie” signs, like this one at Plant High School in Tampa, support Jackie Faircloth, who was hit by a pickup.
  3. Strawberry Festival 'ambassadors' hard at work as event opens

    Events

    PLANT CITY

    Terry and Tamara Allen field all kinds of questions, but the trickiest come from folks like Janice George of Valrico, who combed through dozens of vendor stalls Thursday to find a bottle of Honey Bee healing lotion.

    Many of the thousands who come to the Florida Strawberry Festival every year arrive with specific aims — to watch the pig races, catch a big musical act or work through multiple servings of strawberry shortcake, ice cream, even strawberry hamburgers....

    Mary Roberts, right, helps Grazia Moyers of Virginia Beach, Va., find the Hershey’s Strawberry Tent at Thursday’s opening day.
  4. State attorney: No charges for stray bullets hitting Lithia house

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County firefighter and sheriff's deputy at the center of a target-shooting incident in Lithia last month will not be prosecuted.

    In a Feb. 19 letter, Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Christopher Moody told Sheriff's Maj. Robert Ura, the head of criminal investigations, that not enough evidence exists to level charges after several bullets hit landscaper Dawn Bryan's house on Jan. 24....

  5. Officials say body in submerged car is likely missing Brandon woman (w/video)

    Public Safety

    BRANDON — A fervent 10-day search for Apryl Foster, who disappeared after a night in Ybor City, came to an end Sunday afternoon when Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies found her car submerged in a lake.

    Authorities said they recovered a body from inside the car and have "no reason" to believe it was anyone other than Foster, 33. She was last seen Feb. 13 wearing clothing that matched that of the recovered victim....

    Authorities say Apryl Foster drove her Chevy Aveo into Mango Lake from this boat ramp about a half mile from her home.
  6. Doctor says she was fired for reporting low staffing at Brandon Regional ER

    Health

    TAMPA — A Tampa doctor is suing HCA Inc., alleging she was fired from a physician-staffing company because she complained about low staffing levels at the emergency room of the chain's Brandon Regional Hospital.

    In her lawsuit, Dr. Wanda Espinoza-Cruz, 44, alleged that so few doctors were available during a January 2014 night shift that a man with "obvious stroke symptoms" was forced to wait four hours for medical care. A CT scan later showed blood on his brain, her suit says....

  7. Annual Knight Parade lights up Ybor with family-friendly revelry

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Revelers hooted and danced. They jumped with outstretched arms.

    The throngs who crowded 7th Avenue in Ybor City for the Knights of Sant'Yago Parade on Saturday night didn't leave disappointed.

    Revelry flowed onto 7th Avenue for the annual parade, a tamer cousin to the raucous, drunken Gasparilla, which draws hundreds of thousands.

    Unlike Gaparilla's "wet zone," which stretches along the parade route on Bayshore Boulevard in south Tampa, drinking at the 40-year-old parade is restricted to Ybor's bars. Scores of children also joined the revelers, giving the event a family feel as the illuminated floats chugged past....

    Father Leo Markert, 78, a Catholic priest from Schenectady, N.Y., receives a rose from a parade participant — plus lots of beads.
  8. State looks into alleged financial problems at Tampa retirement community

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — State fraud investigators have issued an order barring the University Village retirement community from signing up new tenants amid a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged financial irregularities.

    The Office of Insurance Regulation issued an initial order of suspension Friday after investigators received a tip Jan. 21 that the community's reserve account had been underfunded by $370,324....

  9. Hoping for a special candlelit night with your sweetie at McDonald's? Not this year, sadly

    Food & Dining

    Valentine's Day couples last year noshed their Big Macs to LED candles and flowers, but sadly the McDonald's at 6717 N Dale Mabry Highway pulled the plug on this year's romantic escape under the Golden Arches.

    General manager Ernesto Izquierdo said it wasn't for a lack of commitment on the part of the restaurant, which took reservations and retrained counter employees as waiters to ramp up the romantic experience. Last year's event gained attention Friday when the popular website Drudge Report linked to a 2014 tampabay.com story about the event ( tbtim.es/e6a)....

  10. Second Hillsborough jail inmate in a week dies after medical crisis

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Another inmate has died after suffering a medical problem at the Hillsborough County jail on Falkenburg Road, the second such death in less than a week, authorities said Wednesday.

    Troy A. Zimmerman, 25, of Tampa was serving a 364-day sentence at the jail after his arrest Aug. 16 on burglary and assault charges, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. He died at 2:45 p.m. at Brandon Regional Hospital....

  11. Hillsborough County inmate found unresponsive, dies later at hospital

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An inmate died Saturday after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Hillsborough County jail on Falkenburg Road, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

    Jeffrey L. Young, who turned 67 on Friday, was being held on a warrant for failing to appear in court after he was charged with driving with a suspended license in Sarasota County.

    Jail medical staff making routine checks at 3:25 a.m. found Young unresponsive in his cell at the jail's infirmary. Staff tried to revive him and he was transported to Brandon Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:02 a.m., the Sheriff's Office said....

  12. Gasparilla Armed Forces Kickball Tournament to kick off Saturday

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Given that Gasparilla includes parades, a distance running event, and a lineup of music, art and film festivals, Christian Alvarez, a sailor at MacDill Air Force Base, figured it wasn't a stretch to add a kickball tournament.

    So after a quick call to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and dozens of word-of-mouth invites to military members and their families, the Navy yeoman started laying the groundwork for a daylong competition....

    Air Force team member Heather Mager ducks as she scores in a kickball scrimmage at Tampa’s Gadsden Park on Tuesday.
  13. State fair's newly beefed-up security doesn't bother patrons

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Amid the rides, vendors and acres of fried concoctions, something new greeted the thousands of students and families who filed into the Florida State Fair on Friday.

    Enhanced security.

    The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and fair officials debuted new measures that successfully thwarted a repeat of last year's student day, when scores of unruly teens ran through the midway, starting fights. About 100 teens were ejected. One, Andrew Joseph III of Riverview, was later struck and killed by a car while trying to cross Interstate 4 on foot....

    Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies Eric King, left, and John Footman patrol the midway at the Florida State Fair on Friday.
  14. Hillsborough deputy, firefighter firing weapons hit house in 'terrible accident'

    Crime

    LITHIA — A Hillsborough sheriff's deputy and a firefighter could find themselves in hot water after some recreational target shooting went awry last weekend.

    Sheriff's officials say Scott Radford, 33, of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, and Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Paul Adee, 25, were firing guns behind Radford's house when some bullets apparently hit a neighbor's home on the 3800 block of Porter Road in Lithia, a community in east Hillsborough. The properties abut each other....

  15. Pint-sized pirates overtake Bayshore

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    Amelie Heine had the perfect bead-snagging strategy. • The 5-year-old sat atop her dad's shoulders and let out an ear-splitting scream as Ye Mystic Krewe of Neptune chugged down Bayshore Boulevard. • Seconds later, a string of red plastic beads sailed through the air to land perfectly around her narrow shoulders.

    She didn't need to reach out to grab them.

    Even her father, Todd Heine, seemed surprised, but he offered a quick explanation....

    Alex Bobanic, 11 months, left, Sophia Kriess, 1, and Jackson Bobanic, 2, play with beads before the parade begins. Their mothers, Veronica Kriess and Andrea Bobanic, met nearly a decade ago at Gasparilla.