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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


  1. Hillsborough deputy, firefighter firing weapons hit house in 'terrible accident'


    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....

  2. Pint-sized pirates overtake Bayshore

    Human Interest


    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....

    Leana Montalvo, 5, of Riverview stands on her float before the Gasparilla Preschooler’s Stroll on Saturday along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. Organizers expected about 100 floats on the route that stretched from Bay to Bay to Edison Avenue.
  3. Still strong after 125 years, Gorrie credits teachers, parents



    At John B. Gorrie Elementary School, the school's basement doubled as a Cold War-era fallout shelter. During fire drills, kids scrambled down rickety metal fire escapes.

    Students walked more often than rode to school, and they sweated out pre- and post-summer months in classrooms without air-conditioning.

    Bonnie Jordan chuckles at the memories of her student days in the 1950s....

    John B. Gorrie Elementary School in Tampa is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The school is the oldest continuously-run elementary school in Florida, according to its website. To mark the occasion, the school is having a rally on Jan. 23 with speeches and proclamations and a tour of the school by student docents.
  4. Trinity Cafe: a million meals and (still) counting

    Human Interest


    Markease Kilpatrick showed up toward the end of lunch service as the last plates of chipotle beef, potatoes and mixed vegetables were being cleared.

    Kilpatrick isn't homeless, he said. He's a construction worker between jobs and, for now, "the Trinity" was the place to be for a hot meal, "to get me on my way."

    Whatever the reason, hundreds like Kilpatrick line up daily outside the Trinity Cafe food program at 2801 N Nebraska Ave....

    Meals are served for lunch to those in need at Trinity Cafe in Tampa.
  5. Wounded vet given several standing ovations in retirement sendoff


    TAMPA — Joel Tavera was five months into his deployment in Iraq when a rocket ripped into the vehicle he was riding in, killing everyone except Tavera and another soldier.

    Burns covered 60 percent of Tavera's body. Exploding shrapnel and the blast's concussion left him with severe brain trauma that took his sight. His right leg was amputated below the knee. He lost several fingers. Doctors weren't sure he'd survive the trip to a hospital in San Antonio....

    Retired Army Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence gave a tribute Friday to Staff Sgt. Joel Tavera, here with his parents, Maritza and Jose Tavera. Joel Tavera was badly injured in a rocket attack.
  6. Solution to Ybor truck traffic seen in road project


    TAMPA — The connector road linking Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway was supposed to mean an end to semitrailer trucks chugging through Ybor City.

    The 1.1-mile road, which opened a year ago this month, was meant to curb big rigs from rumbling along 21st and 22nd streets on their way to Port Tampa Bay, about a mile south. But while fewer of the trucks are cutting through the historic shopping and entertainment district, merchants and others say they still see them....

    The historic Columbia Restaurant, situated between 21st and 22nd streets in Ybor City, was once hit by a truck.
  7. Bondi wants to put an end to bullying


    TAMPA — Casting herself as an advocate for bullying victims, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told supporters at a pre-inaugural event Saturday that she plans to work to prevent juvenile bullying during her second term.

    "We are going to put an end to bullying in the state of Florida," Bondi, a Republican, said at the two-hour event, dubbed "an appreciation" party for family, friends, donors and other Republican supporters....

    Attorney General Pam Bondi spoke to supporters on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
  8. Seminole wrong-way crash claims third victim


    ST. PETERSBURG — Joao and Arminda Martins were nearly inseparable in their 63 years together.

    Immigrants from the same seaside Portuguese village, the couple moved to New Jersey to raise two sons then retired to Largo for the mild winters 20 years ago.

    On Friday, the two will be laid to rest together, along with their daughter-in-law, Isabel Martins, 58.

    Arminda Martins, 82, lost her fight to survive late Friday at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, a day after Joao Martins, 84, known as "John" by family members, and Isabel Martins were killed by a wrong-way driver in Seminole....

    Arminda and Joao Martin were immigrants from Portugal who had been together for 63 years. They retired to Largo 20 years ago.
  9. Family receives outpouring of support in wake of deaths


    LARGO — The family devastated by Thursday's wrong-way crash in Seminole says they have received "amazing" support from friends and neighbors.

    "It's overwhelming, the outpouring from friends, family and co-workers," John Martins said of reaction to the deaths of his father, Joao "John" Martins, 84, and sister-in-law, Isabel Martins, 58, in a wrong-way crash after a Christmas Eve party. "My co-workers, even the CEO came forward."...

    Joao “John” Martins was killed in a crash Thursday in Seminole. His wife, Arminda, remains in critical condition.
  10. Those in need across Tampa Bay get Christmas meal

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The city streets were quiet on Christmas Day, except for a block of Palm Avenue, where under a large white tent, several hundred of Tampa's poorest residents enjoyed plates of ham and sweet potatoes.

    Above them, a televised yule log crackled. Men talked of switching it to sports.

    The Christmas meal came courtesy of Metropolitan Ministries and dozens of volunteers, some of whom arrived as early as 5 a.m. to sort gifts and begin preparing food. Organizers estimated this year's charitable effort — by now, a familiar tradition — would feed 2,400 people in Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties. ...

    Novelette Cole, left, and Chelsea Shoemaker pass out dinners of meat, sweet potatoes and green beans at St. Vincent de Paul.
  11. Wrong-way crash in Seminole kills two, devastates family


    This story has been corrected to say this was the 14th and 15th wrong-way fatality this year in the Tampa Bay area.

    SEMINOLE — Joao "John" Martins and his wife, Arminda, were inseparable, retirees who left New Jersey's icy winters to bask in sunny Florida.

    They especially loved family get-togethers. Christmas Eve sat atop their list, with sons, daughters and grandchildren — a dozen in all — telling stories and enjoying Portuguese classics....

    Authorities say Paul E. Pulkownik, 51, of Largo was driving the Ford Explorer the wrong way Thursday on Park Boulevard.
  12. Injured Plant High girl slowly recovering from Tallahassee hit-and-run

    Human Interest

    The Plant High cheerleader placed in a medically induced coma after being hit by a pickup while visiting Tallahassee has been moved to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta.

    Kathy Faircloth said her daughter, 18-year-old Jackie, seems to show signs of progress.

    "She is moving her hands and feet a little more today. We continue to pray that she will open her eyes and begin the process of waking up," she wrote in a Facebook posting on Monday. "Thank you for love and prayers."...

  13. Salvation Army workers in Tampa find gold bars, ring in donated clothing

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The Salvation Army is trying to figure out what to do with an unusually large donation — a cache of gold bars and a gold ring wrapped inside some clothes.

    The clothes were dropped off at one of the charity's field boxes in Hillsborough, Pasco or Polk counties, the charity said. Workers found the ring and what was described only as a "generous quantity of gold bars" while sorting donations at the processing warehouse in Tampa, said Maj. Paul McFarland, an administrator....

    Maj. Paul McFarland of the Salvation Army says the items were likely dropped of at least 10 days ago. [RICH SHOPES   |   Times]
  14. Suspect in Tarpon officer's death has extensive criminal past


    GIBSONTON — Police officials on Sunday called Marco Parilla Jr. a coward, a bad guy and a cop killer.

    The portrayal stunned his family, who described the 23-year-old as "quiet" and "nice," not someone who could possibly gun down a police officer.

    "He was a nice kid. I raised him," his aunt, Juana Melendez said between sobs from the front yard of Parilla's family home on the 11000 block of Ekker Road in Gibsonton. "He was not like that. He was a good guy."...

    Family members recalled Marco Parilla Jr., the suspect in a Sunday’s killing of a Tarpon Springs police officer, as a quiet and fun-loving child.
Photo courtesy of Juana Melendez
  15. Supreme Court denies stay in Florida gay marriage case; couples could marry after Jan. 5

    State Roundup

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday chose not to meddle in Florida's tug-of-war over marriage equality, declining to delay the Jan. 6 start of same-sex vows.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi had asked the court to block gay marriage while Florida fights to protect a 2008 constitutional amendment that allows only heterosexual couples to wed. In a one-paragraph order, the court decided not to step into the Florida case....

    Attorney General Pam Bondi sought uniformity on the issue.