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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

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Hernando County: 352-754-6101

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On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

E-mail: local@tampabay.com

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  1. What they're saying about Bucs-Packers

    Bucs

    Bucs DE Michael Johnson:

    "It's like basketball on grass. They got guys going everywhere. They know what they are doing. It's like a well-oiled machine. They are a good offensive football team."

    Bucs coach Lovie Smith:

    "When you talk about a frustrating day, this was a frustrating day. I've had some bad ones. This was definitely one of them. … That's just a great football team on the other side. We haven't had many days like this. So maybe we ought to give them a little more credit also."...

  2. FSU-Stetson basketball, 2 p.m. Monday

    College

  3. Slain Tarpon Springs officer remembered as good cop, family man

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — By day, "Charlie K" was a good dad. By night, he was known as a good cop.

    Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek worked the midnight shift so that he could watch his 15-year-old daughter Aleena's soccer practices and travel around with her wherever she played.

    Kondek, 45, was a family man, and she was his youngest child. She had just gotten her learner's permit and her father was teaching her how to drive....

    Flowers are placed on a police car near the scene of the shooting of Officer Charles Kondek in Tarpon Springs on Sunday. Kondek, a 17-year veteran of the local police department and originally from New York, was shot and killed in Tarpon Springs early Sunday responding to a call shortly after 2 a.m. [Monica Herndon   |   Times]

  4. Suspect in Tarpon officer's death has extensive criminal past

    News

    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
  5. Space Station astronaut captures beautiful image of Tampa Bay

    Space

    It seems so peaceful from up there.

    On Sunday, NASA astronaut Terry W. Virts ( @AstroTerry ) posted this photo of the Tampa Bay area taken aboard the International Space Station.

     

    Terry Virts is currently aboard the International Space Station. [NASA photo]
  6. USF women win at Penn State

    College

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Junior guard Courtney Williams scored 30 of her 34 after halftime and added 11 rebounds as USF capped its nonconference schedule with a 90-87 overtime win over Penn State on Sunday.

    Alisia Jenkins added 23 points and a career-high 21 rebounds for the Bulls (9-3), who outrebounded the Nittany Lions 56-54 despite being considerably outsized. Penn State (3-8) boasts five players between 6-2 and 6-6, while USF used one player taller than 6-1. ...

  7. Lightning mired in a funk

    Lightning Strikes

    Make no mistake, the Lightning is in a rut.

    After losing four of five on its just-concluded road trip, and six of eight overall, Tampa Bay knows its life won't get easier, especially with the Penguins welcoming them home Tuesday at Amalie Arena.

    "We're getting tested a little bit here," wing Brett Connolly said. "We'll see what we're made of."

    Coach Jon Cooper notes that most teams go through rough stretches over an 82-game season. ...

    The Devils’ Patrik Elias sends goalie Evgeni Nabokov and the Lightning to a shootout loss Friday, part of a 1-3-1 road trip.
  8. Tampa technical school closes doors in middle of session

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Evan Mikowski isn't sure he'll become a paramedic after all.

    That's because the school he was attending to earn his paramedic certification, Florida Medical Training Institute, shut its doors before he could graduate.

    FMTI is a subsidiary of Lincoln Educational Services, a New Jersey company that owns for-profit colleges that provide associate and technical degrees. Earlier this month, Lincoln notified students and faculty on all five FMTI campuses, including the one in Tampa, that operations would cease at the end of December....

  9. Other bay area law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty

    Public Safety

    Fallen officers in the Tampa Bay area

    Other law enforcement officers recently killed in the line of duty in the Tampa Bay area:

    Officer David Crawford, St. Petersburg Police Department, Feb. 21, 2011.

    Crawford was shot five times after responding to a report of a suspicious person in the 700 block of Third Avenue S after a resident saw someone walking through his back yard with a broken brick in his hand. Crawford was killed by 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2013....

  10. PolitiFact Florida: Rubio largely right that Cuba promised no democratic reforms

    Politics

    Sen. Marco Rubio has taken the lead opposing President Barack Obama's overhaul of U.S.-Cuba relations. His main complaint: The United States isn't getting enough out of the deal, especially when it comes to democratic reforms.

    "The White House has conceded everything and gained little. They gained no commitment on the part of the Cuban regime to freedom of press or freedom of speech or elections," he said. "No commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties or to even begin the semblance of a transition to a democracy."...

    Sen. Marco Rubio on Cuba: “The White House has conceded everything and gained little.”
  11. Suspect charged in Tarpon Springs police officer's slaying (w/video)

    Crime

    28280345



    TARPON SPRINGS

    It was routine call, a car stereo blaring at 2 a.m. Sunday.

    Officer Charles Kondek, a veteran of the overnight shift, was the first to respond to the small apartment buildings in Tarpon Springs.

    Moments later, he lay dying in the parking lot, shot in the chest and run over as the suspect sped away.

    The shooter, Marco Antonio Parilla Jr., was caught after a short car chase, investigators said. The 23-year-old with an extensive criminal record including 30 felony charges was wanted for violating probation and told investigators he didn't want to go back to prison. He faces a first-degree murder charge....

    This photo provided by the Tarpon Springs Police Department shows Officer Charles Kondek. Kondek, a 17-year veteran of the local police department and originally from New York, was shot and killed in Tarpon Springs early Sunday after responding to a call.
  12. Dunedin's Honeymoon Island undergoing beach renourishment

    Environment

    DUNEDIN — Come spring, even more Honeymoon Island visitors than before will be able to watch shore birds frolic among beach plants and sea turtles nest along a sandier coast, officials say.

    Construction crews who embarked in September on the second phase of a beach renourishment project that has already improved parking are shooting to wrap up by April.

    Until then, patrons will encounter occasional spot closures as cranes haul 3- to 5-ton granite rocks that workers are using to build three T-groins — erosion-fighting structures that will hold in place 149,000 cubic yards of sand being pumped from a shoal south of Hurricane Pass to the beach fronting the island's north parking lot....

    Beach renourishment is ongoing at Honeymoon Island State Park. Crews place tons of boulders that will hold sand in place just offshore from the north beach parking area on Dec. 16. The park attracts more than 1 million visitors yearly.
  13. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Barack Obama on Guantanamo, Iran

    Politics

    President Barack Obama took on critics of his foreign policy Sunday in a year-end interview with CNN, defending decisions to better relations with Cuba and Iran while arguing that "shooting first and thinking about it second" does not project strength.

    Obama told CNN's Candy Crowley that normalizing relations with Cuba is "an opportunity to try something different," and reaffirmed his wish to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay....

    President Obama said he has been “consistent in saying that where we can solve problems diplomatically, we should do so.”
  14. Puzzle Pieces: Dozier's neglected cemetery yields more bodies than expected, but names are harder to find

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — There wasn't much left of the boys.

    By the time she came for them and brought them up from the earth and spread them on tables in a basement lab on Maple Drive in Tampa, they were in hundreds of pieces, some as small as a fingernail. All that remained of some of them could fit inside a lunch box....

     University of South Florida assistant professor Dr. Erin Kimmerle watches over excavation efforts in the Boot Hill cemetery at Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. on February 5, 2014. [EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times]
  15. Timeline of Jameis Winston investigation

    Sports

    Here's a timeline of what has happened since news broke in November 2013 that Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston was a suspect in a sexual assault. Information compiled through police accounts, statements from attorneys, the State Attorney's Office and media reports from the Associated Press, ESPN and the Tallahassee Democrat:

    DEC. 7, 2012

    A woman is offered a shot of alcohol by an unknown person at a Tallahassee bar before leaving in a cab, according to the Tallahassee Police Department. She claims to have been assaulted at an apartment between 1:30 and 2 a.m. FSU police get a call and refer the off-campus incident case to Tallahassee police, who arrive at 4:10 a.m. The woman is interviewed, and evidence is collected using a rape kit. The police begin investigating and ask an assistant state attorney to help obtain phone records....

    Jameis Winston has been cleared of sexual assault accusations and possible violations of Florida State's code of conduct, a retired judge ruled Sunday. [Getty Images]