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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero covers breaking news and general assignment stories in Hillsborough County. A Baltimore native, he joined the Times in 2009.

Phone: (813) 226-3374


Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

  1. Two drivers killed in wrong-way crash on Interstate 275 in Tampa


    TAMPA — Long before the sun rose Friday morning, Gene Fischer set out from his home in San Antonio for his regular commute to his post as a security guard in Tampa.

    About 5:25 a.m., his boss said, Fischer called the guard he would be relieving with a request: Put on the coffee. He'd be there soon.

    Moments later, Fischer steered his GMC Envoy onto the southbound exit ramp from Interstate 275 heading into downtown where he collided head-on with an Acura TL heading north in the left lane, according to the Florida Highway Patrol....

    Two men died Friday morning in what the Florida Highway Patrol called a wrong-way crash on Interstate 275. Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Steve Gaskins tweeted that a wrong way driver going north in the southbound lanes of I-275 collided with another car near the Ashley exit. At 7 a.m., the southbound Ashley ramp was closed due to the investigation. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Man steals Rolex in Valrico by swapping it for a cheap fake, deputies say


    VALRICO — A man responding to a Craigslist ad about a Rolex for sale decided not to buy the luxury watch, but he walked away with it anyway, deputies say.

    How? He swapped it with a fake Rolex, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    About 7:30 p.m. Monday, the man went to a business in the Bloomingdale Golfers Club to check out the 2012 Rolex Submariner that had been listed on the online classified site, deputies said. He walked outside to show the watch to someone and at some point switched it for a cheap imitation that looked similar. The man declined to buy the $6,900 genuine Rolex and left in a newer Chevy pickup truck with dark tinted windows. ...

    Authorities say this man made off with a $6,900 Rolex Submariner after leaving a fake in its place.
  3. Number of guns discovered at Tampa International Airport on the rise


    TAMPA — Yes, that's my gun, and I forgot it was there.

    That's probably the last thing a traveler at Tampa International Airport wants to say while rushing to make a flight, but it's happening more and more often at the airport.

    Last year, Transportation Security Administration officers discovered 49 guns on passengers or in their carry-on luggage at the Tampa airport, an average of nearly one a week. That tied an apparent record set in 2014....

    TSA canine unit inspector Brandy Smith walks with Guiness, a 7-year-old Lab mix, as the TSA explosives detection dog checks passengers and luggage in the Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airport on Friday. Canine teams are one of several layers of security at the airport, where 49 firearms were stopped from being carried on flights last year. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. 'Return of Kings' protest will go forward in Tampa despite meetup cancellation

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The worldwide "tribal gathering" of a controversial antifeminist group has been cancelled, but a protest of the group and its values will go on.

    Tampa tattoo artist Jon Larson was horrified this week when he heard Tampa's Curtis Hixon Park was listed as one of the 165 international locations for the "International Return of Kings Meetup Day" to be held at 8 p.m. Saturday. The event was organized by Daryush "Roosh V" Valizadeh, a blogger whose views critics have called misogynistic or even prorape....

  5. Planned meeting of misogynistic group in Tampa canceled

    Public Safety

    A blogger whose anti-feminist views have drawn worldwide scorn has canceled an international meetup event Saturday that included a location in Curtis Hixon Park.

    Daryush "Roosh V" Valizadeh, whose views critics have called misogynistic or even pro-rape, announced the cancellation of the "International Return of Kings Meetup Day" on his blog Wednesday evening. By then, critics around the world were decrying the event and mobilizing to stage protests....

    Daryush Valizadeh writes the Return of Kings blog.
  6. Animal rescuer at center of St. Petersburg cruelty case seeks 'vindication'


    TAMPA — She's been called a cruel hoarder, unfit to care for the animals she was supposed to be saving. Others figured she meant well, but got overwhelmed.

    Ten months after animal control officials swarmed Veronica Faulseit's St. Petersburg bungalow and seized several dozen animals, she is fighting to restore her reputation and revive her nonprofit animal rescue operation....

     ZACK T. SAMPSON | Times
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Baryl Martin, right, and Vernon Yates, director of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, carry out rescued animals from All Creatures Great and Small Wildlife Inc., run from a home 4162 13th Ave. North in St. Petersburg. Neighborhood complaints tipped authorities off to a home filled with more than 60 domestic and wild animals living in horrifying conditions, police said, prompting an animal neglect investigation Tuesday afternoon.
  7. Tampa Bay Tech student, 17, killed while crossing Gunn Highway


    TAMPA — Ana Flores sat on the end of her sofa Friday, staring out the rear sliding door of her townhouse. It was quiet except for the dull sound of traffic roaring by on Gunn Highway just a few yards beyond the backyard privacy fence.

    Nearly every day after school, Flores' granddaughter Emily Lopez would visit with friends and then take a bus to the intersection of Gunn and Nixon Road. From there, it's a short walk to the townhouse in the Bellefield neighborhood, where Lopez lived with her uncle and grandmother....

    Emily Lopez, 17, attended Tampa Bay Tech High School.
  8. Tampa Fire Rescue bike paramedics ready to roll to patients during Gasparilla

    Public Safety


    Lt. Ken Newman of Tampa Fire Rescue was working the Gasparilla Children's Parade last weekend when he got the call.

    A young girl watching the parade along Bayshore Boulevard had fallen down and needed help. She was on the water side of the parade route, and reaching her would be a tricky endeavor for paramedics who have to navigate the crowd and cross the rolling procession. But Newman was astride one of the department's new specially equipped bicycles designed to help paramedics access patients in crowded, tight spaces....

    Tampa Fire Rescue Lt. Ken Newman answers questions about the department's new specially equipped bicycles designed to help paramedics reach patients in crowded, tight spaces. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]
  9. Driver who hit Hillsborough motorcycle deputy charged with DUI


    TAMPA — The driver of a flatbed truck that slammed into a Hillsborough sheriff's motorcycle deputy and six other vehicles on Gibsonton Drive last month was under the influence of a "chemical substance" at the time of crash, the Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

    Kenneth R. Cooper, 26, of Tampa was arrested Tuesday and charged with one count of DUI with property damage, 12 counts of DUI with injury and property damage, and two counts of violating probation, the Sheriff's Office said....

  10. Tampa mayor to Gasparilla pirates: 'We're fighting to the death!'

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The seafaring scalawags had some nerve.

    The pirates of the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla showed up Tuesday firing cannons in the streets of Tampa. Then, they docked their rolling pirate ship at the curb, stormed into Lykes Gaslight Park and hurled insults as they awaited an audience with Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

    They wanted the keys to the city.

    "A lot of voters gathered around," said one of the scalawags, nodding at the crowd. "I'd think he should come any time now."...

    Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla pirates broke into Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's office last week to present him with a letter demanding the key to the city. Krewe members will arrive in downtown Tampa today to negotiate a surrender at Lykes Gaslight Park. Expect Buckhorn to say no, setting the stage for Saturday's pirate invasion and parade.
  11. One man injured in east Tampa shooting


    TAMPA — Police were investigating a shooting in east Tampa on Tuesday.

    Officers responded to The Blue Store, 3617 E. Chelsea St., about 9:30 a.m. and found 29-year-old Leroy Carlyle suffering from a gun shot wound, Tampa Police said.

    Detectives believe the shooter was in a silver Nissan. There was another group of men gathered nearby and investigators suspect someone in that group may have been in the intended target, police said....

  12. Deputies: Drunk driver hits patrol car of Hillsborough deputy arresting another drunk driver


    TAMPA — Sometimes authorities seek out drunk drivers. Other times, drunk drivers come to them.

    Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies were arresting an alleged drunk driver Sunday when another car sideswiped a deputy's patrol car, the Sheriff's Office said.

    Deputies said they stopped a BMW at the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and North Village Drive about 10:30 p.m. The deputies believed the driver, 36-year-old Michael Probst of Tampa, was driving while impaired. A Breathalyzer test showed he had blood-alcohol levels of 0.114 and 0.134, deputies said. That is about twice the level, 0.08, at which state law presumes a driver is impaired. Probst was arrested on a charge of DUI....

    Hillsborough deputies say Todd M. Casey, 49, of Tampa was arrested and charged with DUI Sunday night after he sideswiped the patrol car of a deputy already conducting an unrelated DUI investigation on Dale Mabry Highway.
  13. Deputies searching for man who got too close for comfort with Hillsborough real estate agents


    GIBSONTON — Deputies were searching Friday for a man who acted suspiciously with female real estate agents working alone at model homes in southern Hillsborough County.

    In the first incident on Jan. 11, a man entered a model home in the Ayersworth Glen subdivision in Riverview about 6 p.m. and spoke to the agent about purchasing a home, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The man invaded her personal space, pulled her close during a handshake and complimented her. At one point, he leaned over a desk and rubbed his groin area on her hands as she was showing him maps, deputies said. ...

    Hillsborough deputies are searching for this man who, investigators say, acted suspiciously with female real estate agents working alone in model homes in Gibsonton and Riverview earlier this month. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough Sheriff's Office]
  14. Things to do: Ideas for outdoor fun when the mercury drops


    Do you scoff at the notion of staying cooped up indoors when the mercury drops below 70 degrees?

    Do you chuckle when cold-weather wusses whine about wind chill factors? If so, we've put together a list of outdoor activities to enjoy when the inevitable cold fronts arrive. Say, Saturday.

    By the way, if your idea of braving the cold is walking to the car and back, check out our list of things that will get you out of the house but keep you out of the elements. ...

    A flock of shore birds take flight off of a small key just west of Picnic Key in the Ten Thousand Islands region of Everglades National Park. Winter is a great time to visit the park because of lower humidity and fewer mosquitoes. [Times files]
  15. Retired Tampa detective battling cancer returns home from Puerto Rico after community rallies

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — A beloved retired Tampa police detective battling cancer is back home after friends and colleagues rallied to help cover the cost of his trip from Puerto Rico.

    Jose Feliciano, 61, flew to Tampa on Wednesday on a flight provided by Jet ICU, an air ambulance service based in Brooksville. Diagnosed with gastric cancer, the 26-year veteran was stuck in a Puerto Rican hospital in deplorable conditions and had grown weak enough to need a medical flight to get home to Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. But insurance wouldn't cover the trip....

    Retired Detective Jose Feliciano, left, flew from Puerto Rico on a Jet ICU air ambulance Wednesday, thanks to fundraising efforts.