A 26-year-old Tampa man was arrested early Friday and charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a British man in downtown Tampa. The victim, 26-year-old Gavin Murray of London, got into a fight with the suspect, John Charles Novack, about 2:30 a.m. Friday, Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said. It's unclear what the fight was about, he said. Before the stabbing, Murray had been at the 911 club and Novack had been at Hammerjax a few blocks away, Cole said. Novack told investigators that as he was getting in his car near Cass and Marion streets, Murray approached him and started a fight. Novack said he stabbed Murray in the chest in self-defense. According to Cole, Murray had been in the United States about seven to eight months traveling with a group that sells magazine subscriptions. The group, which was staying at the Days Inn downtown, had been in town just a few days, he said.
CLEARWATER BRACES FOR SPRING BREAKERS. It is March, and that means it is time for that annual ritual on Clearwater Beach known as spring break. According to Clearwater police, who gauge the timing of this event by vacation schedules of area college and high schools, spring break officially began Friday and ends April 8. Police spokesman Wayne Shelor said as many as 30,000 students are expected to make the pilgrimage this year to Clearwater Beach, a popular destination for the revelers. Combined with the tourists and local beachgoers, the city's population will swell to its highest point of the year. "We will be assigning extra officers to deal with the sheer number of people," Shelor said Wednesday. "It will be the worst on the weekends. But, historically, our only problem of consequence is traffic." A new Clearwater law that bans T-back swimsuits will not go into effect until after spring break.
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ONE WATER WORKER TO BE REHIRED. One of three county water employees fired after they were accused of drinking in uniform after hours will be rehired, but two others will remain without county jobs. The Pinellas Unified Personnel Board voted 4-2 Thursday night to accept County Administrator Fred Marquis' plan to rehire former water system crew chief James A. Kubek but demote and transfer him to another department. Marquis also agreed to let two other workers, Michael J. Dean and Raymond H. Frease, resign instead of being fired. The trio were among a group of water department employees who were videotaped on five nights in August drinking at a Largo convenience store next to the county's water maintenance yard. The private investigator who shot the footage said that most of the men were drinking beer, and that some drove county trucks away afterward. The men acknowledged drinking but said it was after work hours and did not merit their firings.
POLICE OFFICER HONORED FOR SAVING MAN. Only two weeks ago, Officer Shirley Atherton was crawling on the floor of a house on fire. Dense smoke had risen enough to let her pass through the house on her stomach and pull a man to safety. Friday, Atherton was described as a hero. She was awarded a Commendation of Honor by Pinellas Park police Chief David Milchan. Because the officer forsook her own safety, Milchan said, 59-year-old Thomas Gibson did not die in a fire that gutted his house Feb. 19. The honor is the highest bestowed on Pinellas Park officers. That Saturday night, Atherton says, she simply was doing her job. "I think any other officer under the same situation would have done the very same thing," said Atherton.