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News at noon: Apollo 11 through the eyes of the Florida men and women; St. Pete PD unit tackles homelesness; 'Beautiful Downtown Lutz;' and more

Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published Jul. 18, 2019

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The Apollo 11 story told through the eyes of the Florida men and women who made it happen

They came in camper vans and RVs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks, pitching tents along the Indian River to stake out precious viewing spots.

When there was no more room, they parked along the shoulder and median of U.S. 1 and other local roads. People sat atop their cars, eyes straining east toward Merritt Island and the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

The 363-foot Saturn V rocket lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, its 7.6 million pounds of thrust punching a hole through the Earth's atmosphere.

Apollo 11's launch was Florida's moment in mankind's greatest adventure. Read more here.

New St. Petersburg police unit helps homeless by getting to know them

The golf cart stocked with plastic bags of personal hygiene items and handwritten messages of encouragement made its way toward a homeless camp off 31st Street S. Behind a curtain of trees, an elderly woman sat alone on a plastic chair, amid dirt-caked dishes, pots and pans and piles of clothing.

Her smile greeted St. Petersburg police Sgt. Ryan Hilsdon and Officer Dominick Filipponi, members of the department's new Police Assisting the Homeless unit, or PATH.

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway shared details of the Police Assisting the Homeless program during a recent Council of Neighborhood Associations meeting. "Homelessness is not a crime," he said.

The unit was created to tackle homelessness across the city, he told the Tampa Bay Times.

Five things to know on the one-year anniversary of the Clearwater parking lot shooting

The afternoon of July 19, 2018, started out normally enough for the people at the Circle A Convenience Store near Clearwater.

One family pulled in to buy some snacks and drinks. The father ran inside with his son. The mother stayed in the car with the couple's two other children.

But what happened next ― one, two, three, in quick succession ― has sent ripples across Pinellas County and beyond, sparking a debate about self-defense that continues a year later.

'Beautiful Downtown Lutz:' How a small town became the unlikely subject of a hit song

Mary Lyons, 61, has never lived in Lutz. In fact, though she lives less than an hour away in Brooksville, she doesn't get out there often.

Much of what she knows about Lutz comes from a popular song she heard years ago on the radio. The small town would seem an unlikely subject for a radio hit, given that it's an unincorporated part of the Tampa Bay area straddling Hillsborough and Pasco counties with a population of about 20,000 people.

That's why Lyons wrote to us as part of "Florida Wonders," a Times series that asks readers to submit questions they are wondering about their community.

For Lyons, there was no question. She just wanted us to know that there once was a song called Beautiful Downtown Lutz.

That was where our search began.

$117 million apartment tower and hotel planned for downtown St. Petersburg

A hotel and 36-story apartment tower could one day rise on a long-vacant lot in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg.

Greystar Real Estate Partners has submitted plans for a $117-million project called Ascent St. Petersburg at First Avenue N and Second Street next to Duke Energy's Florida headquarters and across from Jannus Landing. The tower would have 354 rental units and sit next to a 172-room hotel.

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  1. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    All residents were safely evacuated from the Villa Sonoma Condominiums at International Plaza after a fire broke out Saturday morning.
  2. County commissioners agreed Wednesday to pursue a local ordinance establishing a needle exchange program in Hillsborough County. [C.M. GUERRERO  |  Miami Herald]
    If approved, used syringes could be swapped for free, sterile ones
  3. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    Police say the attacker, Lonnie Lavine, lives in a detached shed behind the victim’s home.
  4. The Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., moved to a smaller venue on the property in 2017 after a brief closure due to the museum's financial distress. [Times]
    Staff say a move to downtown’s Water Street is still “up in the air," but efforts are also afoot to keep the museum in the heart of the new Uptown Innovation District near the University of South...
  5. Off-duty detention Deputy Leighton Ricketts, 32, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol early Saturday morning. A four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s office, Ricketts was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office] [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  HCSO]
    Detention Deputy Leighton Ricketts, a four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation.
  6. A Brinks security guard and a Good Samaritan who came to his aid were shot during a robbery attempt at GTE Financial credit union in Brandon on Friday. [Tony Marrero, Times Staff]
    The search continued into the evening Saturday for the shooter, who is believed to be a serial bank robber.
  7. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman is spearheading anti-human trafficking efforts. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
    The new commission is the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at snuffing out human trafficking ahead of upcoming events like WrestleMania in April and the Super Bowl in 2021.
  8. Nov. 28, 2019• Hillsborough
    Hillsborough County Center, located at 601 E Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The new year will bring a new cast of characters to Hillsborough County politics, from county administrator, tax collector and clerk of courts to a new school superintendent.
  9. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Tampa Bay Times]
    David Walter Engberg, 29, died from his injuries near the intersection of Daughtry Road, troopers said.
  10. Nov. 20, 2019• Community News
    Tampa Mayor Jane Castor (far right) and her dog Alcaldesa joined students from Rampello K-8 Magnet School on a Nov. 14 walk across the school's newly-painted crosswalk, located at the intersection of Jefferson and Washington streets in downtown Tampa. [CITY OF TAMPA  |  City of Tampa]
    Hundreds of transportation and public safety advocates from across the country brought their ideas to Tampa for the Safe Routes to School National Conference.