Articles on this Page
- 11/28/14--16:11: _Firefighters teach ...
- 11/28/14--16:13: _Married couple accu...
- 11/28/14--16:17: _Panama City man fou...
- 11/29/14--18:25: _Boyfriend: Abuse al...
- 11/29/14--18:39: _‘Terrifying’: Domes...
- 12/01/14--14:22: _Man who ducked draw...
- 12/01/14--14:50: _Man sentenced for d...
- 12/02/14--08:07: _Boy behind wall use...
- 12/02/14--12:14: _Parade to close Har...
- 12/02/14--13:30: _'Stand your ground'...
- 12/02/14--14:24: _Investigators clear...
- 12/02/14--14:51: _Police: Man arreste...
- 12/02/14--15:37: _FDOT discloses addi...
- 12/02/14--16:00: _3 seriously injured...
- 12/02/14--16:05: _Man with penchant f...
- 12/02/14--16:58: _Agent: Retail theft...
- 12/03/14--09:00: _Texas carjackers th...
- 12/03/14--11:05: _Introducing Wanted ...
- 12/03/14--11:58: _Lawyer: No indictme...
- 12/03/14--12:29: _Man arrested in gol...
- 11/28/14--16:11: Firefighters teach hands-only CPR to shoppers
- 11/28/14--16:13: Married couple accused of embezzlement
- 11/28/14--16:17: Panama City man found dead in car
- 11/29/14--18:25: Boyfriend: Abuse allegations ‘sicken me’
- 12/01/14--14:22: Man who ducked draws attention, arrest
- 12/01/14--14:50: Man sentenced for damaging vehicle
- 12/02/14--08:07: Boy behind wall used texts to help police find him
- 12/02/14--12:14: Parade to close Harrison Avenue
- 12/02/14--13:30: 'Stand your ground' before Florida high court
- 12/02/14--14:24: Investigators cleared in nude photos of Franklin officer
- 12/02/14--14:51: Police: Man arrested after hitting, pointing gun at wife
- 12/02/14--15:37: FDOT discloses additions to five-year plan
- 12/02/14--16:00: 3 seriously injured in truck crash
- 12/02/14--16:05: Man with penchant for fighting arrested after brass-knuckle beating
- 12/02/14--16:58: Agent: Retail theft connected to bigger crimes
- 12/03/14--09:00: Texas carjackers thwarted by car's stick shift
- 12/03/14--11:05: Introducing Wanted in Bay County
- 12/03/14--11:58: Lawyer: No indictment for officer in NYC chokehold death
- 12/03/14--12:29: Man arrested in golf cart thefts
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Panama City Beach Fire Rescue took advantage of the high traffic at Pier Park to teach the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, on dummies for shoppers passing by Friday.
“We’re doing it here at Pier Park on Black Friday because we figured we’d have a big crowd out to teach as many as possible,” said firefighter Brandon Mumford.
Firefighters had four adult-sized dummies out on the sidewalk in front of Dave & Buster’s and four infant dolls for the public to practice CPR. Mostly parents with groups of small children took advantage of the quick instruction.
“Normal CPR is the compressions and the breaths,” Mumford said. “They came out with hands-only CPR, which is for when you’re not at home or with a loved one.”
Mumford said many are not comfortable doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if an emergency evolves with someone they don’t know.
“Studies found that compression-only CPR is nearly just as effective as CPR with the breaths,” Mumford said. “You’re at least doing something for them in keeping their heart moving blood throughout their body.”
Firefighters demonstrated on the dummies how to administer chest-only compressions and then let participants give it a try.
Mumford said four out of five cardiac arrests happen at home with a loved one, but every second of time becomes precious when it can take EMS or firefighters 3 to 7 minutes to arrive.
He said basic hands-only CPR doubles or triples the victim’s chances of surviving a cardiac episode.
The basic hands-only procedure is for the responder to first call 911 if they see someone go unresponsive and then administer hard, fast compressions in the center of the victim’s chest at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute until help arrives.
He said 911 callers are given instructions over the phone on how to perform the same procedure.
“The longer they lay there without getting CPR, their chances of survival are diminished greatly,” Mumford said. “We just wanted to show as many as possible how to do the basics.”
PANAMA CITY — A married couple has been arrested for allegedly skimming a local security company out of thousands of dollars, according to court records.
Shane and Tiana Johns both worked for Lone Wolf Investigations and Security Services in Panama City at one point before being arrested Monday on grand theft charges. Though an exact amount of how much the couple us accused of taking was unclear, the business reported coming up short of more than $6,600 in overtime and redundant paychecks since June, Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators reported.
The couple was released from jail Wednesday.
Lone Wolf’s owner, Thomas Dinse, contacted BCSO earlier in November. He had been working in place of Tiana Johns, 34, as the company’s clerk while she was on vacation. While working in her place, Dinse noticed some anomalies, and upon further investigation Dinse discovered a large amount of money missing, BCSO reported.
Dinse showed investigators where between June and July, Tiana Johns added $1,514 overtime hours to her husband’s paychecks that Shane Johns, 37, did not work, according to investigators. There were also additional paychecks to Tiana Johns’ husband of $4,215, which he already had received, BCSO said.
When Dinse confronted Tiana Johns, he only suspected her of taking a $920 check because he had not found everything else, investigators reported. In a text conversation, Tiana Johns told Dinse she didn’t know what to do since her husband had been out of work and that Shane Johns knew nothing about it, according to court records.
“I’m sorry,” she texted. “It was a bad decision.”
However, police also arrested her husband for allegedly accepting the stolen money. The $920 check had been issued in Shane Johns’ name in September — two months after he stopped working for Lone Wolf, and the check appeared to have Shane Johns’ endorsement on the back, investigators discovered.
While Shane Johns was charged with grand theft of less than $5,000, Tiana Johns was charged with grand theft of less than $10,000.
The Johns are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 16.
CALLAWAY — Investigators are looking into the death of a Panama City man they found idling in his car Friday morning with no injuries on a private dirt road, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports.
Paul Douglas Hood, 35, was driving east on a privately owned, dirt power-line road north of North Comet Avenue in Callaway sometime before 6 a.m. Friday when he drove into a mud puddle. Hood, in a 1996 Ford Bronco, was found by Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies at 6:20 a.m. after receiving a call of a vehicle idling that appeared to be stuck on the road, FHP reported.
Hood was seated in the driver’s seat and was deceased when authorities arrived. He didn’t appear to have suffered any injuries.
However, first responders on scene noticed a strong exhaust odor inside the vehicle. Investigators noted Hood’s exhaust system had been modified and did not offer sufficient clearance once the vehicle became stuck in the mud puddle.
Hood was taken to the medical examiner’s office, where an autopsy will be performed. No charges have been filed, and FHP’s investigation is pending.
PANAMA CITY — Paul Thomas Carhart does not remember the night he allegedly beat, strangled and nearly killed his girlfriend, he said in a jailhouse interview.
Carhart, 63, was attempting to leave his Greenbriar Drive home at 3:40 a.m. in his car when deputies arrived in August. For more than four hours before that moment, he allegedly beat and strangled his girlfriend, Nancy Helms, before she escaped to the safety of a neighbor’s home, where she collapsed.
A small group of people in the neighborhood were pointing frantically at the car and calling out for the officers to not let Carhart get away. BCSO deputies were able to stop Carhart and put him in a patrol car, where he told them he had hurt his girlfriend, officials said.
However, in an interview Monday at the Bay County Jail, Carhart said he did not remember anything from that night before he was surrounded by the glaring flashlights of officers.
“It doesn’t sound like me,” Carhart said. “Stuff like that, that’s not me.”
EMS arrived and began to administer aid to Helms in a neighbor’s home. She appeared to be in severe pain and was going in and out of consciousness from having been struck several times in the face.
Helms was able to communicate to deputies that she and Carhart had been fighting for more than four hours and he had attempted to restrain her by taping her hands. He then struck her an unknown number of times on her face, while strangling her and telling her he was going to kill her, authorities reported.
When deputies spoke with Carhart, he stated he intended to kill his girlfriend and had fantasized about it for months. He planned to mutilate and torture her using various tools in front of a mirror so she would be forced to watch, BCSO reported.
Carhart said he could not remember anything that transpired since charges of domestic violence were filed against him months earlier in June, two months before the August incident.
However, he has read the police reports.
“They sicken me,” Carhart said. “It makes me shudder when I read them.”
Carhart has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted felony murder and false imprisonment.
PANAMA CITY — Emergency personnel and neighbors surrounded Nancy Helms as she looked up at them, bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness.
She had just fought for her life for more than four hours in her Fountain home. She had been beaten and strangled, her head slammed on the concrete, after her live-in boyfriend, 63-year-old Paul Thomas Carhart, allegedly attacked her when he was asked to move out. He allegedly tried to duct tape her hands and told authorities he intended to torture Helms before a bathroom mirror so she could watch her demise.
The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth and she was in severe pain, but at least she had managed to flee with her life to the safety of a neighbor’s home.
“Once they opened the door, I just thanked God,” Helms said. “The minute I got in, I passed out and kept fading out of consciousness.
“It was the most terrifying experience of my life,” she added.
Helms suffered a concussion and her brain was bleeding internally from the beating.
Carhart was attempting to leave the home in his car when Bay County deputies arrived at 3:40 a.m. on Aug. 18. A small group of people in the neighborhood were pointing frantically at the car and calling out for the officers to not let him get away.
BCSO deputies were able to stop Carhart and put him in a patrol car, where he told them he had hurt his girlfriend, the officers reported.
When deputies spoke with Carhart, he stated he intended to kill Helms and had fantasized about it for months. He planned first to mutilate and torture her using various tools in front of a mirror so she would be forced to watch, BCSO reported.
Carhart recently pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and false imprisonment. Though Helms has mostly recovered from the physical damage of that night, mental scars continue to haunt her.
“I’m still trying to get through it,” she said. “In the daytime, it isn’t as bad, but at night, I basically live in fear.”
Second in the Panhandle
Helms’ domestic violence case does not stand alone in this part of the country — far from it.
In the Panhandle counties east of Jefferson County, Bay County is only surpassed by Escambia County in per capita reports of domestic violence offenses, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Almost one in every 100 residents reported a stalking, assault or homicide related to domestic violence in 2013 — with an untold number of others affected by unreported domestic violence.
In Bay County’s population of about 170,000, domestic violence offenses totaled 1,608 in 2013. That’s an average of about four and a half cases each day, with some reoccurring offenders.
Bay County also led with six domestic violence homicides in each of the past two years. Some phsychologists believe domestic aggressors kill their spouses to eliminate the shame they have accumulated from previous abuses or attacks on the victim.
For some victims of domestic violence, it takes about seven incidents before the victim will leave the situation, according to Lt. Koren Culvert, of the BCSO domestic violence unit.
“The victim has seen when they were nice and loving,” Culvert said. “They can’t see how they couldn’t be that again.”
Only two months prior to that August night, Carhart had been arrested for domestic battery on Helms. Police reported that the two got into a fight about money on June 1 at the Fountain home, and Carhart grabbed his girlfriend by the arms and slammed her into a wall. The following night, a similar incident occurred that left visible signs of injury on Helm’s arm, which prompted Carhart’s arrest, police said.
But about a week later, Helms contacted a Bay County judge, withdrawing her complaint. She said she only wanted police to separate the two after Carhart “gently” put his hands on her arms and “very easily” shoved her in the kitchen hallway.
“I am sorry for all the problems this has caused, but this is Paul’s home and his things are here,” she wrote. “Again, I say that Paul is a very good man and has never been in any trouble or been in jail until now. He would never hurt me and I am not afraid of him. Things just got out of hand.”
The charges against Carhart were dropped nine days after the judged received the victim’s correspondence. The State Attorney’s Office concurred with Helms, filing a report that they did not have a case based solely on the officers’ probable cause for the arrest.
“Without the victim’s cooperation in this case, the state cannot effectively proceed,” Assistant State Attorney Timothy Register wrote. “Despite having probable cause for the arrest, the state cannot prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Helms was lucky to survive the August incident.
“Call me stupid, call me sympathetic, but when he asked if he could come back and he apologized, I said ‘yes,’ ” she said. “I guess I cared and felt sorry for him.”
Law enforcement does not take any domestic violence call lightly, even if a victim does not want an arrest. Officers rely on physical evidence, information from 911 calls and witness accounts to determine whether an arrest takes place — due to the possible pressure the victim may be under to protect an assailant.
“What we are doing now is evidence-based prosecution,” Culvert said. “We recognize and anticipate the victim is not going to testify.”
Because of this pressure, or a fear of retribution, the reported figures on domestic violence could be deceptive, according to BCSO victims advocate Chevina Jackson, who responds to the majority of domestic cases in the county.
“Some victims have more to lose by reporting an incident,” she said.
In a small percentage — about 2 or 3 percent — of domestic violence calls, males are the victims, Jackson said. Those figures also could be underreported because males usually view themselves as being in control of a situation. But the same reason why most males will not call for police intervention is the ultimate catalyst for domestic violence in situations where they are the aggressor — control.
Jackson said red flags usually begin to surface as the aggressor gradually usurps control over the victim’s communications and activities. They often then will begin to demonstrate verbally abusive tendencies and escalate to physical violence.
“It starts off small,” Jackson said. “The cracks start to show, but it isn’t long before you can see that it is broken.”
Carhart’s case fits the common escalation of red flags culminating in a particularly violent outburst. Helms said he became overly sensitive to what he perceived as personal insults. Carhart then became more controlling about Helms’ behaviors before becoming verbally abusive and finally physically violent to the point she was almost killed, Helms said.
“The best thing I could advise anyone is to turn away right when those behaviors surface,” Helms said. “It is going to get physical at some point.”
While many causes of domestic violence could seem out of control on a personal level, education more often helps break the cycle. Aggressors can receive domestic battery intervention courses, victims can become educated to their own self-worth and children caught in the middle can be educated that healthy relationships do not involve abuse or violence.
Getting a victim to leave before an incident occurs is an area victims advocates concentrate most of their efforts. In Bay County, Jackson spends a lot of time focusing on empowering the victim with the strength to act before violence erupts.
“You have to take a leap of faith to walk out the door,” Jackson said. “You might not be happy immediately, but you will be safe.”
Common red flags of an aggressor:
Exerts control on where you go, who you see and talk to, or what you wear.
Acts extremely jealous and/or possessive.
Puts down your friends and family, your dreams, ideas and/or goals.
Loses temper frequently over little things.
Becomes verbally abusive.
Makes threats to hurt you, leave you, hurt your pets, destroy your property and/or commit suicide.
Shifts blame to you, drugs or alcohol, a boss or parents for the behavior.
FOR PRINT GRAPHIC
Figures from 2013, listed by most per capita
Total domestic violence offenses in the Panhandle 9,731 of statewide totals of 108,030
County Offenses per capita murders
Escambia County— 1.03 … 2 murders
Bay County — 0.95 per capita… 6 murders
Okaloosa County — 0.88 per capita … 1 murder
Walton County — 0.81 per capita … 0 murders
Holmes County — 0.68 per capita … 0 murders
Washington County — 0.67 per capita… 0 murders
Franklin County — 0.58 per capita … 0 murders
Leon County — 0.54 per capita … 2 murders
Jackson County — 0.43 per capita … 3 murders
Santa Rosa County — 0.39 per capita … 1 murder
Calhoun County — 0.26 per capita … 0 murders
Wakulla County — 0.22 per capita … 0 murders
Gulf County — 0.14 per capita … 0 murder
Liberty County — 0.001 per capita… 0 murders
Domestic violence offenses 2013 reported in Bay County by police jurisdictions, according to FDLE records:
Bay County total - 1,608
Bay County Sheriff’s Office - 520
Panama City - 537
Mexico Beach - 10
Springfield - 94
Panama City Beach - 160
Lynn Haven - 240
Parker Police - 47
PANAMA CITY — Police have arrested a 28-year-old man who allegedly attempted to outrun them with methamphetamine and several syringes in his possession, according to a Panama City Police Department news release.
While patrolling the parking lot of the 23rd Street Wal-Mart at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, officers saw 28-year-old Nicolas Heath Camlin duck behind a vehicle when he noticed their patrol car approaching, according to the report. Officers made contact with Camlin and asked for his name and date of birth but could not identify Camlin by the last name of Richardson he told police.
Further investigation revealed his identity and that Camlin had an active warrant in Bay County for a violation of probation. Upon hearing the confirmation of his warrant, Camlin attempted to flee but was quickly apprehended. A search of Camlin revealed he had methamphetamine and several syringes on him, police reported.
Camlin was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting an officer without violence, and providing false name to a law enforcement officer. Camlin was transported to the Bay County Jail where he was also served with his warrant.
PANAMA CITY — A 28-year-old man has been sentenced to 24 weekends in jail after pleading to charges he forced a woman off the road and punched the windshield out of her car.
Quinn Montel Battles, 28, was arrested in July on charges of criminal mischief, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and leaving the scene of an accident after an incident on Redwood Avenue that left another driver with about $3,000 in damage to their car. Battles was sentenced Monday to five years of probation and 24 weekends in jail, according to Bay County court documents.
It was unclear what ignited the altercation, but police reported about 4:30 a.m. July 11 that Battles began attempting to ram the victim’s car on U.S. 98. The victim turned onto Redwood Avenue to try to get away from Battles before he rammed her car one last time in front of Patterson Elementary School, according to Panama City Police reports.
The victim told police she feared she was in danger of being killed or injured by Battles, police reported.
Battles then jumped out of his car and began punching the windshield of the other car, shattering the glass. Police said he then left the scene of the accident, and police estimated the combined damage to the car was about $3,000.
Warrant officers arrested Battles days later. He pleaded no contest to assault and criminal mischief and was ordered to stay at least 500 yards from the victim’s home and work.
JONESBORO, Ga. — A 13-year-old boy used text messages and photos to help lead police to the small compartment behind an upstairs linen closet where he was being hidden inside his father's and stepmother's home in the Atlanta suburbs, authorities said Monday.
Clayton County Police Chief Gregory Porter said the boy's biological mother, who lives in Orlando, Florida, called her local 911 and was routed to the 911 center in Jonesboro just before 11 p.m. Friday. She told police her son was being abused at a home in Jonesboro and was being hidden in a garage. Porter said the boy's mother told police he had been missing for four years, and she had been trying to reunite with him during that time.
Those details and others in the case emerged during a press conference at Clayton County Police headquarters. Police declined to say whose phone the boy used, how he knew to contact his mother or which parent had legal custody of the boy. Porter said he didn't want to compromise the investigation.
Two officers who responded initially couldn't find the boy after searching and shouting out for him inside the garage. They left, but were told to go back by a supervisor, Porter said.
As police resumed their search shortly after midnight, the boy used an app to send his mother text messages, including a photo of the home's garage according to the initial police report. She then passed those updates to police, who continued questioning the other residents of the house and searching.
The boy's stepmother eventually directed officers to a closet on the home's third floor, according to the report, where Sgt. Joanne Southerland found a panel at the back wall.
She pushed it in, discovering the boy who looked "absolutely afraid," she told reporters on Monday. Southerland said she helped him out of the concealed compartment and calmed him down. She said the space where the boy had been hidden was bounded by the home's exterior siding, and he was enclosed within the wooden frame of the house and garage.
The boy then thanked officers for helping him, and later posed for photos with police while smiling widely.
The boy's 37-year-old birth father and 42-year-old stepmother face charges of false imprisonment, cruelty to children and obstruction. A message left for the attorney listed in jail records for the two adults was not returned late Monday.
The woman's three teenage children also were arrested, Porter said. Police said all five had denied knowing anything about another child living at the home, and the police report says they turned lights off and were slow to answer the door each time officers arrived.
The boy's father later told police he did have a 13-year-old son but he was in New York with a family member, according to the report.
Neighbors said the family appeared normal, and the 13-year-old often was seen outdoors. Porter said police have not found the boy was enrolled in public schools. It was not clear whether the mother had previously reported her son missing. Porter said he did not appear to be listed on any registries of missing children.
Julie Pizarro, who lives nearby, said the boy seemed quiet but she never thought anything was wrong. She said her own son even played with the boy a few times.
"And again there was nothing usual about the situation to me," Pizarro said. "You know, it just seemed like (it) was regular as apple pie ..."
Associated Press video journalist Johnny Clark contributed to this report.
PANAMA CITY — Harrison Avenue from downtown to 13th Street will be closed from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday along the annual Jaycees Christmas Parade route.
The parade begins at the Panama City Marina at 7 p.m. and will continue north on Harrison to 13th Street before turning east and ending at Tommy Oliver Stadium near Bay High School. No parking will be permitted on Harrison Avenue at these times and those who do not adhere to the no parking zone will be towed at the owner’s expense, according to the Panama City Police Department.
Additionally, the alley behind the Greyhound Bus Station running north and south from 9th Street to 10th Street, will also be posted for no parking, as this will facilitate bus traffic during the event. Those in attendance are urged to use caution during the parade.
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — A tourist who felt threatened by another driver and aimed his gun at the man shouldn't have to prove his actions were protected under Florida's “stand your ground law,” his attorney argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, adding that it should be up to prosecutors to prove the opposite.
Jared Bretherick had the right to defend his family and shouldn't have been charged because of the state law that says people can use force if they are in danger, said his attorney, Eric Friday.
The 25-year-old Indiana man was given a hearing in which he requested immunity from an assault charge under the “stand your ground” law, but a lower court said no. Now Friday is arguing that Bretherick shouldn't have even been charged until prosecutors first proved he wasn't defending himself and the burden shouldn't have been placed on Bretherick to prove he was.
Some of the justices seemed skeptical of the argument. Justice Barbara Pariente said the 2005 legislation never spelled out a process for pretrial hearings to claim immunity from charges in “stand your ground” cases. It was the court that created the pretrial hearing process in 2010 in response to another “stand your ground” case.
“I'm trying to see, other than sort of pulling it out of the stratosphere, where we come up with that additional burden,” she said.
Friday said the Legislature passed “stand your ground” to give citizens more protection in self-defense cases.
“So why then has this court created a burden that the Legislature never authorized and put the burden on the citizen?” Friday said.
The Avon, Indiana, family was in Kissimmee driving to Walt Disney World in 2011 when the incident happened. The family says Derek Dunning almost ran them off the road and Bretherick's father Ronald honked the horn. When he did, they said Dunning pulled in front of their pickup truck, jammed on his brakes and trapped them in traffic.
When Dunning got out of his SUV and approached them, Ronald Bretherick displayed his holstered pistol. Jared Bretherick says Dunning told them he also had a gun and returned to his SUV and backed toward them. At that point Jared Bretherick took his father's gun, left the vehicle and pointed it at Dunning's SUV. In 911 tapes, Ronald Bretherick repeatedly said his son was prepared to shoot Dunning.
“My son got out to try to get a better aim on him if he jumps out and tries capping at my family,” the elder Bretherick told the operator. “If he comes out with a gun in his hand, my son's going to drop him.”
No shots were fired, but Jared Bretherick was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. Dunning didn't have a gun.
Friday argued the state should have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone wasn't using self-defense before charging them.
“It would seem to me if that's the case and that's your position it would require an entire trial,” said Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. “How can you make that determination ... unless you hear all the evidence?”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Davenport told the justices no other states place the burden on prosecutors to prove someone wasn't defending themselves before charging them. She also said the pretrial procedure the Supreme Court established hasn't been questioned until now.
“Nobody's questioned it. Defendants aren't complaining about it, the trial judges aren't complaining about it,” Davenport said. “The Legislature knows what this court does. They've had four shots at amending this statute. They've never done anything.”
CARRABELLE — Corrections investigators did nothing wrong when they took nude photographs of a prison guard suspected of having sex with an inmate at a Panhandle prison, a report released by Gov. Rick Scott’s inspector general found.
Scott Inspector General Melinda Miguel quietly released the 76-page report Nov. 26, clearing five investigators and two prison guards of any wrongdoing regarding a search warrant that allowed the investigators to take nude pictures of Franklin Correctional Institution officer Kassidy Hill, who later threatened to sue the department and filed a discrimination complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The commission found no cause for the complaint.
Four of the investigators, who work for Department of Corrections Inspector General Jeff Beasley, accused Beasley of launching the probe after they alleged Miguel’s office was aware of a cover-up involving the death of Randall Jordan-Aparo. The inmate died at the Franklin County institution in 2010 after being gassed with noxious chemicals.
The investigators — Doug Glisson, Aubrey P. Land, James Padgett and John Ulm — later sued Beasley, who answers to Miguel, Scott and others for retaliation against them after Miguel refused to grant them whistleblower status last year. Former corrections worker Christina Bullins, also one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, contends she was fired after she raised questions about the circumstances surrounding Jordan-Aparo’s death. Bullins’ brother was an inmate at the prison in a cell adjacent to Jordan-Aparo in the solitary confinement unit at the Carrabelle institution.
Their lawyer, Steven Andrews, contends the new report proves the inspector general targeted investigators.
The report “fully exonerates my clients and raises a lot of questions as to why it was filed,” Andrews said. “It was clearly retaliatory for their disclosures concerning Randall Jordan-Aparo.”
The Hill case was part of a larger investigation into wrongdoing at the prison, now under scrutiny by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and led the inspectors to raise flags about the handling of Jordan-Aparo’s death.
The new report was authored by Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission inspector general investigator Amy Schmidt, who was brought on in November to look into Hill’s allegations. Schmidt wrote that the inspectors followed protocol in obtaining the search warrant, signed by a judge, which allowed them to photograph “the full body” of Hill.
The investigators first discovered they were part of an internal probe at a Christmas party a year ago, when Beasley told Ulm, Glisson, Williams, Padgett and Beasley’s deputy, Ken Sumpter, that “we” made a mistake by taking pictures of Hill, according to an interview with Ulm included in the report.
Ulm told investigators that Beasley also said DOC general counsel Jennifer Parker “had come down and told him the agency was going to have to ‘write a big, ole fat check’ ” to settle Hill’s complaint.
The report also showed that former Secretary of Corrections Michael Crews, who retired last week, met with Beasley and Miguel in February three days after the prisons chief met with Ulm, Glisson, Land and David Clark, another IG investigator who is part of the lawsuit.
“After meeting with Secretary Crews and Beasley, CIG Miguel contacted Beasley and advised him to cease any activity on the ongoing investigations of (the cases) until the CIG’s Office could obtain a full briefing regarding these open investigations,” Schmidt wrote.
The Scott administration issued a brief statement Tuesday about the report and the whistleblowers’ allegations. “The whistleblower lawsuit is a matter for the courts to decide,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in the statement. “The Chief Inspector General’s report was completed on Nov. 26, 2014. A female correctional officer complained of mistreatment. Melinda Miguel wanted to ensure objectivity in the investigation and requested investigative assistance from FWC.”
The report also highlighted internal problems within the corrections inspector general’s office. The agency was relying on an outdated policy manual, written in 2006 but updated frequently through internal emails or memos issued by Beasley.
“When asked about the policies and procedures in place during June 2013 and his understanding of the policies and memorandums included in this investigation, Padgett stated, ‘I’m going to sum it up for you the best way that I can. Total confusion. Just chaotic as far as procedures and this directive and that directive and just like I stated, I came into the office, there is no FTO (Field Training Officer) manual … no FTO training policy, there is no check-off list. … It’s learn as you go.’ Padgett added that until very recently there had been one directive after another pushed out to the field,” Schmidt wrote.
Beasley has since implemented some improvements, including a tracking system to ensure all directives issued to staff have been received, something that did not exist in 2013, the report noted.
The report also “recommended that guidelines be adopted to specifically address the taking of photographs during an investigation and to enhance the guidance surrounding the search of an employee’s person that involves the visual inspection of the employee’s unclothed body.”
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Police have arrested an Ohio man who allegedly put a gun to the head of his wife after a domestic dispute in Panama City Beach, according to Bay County court documents.
Kevin L. Christy, 26, was arrested Tuesday morning after Panama City Beach Police responded to reports of a domestic altercation involving a firearm. Residents within the Gardenia Street household heard the Chesapeake, Ohio, couple arguing at about 9:55 p.m. Monday before the sounds of fighting resonated throughout the home. Police have charged Christy with simple battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon from what eyewitnesses said they saw while trying to intervene, police reported.
One of the residents in the home in the 600 block of Gardenia Street heard what sounded like fighting between Christy and his wife from their adjacent front room. She opened the door, being accompanied by another resident, and the two could see Christy actively punching his wife in the face, causing her glasses to break, police reported.
The two then attempted to separate the quarreling couple but were stopped when Christy grabbed a single-action, .22 caliber Armi Filli revolver from his room.
Christy “then re-engaged in the altercation with the victim, producing the firearm and raising it with an extended arm, pointed at the head of the victim, inches away from her head,” police reported.
As he leveled it on his wife’s head, the two bystanders stepped away from trying to separate the fighting, they told police.
A third eyewitness told police Christy then retreated to his room to hide the pistol.
When police arrived, the couple was separated and the gun was found in a black pouch on Christy’s bedside table. Christy was arrested on charges of battery and aggravated assault with a firearm.
PANAMA CITY — The Florida Department of Transportation announced several additions to the five-year project plan for Bay and surrounding counties Tuesday.
The most expansive project — and one of the most costly — in the region is the expansion of State 77 from two lanes to four lanes in Washington County. The roughly 30-mile project from the Bay County line to Interstate 10includes more than $53 million in design costs plus $9.5 million in right-of-way costs in 2016 and 2017. Construction for the two northernmost sections is set to begin in 2016. The southernmost section is set to begin in 2020 and cost $24.5 million.
“It will provide a swift evacuation route from hurricanes, it will reduce congestion on 77 and reduce the possibility for accidents,” FDOT Public Information Officer Ian Satter said. “Economically, it will be advantageous to connect I-10 to Panama City.”
Washington County also has a $7.56 million resurfacing of I-10, 4.5 miles worth, scheduled in 2019.
Walton County has the expansion and reconstruction of U.S 98 from Emerald Bay Drive to Tang-o-Mar Drive, costing $27.9 million, to start in 2017.
The additional projects in Bay County were significantly smaller. One of the largest was a study of expanding State 390 from State 77 to U.S. 231. The study, to be conducted in 2016, is slated to cost $1.02 million. This not related to the currently planned expansion of State 390 from 23rd Street to State 77. Right-of-way purchases for State 390 from 23rd Street to State 77 project are scheduled for 2016, 2017 and 2018, with construction for the southern-most of three sections to begin in 2016. Right-of-way acquisition costs are figured at more than $62.5 million.
Construction for the U.S. 98 and 23rd Street flyover is set to begin next year, but $350,000 in additional right-of-way costs are scheduled for 2016 and $1.6 million in incentives scheduled for 2018.
A study also is commissioned for a 7.8-mile lane expansion on Back Beach Road (U.S. 98) from Mandy Lane to Thomas Drive, costing $1.02 million. FDOT work program manager Cheryl McCall said the study will determine how much the road might be expanded. Satter said he is projecting an expansion from four lanes to six lanes.
Other scheduled improvements to Back Beach are more concrete. One of the Bay County Transportation Planning Organization’s top priorities is adding turn lanes at the intersection of State 79. Construction on the right turn lane is scheduled for 2016 and set to cost $1.25 million. Additional turn lanes also are planned at the intersection of Front Beach and Moylan Road, with planning in 2016 costing $215,000, right-of-way purchase in 2017 costing $285,000 and construction scheduled for 2019, $185,000.
Other additions include upgrades to the traffic signals system at the intersection of 23rd and 15th streets, $336,000 in 2016, rehabilitation to the St. Andrew Bay Bridge, Inter-coastal Waterway, specifically rehabbing protective supports underneath the bridge, $1.13 million in 2017, and right-of-way purchases for a possible expansion for State 388, $2.8 million in 2017. Preliminary engineering is set for State 388 from the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport to east of Burnt Mill Creek, costing $4.4 million in 2016 and 2017.
A bike lane and sidewalk is set for Bob Little Road (State 22A) from Cherry Street to Seventh Street for $464,000 in 2018. Resurfacing for Tyndall Parkway (U.S. 98) from Transmitter Road to U.S. Business 98 was deferred with $80,000 in right-of-way purchases starting in 2016 and $5.16 million in construction beginning in 2017.
Satter pointed out that this plan needs to be approved as a part of the budget of the Florida State Legislature.
PANAMA CITY — Three Panama City residents were hospitalized after overturning in a truck several times at high speeds, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.
An eyewitness who was driving on County 2397, north of Cue Drive, told FHP officers the truck carrying the three “passed them hauling butt,” at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning before the horrific crash.
Robert Preston Stanfill, 38, was driving the 1996 Ford F150 south on County 2397. In the front cab of the truck with Stanfill were 22-year-old Donald Douglas Williams, in the window seat, and 19-year-old Amber Sirmans, in the middle.
The Ford drove around the eyewitness before he saw it lose control, leave the roadway, plow through a mailbox and careen into a culvert. After striking the culvert, the eyewitness saw the truck overturn several times before coming to a rest on its top, in a ditch.
Each of the three passengers of the vehicle were taken to a local hospital in serious condition, FHP reported. Only Stanfill was wearing a seatbelt.
Stanfill told officers someone or something bumped his elbow before the crash. He has been charged with driving too fast for conditions.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Police have arrested a 19-year-old man in connection with a brass-knuckle beating that left another man with a broken jaw.
Beau Joseph MacGregor, 19, has a history as a young scrapper.
During one of the first encounters recorded between police and MacGregor, of Panama City Beach, he was arrested after allegedly attempting to fight passing cars on Thomas Drive. The charges were deferred in exchange for MacGregor’s cooperation in abstaining from the brawler’s lifestyle. However, he was arrested Monday on charges of beating an 18-year-old Lynn Haven man with brass knuckles, according to court documents.
Harvey Pitts told officers he went to buy marijuana at 8752 North Lagoon Drive on Nov. 21. Although the provocation of the incident was not clear from police reports, MacGregor — whose address was listed about five minutes away — approached Pitts as he was leaving and punched him with brass knuckles, arresting officers reported.
Attempts to contact Pitts for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.
MacGregor continued to punch Pitts, taking him to the ground as bystanders filmed the incident as evidence and attempted to stop the attack, Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies reported. Pitts was finally able to leave but later discovered he had a broken jaw. The incident would later cost him his job and thousands of dollars for a surgery to repair the damage, the officer wrote.
Months earlier, prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution of MacGregor for 12 months after a string of violent incidents at about midnight April 13.
When deputies initially arrested MacGregor, they reported he was walking along Thomas Drive without a shirt on, swinging at passing cars. When the officer pulled up, MacGregor said he liked to fight people, BCSO reported. Moments earlier, police were called to 5004 Thomas Drive, where another fight had taken place.
Deputies were told MacGregor hit a victim several times in the face before the victim wrapped his arms around MacGregor to restrain him. MacGregor then attempted to throw the victim off the fourth-floor balcony, while saying, “I’m gonna kill you,” according to BCSO reports.
Those charges of disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and battery were deferred under a caveat that MacGregor comply with the attorneys’ agreement, including not breaking any other laws.
“If you violate any of the above conditions, you may be prosecuted for the above offenses,” prosecutors wrote.
However, MacGregor was charged with aggravated battery Monday after BCSO served him with an arrest warrant.
PANAMA CITY — The people stealing bras and baby formula might seem relatively harmless compared to abusive spouses or drug dealers, but sometimes their ill-gotten gains reach the Middle East and wind up financing a terror attack.
That might be what happened in a sprawling case investigated over several years by Special Agent Scott Springer with the Department of Homeland Security. The investigation led to dozens of arrests and seizures, and the conspirators at several points plotted to kill Springer, he said.
Imagine Detective Jimmy McNulty, the fictional protagonist in the television series "The Wire," explaining to students the techniques he and other officers used to investigate Stringer Bell and Marlo Stanfield. Substitute stolen baby formula for cocaine and heroin and you've got a pretty good picture of Springer's investigation.
But it's not just baby formula. Organized rings of thieves steal prescription drugs, over the counter medications, razor blades, computer equipment and guns and sell through "fences," stores that pass off the stolen merchandise as legitimate.
Organized thieves have been known to hijack truckloads of merchandise, Springer said, but they often operate on a smaller scale. For example, Panama City Police last year arrested five women from Georgia at Pier Park on charges of stealing thousands of dollars from stores like Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works.
"They don't all steal that stuff and go home and wear it," Springer said.
Springer's investigation led to charges against a ringleader of an international criminal organization and the leaders of four cells with ties to Islamic radicals, he said.
Organized retail theft is a $30 billion a year industry. While Springer was able to trace the money from a baby formula black market overseas as far as Jordan, he's still not certain the money ended up with foreign terrorists.
"I got asked all the time: 'Was this case terror financing?' " Springer told a group of students during a presentation on organized retail crime at Florida State University Panama City Tuesday. "I don't care; these were all criminals. They all needed to go to jail. They were all involved in major criminal activity. I can tell you that a bunch of them had known terrorist affiliations."
Springer was able to talk about the details of the investigation because the case had gone to court and the investigative techniques had been made public. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been explaining to students how he and other agents worked undercover and developed confidential informants and wiretaps to eventually bring the case to a close.
"My case is antiquated compared to what they do now," he said.
Springer's presentation Tuesday was the last in a series of "Nole Talks" this semester, said FSU PC Student Activities Coordinator Casey Lathem. The presentations are modeled after TED Talks in which people discuss "Ideas worth spreading," said Marketing and Special Events Coordinator Erica Howard.
Nole Talks will resume next semester, Lathem said. Anyone interested in giving a Nole Talk can contact Lathem at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities say two teenagers attempting to carjack a vehicle in Houston were foiled by a stick shift.
The pair held the motorist at gunpoint last weekend and demanded that he tell them how to drive the vehicle. After the driver provided a few instructions, the teens ordered him out of the vehicle. He then called police.
A brief police chase ensued. Stefan Happ, an officer for the University of Texas at Houston, told KPRC-TV the teens "had issues operating the vehicle."
The pair opted to flee on foot and were later apprehended.
The suspects are 15 and 17 years old. They were taken into custody. The older boy was charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
We’d like to familiarize you with a previous crime feature at newsherald.com that we’ve now revitalized.
“Wanted in Bay County” will highlight 10 individuals with outstanding warrants from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. The 10 “Wanted Cards” feature the person’s name, photo, wanted as of date and charges. The section also includes information on how to report tips for their capture.
This is a service provided by the BCSO, which also provides our site with the popular mugshots section. “Wanted in Bay County” appeared at newsherald.com before, but it wasn’t kept up as we’d like. You can expect to see fresh “Wanted Cards” each week barring any unforeseen issues.
We will also provide updates on captures as they’re made available by the BCSO.
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City grand jury cleared a white police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of an unarmed black man who had been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a lawyer for the victim's family said.
The decision in Staten Island not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo threatened to add to the tensions that have simmered in the city since the July 17 death of Eric Garner — a case that sparked outrage and drew comparisons to the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri.
Jonathon Moore, an attorney for the victim's family, said he was told of the grand jury's decision.
“I am actually astonished based on the vidence of the video tape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn't indict for anything, is really just astonishing,” Moore said.
The Staten Island District Attorney's office didn't immediately respond to a call.
The grand jury could have considered a range of charges, from a murder charge to a lesser offense like reckless endangerment.
A video shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet showed the 43-year-old Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him.
Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in an apparent chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, “I can't breathe!” A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Garner while he lay motionless on the ground. He later died at a hospital.
As with Brown's death in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, the Garner case sparked protests, accusations of racist policing and calls for federal prosecutors to intervene. But unlike the Missouri protests, the demonstrations in New York remained mostly peaceful. The case also prompted Police Commissioner William Bratton to order officers at the nation's largest police department to undergo retraining on use of force.
The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide and found that a chokehold contributed to it. A forensic pathologist hired by Garner's family, Dr. Michael Baden, agreed with those findings, saying there was hemorrhaging on Garner's neck indicative of neck compressions.
Police union officials and Pantaleo's lawyer have argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a chokehold, because he was resisting arrest and that Garner's poor health was the main reason he died.
There was no immediate comment from Pantaleo's attorney nor the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, a union that has strongly backed the officer.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — A man was arrested and charged with theft of three golf carts taken Nov. 23, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office reported on Wednesday.
Nathan Michael Huston, 38, of 21310 Front Beach Road, was charged with three counts of grand theft, dealing in stolen property and uttering a forged instrument. The BCSO noted Huston was wanted in California on a warrant as a fugitive from justice for violating conditions of release. He was booked into the Bay County Jail on that warrant as the investigation into the stolen golf carts continued.
One of the golf carts was returned to its owner after it was spotted in a wooded area in the 200 block of 13th Street in Panama City Beach. On Nov. 27, the owner of one of the other two golf carts informed the BCSO he had seen it in from of Huston’s residence.
The report stated an investigator was sent to the residence and Huston claimed to have purchased the two golf carts via the online classified website Craigslist. Huston recanted the original story and said he purchased them through a “friend of a friend,” but couldn’t remember the names of those involved, the BCSO reported.