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Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 1:38 a.m.

Store clerk thought robbery was a joke

ARCHER - A convenience store clerk thought a man, wearing a mask from the horror film "Scream," was joking when he tried to rob the place early Thursday.

"He hesitated because he thought the suspect was playing a game," Alachua County Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Faulk said.

The robber, dressed in a black jacket and pants, then showed Jonathan Nash, 21, a clerk at the Smokers Express at 100 Cottonwood Lane, a chrome handgun tucked into his pants' waistband. He left the store shortly before 5 a.m. with what Faulk said was less than $50.

Investigators believe the robber made his escape in a vehicle that had been stationed in a wooded area behind the store.

Anyone with information can contact the Alachua County Sheriff's Office Detective Bureau at 367-4170 or Crime Stoppers at 372-STOP.

- Lise Fisher

Health Department encourages flu shots

Alachua County Health Department officials warn that peak flu season is still ahead, stretching well into March. Flu vaccinations are available at all Health Department locations Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The vaccine will provide protection within two or three weeks after receiving the shot.

Flu shots cost $10, but are free for those with Medicare Part B (without HMO). Bring your Medicare card.

Clinic locations are:

Health Department main office, 224 SE 24th St., Gainesville, 334-7900.

Alachua, 13630 NW 151st Place, (386) 462-2542.

Hawthorne, 22000 SE 64th Ave., 481-2388.

High Springs, 245 NW 2nd St., (386) 454-2421.

Newberry, 25435 W. Newberry Road, 472-1160.

- Diane Chun

City official plans to reapply for position

The city's equal opportunity director said he plans to reapply for the job after the responsibilities of the position are reorganized, despite saying in November he didn't want it.

Jimmie Williams said he will reapply because he feels he has the experience and temperament to do the job. City employees and residents have encouraged him to reapply, he said.

Williams' position is being reorganized following the Nov. 5 election, when 53 percent of Gainesville voters approved an amendment to the city charter that elevates the equal opportunity director to the level of city manager and city attorney.

In the past, the equal opportunity officer answered to the city manager. Now, that individual will answer directly to the City Commission.

Williams has served as the city's equal opportunity director since September 2000.

- Ashley Rowland

Crosby appoints Thompson as warden

As expected, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary James Crosby Jr. announced several staff appointments on Thursday, including the promotions of Joseph E. Thompson and Brad Carter.

Thompson, now warden at Madison Correctional Institution, will take over as warden at Florida State Prison. He will replace Carter, who is moving up to become the Region II director of institutions. In a prepared statement, Crosby said the moves tie authority to responsibility.

"I have tremendous faith and confidence in this professional team to lead the department," Crosby said.

Thompson is the first black warden at FSP since the prison was built in 1961.

- Karen Voyles

County workshops offer insight into government

Want a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of Alachua County's government?

The county is taking applications for a new six-week-long series of workshops called, Alachua County Civic Education Series (ACCESS). The first session is set to begin in March. The county plans to offer two full courses a year.

All county residents are encouraged to apply, though each six-week course is limited to an enrollment of 40 people.

ACCESS sessions will run from three to six hours on six Mondays in March and April. Sessions will cover law enforcement, courts, taxes, roads, land use and the library, among other things.

Applications can be obtained from the Customer Service Center on the first floor of the County Administration Building downtown.

For more information, call Chris Eversole at 374-5226.

- Janine Young Sikes

Archer center seeks help with site plan

ARCHER - The Archer Community Access Center, a place for low-income youngsters and adults alike to learn computer skills and receive tutoring, is looking for volunteers to help develop a site plan for its new building.

"We are looking for sponsors or funders to get the site plan done or people to come out and donate time or services," director Carolyn Khalfani said. "We are nonprofit and we are poor. We don't have much money, so we want to find what we can get free of cost."

The center opened in November and is open three days a week, serving 30 to 35 people each day. It operates in the Martin Rochelle Learning Center, but has land for its own building on State Road 24 and Magnolia Street.

Khalfani said the site plan maps out where the building, drainage, parking, bike racks, trees and other features of the center will be situated.

For more information, call 495-5195 or 495-6900.

- Cindy Swirko

Duval group plans cleanup on Saturday

The Northeast Gainesville/Duval Area Neighborhood Front Porch Florida Community Inc. will hold a cleanup on Saturday.

Volunteers should meet at Duval Elementary School, 2106 NE 8th Ave., at 8 a.m.

Residents north of 8th Avenue can put unwanted items by their curbside by 7 a.m. Saturday for pickup. Items can include furniture, toys, bicycles, scrap wood and metal, car tires and other bulky items. Items should not include household garbage, food scraps, refrigerators, air conditioners and hazardous materials.

For more information, call Juanita Miles Hamilton at 334-7260 or Keep Alachua County Beautiful at 371-9444.

- Ashley Rowland

Officials seeking two youths in bird killings

Investigators are looking for two youths in connection with the shooting of more than 45 protected birds found in Putnam County earlier this month.

A witness reported seeing two boys - one about 17 years old, the other about 12 - shooting birds in a barge canal south of Palatka in the late afternoon of Dec. 28, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Thursday.

They were wearing camouflage clothing and caps, orange vests and using pump shotguns. Their vehicle was a dark-colored Ford F-150 pickup with a silver or white pin stripe.

Anyone with information about the case should call Lt. Bob Lee at the Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922.

- Lise Fisher

Diabetes presentation has been canceled

A Jan. 24 presentation on diabetes by First Coast Service Options, the intermediary for Medicare in this area, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, has been canceled.

-Diane Chun

Judge dismisses charges for protest

TAMPA - A judge dismissed first-degree misdemeanor charges Wednesday against a group of anti-war activists - among them a Gilchrist County man - arrested last year for blocking traffic access to MacDill Air Force Base.

Hillsborough County Judge Elvin Martinez called the state's case ``a stretch,'' and tossed out the charges of resisting or opposing an officer against the eight activists.

The activists blocked the entrance to the base, which serves as the command center for the U.S. military in Central Asia, during a protest against U.S. military action in Afghanistan on May 26. They faced up to a year in jail if convicted.

Roger Otterson, 53, who lives in the Bell area, said, "Basically they wanted to send us a message that they don't want anyone protesting war at MacDill Air Force Base. It was an obvious attack on our First Amendment rights.

"I think this really says a lot for the ability of people to protest," said Otterson, a member of Gainesville's Community Coalition Against War and Terrorism, on Thursday.

Prosecutors had argued that the protesters blocked traffic and refused to leave when ordered to do so by an officer. When police began arresting the protesters, however, they all moved off peacefully.

- The Associated Press

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