Around the Region - Jan. 15

Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 10:24 p.m.


Students chase away man taking pictures

Girls at an Alachua County school bus stop Monday told officers a man stopped and took pictures of them until they realized what he was doing and chased him away.

The girls, who are in their early teens, were at NW 46th Street and NW 23rd Avenue when they spotted the man at about 8 a.m., the Alachua County Sheriff's Office reported.

The man, who was in a silver minivan, took pictures of the girls, drove around the block and then parked south of them on NW 46th Street, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard.

One of the students realized what the man was doing and shouted at him. He then drove off.

Officers searched for the vehicle and also alerted the Gainesville Police Department about the incident. But the vehicle was not located.

The man was described as white and in his late 40s with white hair and a white beard. The students' parents were notified about the incident, Maynard said.

A similar incident occurred in the Newberry area also on Monday morning. A 14-year-old student reported that a stranger approached her near the Hammock Apartment complex on NW County Road 235 on the eastern edge of Newberry as she was on her way to school.

In that report, the girl described the man as having a heavy country accent and a red goatee. He was wearing blue jeans and a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head.

He was driving a small, black pickup with a standard cab that had been damaged on the passenger side and windows that were not tinted. The Sheriff's Office saturated the area with deputies Tuesday but didn't locate the man.

Anyone with information about either incident is asked to contact deputies at 352-955-1818.

-Lise Fisher

Teens say man on bus committed sex act

A Gainesville man was being held at the Alachua County jail Wednesday after two teenagers told police he committed a sex act in front of them on a city bus.

Robert Tyrone Hill, 50, is facing charges of lewd and lascivious behavior and committing a probation violation, jail records showed.

Two teenagers told police that Hill got on the bus at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and sat between them, according to an arrest report. They said he asked one of them for hand lotion, which she gave him, and then he put his hands down his pants and began to touch himself in front of them.

Police found Hill on the same bus that day. When interviewed by officers, he denied he had committed a sex act or exposed himself in front of the teenagers.

-Lise Fisher

Report: Gunman robs pizza delivery driver

An armed robber ran up to a pizza delivery driver stopped at a red light and held up the employee Tuesday night, Gainesville police reported.

The Domino's Pizza employee tried to chase the getaway vehicle, but the suspect drove off from the area of NW 23rd Avenue and NW 15th Street, police reported. No one was hurt during the robbery, which occurred at about 7:30 p.m. The robber escaped with more than $100 and a credit card.

The employee told officers a suspicious vehicle appeared to be following him as he was making deliveries, said police spokeswoman Officer Summer Hallett. The other motorist would pull over at times when the employee would stop. As the employee headed north in the 2300 block of NE 15th Street, the other driver stopped behind him and appeared to try to get out of the car but then sped off.

Shortly afterward, when the employee had stopped at a red light, a man came up to the passenger's side of the vehicle and pulled out a gun. The robber told the driver to give him money and his wallet or he would shoot him, Hallett said.

The suspect was described as white, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a slight moustache and a thin build. He was wearing a red hoodie with green shorts and military-style boots. The getaway vehicle was an older model sedan with faded, peeling green paint, police said.

Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to contact Lt. Rob Koehler or Sgt. Mike Douglas at 352-334-2400.

-Lise Fisher

Police arrest suspect in hit-and-run case

A 21-year-old arrested for a sixth time for driving with a suspended license is a suspect in the case of a man whose leg was broken apparently when he was hit by a car.

Williston police say the situation began at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when police were checking out reports of gunshots being fired in the 100 block of NW 9th Street in Williston.

"Nobody was apparently hit and that may have just been dumb luck," said police Lt. Clay Connolly.

Officer Mike Bracaglia said that several large groups of young people scattered from the area when officers arrived. At the scene, police found a spent shell casing and 24-year-old Jerome Brown Jr. of Williston, who had a broken leg and a cut to his head. Brown told police he had been hit by a car.

Police said that among the charges expected to be filed for the injuries to Brown are aggravated battery, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident with injuries and reckless driving.

Bracaglia determined that the car involved, a gray Saturn, was a rental car that was found Sunday at a home in Williston. On Tuesday, police arrested Decoda King, 21, of Williston, for driving with a suspended license for at least the sixth time and took him to the Levy County Jail in Bronson.

"We are naming him a suspect" in the hit and run, said police Lt. Clay Connolly.

-Karen Voyles

Man towing car gets lodged under semi

A Wednesday morning crash on Interstate 75 in Columbia County ended with two vehicles partially lodged beneath a semi trailer but no serious injuries.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the wreck happened at 9 a.m. at the southbound exit ramp from the Ellisville rest area along I-75, which is about 1.5 miles south of U.S. 441.

In a written report on the crash, FHP Trooper Walter G. Smith said Michael Lopez, 26, of Miami Lakes, was driving a 2004 Dodge SUV and towing a 1964 Chevy on a tow dolly. Lopez apparently lost control of the Dodge when the Chevy behind it began to sway.

The Dodge and Chevy rotated across the southbound lanes to the exit ramp before the Chevy collided with the trailer of a parked semi truck, troopers said.

The collision made the Chevy rotate clockwise until its left side hit the left side of the semi trailer, troopers said. The Dodge and the Chevy came to a stop under the semi trailer.

Lopez was treated for minor injuries at the scene, according to Smith's crash report. The driver of the semi had been sleeping in the rear of the truck's cab and was not injured.

Lopez was charged with careless driving.

-Karen Voyles

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