Around the Region - Jan. 22

Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 11:07 p.m.


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Columbia County Sheriff's Office

Man arrested for firing gun near school

A Gainesville man was in the Alachua County jail after he was accused of firing a gun within 1,000 feet of a school following a shooting in front of Alachua Elementary Tuesday afternoon, police reported.

Kenneth L. Hope, 22, was being held at the jail Wednesday morning on charges of discharging a gun near the school and improper exhibition of a firearm, the Alachua Police Department reported. A $20,000 bond had been set for his release, according to jail records.

Witnesses told officers that someone in a blue Chevrolet was seen firing at a gold Chrysler near the school at about 3:35 p.m. Both vehicles drove away from the area, but police later identified the Chevrolet and reported Hope had been in the vehicle.

Hope told police he was a student at Santa Fe College and that he acted in self-defense, according to officers.

Police said it was lucky that, with the school and a library in the area, there were no reports of injuries.

Officers still were searching late Tuesday for the other vehicle and possibly others who they believe were in the Chevrolet with Hope.

U.S. 441 was closed for about two hours during the investigation, police reported.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the police department 386-462-1396.

— Lise Fisher

UF student falls 20 feet off parking deck

A University of Florida student remained hospitalized early Wednesday after he apparently fell backward off a ledge of a campus garage, police reported.

The 19-year-old was undergoing surgery at an area hospital, UF police said. The man’s injuries did not appear life-threatening, said police spokesman Capt. Jeff Holcomb.

Police received an incomplete 911 call at about 3:20 a.m. and located Everett Millman on a wooden bridge between Hume Hall and Garage 5, where the accident occurred.

Holcomb said the student’s friend, who apparently had tried to call for help, said the injured man had been smoking cigarettes and was on the garage’s third-floor ledge when he fell backward. He then either was helped to or able to walk to the bridge where he was located.

Holcomb estimated the student fell about 20 feet.

— Lise Fisher

Man photographing bus stop identified, cleared

Police say they have identified a man who female students at a school bus stop said had been taking photographs of them last week. But officers said the man was photographing the bus stop itself, not the teenagers.

The students reported the suspicious incident after seeing a man photographing the bus stop at NW 46th Street and 23rd Avenue at about 8 a.m. on Jan. 12. One student shouted at the man, who then drove away.

Officers were able to track down the man and, after contacting him, learned he had been photographing the stop, not the students, because of concerns about the location. Police determined nothing criminal had occurred, said Gainesville Police spokeswoman Officer Summer Hallett.

Officers praised the students for reporting the incident, even though ultimately police determined nothing criminal had occurred.

— Lise Fisher

Authorities looking for fugitive in shooting

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a fugitive in a Friday shooting.

A warrant has been issued for Irvin Jeffrey “Swerve” White Jr., 19, of Lake City. The warrant charges White with aggravated battery for an incident on NW Maxwell Glen.

According to deputies, the shooting victim had been involved in a fistfight with neighbors when White pulled out a .22 caliber handgun and fired three shots. One of the shots hit the victim in the lower back, according to investigators.

In a news release about the incident, the sheriff’s office said the victim was taken by family members to an area hospital to be treated for an injury that did not appear to be life-threatening.

Deputies said White, who is 5-foot-5 and weighs 165 pounds, should be considered armed and dangerous and anyone who spots him should not attempt to apprehend him.

Instead, the sheriff’s office has asked that sightings of White be reported to its office by calling (386) 752-3222. Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers of Columbia County at (386) 754-7099 and they may be eligible for a monetary reward.

— Karen Voyles

Man nabbed for prowling at woman’s house

A few minutes before his 20th birthday, a Gainesville man was booked into the Alachua County jail after police say he entered a woman’s home and wouldn’t leave.

Theron Gray of 1100 SW 8th Ave. was charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling and loitering and prowling for the Sunday night incident. He turned 20 on Monday while being held at the jail.

According to Gainesville Police, Gray walked into a woman’s home through an unlocked front door Sunday night. The woman told police she did not know Gray and that she told him to leave. Gray reportedly continued walking toward her, smiling but not saying anything.

The woman told police she was afraid of Gray and repeatedly told him to get out of her house. Gray apparently left after the woman began screaming, police say.

While officers were at the woman’s home, they said they saw Gray standing outside the woman’s door, apparently in a different set of clothing than he had been wearing when he went into the house the first time.

Police said that when they questioned Gray about the incident, he told them he went into the woman’s home “to make love.”

— Karen Voyles

Marshals find suspect hiding in Gainesville attic

The U.S. Marshal’s Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force found an assault suspect hiding in the attic of a Gainesville home early Wednesday morning.

Eric Edwards, 27, of Gainesville was wanted on a warrant charging him with an assault at the Glen Springs Manor apartment complex on NW 31st Avenue. According to a police report, Edwards is suspected of strangling and biting a woman during a fight on Aug. 23. Police said that once Edwards realized a warrant had been issued for him, he fled from the area but made threatening phone calls to the woman.

The Marshal’s task force assumed the case on Dec. 30 and traced Edwards to an apartment at 704 SW 69th St., where investigators said he was found in the attic.

Edwards was being held at the Alachua County jail on Wednesday evening. His bond had been set at $15,000.

— Karen Voyles

Prison guard found guilty for inmate assault

A federal jury in Jacksonville convicted a former Florida State Prison officer for assaulting an inmate three years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Paul Tillis, who once had worked at the prison in Bradford County, was found guilty last week of a felony federal civil rights violation for the August 2005 incident. He now faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A court date for the sentencing has not yet been set, the Department of Justice reported.

Tillis had been accused of pouring scalding water on an inmate’s chest as the man, who was pretending he was injured, was lying on a cell floor, according to the Department of Justice. The inmate received second-degree burns. Tillis also did not arrange to get the inmate medical treatment.

“It is important that corrections officers realize they may not use their positions of authority to inflict physical harm on inmates as punishment,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division in a statement. “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a lawful and professional manner, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line and commit this type of unlawful act.”

— Lise Fisher

Shelley Meyer at schools fundraiser this Saturday

The Alachua County Public Schools Foundation’s Zumba for Schools fundraiser is Saturday,

1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Gainesville Health and Fitness Center, 4820 Newberry Road.

Zumba is a popular new exercise based on Latin dance.

Guests at the Zumba event include Shelley Meyer, wife of Gator coach Urban Meyer; Superintendent of Schools Dan Boyd, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, University of Florida mascots Albert and Alberta and the Dazzlers UF dance team.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. To order tickets, call Nikki Wagner at 955-7003.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money for the public school system and students.

— Staff report

Thieves get away with woman’s cash, jewelry

A woman was held at gunpoint early Wednesday while robbers ransacked her southeast Gainesville home, police reported.

The 68-year-old woman told officers she was awoken by armed men shortly after 4 a.m., said police spokeswoman Officer Summer Hallett. The door to the home in the 1000 block of SE 20th Street appeared to have been kicked in, officers reported.

The woman said the men told her they wanted the money and to show them where it was. When she told them she didn’t have any money, they forced her onto the bathroom floor, put a towel over her head and rummaged through the house. The pair fled with several thousand dollars in cash and some jewelry, according to officers.

While at the home, the suspects referred to a person by name and told the woman they knew he came there.

The robbers were wearing gloves and masks as well as long-sleeves shirts, police reported.

The resident was not injured, Hallett said.

— Lise Fisher

Man knocked out, then robbed outside of his car

A Gainesville man told police someone knocked him out when he got home and stole money, a phone and other items early Wednesday.

The 22-year-old said he pulled up to his home in the 200 block of NW 19th Avenue at about 1 a.m. He was getting out of his vehicle when he was struck and knocked unconscious, according to Gainesville police. The man awoke about three hours later and found he was missing cash, a phone, keys and a debit card.

Nothing in the man’s vehicle or home seemed to have been disturbed, police reported.

— Lise Fisher

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