Around the Region - Jan. 1


Published: Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 1, 2010 at 4:31 p.m.

POLICE BEAT

Information sought in Hawthorne robbery

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office is asking for any information regarding a Monday afternoon robbery at the M&S bank in Hawthorne.

The bank was robbed and the suspect had left behind a suspicious device believed to be some type of improvised explosive device.

The bank was evacuated as well as the surrounding area while the Sheriff's Office bomb team rendered the device safe.

No one was injured and the suspect fled the area on foot. An undetermined amount of cash was taken.

The suspect was described as a black man possibly in his 30s, around 5 feet 8 inches tall, wearing a black and gray coat and a knit stocking cap. He appeared either to have a dreadlock-style hairdo or was wearing a wig. Detectives are working closely with the Starke Police Department to see if a similar robbery in Starke on Dec. 22 is related.

Anyone who may have information about this incident or possibly saw something around that time can contact the Sheriff's Office at 955-1818 or Detective Sheryl Strickland at 367-4177. Callers may also remain anonymous and be eligible to receive a reward up to $1,000 by calling Crime Stoppers at 372-STOP (7867).

COMMUNITY

Road work set to start Monday on N.W. CR 229

Road work is set to start Monday on Northwest County Road 229, a stretch of road in Bradford County, the Florida Department of Transportation reported.

Crews will begin construction to extend or replace drainage pipes and widen and resurface pavement.

It's anticipated the project, which will cost more than $690,000, will take about two months to complete. Weather conditions could impact the completion date.

The three-mile stretch of roadway is located between State Road 16 and N.W. 177th Street.

Extending drainage pipes along the roadway will affect about 50 driveways, DOT reported. Three drainage culverts that run under the road also will be upgraded. The roadway will be resurfaced and widened by two feet on each side so there can be paved shoulders.

During the work, there will be daytime lane closures. Work will take place six days a week. Paving work is expected to begin in mid- to late January.

Gas in Marion County will cost 5 cents more

Alachua County residents who drive south to buy less expensive gasoline will lose a little of that incentive starting today when a new 5-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline kicks in today in Marion County.

Marion County commissioners enacted the gas tax, which is slated to run for 30 years, to fund the repayment of up to $50 million the county planned to borrow for road projects.

The tax will increase the price of a gallon of regular gas at Ocala-area stations from an average of about $2.61 to $2.66, based on a survey of local prices compiled as of Thursday by AAA Club South. The gas tax does not apply to diesel fuel.

STATE

Fighter jets escort down small aircraft

BROOKSVILLE - Authorities in Florida say military jets escorted down a small plane being flown by a French pilot, who was advised to not get behind the controls of the aircraft because he could not speak in English with officials.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the pilot, who owned the Cessna plane, grew indignant when a certified instructor recommended he remain on the ground Wednesday. The pilot disregarded the warning and took off from the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville, about 42 miles north of Tampa.

John Cornelio, a spokesman for North American Aerospace Defense Command, said two fighter jets were dispatched to turn around the pilot, who landed at a South Florida airfield.

The sheriff's office says the pilot won't face criminal charges.

Teen electrocuted trying to steal copper

MULBERRY - A central Florida teen is in critical condition after authorities say he was electrocuted while trying to steal copper wire with his older sister.

Siblings Samantha Fowler and Bryant Cody allegedly trespassed onto the Mims Corporation property south of Mulberry on Wednesday. Deputies say 18-year-old Cody climbed on top of a large transformer and was electrocuted.

Fowler told investigators she saw her brother fall and knocked unconscious. She was able to revive him, put him in their vehicle and drive to a sheriff's substation where emergency rescue was called.

Cody was in critical condition Thursday at Tampa General Hospital.

Base takes precautions against mass shooting

HURLBURT FIELD - The Air Force's special operations command at Hurlburt Field in the Panhandle is taking precautions against a mass shooting like the one that killed 13 at Foot Hood Army Base in Texas.

The Panhandle base held an unannounced exercise Wednesday afternoon. Alarms rang out and a base official acting as a shooter knocked down doors and made his way around the base.

A public address system continuously announced that an exercise was under way, pop-up notices on computer screens also announced that it was an exercise and base officials notified local police of the exercise.

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