Around the region for Jan. 10, 2012


Published: Monday, January 9, 2012 at 9:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 at 9:04 p.m.

POLICE BEAT

Mentally disabled man attacked

A mentally disabled man standing near his caregiver was injured at noon on Monday in what police said was an unprovoked attack in downtown Gainesville.

The Gainesville Police Department arrested a suspect in the attack a short time later, but officers said they did not have a motive for the incident.

Officer Matthew D. Cory said the disabled man and his caregiver were at the downtown bus station at 401 SE First Ave. when the incident happened. Several witnesses said the man was attacked from the front by another man who pushed the victim to the ground, got on top of him and then hit him in the face several times before running off. Police found a man matching the suspect’s description a few blocks away, and he was positively identified by the caregiver and other witnesses as the person who attacked the disabled man.

The suspect was identified as Eric Collins, 26, of 4846 NE 13th St. Collins was taken to the Alachua County jail on charges of felony battery and abuse of a disabled adult. The victim was taken to Shands at the University of Florida for treatment of injuries to his arms, back and face.

— Karen Voyles

Police: Boy, 11, shot people with BB gun

The Gainesville Police Department picked up an 11-year-old boy on Sunday after witnesses said he was shooting people with a BB gun.

Police said the boy initially shot a stranger in the back in the 2500 block of Northwest 59th Avenue. When a witness told the boy she was going to call police, he shot at her while she was standing inside her apartment, police said.

While officers were talking to witnesses about the first two shootings, two other people told police they had also been shot by the boy while they were walking in the area. Police said no one was seriously injured.

The boy’s mother told officers that she knew he had two BB guns and that he played with them outside without supervision.

Officers filed a sworn complaint in the case and notified the Department of Juvenile Justice about the incident.

— Karen Voyles

GPD: Thief smashes hole in wall, steals smokes

Someone broke into a convenience store Monday by smashing a hole in a wall and taking several cartons of cigarettes, according to the Gainesville Police Department.

Investigators said a surveillance camera showed a man with a bandanna over his face entering the Lil’ Champ store at 2152 NW 39th Ave. at 1:26 a.m.

Police spokeswoman Angelina Valuri said the man took about $250 worth of cigarettes.

— Karen Voyles

COMMUNITY

Turtles’ cause of death will take a while to ID

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it may be weeks before they know what killed dozens of turtles in the Keystone Heights area recently.

Commission spokeswoman Karen Parker said a resident in the Smith Lake area noticed the dead turtles. The turtles — many found at the end of Pinon Road — did not appear to have any signs they died of a traumatic death, Parker said, adding that it could be related to the recent cold snap.

— Karen Voyles

Fog, smoke still impacting driving conditions

Early morning fog and smoke from the still-smoldering Levy Prairie Fire continue to create hazardous conditions between Melrose and Interlachen in Putnam County, forcing roads and an elementary school to close.

The fire, also called the Olive Fire, has been burning since around Thanksgiving and is feeding on muck — a thick layer of soil with dead vegetation. Florida Forest Service district spokeswoman Ludie Bond said Monday that morning road closures will continue as long as heavy fog is predicted to mix with the smoke.

“That mixture can cause very hazardous road conditions,” she said, noting that multiple wrecks — none fatalities — have occurred in the area in the past two months.

The Forest Service is advising drivers to avoid the roads between Melrose and Interlachen — including state roads 21, 20 and 315, along with Baden Powell Road — from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. The roads will open, she said, once the fog lifts, usually around 9:30 a.m.

On Monday, Putnam County officials closed Ochwilla Elementary School because of smoke from the fire. The school will have adjusted hours today, opening at 12:15 p.m. and closing at 6:30 p.m., according to the Putnam County School District.

— Sean P. McCrory

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