News Update for 05/20/24

A Sentencing trial has been set for Zephen Xaver, a 27-year-old former prison guard, who executed 5 women at the Sebring SunTrust Bank, back in 2019. 12 jurors will decide whether Xaver is sentenced to Life without parole or death. Jury selection begins today in the sentencing trials after experiencing numerous delays. Xaver pled guilty last year to 5 counts of first-degree murder for the January 23rd, 2019 massacre. Under a new Florida law, the vote does not have to be unanimous for Xaver to receive the death penalty. The trial is expected to last about two months.

At 3:50 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to a brush fire on Martin Street south of Lake Placid. Crews found a fast-moving fire nearing heavy fuel and some structures. Fire Rescue personnel, along with Florida Forest Service – Okeechobee District crews, were able to quickly contain the fire without damage to properties or any injuries. The Martin was 100% contained at 3.8 acres. Forestry determined the cause to be an escaped unauthorized burn.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported that a rollover crash in the Frostproof area temporarily shut down all lanes on HWY 27 yesterday afternoon. The crash occurred around 4:04 pm and involved at least one vehicle that rolled over multiple times according to witnesses. A total of 3 trauma alert patients were transported to area hospitals via helicopter evacuation that was the cause of the shut down on both sides of the highway. Officials said the crash happened on U.S. 27 North near the intersection with South Scenic Highway.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is currently conducting an investigation into an officer involved shooting that happened Friday night. The shooting took place in Davenport after a pursuit through Haines City. The incident culminated in the shooting of a 17-year-old suspect, Javier Najera, by Haines City Police Officer Sean Bruner. According to reports, around 7:00 pm Friday night, a Haines City Police Officer spotted a stolen vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. That vehicle fled causing a pursuit that ended in Davenport. Najera, the passenger in the vehicle, reportedly reached for a gun resulting in being shot and critically injured. The driver of the stolen vehicle, Victor Espinoza-Rodriguez, 19, was taken into custody.

Dozens of people are facing charges after a brawl in Hillsborough County. It happened Saturday night in Brandon outside Astro Skate on West Robertson Street. The sheriff’s office says there was a crowd of up to five hundred people in the parking lot. Fights broke out, and businesses reported thousands of dollars in damages. Deputies made 36 arrests, including 30 minors.