News Update for 6/12/24

On Day two of the sentencing trial of Zephen Xaver, jurors heard testimonies from witnesses who were inside and outside the Sebring SunTrust bank during the 2019 massacre. Ben Wysokowski, a former SunTrust Bank teller, was called to the witness stand and said that he was on his lunch break when he heard gun shots. He escaped through a back door and knocked on the door of a nearby house for help. The prosecutor also called customer Victor Sparks to the stand. He said the doors were locked when he tried to enter the bank. Sparks suspected it was a robbery in progress so he walked back to his car and called 911. The trial continues today and is expected to conclude by the end of June.

A man who is accused of hitting a Davenport police officer in a nearly head-on crash before taking off has been arrested and charged with DUI. An officer was on patrol early Sunday morning when he saw a pick-up truck driving towards him going the wrong way. The truck then struck the passenger side of his patrol vehicle and took off. Less than 10 minutes later, deputies found the truck and its driver, 21-year-old Jose Enrique Hernandez-Gonzalez of Orlando. Hernandez-Gonzalez admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages at a family party before the crash.

A tropical low is drifting over the state for the next two days which means heavier rain chances. A Flood Watch is in effect for Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, and Desoto counties through tomorrow evening. Some communities there had record rainfall and flash flooding yesterday, and more rain is in store today.

An endangered species in Florida, the panther, is popping up in Polk County. Trail cameras, set up and monitored by teams of experts, are tracking the panthers’ movements. In the last two months, a male panther has been seen twice on a trail camera at Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. The panther is said to be recognizable because of a significant limp. The ‘fStop Foundation’ is working with ZooTampa to monitor panthers and other wildlife in Polk County to raise awareness for conservation. There are about 140 to 240 Florida panthers left remaining in the wild, mainly due to habitat loss and human impact.

A man was killed in a two-vehicle crash in rural Charlotte County early Saturday. According to a report from Florida Highway Patrol, a 50-year-old Port Charlotte man was driving a sedan southbound at on U.S. 17. while a 19-year-old Lorida man was northbound on the highway in a sedan. Reports say that the Port Charlotte man turned his car in front of the Lorida man’s vehicle. The Port Charlotte man’s car then overturned. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The Lorida man and his passenger, a 20-year-old Lorida man, both suffered injuries.

The Florida Department of Health is reporting several toxic blue-green algae blooms in the Tampa Bay region. After a long drought followed by heavy rain, blooms are expected to worsen this week as rain may push runoff into the rivers, lakes and ponds, acting as nutrients for the algae to feed off of. Over the past few weeks, the Florida Department of Health has alerted the public to multiple blue-green algae blooms in Polk and Hardee counties and said it’s monitoring three sites in Hillsborough County.

Currently under construction is the new home to a Boeing engineering center. Local leaders call this a state-of-the-art center that will advance the future of aviation and aerospace locally, statewide and nationally. The new building will create 400 high-quality jobs in Volusia County. The center is expected to open in the fall of this year. Governor Ron Desantis who was present for Tuesday’s announcement, said he would be signing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year soon and will be approving $30 million to go to Embry Riddle for their research park and aerospace academy.