News Update for 07/01/24

An evidentiary hearing has been requested in the Professional Practices case against Chris Doty, who is a former Highlands School District Administrator. The hearing request stems from a January 22nd letter sent to Doty by the Education Practices Commission stating they had found probable cause to justify sanctions against his Florida Education Certificate in regards to allegations that Doty had created a hostile environment during his tenure at Avon Park Middle School in the 2021-2022 school year. An administrative law judge will be assigned to hear the complaint, and will make recommendations to the Education Practices Commision panel who will then conduct a formal review and issue a final order.

Lakeland Police are being asked to address what one resident calls an ever-growing epidemic. That person and others gathered yesterday in Winter Haven to share stories of their interactions with the LPD. They claim police have a pattern of violence, including against teenagers. A cell phone video taken last month shows two LPD officers punching and tasing a 16-year-old boy. The charges against the teen wound up being dropped.

A University of Florida graduate now wears the crown of Miss Florida. Miss Tampa Casana Fink won the Miss Florida pageant Saturday in Polk County at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. She’ll represent the state in the Miss America pageant in January in Orlando. Fink also gets a 20-thousand-dollar scholarship for the win. She graduated from UF in 2016, and she’s currently in grad school there. Fink says her platform will focus on organ and tissue donations.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Against Bears” law goes into effect today. This is according to state legislators, who say the law creates what amounts to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for those who use deadly force when confronted by Florida’s ursine residents. Proponents of the new law say it enables residents and visitors to protect themselves without fear of prosecution. Opponents say the new law will accelerate that extinction of bears in the Sunshine State.

A man is hurt after Central Florida police say he tried to board a plane while armed with a gun. Authorities say the suspect drove up to a security gate and attempted to enter Melbourne Orlando International Airport because he wanted to get on one of the flights earlier Friday morning. Officers went up to the man’s car that was located just outside the facility before shots were fired. The law enforcement officials involved are on paid administrative leave while the FDLE investigates.

A Manatee County woman with a history of drunk driving is facing more charges after a crash in Hillsborough County. FHP says Bradenton’s Sahai Flatts was drunk and fleeing from troopers when she hit a tree yesterday morning. A trooper spotted her on I-275 driving without her headlights on at 1:00 a.m., but when the trooper tried to pull her over, she kept going onto SR 589. Flatts allegedly reached a high rate of speed, lost control, and hit a tree after exiting on Linebaugh Ave. She was taken to the hospital and then placed under arrest. Flatts is charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Homicide Unit is investigating a vehicle versus pedestrian crash that occurred around 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night, in the eastbound lanes of State Road 60. The driver of a gold Ford Taurus, 59-year-old Tressa Brantley of Winter Haven, was heading east on SR 60 when the pedestrian, 39-year-old Maximino Amiltempa of Mulberry, entered into the path of the car as he was attempting to cross 60. Brantley was unable to avoid striking Amiltempa, and he suffered significant injuries. He was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where he was declared deceased. Brantley was evaluated and showed no signs of impairment, and neither excessive speed nor distracted driving appear to be factors. The investigation is ongoing.

NASA and Boeing are not ready to announce when astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni [[ sonny ]] Williams and the Starliner spacecraft will undock from the International Space Station and head back to earth. The test flight began June 5th with liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Steve Stich says they’re still evaluating helium leaks and thruster issues during the mission. Stich also says he wants to make it clear Butch and Suni aren’t ‘stranded in space’ and the plan is to return them home ‘at the right time’ when it’s safe to do so. The mission was only supposed to last around 8 days. When they do return, it will be to New Mexico by parachute.

Florida airports are gearing up for the Fourth of July travel season. Triple-A is expecting nearly four-point-five-million residents to drive or fly for the upcoming holiday between now and Sunday, July 7th. Tampa International Airport is already seeing a four-percent uptick in summer travel compared to last year. During the busy travel period, travelers are urged to arrive early and check with their airline before heading to the airport.

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