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Latest from Sarah Thompson

    He was found alone at the top of the Dames Point Bridge.   A 5-week-old kitten is now safe in the care of the Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) thanks to two construction workers.   On Sunday, May 21st, Arthur Earley and Jose Rosario were working at the top of the Dames Point, when they heard a kitten cry. They stopped working and eventually found a tiny kitten, huddled behind a large piece of concrete.   They were able to grab the kitten and pull him to safety, offering up their own water and snacks.   A veterinarian with JHS found the kitten needed to gain weight, but is otherwise healthy.   The kitten, now named Dames Point, is currently in a foster home, gaining weight, before he can return to JHS for adoption.
  • Excitement is in the air.   The 2017 Jacksonville Jazz Festival kicks off tomorrow, Thursday, May 25th, and will continue through Memorial Day weekend.   The festival will feature more than 40 performers, three stages, and a vibrant street festival atmosphere.   The three stages include the Swingin' State at the corner of Main and West Adams streets, the Groovin' Stage at Hemming Park, and the Breezin' Stage at the Jacksonville Landing.   The festival hours are as follows:  - Thursday, May 25: 6 – 10 p.m. (Piano Competition Only)  - Friday, May 26: 4 p.m. – midnight  - Saturday, May 27: 1 p.m. – midnight  - Sunday, May 28: 1 – 11 p.m.   But while the festival doesn't kick off until Thursday, drivers can expect closures to start on Wednesday.   Closures include:  - Duval Street closure from Hogan Street to Laura Street  - Adams Street closure from Hogan Street to Ocean Street  - Laura Street closure from Church Street to Bay Street  - Closure of east lane only of Hogan Street from Monroe Street to Duval Street  - Monroe Street from Hogan Street to Main Street  - Duval Street closure from Main Street to Ocean Street  - Monroe Street closure from Main Street to Ocean Street  - Main Street closure from Church Street to Forsyth Street   The Jacksonville Jazz Festival is free and open to the public.   For more information on festival details, check out JaxJazzFest.com.
  • The Atlantic Beach Police Department is asking the public for any information about two separate incidents involving gunfire in a three-day span.   The first incident took place on Sunday, May 21st, at around 3:30 AM. Police say unknown suspect(s) shot several bullets at an occupied home on Robert Street.   Then, on Tuesday, May 23rd, at around 2:00 PM, police say numerous shots were fired from multiple guns on Lewis Street. Those bullets hit another occupied home, as well as a car.   Thankfully, no injuries were reported in either incident.   Police tell WOKV there is some evidence these shootings could be related, especially considering their proximity, but at this point, they don't have a lot to go on.   If you have information about either incident, you're urged to call Atlantic Beach police at (904) 247-5859.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is asking the public for help identifying an unknown suspect.   Police are not revealing what he's accused of doing, only that he's wanted in a criminal investigation that is currently being worked by detectives.   It's believed he may drive a newer model, maroon Mercedes C300.   If you know who he is, or where he is, you're urged to contact the Sheriff's Office at (904) 630-0500.
  • It's something to keep in mind the next time you go to the airport.   The Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) has announced the first parking rate adjustment at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) since 2011.   The changes include the following:   -Free parking for the first 30 minutes in the Hourly Garage  -Incremental parking for the first day in the Hourly and Daily Garages and the Daily Surface Lot changes from $1.50/20 minutes to $2.00/30 minutes.  -In the Hourly Garage, the daily rate is $20.00/day, up from $18.00/day.  -Daily rates for the Daily Garage rose $1.00 to $15.00/day  -The Daily Surface Lot is $9.00/day, a $1.00 increase  -The daily valet parking rate increased to a flat $24.00   JAA says daily rates in the Economy Lots will remain the same at $5.00.   The rate adjustments take effect on June 1, 2017.
  • It's a 92 bed facility, complete with an ICU and a women's service's unit.   UF Health North's new, inpatient hospital is officially opening its doors to patients Tuesday, May 23rd, at 9 am, after the hospital received its license from the state last week.   The vice president of UF Health North, Wayne Marshall, says it's an exciting time.   'Without a doubt this was an under-served community, as far as hospitals. There was nothing up here and this was our endeavor to help fill that niche,' says Marshall.   Marshall tells WOKV this is actually phase 2 of the project, as phase 1 was completed back in February 2015.   That phase included a medical office building, with a free-standing emergency room, and the diagnostics of full radiology, a full lab, as well as a full hospital-based operating room.   We're told if phase 2 is a success, additional phases could be coming in the future.
  • It's called the Terrorist Release Announcements to Counter Extremist Recidivism Act, or the TRACER Act, for short.   Jacksonville Congressman John Rutherford has introduced a new bill, that would require the Department of Homeland Security to notify state and local law enforcement when federal prisoners convicted of terrorism charges are released.   Rutherford tells WOKV the idea started taking shape in 2015, when he attended a hearing, where it was disclosed that there were hundreds of incarcerated individuals in the Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) system for terrorist-related activity.   'Having been the Sheriff [of Jacksonville], I know, and was frustrated, somewhat, by the refugee issue where they were bringing refugees into my district, unbeknownst to me,' explains Rutherford.   Rutherford says the idea is all about giving law enforcement 'every tool necessary' to keep our communities and families safe.   'We have the best law enforcement in the world, and by encouraging them to work together, they will become an even stronger force against the evils of terrorism,' Rutherford says.   According to a release from Rutherford's office, BOP shared that between 2015-2020, 112 inmates with convictions relating to international terrorism will be released, with an additional 100 released between 2021 and 2030.
  • After a disturbing video of a fight in Moncrief went viral, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has made three arrests.   Jacksonville police initially announced the arrest of Jontaianna Pitts, 18, on Saturday.   Pitts is accused of beating a woman at a park and then attacking a security guard when he tried to step in.   A short time later, she allegedly hit at least two people with a baseball bat, as they were laying on the ground. She went on to kick one of the victim's cars and smashed the windshield.   The arrest report for Pitts reveals she was already wanted by police on an unrelated battery warrant.   JSO announced two additional arrests Monday afternoon.   Zakeria Johnson, 24, is accused of repeatedly striking a victim with closed fists as the victim was on the ground.   Meanwhile, Ronetta Wright, 21, is also accused of repeatedly striking a victim with closed fists and then repeatedly hitting a second victim with closed fists and kicking the victim in the head three times while she was on the ground.   JSO says the investigation is still ongoing.
  • No students were on board, but minor injuries are reported after a crash, involving a truck and a school bus.    The Florida Highway Patrol tells us the crash happened Friday afternoon on the West Beltway, heading northbound, before New Kings Road.   FHP originally told WOKV the school bus was slowing for traffic, when the truck slammed into it.   But the crash report released Friday evening, revealed a tow truck transporting a pickup truck tried to come to a sudden stop behind the bus and an SUV, when the pickup became detached from the rear of the tow truck, causing it to become wedged in the bus. Duval County Public Schools tells us two adults were on board the bus, a driver and an attendant. The attendant had to be transported to the hospital, but her injuries are only described as minor. FHP says the crash remains under investigation, but charges are pending.
  • Voters in Duval County approved a referendum in November allowing 2,000 slot machines at a pari-mutuel facility in Arlington, but a Florida Supreme Court ruling has put the plan on hold.  The court unanimously ruled against allowing slot machines at a racetrack in Gadsden County, where voters also approved gambling expansion. The ruling means slot machines will continue to only be allowed in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.  In the Nov. 2016 election, 54 percent of Duval voters approved the referendum to allow slot machines at the bestbet location on Monument Rd. in Arlington.  A representative of bestbet, Brian Hughes, issued the following statement to News 104.5 WOKV on the Florida Supreme Court decision: “The men and women of bestbet are disappointed with the ruling but there’s a lot of information here to consider, so we are still reviewing the details. Something it clearly demonstrates is that the legislature still has an opportunity to respect the will of the people at the local level. In Duval, an overwhelming majority voted to create jobs and fuel economic development by supporting additional gaming entertainment options locally.”  WOKV also reached out to City Councilman Aaron Bowman, who has been a big supporter of the idea of bringing slots to Jacksonville. Bowman says he’s a little surprised and certainly disappointed by the ruling, as slots were expected to bring jobs and more tourists. As for the future of slots in Jacksonville, Bowman believes it’ll be up to the state legislature. “To me, this was a local issue and I thought that the public supported it in the referendum and I still think it’s a local issue, but the [state] Supreme Court has said no, so now I think it goes up to the state level,” says Bowman. Eight Florida counties voted in favor of slot machine expansion. The Florida Senate passed a bill to allow slot machines in those counties, though the House chose not to move forward.  
  • Sarah Thompson

    Sarah Thompson is the Afternoon Producer and Evening Anchor for WOKV and has been with the team since October 2013. She's a University of Florida graduate and a Jacksonville-native.

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  • ***UPDATE: JSO says the suspect has been identified and is in custody. WOKV is working to learn more details.*** Jacksonville police are asking for your help finding a man accused of exposing himself to a child.  The Sheriff’s Office says an incident occurred around 8:30AM on May 18th, where a man pulled up near the victim around the intersection of Cedar Hills Boulevard and Blanding Boulevard. The suspect reportedly provided a picture of a cat and asked if the victim had seen the cat. We’re told the suspect had his pants down and was fondling himself.   The suspect is described as a white man in his 40s, balding with dark hair around the sides and back. His vehicle is described as a silver or gray 2000-2005 Ford Focus station wagon.  Police say it’s possible there have been other incidents involving this suspect, although none have been reported at this time.  If you have any information on the suspect or his vehicle, you’re asked to contact JSO at 904-630-0500 or JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. You can also submit an anonymous tip and be eligible for a possible reward by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
  • It marks Florida Governor Rick Scott's first veto of the year.   Scott has vetoed a bill, commonly called 'Whiskey and Wheaties', that would have allowed grocery stores, retailers, and certain gas stations to sell liquors alongside other products.   Instead, with this veto, there will be no changes. That means the 'liquor wall' requiring spirits to be sold in a location with a separate entrance will stay in place.   In a letter to the Florida Secretary of State, Kenneth Detzner, Scott says both sides of the bill had good points, but that ultimately he had to side with small businesses.   Scott says small business owners told him they were concerned about this bill's impact on their families and their ability to create jobs.
  • Dog bites man. Man sues dog. Dog wins. The dog was Draco, a prized member of the Gwinnett County Police Department’s K-9 unit. But on July 6, 2013, Draco bit the arm of burglary suspect Randall Kevin Jones, who later claimed the dog clamped down for what “seemed like a lifetime.” >> Read more trending news Jones was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center and given stitches for the dog bite before being jailed and charged with burglary and obstruction. Two years later, he filed a highly unusual lawsuit, in that he not only sued the officers involved but also “Officer K-9 Draco of the Gwinnett County Police Department in his individual capacity.” The lawsuit, alleging excessive use of force, said Draco “viciously mauled” Jones, “tearing his flesh and permanently injuring and disfiguring him, while … officers stood by and failed to intervene.” When a federal judge rejected Gwinnett’s initial attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, the county appealed. On Friday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw out the case against Draco. >> Related: Dog saves family with 9 children from house fire “We hold that a dog may not be sued individually for negligence since a dog is not a ‘person,’” Judge Robin Rosenbaum wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel. Georgia law, she noted, does not allow such claims to be litigated against dogs. The mere notion of allowing a lawsuit against a dog raises abundant practical issues, Rosenbaum added. How would you formally serve the lawsuit on a dog? What about the dog’s retention of legal representation? How can a dog be expected to pay damages? >> Related: Why is there a dog on the roof in a Texas neighborhood? Draco, a Belgian Malinois, retired from the K-9 unit in mid-2014 after seven years on the force, helping officers track down suspects and find stashes of illegal drugs. Read more here.
  • A Texas teenager and cancer survivor is thanking a new friend for giving him a college scholarship. Chase Bradley, 17, of Hyde Park High School in Austin knows what a cancer battle is like. His older sister was diagnosed with cancer five years ago and beat it. >> Read more trending news The experience made him an advocate for cancer research. “I remember being in her hospital room, trying to keep a straight face and not cry in front of her. It was a very heartbreaking setting. I gave my sister a hug and it was very overwhelming.' Bradley told ABC News. Bradley and earned a scholarship after raising $57,000 for cancer research. But instead of keeping the $2,500 prize for himself, he gave it to Sergio Garcia, a senior at nearby Anderson High School, who beat leukemia. 'It was something really nice that he did for me and I didn't even know him,' Garcia said in an interview with ABC News. 'We've became really good friends after that. [I plan] to pay some of my tuition for college.' >> Related: 11-year-old cancer survivor commits suicide after relentless bullying, family says Garcia, now cancer-free, says he’s grateful for friends like Bradley. He plans on attending Austin Community College before transferring to a larger school.
  • A Baltimore defense attorney was arrested Tuesday after he was recorded telling an alleged rape victim the Trump administration would deport her if she testified against his client, court documents said.  Christos Vasiliades, 38, was arrested Tuesday at the courthouse as his client’s rape trial was set to start, according to the Baltimore Sun. He is charged with multiple counts that include witness intimidation and obstruction of justice.  Vasiliades’ interpreter, Edgar Ivan Rodriguez, was also arrested, the Sun reported. A 12-court indictment in the case alleges that Vasiliades was recorded trying to dissuade the woman who accused his client of rape from testifying at trial. He and Rodriguez are also accused of trying to bribe her with $3,000. The recording allegedly captured the lawyer talking about the “current environment” for immigrants in the United States since President Trump’s inauguration.  “You know how things are with Trump’s laws now,” he told the woman’s husband in the recorded conversation. “Someone goes to court, and boom, they get taken away.” According to court documents, Vasiliades also offered an alternative solution that he said would go over well in his native Greece: beat the defendant up. “He’s an (expletive). I think you should find him and kick his (expletive), personally,” Vasiliades said, according to court documents obtained by the Sun. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who obtained the indictment against Vasiliades and Rodriguez, commented on the indictment on Facebook.  'Threatening a victim of crime with deportation could have a chilling effect on our criminal justice system,' Frosh said.  >> Read more trending news The indictment, which was filed Tuesday, stated that the case against Vasiliades and Rodriguez began on April 11, when the men called the woman and her husband and asked to meet them, stating that her case had become “more complicated.” The meeting took place at a Baltimore restaurant.  During the meeting, they pointed out that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would be in the courtroom for their client, Mario Aguilar-Delossantos, the indictment said. They told the couple that due to new federal laws and policies enacted by the Trump administration, there was a high risk that they would be deported if they showed up in court.   Vasiliades and Rodriguez are accused of telling the couple that Aguilar-Delossantos was “very sorry and could offer compensation if they did not come to court and testify against him,” the indictment said. The men claimed that the money could help ensure that the couple remained in the country. Instead of taking the lawyer up on his offer, the couple went to law enforcement. Police investigators had them call Vasiliades on May 15, but that call was closely monitored and recorded.  Over the span of a couple of days, and multiple phone calls with Vasiliades, a face-to-face meeting was set up for May 18. When everyone arrived at the meeting place, an office space in Baltimore, Vasiliades made everyone leave their cellphones in the lobby.  Unknown to him or Rodriguez, however, the couple still had a recording device with them. The device recorded the lawyer reiterating the risk of deportation for the victim if she testified, the indictment said. “Because she’s there (in court), you know, my guy’s going to be, like, ‘I’m here, but she is, too,’” Vasiliades told them, according to the document. Rodriguez told the woman ICE officials would ask for her immigration documents. At that point, Vasiliades allegedly said, “Then everybody’s (expletive).”  Read the entire indictment here.  It was during the May 18 meeting that Vasiliades and Rodriguez told the victim she and her husband would receive $3,000 if they failed to show up and the case got thrown out of court, the indictment said. The court document detailed the plan the men came up with.  “On the upcoming trial date, (the couple) should not show up to court and should instead wait outside the courthouse with Rodriguez, who would be holding the cash, while Vasiliades would appear in court,” the indictment said. “If the case was then ‘thrown out’ due to the fact that (the couple) did not show up, Vasiliades would come out of the courthouse, give a ‘thumbs up’ to Rodriguez and Rodriguez would hand (the couple) the cash.” After pointing out that, in Greece, the punishment for an alleged rapist would be a beating, Vasiliades told the couple that all he wanted was for them to not show up at the trial, court documents said.  “I did my job, I did very good, and I can go home and go to sleep OK,” Vasiliades said, according to the indictment. “And then you get something, and then you find him outside, brother, and you (expletive) him up, that’s it.” The Sun reported that Aguilar-Delossantos’s trial was pushed back to August because of his lawyer’s arrest. Aguilar-Delossantos is charged with second-degree rape and second-degree assault, as well as third- and fourth-degree sexual offenses. 

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