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Local News

  • Wildfire season is ramping up in Northeast Florida because April is one of the driest months in the area, and it only takes one spark to start a devastating fire. Action News Jax Chief Meteoroligist Mike Buresh says the fire forecast doesn't look terribly bad for the local area at the moment. He says timely rains have done a good job to wet things down just enough.  But Buresh says we won't hit the true wet season until late May or after that, so the worry is a dry week or two mixed with a lightning strike in the wrong spot.  'It can happen any time,' says Annaleasa Winter of the Florida Forest Service. 'We just go a couple days, a couple of weeks without rain; and if we remember the fire season of 1998, we were flooding going into that season. So anything can change.'  She says the key thing to remember is to be prepared. That means you should have a supply kit and an evacuation plan in place.  'When the time comes to evacuate, do so immediately,' Winter says.  A lot of areas in St. Johns, Baker and Nassau counties consist of new developments in what used to be rural areas. Safety experts in those cities say that makes it even more important to pay attention to weather and the possibility of a fire starting at any time.  'It's always a concern when we have so much fuel in areas where we've got people coming in, moving in and building houses, so it's something we're always keeping an eye on,' says Greg Foster with Nassau County Emergency Management.  By fuel he means pine straw and dry leaves or wood. Winter says the worst weather conditions each day are between 2 and 5 p.m. She says that's when the moisture content is the lowest, and the flammable materials are more likely to ignite.  'People need to think about that when they're burning yard debris,' Winter says.  She says the long-range forecast through the summer is showing above average temperatures and above average precipitation, so that means it should be an average fire season.  For a full breakdown of the upcoming fire season with advice from multiple area experts, you can listen to the 2019 Wildfire Special on New 104.5 WOKV on Monday at 6 p.m.
  • Neptune Beach Police are asking for your help finding an armed bank robbery suspect. Police responded to the SunTrust Bank on 3rd Street Friday to a reported armed robbery. The suspect is described as a light-skin black man who’s between 5’9” and 5’11” and 130-150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black hoodie with American Eagle design, light colored pants, orange sunglasses, and black and white Nike low tops. The suspect was armed with a handgun and was last seen running on foot, according to police. They say you should not approach the suspect. The Neptune Beach Police Department number is 904-270-2413.
  • Less than two weeks after a car slammed in to it leaving substantial damage, the original Jacksonville Metro Diner location is reopening for Easter weekend. The Hendricks Avenue restaurant has been closed since the crash April 9th. Nobody was in the building at the time, when a driver lost control and hit the building. Initially, the managing partner thought repairs would take several weeks, but the restaurant’s founders are crediting the community and construction partners for getting the work done sooner. GALLERY: Car slams in to Metro Diner in San Marco “Easter weekend has always been an important time for Metro Diner where we have served families and friends for decades. It was imperative to us to continue that tradition for our loyal guests and dedicated Team Members,” says founder Mark Davoli. The restaurant reopens Saturday, April 20th, and will provide daily breakfast and lunch service from 6:30AM through 3PM.
  • Surveillance footage, a GPS, and more have led to the arrest of the man that St. Johns County deputies say is responsible for breaking in to a Ponte Vedra Beach home, with the homeowners sleeping inside. WOKV first reported on that home invasion earlier this week, after the 77-year-old victim armed himself with a knife and confronted the suspect, who also had a knife, as well as a flashlight. The suspect, now identified as 26-year-old John Kennedy, fled the scene. The arrest report says surveillance footage from the neighborhood showed a tow truck in the area at the time of the home invasion, and at one point, the truck was driving without its headlights on. Deputies traced the truck to the business listed on its side, and the owner not only led them to Kennedy- who was assigned the truck- but brought up the GPS tracking to confirm the truck’s location that night, according to the report.  That truck was later found abandoned on A1A. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says tried to set up a meeting with Kennedy, but he didn’t show. The arrest report says a Sergeant then spotted someone matching Kennedy’s description last night, and while he initially fled, he was ultimately tracked down on N Roscoe Boulevard. The arrest report says Kennedy admits to being in the neighborhood that night, but denied being involved in anything criminal.  He has now been arrested for armed burglary, petit theft, resisting an officer without violence, and probation violation.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says a 19-year-old man has been arrested for a deadly double shooting back in February.  JSO asked for your help finding the suspect, Trevon Wiley, just days after the February 16th shooting on Matthew Street; now he's been taken into custody.  According to police, Wiley was sitting in a barber chair next to one of the victims getting their haircut. Police say he then stood up, without saying anything, displayed a gun and then shot the victim multiple times, killing him. Police identified the victim as Ziykye Barnhill. JSO says a second person was shot during this incident, but survived.  Police say multiple witnesses came forward to help with the shooting investigation.  Wiley is charged with murder and attempted murder.
  • Downed trees and power lines, damage to buildings, and other impact reports are coming in from the severe storms that moved through Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia Friday. GALLERY: Severe storms on Friday, April 19th Baker County Fire Rescue Chief Trevor Nelson tells WOKV a tree fell on US 90, causing an accident that injured four people. A tree also fell on I-10 eastbound near the Baker/Columbia County line, and several trees have fallen on power lines. One of those blew a transformer and caused a small quarter-acre brush fire, according to Nelson. There are several reports of trees down around the area, including some limbs that have fallen on homes. Ahead of the bad weather, Naval Air Station Jacksonville recommended non-essential employees leave, and they secured all non-essential base services. The storms stretched in to Southeast Georgia, and that’s where there was significant damage done to at least one business. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville says this damage was caused by incredibly strong winds, but not a tornado. With the downed power lines resulting from these storms, you need to use extreme caution as you drive. If you encounter an intersection where the traffic lights are not working, remember to treat it as a four-way stop.
  • Naval Air Station Jacksonville is asking all non-essential base personnel to leave the base because of the approaching severe weather. Anyone who fits that description is being asked to leave before 1 p.m. since that's when the heaviest weather is supposed to hit.  NAS Jax says the Navy Exchange will close at noon, including the gas station. The commissary is also closing at noon.  All Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facilities will close at 1 p.m., and parents are asked to pick up their children early from the Child Development Center if they can.  The storm could possibly bring tornadoes and heavy wind throughout the area, so the base says they are taking the threat very seriously.
  • Hurricane Michael, which devastated a swath of the Florida Panhandle last fall, has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm, only the fourth to make recorded landfall in the United States and the first since 1992. The announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday came as no surprise to those still struggling to recover from the storm's destruction. 'My thought is simply that most of us thought we were dealing with a (Category) 5 anyway,' said Al Cathey, mayor of Mexico Beach, which bore the brunt of the storm when it hit. National Hurricane Center scientists conducted a detailed post-storm analysis for Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base on Oct. 10, 2018. They've determined that its estimated intensity at landfall was 160 mph (257 kph), a 5 mph (8 kph) increase over the operational estimate used last fall, NOAA said in a news release. That puts Michael just barely over the 157 mph (252 kph) threshold for a category 5 hurricane. Just 36 hours before hitting Florida's coast, Michael was making its way through the Gulf of Mexico as a 90 mph (145 kph) Category 1 storm. But the reclassification doesn't come with the much-needed state and federal funding Cathey said is necessary to rebuild. 'Whether it was a 5 or a 4, it really isn't relative to anything for most of us who are here. It's just another number,' Cathey said Friday. And the numbers tell the story in Mexico Beach, where Cathey said there were about 1,200 residents and 2,700 housing units before Hurricane Michael hit. Today, the population has dipped to about 400 people and there are less than 500 structures standing. And many of those suffered catastrophic damage. According to NOAA, Category 5 winds were likely experienced over a small area, and the change is of little practical significance. Both categories signify the potential for catastrophic damage. Michael was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the U.S., and parts of the Florida Panhandle, including Mexico Beach and nearby Panama City, are still recovering from the destruction more than six months later. The new landfall speed was determined by a review of the available aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities, NOAA said. That includes data and analyses that weren't available during the storm. The increase in the estimated maximum sustained wind speed from the operational estimate is small and well within the normal range of uncertainty, NOAA said. 'You still ride through our city and it's depressing,' Cathey said, adding that they've dealt with 1 million cubic yards (0.76 million cubic meters) of debris. 'We still don't have a pretty face. It's a mess,' he said. 'But we are working diligently at getting ourselves cleaned up and being proactive and helping people get their feet back under them.' In addition to Hurricanes Michael and Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the only other Category 5 storms known to have made landfall in the U.S. are the Labor Day Hurricane that hit the Florida Keys in 1935 and Hurricane Camille, which ravaged the Mississippi coast in 1969. Michael is also the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle and only the second known Category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf coast. Besides wind speed, atmospheric pressure is also used to measure storm intensity, with a lower central pressure generally meaning higher winds. Michael's central pressure at landfall is the third lowest on record for a landfall in the U.S. since reliable records began in 1900, trailing only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille of 1969.
  • A new health care option is open on Jacksonville’s westside. Orange Park Medical Center opened their second free-standing ER Friday morning a little before 9:30 just east of Lane Avenue and Normandy Boulevard.  Orange Park Medical Center says the new facility at 5773 Normandy Park Boulevard will be open 24-hours a day with radiology services, board-certified emergency physicians, nurses and staff that are able to treat adults and children.  Director for the new ER Alex Mathai says the new facility was needed in the Normandy area.  “We can take care of traumas, heart attacks, strokes. Anything pretty much we do at the hospital we can do at this facility.” Mathai says.  He says the facility is expected to see around 50 people a day now that they are open and they expect those numbers to rapidly go up. Mathai says they already have plans to expand the facility if they need to.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Pope Francis is delivering his annual Easter message Sunday after leading Mass at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. >> Watch the address here Every year after the Easter Mass, the pope delivers an “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, which addresses global issues and conflicts. >> PHOTOS: Pope Francis celebrates Easter Mass at the Vatican This year’s speech comes hours after blasts rocked multiple churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more. >> Read more trending news  Please return for updates.
  • Explosions hit at least three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more, news outlets are reporting. >> PHOTOS: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens Here are the latest updates: Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 21: Two more blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. A seventh explosion hit a hotel in Dehiwala, and an eighth blast was reported in the capital, Agence France-Presse is reporting. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 156 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 35 foreigners, officials said. Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report: Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. >> Read more trending news The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  – The Associated Press contributed to this report
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says a 19-year-old man has been arrested for a deadly double shooting back in February.  JSO asked for your help finding the suspect, Trevon Wiley, just days after the February 16th shooting on Matthew Street; now he's been taken into custody.  According to police, Wiley was sitting in a barber chair next to one of the victims getting their haircut. Police say he then stood up, without saying anything, displayed a gun and then shot the victim multiple times, killing him. Police identified the victim as Ziykye Barnhill. JSO says a second person was shot during this incident, but survived.  Police say multiple witnesses came forward to help with the shooting investigation.  Wiley is charged with murder and attempted murder.
  • The family of a 5-year-old boy thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America last week says he is making “small steps” as he recovers from his devastating injuries. Landen Hoffman was shopping with his mother and friends around 10:15 a.m. April 12 when Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, is accused of picking the boy up and hurling him over a railing to the first floor nearly 40 feet below. Aranda tried to run, but police, with help from witnesses, found him on a light rail train at the mall and took him into custody.  >> Read more trending news “The family doesn’t know him and are completely clueless as to why this monster would target their family with this heinous act of violence,” a GoFundMe page set up to help with Landen’s medical bills states. As of Friday morning, the page had raised more than $870,000 of its $1 million goal.  Landen, who suffered broken arms and legs and significant head trauma, was initially in critical condition, according to the criminal complaint against Aranda. His condition has since stabilized, but he has a long road to recovery, the GoFundMe page reads.  “(His) condition is again similar to previous days. Another peaceful night of sleep -- small steps towards the healing process. Each new day is a good day,” the page read Thursday.  “Landen's recovery is expected to be ongoing for a long time. While it’s hard to estimate costs, this will change everything for their family and require much of their time and focus.” Aranda is charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Aranda is being held in the Hennepin County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond.  >> Related story: Man who threw 5-year-old from third floor of Mall of America intended to kill someone, police say “This crime has shocked the community,” Freeman said in a news release. “That a child, with his mother at a safe public area like a mall, could be violently attacked for no reason is chilling for everyone. Our victim advocates are working with the family during this very difficult time for them. We charged Mr. Aranda with the most severe crime that the evidence allowed.” Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts said during a news conference Saturday that Aranda was cooperative with detectives. The criminal complaint indicates that Aranda confessed to committing the brazen assault.  Read the criminal complaint against Emmanuel Aranda below. “This is a horrific situation,” Potts said. “The family and this child are in our thoughts and prayers. I know the family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers they can get on this case.” The Hoffman family issued a statement through Freeman’s office showing appreciation for the outpouring of support from the community but requesting privacy as Landen recovers from his life-threatening injuries.  Mall of America officials also praised the outpouring of support. “We are grateful for the efforts of all the first responders involved -- including guests and tenants -- for their immediate actions and the outpouring of concern shown by so many for this young child and his family,” a statement read. “For those who have left gifts, flowers and messages of love at the mall, we thank you. Please know we will keep these items safe and handle them according to the family’s wishes.” The criminal complaint says Aranda told police he had gone to the mall on April 11 intending to kill an adult, but that it did not “work out.” He returned to the mall the next day.  “He said he planned to kill an adult because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead,” the document reads.  Aranda told investigators he chose to kill out of frustration over years of rejection from the opposite sex.  “Defendant indicated he had been coming to the mall for several years and had made efforts to talk to women in the mall, but had been rejected,” the complaint says. “The rejection caused him to lash out and be aggressive.”  Aranda admitted he knew what he did was wrong. “Defendant acknowledged repeatedly in his interview that he had planned and intended to kill someone at the mall that day, and that he was aware that what he was doing was wrong,” the document says.  According to the criminal complaint, surveillance camera footage shows Aranda walking on the third floor of the mall and looking over the balcony several times before approaching Landen and his mother.  Landen’s mother told detectives she saw Aranda approach and stand very close to her and her son, the newspaper reported. She asked him if he needed them to move. “Without warning, defendant picked up the victim and threw him off the third floor balcony in front of (Landen’s mother) and several other witnesses, including children,” the complaint states.  Witnesses told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they heard screaming after the boy went over the railing. “Oh my God! Pray for my son!” Landen’s mother begged, witnesses told the newspaper.  Potts said Saturday that Aranda previously was arrested at the Mall of America. Officers were called there in July 2015 after Aranda was seen throwing an object from the third floor.  “When the officers tried to speak with him, he became … he was not cooperative,” Potts said.  Aranda was charged in that incident with obstruction, disorderly conduct and damage to property, the chief said.  Watch the update from Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts below.  He was also accused of trespassing at the mall previously after he threw a glass of water in a woman’s face and destroyed property, the criminal complaint says. It was not clear if that was the same incident Potts spoke about during his news conference.  Aranda had been banned from the mall, but apparently ignored the ban.  Aranda next came in contact with Bloomington police officers at a local restaurant, where he refused to pay his bill, Potts said. In a third 2015 incident, Aranda was accused of throwing a glass at a worker at a different restaurant.  He was charged with fifth-degree assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process in the third case. That was the last contact Bloomington officers had with Aranda prior to the alleged assault at the mall last week.  The Star Tribune reported that Aranda was also previously arrested for smashing computers at a public library in Minneapolis. At that time, he told arresting officers he has “anger issues,” the newspaper said.  Court records indicate Aranda has a string of arrests and convictions in Minnesota, as well as charges of assault and theft in Illinois, the Star Tribune reported. The criminal complaint indicates he had an outstanding warrant for assault in Illinois.  Judges have repeatedly ordered him to undergo mental health treatment, as well as to abstain from alcohol and drugs, the newspaper reported.  Prosecutors are taking Aranda’s latest Mall of America attack very seriously.  “The state intends to pursue an aggravated sentence based on particular cruelty to the victim, particular vulnerability of the victim and the commission of the act in the presence of other children and the victim’s mother,” the criminal complaint says.  The Mall of America website states that the facility “holds itself to the highest standards” when it comes to its security. It has 175 security officers on the payroll.  “We pride ourselves on our high caliber officers, training and forward-thinking attitude,” the webpage reads. “We take a holistic approach with our industry leading programs and practices which include bike patrol, K-9 units, special operations plain clothes officers, a state-of-the art dispatch center, parental escort policy, crisis planning and lockdown drills. “We are a unique property and we protect it as such.”
  • In a series of interviews Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood by her 2017 comments around the dismissal of FBI director James Comey despite telling special counsel Robert Mueller that her statements were made “’in the heat of the moment’” and “not founded on anything.” >> Read more trending news During a news conference after Comey’s abrupt firing in May 2017, Huckabee Sanders told reporters the White House had “heard from countless members of the FBI” who had lost confidence in Comey. However, Mueller’s team found, “The evidence does not support those claims,” according to the special counsel’s report. >> Mueller report: Key findings from the investigation “Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from ‘countless members of the FBI’ was a ‘slip of the tongue,’” investigators said in the Mueller report, which was redacted and released Thursday by U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Huckabee Sanders disputed the special counsel’s interpretation of her comments in an interview Friday with “CBS This Morning,” telling morning show anchors that she only meant to say the word “countless” was a slip of the tongue. >> Mueller investigation: Read the report “The big takeaway here is that the sentiment is 100 percent accurate,” Huckabee Sanders said. “The FBI is a better place without James Comey.” In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Huckabee Sanders insisted “there were a number of FBI, both former (and) current), that agreed with the president’s decision.” >> Mueller investigation: House committee subpoenas full report “I said that the word I used, countless … If you look (at) what’s in quotations from me, it’s that and it was ‘in the heat of the moment,’ meaning that it wasn’t a scripted talking point,” she said. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t a robot like the Democratic Party.” Despite her insistence that her comments about FBI support for Comey’s dismissal were “in the heat of the moment,” Politico noted she told reporters similar things on at least one other occasion, one day after making her initial comment about “countless members of the FBI.” “I can speak to my own personal experience,” she said in 2017, according to Politico. “I’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision.”

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