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News From Action News Jax

    An armed robbery and carjacking victim is speaking out tonight in an interview you’ll only see on Action News Jax. He tells us the suspects pointed guns at him, and even struck him with a handgun, before taking his money, vehicle and other items. Police are asking the public for help in identifying the people behind the armed robbery. It happened around 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 15th at the Wells Fargo on Dunn Avenue. “Thankful, thankful to God to be here, because I know it was him that got me out of the situation,” he said. We agreed not to reveal his identity for his safety. He tells Action News Jax the man pictured in a release by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office -- asking for the assistance of the public -- approached him with a gun as he was taking cash out of the ATM.  “He kind of shoved the gun to the left side of my face,” he said. He tells Action News Jax the suspect hit him in the face with the gun, and told him to withdraw $400.   “The other guy went to the passenger side of the car and pointed a gun at me also,” he said. He tells us he ran to a nearby business, and the suspects took off in his truck. The victim says the vehicle was recovered by police soon after the incident. “Neither have been identified that I have been made aware of,” said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman Christian Hancock in a statement obtained by Action News Jax Ryan Nelson Friday night. “We continue to look for assistance from the community by way of tips.”
  • Putnam County authorities said they’re behind in tracking down the suspicious man who has spent the week approaching several women, because the alleged victims didn’t report it. Police have been looking for him in Palatka for two days.  But, they were only notified through social media Thursday, even though the first encounters happened Tuesday. They said that delay hindered this investigation. Exclusive surveillance shows a man hugging Michelle Mitchell in the Marketplace in downtown Palatka Tuesday. “The whole time he was in here he kept coming in for a hug, basically 'Are you single?' No, I’m not single,” Mitchell said. At 10: 'Most of the owners down here & store shop owners are women, & [we] definitely don’t need a shady character running around, trying to touch every female in town.'@ActionNewsJax speaks with woman who says the suspicious man authorities are looking for put his hands on her pic.twitter.com/lxV1tkavDR — Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) January 19, 2019 “I think [he touched me] four times in the store,” she added.  “On the way across the street, he kept trying to put his hand on my shoulder, and when I got to the door he put his hand on my back.” The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said Mitchell could have had a simple battery case, but she chose not to report it. Deputies said the other business owners Action News Jax has been telling you about could have issued a trespass warning since he allegedly entered several shops and wouldn’t leave. “Most of the owners down here and store shop owners are women, and definitely don’t need a shady character running around, trying to touch every female in town,” Mitchell said.
  • New numbers show opioid overdose deaths were down in Jacksonville in 2018. The city saw more than 500 overdose deaths in 2017. There were 311 last year, although the final  number is likely to be a little higher because of pending cases. Overdoses were down 20% from 2017, and Narcan doses administered were down 27 percent. Advocates say it’s a step in the right direction. “People are really beginning to understand this isn’t a 30-day solution,” said Tricia McCauley-Cox. McCauley-Cox has been an advocate for opioid addiction awareness because of her son, Max. Max McCauley died after an overdose nearly five years ago, after fighting addiction for 14 years. “He would not even know he had taken too much,” his mother told us. City leaders believe the improved numbers are the result of its program, Project Save Lives. The program, in effect since late 2017, stabilizes overdose patients in local hospitals and puts them directly into recovery programs. Project Save Lives will soon partner with Park West ER on 103rd Street, the area with the highest overdose rate in the city. McCauley-Cox is holding a yoga class fundraiser in March, when it will be five years since her son’s death. All proceeds go to the Gateway Community Services Foundation. The event is scheduled for Saturday, March 30, at 5 p.m. It’s being held at the San Marco Church.
  • Florida schools are seeing a critical shortage of certified science, English and math teachers.   A new report by the Florida Department of Education says those subjects are among areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach those courses.   “We have a shortage because people aren’t entering the teaching profession like they used to because there’s no security in teaching,” Renna Lee Paiva said.   Paiva is president of the Clay County Education Association. She said those who have been in the education field for years are extremely concerned about the teacher shortage.   In Duval County, a district spokesperson said there are 146 total vacancies at schools, with 21 open positions in math and four in science.   In St. Johns County, the district had 28 unfilled positions as of Jan. 7, including four in math and science.   Clay County Schools says it has 14 vacancies overall, with five in math and science.   “We start to see fewer freshman coming in and saying, ‘I want to be an elementary teacher or I want to be a biology teacher,’” Paul Parkison, chair of the University of North Florida’s childhood education program, said.   He told Action News Jax that the university starts recruitment early, educating incoming freshman about teaching opportunities.   “We didn’t used to have to have those conversations, we’d have freshmen coming in that were already excited about being teachers,” he said. “We actually initiated a couple programs that are targeted toward particularly the secondary, our UNF graduates who didn’t consider teacher as their primary major. Maybe they’re a history major or a biology major.”   Local education experts, including Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Rachel Tutwiler Fortune, said the focus needs to be on higher pay.   “There are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities,” she said in a statement.   “Our pay scales, our benefits are all in jeopardy and it’s up to the legislators to fix it so we can give quality education to our kids -- which is our primary goal,” Paiva said.   Full statement from JPEF: “The teacher shortage is a problem in Duval County as well as across our state and the nation, and there are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities. The Duval County School Board recently discussed one of these promising solutions -- creating a program to help public high students work toward a degree in education, in order to increase the number of aspiring teachers. This would be a win for Duval County students now and in the future, and we applaud Duval County Public Schools for exploring how we could adopt this innovative model -- known as 'grow your own teacher' -- in Jacksonville.”
  • As the president and lawmakers remain at an impasse in D.C., furloughed workers can only wish their bills would stand still, as well. But for many, the debt keeps mounting. “I'm juggling. I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul. I'm hoping that all this will get done and we can get back to normal,” said Transportation Security Administration worker Dwayne Ellis. With no end in sight, cities like Jacksonville are stepping in. The mayor’s office sent out an email detailing all the options available to local families affected by the shutdown. The city's Social Services Division has more than half-million dollars in the form of small grants to help local families who are impacted.  GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN:  Jacksonville area residents utilizing food pantries amid  government  shutdown Yes, Congress and the president are being paid during the shutdown. Here’s how much and why Government shutdown impacts Jacksonville area air traffic control, passenger safety Supply drive planned for Jacksonville Coast Guard families How you can help Jacksonville Coast Guard families going without pay At least four Jacksonville families have already received some of that grant money. In order to qualify for the assistance, workers will need to demonstrate a need and document their furlough. Other assistance includes bill management programs through JEA and interest free loans for active-duty U.S. Coast Guard members. Local nonprofits like the United Way and the USO are also stepping up. The United Way can help refer you to agencies that help with rent and mortgage payments. And the USO is working to get donations over to Coast Guard families who aren’t getting a paycheck. For many, it’s the generosity of strangers that is giving them hope. 'This means a lot because not a lot of people are thinking how hard it’s affecting us till they don't know how long it's going to be,” said TSA worker Hannah Morrison.
  • Furloughed workers aren’t the only ones feeling the strains of the federal government shutdown, some family-owned businesses have become indirect victims, too. Zodiac Bar and Grill is a downtown Jacksonville staple. “I’ve been here like 20 years almost. It’s been a good 20 years,” said business owner Jeriees Ewais. But Ewais said this week has been anything but good. An Action News Jax camera was there at lunchtime on a Friday. The line would normally be to the door but not today. “Our business is down about 40 to 50 percent this week,” said Ewais.  GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN:  Jacksonville area residents utilizing food pantries amid  government  shutdown Yes, Congress and the president are being paid during the shutdown. Here’s how much and why Government shutdown impacts Jacksonville area air traffic control, passenger safety Supply drive planned for Jacksonville Coast Guard families How you can help Jacksonville Coast Guard families going without pay With the federal courthouse just steps away, he said about 30 to 40 percent of his customers are federal workers, many of whom aren’t showing up due to the shutdown. “It affects the whole entire country,” said Ewais. If continues there could be drastic cuts at Zodiac. Ewais hopes it doesn’t have to get to that point. “I have six employees so probably I’m going to let two go if our business keeps going like that,” said Ewais. The @CityofJax is stepping up to help furloughed workers as the #GovernmentShutdown drags on. At 5 on CBS47 @ActionNewsJax, we'll show you the programs available for #Jacksonville families who aren't getting a pay check. pic.twitter.com/PFIMiyMlGY — Lorena Inclán (@LorenaANjax) January 18, 2019 Something else he’ll have to think about if his sales continue to dwindle is ordering less food from his vendors, impacting them as well. It’s a ripple effect Ewais believes some leaders in Washington are not thinking about. In the meantime, Zodiac will continue doing what it does best. Serving a delicious Mediterranean meal. Ewais has this message for lawmakers. “I think they are playing games hurting the American people,” said Ewais.
  • For the first time ever, a Clay County group is hosting a baseball league for children with special needs. “Special-needs kids in this area do not have the chance to get out and play sports like the regular kids do,” Angela Clance said. Clance takes her 15-year-old son Nigel to St. Johns County to play, but now a group is bringing a league to Keystone Heights. “This allows them to have a chance to focus and get motor skills,” Kassandra Bryan said. “They can play, be part of something, run the bases, get that energy out. Have fun.” Bryan is CEO of Embrace Community Center, the nonprofit behind the league. She said right after she put out a request for volunteers, she got a call from the baseball coach at Bradford High School. “(He said) all my kids are coming and participating for every game. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I’m starting to cry. I didn’t realize this was going to be so unifying in this community,” Bryan said. Bryan told Action News Jax that children with special needs will each have a buddy – a student athlete or volunteer who will guide them through the game. She said the four games in February are an opportunity for community members to get to know kids like Nigel. “All these kids in the school system can thrive, can feel important, feel like they’re part of something,” she said. She said her group is hoping to put on the league every year – and eventually open a community center in Keystone Heights. “We put our focus in special needs, in veterans, in children with disabilities,” she said.  “We want them all to be unified in a community center where we have after-school programs and support them.” You can learn more about Embrace Community Center on its Facebook page.
  • A local college student said a group of masked men with guns broke into his garage and were able to get inside his home. He said the armed robbers claimed to be with the federal government. “We just heard, like, 'bang,'” said the student, who didn’t want to be identified. It was early Sunday morning when the student and his friend heard several loud bangs on his door. “We jumped up and put our hands out. They yelled 'law enforcement' and 'DEA', and they came in,” he said. A local college student says three armed men with masks on forced their way inside his home. He tells me they claimed to be with the federal government. Story now on CBS 47 pic.twitter.com/NI2yGy6ceT — Amber Krycka (@AmberANjax) January 18, 2019 He told police their guns had green lasers and flashlights attached to them. One of the masked men ordered him and his friend to the ground. “I look up in the mirror and I saw in the reflection of my dad’s mirror one of them with a gun aimed down at me, and he looked like his skin was crawling,” he said. He said the armed men ransacked his Northwest Jax home and got away with guns and electronics. He said one of the men told him to count to 700 before calling the police. Once the men took off, he said, he was able to rush to his neighbor’s house and call for help. “It’s just terrifying how someone can just come into your house, do that to you and get away with it so easily,” he said. 
  • A student hit by a car outside First Coast High School is recovering. The crash happened just before 8 a.m. Friday.. “So you have to be, you know, extremely careful, the kids are walking on the side,” said Chris Suburo, a father. Parents tell Action News Jax it’s a little nerve wracking when they drop their kids off at First Coast High School, especially in the morning. “Every time I drive my son to school I’m nervous between here and the next community, just because I see the kids running,” said Juan Cabrera, a parent. JSO said a student was hit by a car in front of the school Friday morning, and taken to a hospital. They told Action News Jax that the student has injuroes that are not life-threatening. “It hasn’t been the first time that one crosses in front of me and I have to stop in emergency,” Cabrera said. In October, a 15-year-old student was hit and seriously hurt trying to cross Dunn Avenue to get to his bus stop near the school. This morning a student was hit by a car near First Coast High School. “Every time I drive my son to school, I’m nervous.” — parents tell me it’s a dangerous area. What the city is doing about the area to keep students safe at 5. @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/HONatWDshP — Amber Krycka (@AmberANjax) January 18, 2019 “My kid used to walk to my house every day, and I don’t let him anymore. I come in and pick him up and take him, and he’s 16,” Cabrera said. Parents said they want to see some changes. “In the morning, it’s dark, and people are moving, they’re going fast. So there should be lights flashing,” Suburo said. Councilman Reggie Gaffney said there is a traffic study happening right now. And he’s hoping to speed it up so they can make some necessary changes. Parents said if something isn’t done soon, there will be another accident. “Until they put those lights up, it’s going to keep happening,” Suburo said. Gaffney said the traffic study should be completed within the next month, and they should know more about what changes are needed in this area. 
  • A school bus with 11 children was involved in a crash on Goodbread Road in Yulee.  According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, the school bus was at waiting at a stop sign on Goodbread Road approaching Pages Dairy Road.  A car approached stop sign but the driver failed to notice the school bus in front of her, causing them to collide, according to the report.  There were 11 children on the school bus and one child in the car. There were no reported injuries. According to FHP, the driver of the car was cited for careless driving.   

The Latest News Headlines

  • After yet another day which featured no hints of progress in ending a funding fight that has to a partial government shutdown taking paychecks away from over 800,000 federal workers, President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday evening that he would make a ‘major announcement’ on Saturday about his push to get money to build a wall along the Mexican border, which has led to an ongoing standoff with Democrats in Congress. “I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown,” the President wrote on Twitter, giving no details about what he might announce. With no indications that Democrats in Congress are ready to give in on their opposition to a border wall, some Republicans have continued to urge the President to declare a ‘national emergency’ under existing laws, and move money around in the military’s budget to build a wall. I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M., live from the @WhiteHouse. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019 “He ought to go ahead and declare an emergency, and it would be over,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “I don’t know why he is reluctant to do that.” Inhofe – who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee – said Thursday that he would not oppose the President dipping into military construction funds to build the wall, though other Republicans have publicly opposed the idea. Democrats on Friday also pressed the Department of Homeland Security on another front – using eminent domain to take land away from landowners, in order to build the way – focusing on a case involving the Catholic Church in Texas, which owns land that the Trump Administration wants. “The federal government must exercise extreme caution when seizing private property,” wrote Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer to the Homeland Security Secretary. To @SecNielsen: The Trump Administration’s lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, raises important questions on the exercise of eminent domain to build a border wall. We ask you to respond to these questions by January 31: pic.twitter.com/MXcfoQib9E — Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 18, 2019 The President has asked for $5.7 billion in border security money for both fencing and a wall; Democrats in Congress have offered $1.6 billion – the original requests of the Trump Administration and Republicans – but Democrats want none of that to go to the wall.
  • Florida schools are seeing a critical shortage of certified science, English and math teachers. A new report by the Florida Department of Education says those subjects are among areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach those courses. “We have a shortage because people aren’t entering the teaching profession like they used to because there’s no security in teaching,” Renna Lee Paiva said. Paiva is president of the Clay County Education Association. She said those who have been in the education field for years are extremely concerned about the teacher shortage. In Duval County, a district spokesperson said there are 146 total vacancies at schools, with 21 open positions in math and four in science. In St. Johns County, the district had 28 unfilled positions as of Jan. 7, including four in math and science. Clay County Schools says it has 14 vacancies overall, with five in math and science. “We start to see fewer freshman coming in and saying, ‘I want to be an elementary teacher or I want to be a biology teacher,’” Paul Parkison, chair of the University of North Florida’s childhood education program, said. He told Action News Jax that the university starts recruitment early, educating incoming freshman about teaching opportunities. “We didn’t used to have to have those conversations, we’d have freshman coming in that were already excited about being teachers,” he said. “We actually initiated a couple programs that are targeted toward particularly the secondary, our UNF graduates who didn’t consider teacher as their primary major. Maybe they’re a history major or a biology major.” Local education experts, including Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Rachel Tutwiler Fortune, said the focus needs to be on higher pay. “There are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities,” she said in a statement. “Our pay scales, our benefits is all in jeopardy and it’s up to the legislators to fix it so we can give quality education to our kids -- which is our primary goal,” Paiva said. Full statement from JPEF: “The teacher shortage is a problem in Duval County as well as across our state and the nation, and there are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities. The Duval County School Board recently discussed one of these promising solutions -- creating a program to help public high students work toward a degree in education, in order to increase the number of aspiring teachers. This would be a win for Duval County students now and in the future, and we applaud Duval County Public Schools for exploring how we could adopt this innovative model -- known as 'grow your own teacher' -- in Jacksonville.”
  • You've been hearing the buzz about autonomous vehicles for a while, now lawmakers in Florida are discussing the possibility of making the futuristic form of transportation a reality. A state representative from Duval County has filed legislation to allow the development and deployment of those autonomous vehicles.  State Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) says as an engineer by trade, he understands the benefits autonomous vehicles would bring with them. He says if Florida were to ban those types of vehicles, it would stunt the state's potential for growth.  'Those engineers aren't going to move here. Those planners aren't going to move here. Those are high paying jobs,' Fischer says.  He says he can imagine Jacksonville as a place where football fans will be able to hop on driverless vehicles to take them to Jaguars games at TIAA Bank Field. He says the Skyway, linking one side of the St. Johns River to the other in downtown, is a prime example of something that could be updated if his bill goes through.  'We have a public transportation component that's already looking to go that way,' he says. 'My legislation would help enable them to move in that direction.'  Fischer says autonomous vehicles would also be a major help to the blind community. Both AARP Florida and the Florida Council of the Blind have offered their support for the legislation, saying their members will have more mobility opportunities if the bill goes through.  “For blind people, people living with disabilities and some senior citizens, self-driving cars will mean greater independence,” President of the Florida Council of the Blind Sheila Young says in a statement.  Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is sponsoring the companion measure in the Florida Senate. Fischer says he thinks the legislation should make it to the governor's desk within a couple months.
  • Two Florida fifth-graders are accused of plotting to kill an 11-year-old classmate and escape in a golf cart last month. The plot unraveled Dec. 14 at Roberts Elementary School in Tallahassee, where the alleged victim and the accused students, ages 10 and 11, all attend school. A 32-page police report obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat details the plot, which resulted in both students’ suspension and civil citations for conspiracy to commit battery and bringing weapons on school grounds.  The students are also being recommended for expulsion, the Democrat reported.  “This obviously is a very serious matter,” Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement. “There is zero tolerance in our school system for violence or threats of violence. The individuals who participate in these types of behavior will suffer severe consequences, as (will) these two young boys.” The school’s principal, Kim McFarland, told investigators that the boys “planned and put into effect” a plot to kill their classmate, the Democrat reported.  >> Read more trending news According to the timeline laid out in the police report, one of the accused boys threatened the victim Dec. 10, telling him they would kill him. A few days later, a female classmate told the victim a secret and then went to the two suspected plotters and claimed the victim was spreading rumors about her.  The plotters again threatened the boy, saying they would “take care of him and kill him,” the Democrat reported.  Another student later told police investigators the boys drew a map of where on campus they would take the victim -- an area without security cameras, the newspaper reported. They ultimately changed their mind and planned to take the boy to the school’s garden instead, the police report said.  The day of the planned attack, one of the boys brought a backpack to school with what investigators believe was a murder kit: a wrench, adjustable clamp pliers, a multitool with a 3-inch blade on it and baseball batting gloves. According to police, the student showed the tools to classmates and one of the pair told them “snitches get stitches.” They also told at least one classmate they had the gloves so they would not leave fingerprints, the Democrat reported. They planned to use some of the tools to bust through a gate and flee on a golf cart.  During an after-school program on campus, the boys approached the alleged victim and asked if he wanted to go to the “secret hideout in the garden,” the police report said. He told investigators he refused because other students had told him the boys wanted to hurt him.  The alleged victim went to a teacher supervising the after-school program and told what the boys had planned, the newspaper reported. The boys were taken to the principal, who searched the backpack and found the tools, including the knife. The boys denied wanting to kill the victim, but admitted they planned to beat him up, the Democrat reported.  After the incident, McFarland sent parents an email, which was obtained by WCTV in Tallahassee. “Last Friday there was an incident, with alleged intent to harm a fellow student, that occurred in the afterschool program with a group of 5th grade students who had been developing a plan over a series of days,” McFarland said. “Some of you have reached out with concerns and questions. At this time, I cannot share details, but I can assure that your children are safe and the situation is being handled.” McFarland wrote that she met with the school’s fifth graders to discuss the importance of “see something, say something.”   “Many fifth grade students knew of the potential incident but did not tell teachers or their parents,” the principal said. “We discussed the importance of alerting adults when there is any concern for safety for themselves or their fellow students. Please discuss this with your children. It is imperative they learn this valuable skill now.”
  • The Clay County Sheriff's Office is inviting the community to a fundraiser next month called 'Shootin' with the Sheriffs.' Chris Padgett, the Public Information Officer with CCSO, says the event will essentially be a clay-shoot competition featuring Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels and other law enforcement members and the community.  Padgett says proceeds from the event will allow them to send about 30 people from their honor guard and members of their traffic section to Washington D.C., later this year for the police memorial service to honor one of their own.  '...In August 2018, one of our very close friends and deputies, Deputy Ben Zirbel, was tragically killed in a traffic crash on Blanding Boulevard. With that, his name will be getting placed on the law enforcement memorial's wall. And we want to make the sure the members of his direct team and the members of our honor guards go there and partake in that event,' says Padgett.  Padgett says it's important to send a team to be there to represent Zirbel's legacy and represent his wife and his child.  'And that is just so important to us, because they're [Zirbel’s family] going through some extreme hardships and there is one way we can help elevate them and be there as a support element,' says Padgett.  Padgett says the 'Shootin' with the Sheriffs' event will be family-friendly and everyone's invited to either watch or take part.  The event will be held February 25th, from 9 AM- 2 PM, at the Saltwaters Shooting Club located at 900 Big Oak Road in St. Augustine.  To register or help sponsor the event, you can contact Jimmy Stalnaker at (904) 813-9554 or by email at jstalnaker@claysheriff.com. You can also contact Charlie Goldsmith at (904) 838-3350 or by email at cgoldsmith@claysheriff.com.  You can also contact either of them to make a cash donation if you can’t make it out that day, but still want to help.

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