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Latest from Steven Ponson

    Jacksonville Police are searching for the man accused of killing an Arlington gas station clerk. Police confirmed Martin Hower has died from his injuries after the armed robbery this past Saturday at the Gate gas station on Merrill Road and Townsend Boulevard. Friends and family are remembering the good times they had with Hower.  “He’s a great person, every time we came in the store for coffee every morning about 4 or 4:30, he’d put a smile on our face and greet us.” Says longtime friend LaVega Blunt.  According to the incident report the new description of the suspect is believed to be a black man between 5’5” and 5’10” with medium length dreadlocks and between 20 and 28 years old. Following the confirmation of Hower’s death, Gate released this statement. “Our hearts are broken with the passing of Martin Hower, a long-term member of the GATE family. For more than 10 years, Martin has been a shining example of a dedicated and caring coworker, employee and friend. The loss is immeasurable for us and for the countess customers who have made conversations with Martin a part of their regular routines,” said John Peyton, GATE’s president. “We are mourning this tragic passing and we are in prayer for his loved ones and friends, many of whom he worked alongside every day. We continue to assist JSO in every way possible to ensure the suspect is brought to justice. ” The company says. JSO says they are investigating this incident as a homicide.
  • The brother of an Arlington gas station clerk tells our partners at Action News Jax that his brother has died after he was shot during an armed robbery on Saturday. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has also now confirmed the death, saying the investigation is being treated as a homicide. Jacksonville Police say the incident happened at the Gate on Merrill Road and Townsend Boulevard around 4:15 a.m. on Saturday.  An incident report describes the suspect as a black man, 5’5’’ to 5’10’’ between the ages of 20 and 28 with medium-length dreadlocks.  He was wearing a black sweater and black jeans.  Friends say the clerk who was shot was one of a kind.  “It’s a shame, he’s the nicest man you’d ever meet. He takes care of six cats like little, they’re his babies and he’s nice to everybody”, said Micheal Shearin. A GoFundMe has been started to help raise money for the clerk’s family. In a statement, Gate says they are working with JSO to help ID the person responsible and bring them to justice.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol is encouraging witnesses to the crash on I-95 early Sunday which left Jacksonville Officer William 'Jack' Adams in the hospital with critical injuries to come forward. The Adams family was on their way back from a football game in Orlando when they were hit by a suspected drunk driver on I-95 north near State Road 16. Troopers say Adams’ wife, Cathy Adams, a JSO bailiff, died after the crash and the couple’s two children only had minor injuries.  The suspected drunk driver Kim Johnston is out of jail after bonding out. Our news partners at Action News Jax  were there when she walked out, and she has a message for the family. “I’m very sorry”, Johnston said. According to an arrest report, Johnston had bloodshot watery eyes and a strong odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from her breath.  Johnston refused to provide a voluntary sample of her blood, and later declined a breathalyzer, according to the report. She did, however, perform a series of field sobriety exercises and, as the report details, she failed to walk heel to toe on several steps.  She cited a preexisting injury would prevent her from standing on one leg and putting her finger to her nose.  While being checked out at the emergency room, Johnston told medical personnel that she had two beers earlier in the evening, according the arrest report.     There are efforts underway to help the Adams family moving forward. In addition to efforts by the local FOP, Jaguars Quarterback Blake Bortles says he will match up to $15,000 of the money donated to help the family. The Florida Highway Patrol arrest report says Officer Adams was believed to have suffered numerous bone breaks and possible paralysis following the crash. As of Tuesday morning, he was still in critical care at Memorial Hospital.  
  • The driver accused of causing a crash that killed a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office bailiff and critically wounded her husband has made an initial court appearance on multiple charges.  Kim Johnston is charged with two counts of driving under the influence causing serious injuries.  Bond was set at $100,000.   The crash happened early on Sunday morning on I-95 near State Road 16.  The crash report from the Florida Highway Patrol says Cathy Adams, a JSO bailiff, died after the crash. Her husband, William Adams, a JSO officer was listed in critical condition. The report says the two, along with two teenagers, were traveling on I-95 north when they were hit by a suspected drunk driver going north as well. The report says Kim Johnston was driving a Acura TSX when she hit the Adams’ Chevy Tahoe, and the driver of the Tahoe lost control and flipped. The report says one person was ejected while the driver was trapped. The report says the teenagers sustained minor injuries. Multiple people close to the investigation say the family was on their way back from the Mandarin High School Football state championship game in Orlando.  Neighbors say they are sad after hearing the news.  “Every time I’m out there I talk to them. Just the nicest people.” Says Adams family neighbor Lawton Daniels.  Since the crash, local agencies have been sending their condolences to the family.
  • Jacksonville Police are investigating after a young man was found dead in a silver vehicle on the Northside Wednesday night. Police say they found evidence at the scene that who ever shot the young man possibly walked up and shot the victim multiple times.  “There is evidence at the scene that states that the person was possibly sitting inside the car, so we don’t believe it’s going to be a drive by possibly a ‘Walk-Up’.” Says Sgt. Steve Rudlaff with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Police say they are still working to identify the victim who is described as a black man between 17 to 20 years old. JSO says the owner of the vehicle the man was found in belongs to a woman and they are hoping she can help them ID the victim. At this time police say there were no witnesses to the incident and it’s too early in the investigation to know if the shooting was gang related. JSO says if you have any information related to the incident to give them a call at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-8477.
  • On Monday the Neptune Beach City Council approved matching funds for new equipment for Jarboe Park off 3rd Street, in a move that brings the city one step closer to improving the park. Councilman Rory Diamond says the city is getting $44,000 for the new equipment overall. He says $22,000 is coming from the City of Jacksonville and the other $22,000 is coming from a private grant. “The playground equipment is just so outdated and really doesn’t work.” Diamond says. Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford says the funding from his end has not yet been approved. He says he told Diamond he would seek to use $22,000 in recreation funds he has available as a District Councilman toward the project, if Neptune Beach was willing to match it. With Neptune Beach’s vote, Gulliford says he will now file a bill to commit the Jacksonville funds, but that is still pending approval by the Jacksonville City Council. Diamond says the new playground equipment should be installed sometime in 2019. He says the new equipment is part of a 5-year plan to revamp the park. Diamond says the next piece in redoing the park will be getting a lawn and shade trees for the newly opened community center.
  • Rain and storms have moved out and drier, cooler air is moving into our area.  Action News Jax Meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh says Tuesday will be a nice day in Northeast Florida compared to the last couple of days. “We’ll see a mostly sunny today. High pressure building in to the area from the north and west, which equals a sunny day and cooler temperatures.” Garrett says. Garrett says our area will get into the mid 60’s this afternoon, which is slightly below average for this time of year. Garrett says we’ll get down in to the 40’s tonight and some areas west of Highway 301 could get down into the upper 30’s.  After Monday’s rain and storms which moved though the area most of the day, Garrett says some spots in metro Jacksonville received between 2 to 3 inches of rain. Looking ahead to later in the week, Garrett says Thursday looks to have a cold start as there is a chance for a light inland freeze.  “The mid 30’s around Jacksonville and low-to-mid 40’s closer to the coast.” Garrett says. Garrett says our next best chance for rain to return will be late Saturday and into Sunday.
  • Following the first freeze of the season in Northeast Florida this week, now is the time to get your home ready for the next possible freeze in our area.  Host of the Home and Garden Show on WOKV Wally Conway says make sure your windows and doors are sealed up to help keep the heat inside.  “The last and final thing that I do in my own home to stay comfortable when its cold is break out the electric space heater. I can get the heat right near me and not spend money heating the house”. Conway says.  Conway says if you plan on using your fireplace during the next freeze make sure you get it cleaned.  “You want to be sure its safe and clean by having it properly cleaned and inspected to assure that your fireplace fire does not become a house fire.” Conway says. He says make sure you open your damper, so smoke doesn’t get stuck in your home. Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says over the next five-days Northeast Florida’s lowest temperature will be 59 degrees this Friday night.
  • The Clay County Sheriff’s Office needs your help identifying a person believed to have information on a recent crime at the Middleburg Flash Foods on Blanding Boulevard. Deputies say they believe the person was also driving the vehicle in the picture above. Deputies responded to the store just after noon Wednesday after a report that someone stole $90 from a cashier, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report. The report says a woman gave a $100 bill to the cashier to pay for an item worth $9. Then the woman told the cashier she found a smaller bill, and used that to pay for the item but walked out of the store with the $90 she was given as change for the larger bill. Deputies say if you have any information on the person, you’re asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512 or you can leave a tip at ClaySheriff.com.
  • Morning temps dropped once again into the low 30’s across much of NE Florida but we’re going to begin feeling warmer temperatures by this afternoon.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says today will be a pretty autumn day with partly sunny skies and less wind.  Afternoon temps will be in the mid-60’s.  It won’t be as cold tonight, and by Friday, our afternoon temps will be back in the 70’s.  Mike says the big story moving forward will be the dryer and warmer air moving in to our area by the end of this weekend and the early part of next week. Mike says the ingredients to bring rainfall to our area will be moving through Saturday.  “Pretty widespread with even a few embedded thunderstorms , some heavier rain at times. Now the more North you live, in Northeastern Florida, the heavier more persistent the rain will be.” Mike says.  Mike says near the Florida/Georgia Border will be close to a wash out on Saturday especially by late morning and into the afternoon. Mike says Baker County will see quite a bit of rain later in the morning and continuing on and off though out the afternoon.  Now for Jacksonville, Mike says  the morning time will be dryer with rain increasing by the middle of the day and in to the afternoon. South of Jacksonville, Clay and St. Johns Counties have the best opportunity to stay dry the longest, but will likely see scattered showers in the afternoon Mike says. After the rain passes through, Mike says we’ll see temps near 80 degrees Sunday.
  • Steven Ponson

    Reporter

    Steven Ponson is the morning reporter for Jacksonville’s Morning News. He has been with Cox Media Group since the summer of 2015, and been living in Florida for over 20 years. Steven is an alumni of the University of Central Florida where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television and a minor in Sociology. It’s a dream come for him to work in the radio business and has a family legacy in Florida radio. When he is away from WOKV, he likes to spend time with family and friends and is an avid football and hockey fan.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is asking for your help tracking down an armed robbery suspect who they consider armed and dangerous. The suspect is 20-year-old Jebre Cook, who’s described as 5’9” and 174 lbs. Police say you should not approach him, because he is considered armed and dangerous.  JSO has not said what armed robbery incident they believe Cook is responsible for. If you know anything about Cook’s location, you’re asked to contact JSO at 911 or 904-630-0500, or JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. You can also submit an anonymous tip and be eligible for a possible $3,000 reward by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
  • The Trump administration moved Tuesday to ban bump stocks -- devices that can make semi-automatic firearms fire at a rate similar to automatic weapons -- under a federal law that also bans machine guns, Justice Department officials said in a news release. >> Read more trending news Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said authorities amended a regulation on Tuesday to include bump stocks in the definition of “machinegun” under federal law. The regulation will go into effect 90 days after it’s formally published in the Federal Register, a move expected to come Friday, according to The Associated Press. >> Read the final rule White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news briefing Tuesday that people who have bump stocks will be required to turn the devices over to officials at field offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or destroy them by March 21. >> What is a bump stock, how does it work and is it legal? Hours after Whitaker announced the move, opponents of the decision said they planned to fight the change. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Trump ban on ‘bump stocks’ to face immediate legal challenge The ban was expected after the Justice Department earlier this year proposed a rule to classify bump stocks and similar devices as prohibited under federal law. >> Trump administration expected to announce gun bump stock ban Trump issued a memorandum in the wake of February’s deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, ordering the attorney general to “propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns,” according to Justice Department officials. Authorities reviewed more than 186,000 public comments as part of the review process. The Justice Department opened a review of the devices in the wake of the 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas that left nearly 60 people dead. Authorities said a gunman had bump stocks equipped to several weapons on Oct. 1, 2017, when he fired on festivalgoers.
  • A 20-year-old Jacksonville man has been arrested after allegedly kidnapping a woman at gunpoint, raping her, and stealing her car. The arrest report for Billy Gaines says he first approached the victim late Sunday at a gas station on Lem Turner Road, where he put a gun to her back and told her to get in the car. JSO says they drove off, but at one point he stopped the car and raped her in the back seat, while he was still holding the gun. The victim reported that they then went to the home of a friend of Gaines, and she then told Gaines something that led him to drive her to another location, according to the arrest report. At that location, police say the victim went inside, called police, and did not come back out. Gaines allegedly fled in the victim’s vehicle. Early Sunday, a patrol Sergeant searching for the suspect saw a vehicle matching the description, while on Golfair Blvd near I-95. JSO says Gaines sped up and took evasive actions. Several marked vehicles continued to pursue him, and he was ultimately stopped in a vacant lot. Gaines allegedly fled on foot from that point, but was caught soon after. He has been arrested for armed sexual battery, kidnapping, carjacking with a firearm, fleeing law enforcement, and resisting an officer without violence.
  • Hours after the Trump Administration signaled that it would administratively move to ban ‘bump stocks,’ which allow semi-automatic weapons to be fired at a much more rapid rate, lawmakers in both parties said it was time for the Congress to enact those regulations into law, as opponents of the decision vowed to immediately challenge the President’s plan in court. “We will be filing our lawsuit very, very soon,” the Gun Owners of America said in a written statement. “After all, in the coming days, an estimated half a million bump stock owners will have the difficult decision of either destroying or surrendering their valuable property – or else risk felony prosecution,” the group added. At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that is the plan, making clear that bump stocks will be illegal as of March 21, 2019. On banning bump stocks, Sanders says people have until March 2019 to turn them in or have them destroyed. Says they fall under same guidelines as machine guns. — Dana Brown Ritter (@danabrownritter) December 18, 2018 “A 90 period now begins which persons in possession of bump stock type devices must turn those devices to an ATF field office, or destroy them by March 21,” Sanders said at the White House briefing. Justice Department officials told reporters on Tuesday that bump stocks will be administratively banned by using language from a federal law which prohibits machine guns. There was no immediate comment from the National Rifle Association on whether that group would join in legal action against bump stocks as well. In Congress, lawmakers in both parties said while the President’s step is overdue, the House and Senate should also vote to codify the bump stock ban. “This is good news, but it is just one small step toward stopping mass shootings,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). “We must do far more to prevent gun violence.” “There’s no justification for bump stocks that transform semi-automatic weapons into machine guns,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). A regulation – not a law – is finally being issued to ban bump stocks. This is welcome news. But the country shouldn’t have had to wait a year+ after Vegas to get the most basic regulation. It’s testament to how hard we’ll need to fight to get the comprehensive gun safety we need https://t.co/LgjgBcAhxv — Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) December 18, 2018 “The President seems to be more interested in making headlines than making progress,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). “We know that his proposal will likely be tied up in the courts.” 58 people were killed in Titus’ district in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire on an outdoor concert, using ‘bump stocks’ to allow him to shoot more ammunition more quickly, in what was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. “Finally and should be codified,” said Rep. Carlos Cubelo (R-FL), one of the few Republicans who has called for action on bump stocks in Congress.
  • A Texas 19-year-old has been charged with killing a young mother in a violent crash Sunday night as she drove with her toddler son and her mother.  Erick Raphael Hernandez, of Pearland, was charged Monday with intoxication manslaughter in the death of 23-year-old Taylor Phillips, court records show. As of Tuesday morning, he had been released from the Harris County Jail on $30,000 bond.  >> Read more trending news ABC 13 in Houston reported that Phillips was driving an SUV with her mother and 1-year-old son inside when Hernandez crossed three lanes of traffic on a South Houston street and slammed into Phillips’ vehicle with his truck.   The entire crash was caught on a security camera outside a nearby auto repair shop, the news station said. The grainy footage, seen below, appears to show Hernandez’s truck smash into the front driver’s side of Phillips’ SUV. The impact flings debris across the roadway.  Phillips died at the scene.  Her son and 48-year-old mother were hospitalized with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries. The victims’ family told ABC 13 both have since been released to recover at home.  Phillips’ social media profile is filled with photos of her son, who celebrated his first birthday in August.   “Sometimes when I need a miracle, I look into my son’s eyes and realize I’ve already created one,” Phillips wrote on Facebook alongside a photo of her son in October. In another post, she wrote that she had waited for the love of her son her entire life and would “cherish it forever.” Phillips also often mentioned a sister, Tyré Rai Sai Phillips, on her Facebook page. According to the Houston Police Department, Tyré Phillips was an innocent bystander at a party on April 14, 2013, when multiple fights broke out, during which shots were fired.  Tyré Phillips, who was killed as she sought safety, died a week after her 19th birthday. It was not immediately clear if an arrest has ever been made in her slaying.  Court records obtained by ABC 13 indicated that Hernandez was drinking at a bar with a cousin before Sunday’s deadly crash. The legal drinking age in Texas is 21.  Hernandez, whose appears intoxicated in his mugshot, had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and was off-balance after the crash, the news station said. When questioned at the scene, Hernandez admitted he drank a few beers.  “Based on his field sobriety tests, it was a lot more than a few,” Sean Teare, a member of the Harris County District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes Unit, told The Houston Chronicle. Teare told the Chronicle that investigators had learned where Hernandez had been drinking prior to the crash. ABC 13 identified the bar as Frontera Events Venue, which is located about a mile from the crash site.  “Obviously, at 19 he shouldn’t be drinking anywhere,” Teare told the newspaper.  ABC 13 reported that the court records indicate Hernandez had been drinking since 6 p.m. Sunday but could not remember when he’d had his last drink. A fake ID and bar receipt were found in his car after the crash.  “We believe that he spent well over $100 at the bar drinking alcohol that day,” Teare told the news station.  The district attorney’s office is now investigating the bar to determine if workers there overserved Hernandez. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission records indicate Frontera, which obtained its license in October 2017, has had six complaints filed against it this year involving alcohol being in the hands of underage individuals. One of those complaints, in which a violation was not found, involved employing someone under the age of 18 to sell or handle alcohol. The remaining five complaints dealt with selling or serving alcohol to minors and serving alcohol to someone already intoxicated. Three of the five complaints were substantiated, the records show. One of the three substantiated claims also included the sale of drugs by the licensee.  Teare told ABC 13 that Frontera’s owner and employees could face charges related to the fatal crash.  “If an establishment, if a server sees somebody who is intoxicated, they’ve got to stop serving,” Teare said. “They’ve got to take steps to ensure that person doesn’t leave their establishment and kill people.” The district attorney’s office is also considering action to shut the bar’s doors for good.  “I just know that a 19-year-old individual came out of that establishment highly intoxicated and moments later took a 23-year-old's life,” Teare told ABC 13. “That shouldn’t happen. Someone in addition to that 19-year-old is going to have to answer for that.”

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