Tag Archives: Police

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of Jan. 28:

        Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, crews are working at Ninth Street North and the Cortez Road embankment. Paving on Gulf Drive from Cortez Road northward to 10th Street North, when it takes place, will be during daytime hours and require traffic maintenance.

Avenue C in Bradenton Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, right-of-way restoration work is taking place, including paving operations on 23rd, 24th and 25th streets.

Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, Gulf Drive is closed to northbound traffic at 81st Street, with northbound traffic detoured onto 81st Street to access Palm Drive. Trolley stations remain accessible. Pedestrians should avoid any attempts to cross over pipes or other construction materials. A reduced speed limit is in place and motorists may experience temporary, single-lane closures.

For more information about the pipeline replacement projects on the island, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

HBPD’s McGowin: All about kids, community, family

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Sgt. Vern McGowin helps 8-year-old Sarah Graham choose a bicycle, her prize at the Holmes Beach Night Out, an event he helped organize in 2017. Islander File Photo
Sgt. Vern McGowin, with Chief Bill Tokajer, speaks at a forum in Holmes Beach City Hall in March 2018, where he introduced the community to the department and its outreach activities. Islander File Photo: Kathy Prucnell

He’s a stand-up guy, with the highest integrity — a family man.

That’s how fellow officers and chiefs regard retired Holmes Beach Police Sgt. Vern McGowin, who is about to live his dream of motoring across the country, visiting his children and grandchildren in North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon.

He’s our choice for Islander of the Year for all the mileage he gave above and beyond the job to Holmes Beach and its residents and visitors.

McGowin retired from the Holmes Beach Police Department Jan. 1.

Former HBPD Chief Jay Romine, who hired McGowin 21 years ago, and others who’ve crossed his path, agree. McGowin’s retirement is well deserved.

“He’s just a steady, calm influence,” said Romine, who retired from the HBPD in 2013 and now serves as the director of the Manatee Technical College’s Law Enforcement Academy in Bradenton, which certifies police officers for active duty.

“There’s no one with any higher ethical standards than Vern,” Romine added.

McGowin grew up in Florida, attended the law enforcement academy in St. Petersburg and, after graduating, moved to Alabama, where he served as a police corporal for the city of Laverne. His next step on his career path was Palmetto.

Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Lenard Diaz worked with McGowin when they served as patrol officers on the Palmetto police force in the late 1980s-’90s.

Diaz said McGowin is an easygoing guy, always relaxed, a good family man, who always talks about his family. He’s well mannered and reliable.

“You could always count on Vern to show up at your calls,” Diaz added.

Romine hired McGowin from Palmetto and his career flourished at HBPD.

“I had more jobs,” McGowin said of his ride at HBPD. He was a marine unit and patrol officer for years.

As a beat cop, he saw his share of domestic violence, death and accidents.

But in 2013, HBPD Bill Tokajer promoted him to sergeant and, according to McGowin, the best part of his career began.

His “most enjoyable times” included years as the department’s Anna Maria Elementary School resource officer and, later, overseeing the position at the school. He enjoyed the “kinder aspects” of policing and spearheaded HBPD’s National Night Out, Neighborhood Watch and other outreach programs.

McGowin’s heart belongs to his wife, three kids, four grandchildren and Josh Fleischer’s little girl, who, he said, believes McGowin is her grandfather. The feeling is mutual, McGowin said.

Unfortunately, a health struggle precipitated his retirement. McGowin said he was diagnosed with melanoma and the cancer spread to his lymph nodes.

“I am cancer-free now,” he said, adding that he went through several surgeries and chemotherapy.

Today, he’s preparing to hit the road and travel to see his children and grandchildren.

About his police career, McGowin said, “The only regret I have is the time I missed with my family.”

During his time at HBPD, McGowin served as the marine patrol officer, senior officer on the dive team, field-training officer and firearms instructor.

He was chosen Officer of the Year in 2001 and 2004 by HBPD. He attended the Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration of President Donald Trump, as part of the law enforcement patrol on the inauguration parade.

After spending two decades at the HBPD, McGowin said he misses the people, workers and city of Holmes Beach, where he “thoroughly enjoyed working.”

From everyone at The Islander: We thank you for your service, Vern, and wish you a grand adventure and fantastic times spent with family. — Bonner Joy

Bradenton Beach driver in crash arrested for DUI

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Robert A. Simpson, 50

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office was called by Bradenton Beach police to investigate a possibly impaired driver following a two-vehicle crash.

Robert A. Simpson, 50, was arrested at 4:21 p.m. Jan. 2 in the 2200 block of Gulf Drive for driving under the influence.

Responding to the crash, BBPD Officer Frank Price reported Simpson, the at-fault driver in a two-vehicle crash, showed signs of impairment.

MCSO Deputy Benjamin Quick arrived at the scene, observed Simpson lean on his truck, lose his balance and fall into his vehicle.

After a poor performance on a field-sobriety test, Simpson was arrested and transported to the Manatee County jail, where he provided two breath samples for a blood-alcohol content test. Both registered no alcohol content.

He posted a $120 bond and was released.

Simpson’s arraignment is set for 8:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4, in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Streetlife – 01-23-2019

Anna Maria

Jan. 7, North Shore Drive and Pine Avenue, alcohol violation. While on patrol, a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy observed a vehicle without taillights traveling west on Pine Avenue. Stopping the vehicle, the officer observed a 12-pack of Budweiser beer behind the driver’s seat and determined the male driver was under the legal drinking age. The deputy issued the 20-year-old a notice to appear in court for the misdemeanor and poured the beer on the ground. The man told the officer the beer belonged to his brother.

Jan. 8, 9800 block of Gulf Drive, marijuana. Two deputies on patrol observed a vehicle in a parking lot with a man slumped over the steering wheel. They approached the vehicle and noticed an odor of marijuana, searched the vehicle and found a vaping device and a spoon containing a brown sticky residue. The items tested positive for THC and were seized as evidence. Charges are pending lab results of the preliminary test.

Jan. 8, 100 block of Maple Avenue, suspicious incidents. A woman returned from out of town to find several leafless trees and two palm trees with palm fronds torn off. The woman told the MCSO she would check with an arborist to determine if the trees were either deliberately harmed or weather damaged.

Jan. 10, Bayfront Park, 309 N. Bay Blvd., information. A bag of a green leafy substance was turned into the MCSO. A deputy secured it for destruction.

Anna Maria is policed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Bradenton Beach

No reports.

Bradenton Beach is policed by BBPD.

Cortez

Jan. 5, The Seafood Shack Marina, Bar & Grill, 4110 127th St. W., battery/trespass. Manatee County sheriff’s deputies separated two people who were fighting. The aggressor was arrested for battery and issued a trespass warning.

Cortez is policed by the MCSO.

Holmes Beach

Jan. 3, Martinque South condominiums, 5300 Gulf Drive, information. The building superintendent reported unknown persons left the pool shower running and threw patio chairs and a clay pot containing a plant, which broke into pieces, into the pool.

Jan. 3, 100 block of White Avenue, information. A visitor from Iceland flagged down a Holmes Beach police officer and reported his $1,000 iPhone had been stolen and the bag the phone had been inside appeared to have been cut with a knife. The officer attempted to locate the phone but was unsuccessful.

Jan. 4, 100 block of 34th Street, fleeing and eluding. A 15-year-old male was found in the 10000 block of Manatee Avenue after he ran from Holmes Beach police officers, who had pulled his vehicle over for speeding. Police searched the vehicle and reported finding a bong and a plastic bag with marijuana residue. He told police he fled because he was scared, having only a learner’s permit.

Jan. 5, Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, marijuana ordinance. Observing a car in the parking lot after hours, an officer approached the vehicle and saw a marijuana-like substance on the lap of the driver. The driver and passenger were identified as under 18. The driver acknowledged having a bag of weed in the center console. He told police he and the passenger planned to “smoke a little” with friends. The driver was ticketed for possessing 4.5 grams of marijuana and paraphernalia. The contraband was confiscated and processed for destruction.

Jan. 6, 200 block of 65th St., construction ordinance. A commercial painter was cited for working on a Sunday.

Jan. 7, 700 block of Manatee Avenue, speeding, cocaine possession. A Toyota was clocked traveling 50 mph in a 35-mph zone. While checking the vehicle’s occupants for warrants, a passenger opened a bottle and a bag containing white powder fell to the ground. Police searched the vehicle and found 1.5 grams of a substance that tested positive for cocaine. The driver was cited for speeding and released. The passenger was arrested for drug possession and transported to the Manatee County jail.

Jan. 7, Kingfish Boat Ramp, 752 Manatee Ave., camping. Police observed a man asleep in a sleeping bag next to a picnic table. An officer issued a notice to appear in court for violating an anti-camping ordinance. The man left the area.

Jan. 9, Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive, warrant. Police were dispatched to Publix Super Market regarding an employee wanted on a warrant. The manager identified the suspect. He was arrested on multiple warrants and transported to the Manatee County jail.

Holmes Beach is policed by the Holmes Beach Police Department.

Streetlife is based on incident reports and narratives from the BBPD, HBPD and MCSO.

License-plate reader contracts clarified, approved in Holmes Beach

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Thomas Thanus, acting city attorney in Holmes Beach, reviews contracts Jan. 8 for a license-plate reader system during a city commission meeting at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The contracts have been clarified and Holmes Beach is cruising toward a license-plate reader system.

The city commission Jan. 8 authorized Mayor Judy Titsworth to execute an agreement for reader equipment from contractor Vetted Security Solutions of St. Petersburg and a second agreement for software with Vigilant Solutions of Livermore, California.

In November 2018, the commission approved the system, not to exceed $105,240, but questions remained regarding the contracts with the two companies and the cost. So the contracts were reconsidered Jan. 8.

Attorney Thomas Thanus, filling in for city attorney Patricia Petruff, clarified the difference between the Vetted and Vigilant contracts.

He said Vigilant is the software creator and provides support for the system and it works closely with Vetted, which provides hardware and installation.

The city will pay Vetted $105,240 upon completion of the project. There is no payment the first year to Vigilant — it is included in the Vetted fee, according to Thanus.

Upon the second year of operation, the city will pay Vigilant an annual licensing fee of about $2,625 each year, which includes $525 for five cameras.

The attorney said the contract could be terminated at any time and that it is a sole-source contract, piggybacked on the Longboat Key and Manatee County, which operate the same system.

“It’s very important for the police department to be able to communicate and share information with those other law enforcement agencies,” Thanus said.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm realized some attachments were mixed-up in the copy provided to commissioners, so he asked for a clean copy of the updated contracts with clarifications between the responsibilities and costs for both companies.

The mayor and commissioners moved the vote to the end of the meeting to allow time to read the updated contracts.

Thanus said the software fee with Vetted could increase each year, but annually caps at 4 percent.

Commissioner Kim Rash said he’d like Vigilant to provide a five-year spreadsheet detailing what the increases in cost are each year.

“”I’d like to see that so we know what kind of money we are going to be spending,” he said.

Thanus said the annual increase would be about $110 at most and, in a previous conversation, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said he would include the increase in future budget requests.

At the end of the meeting, the updated contract was distributed to the mayor and commissioners, and a vote was taken.

A motion for the mayor to execute the contracts with Vetted and Vigilant passed 4-1, with Rash voting “nay.”

The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, to be followed by a work session.

Eyes on the road – 01-16-2019

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of Jan. 14:

Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, crews are performing tie-ins at Ninth Street North and the Cortez Road embankment, as well as sodding the embankment. Paving on Gulf Drive from Cortez Road northward to 10th Street North has been delayed. When it begins this winter, work will be during daytime hours and require traffic maintenance.

Avenue C in Bradenton Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, right-of-way restoration work is taking place, including paving operations on 23rd, 24th and 25th streets.

Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach: As part of a pipeline replacement project, Gulf Drive is closed to northbound traffic at 81st Street, with northbound traffic detoured onto 81st Street to access Palm Drive. Trolley stations remain accessible. Pedestrians should avoid any attempts to cross over pipes or other construction materials. A reduced speed limit is in place and motorists may experience temporary, single-lane closures.

For more information about the pipeline replacement projects on the island, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

FISH hopes to grow fishing festival, improve ‘catch’

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T-shirts at this year’s Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will feature a design by Rose Lipke, chair of the 37th annual fishing festival in Cortez. The festival will be Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17, between Cortez Road West and the working waterfront on Sarasota Bay. Islander Courtesy Graphic

Commercial fishers battle many odds to bring in a catch.

“Changing Tides” is this year’s theme for the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Commercial Fishing Festival — the annual fundraiser for the now 229-member group, dedicated to preserving commercial fishing and maritime cultures as well as the coastal environment.

The event is set for Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17.

Since August, Cortez fishers have been battling losses due to red tide while their support group has been preparing for the fest.

FISH vice president Jane von Hahmann and artist Rose Lipke, festival chair since 2015, said this year’s fest won’t be that different from last year’s, although FISH will increase its advertising on social media, with paid-Facebook boosts and other tools.

Festival planners hope to improve their catch — proceeds from the event.

The fest will kick off at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 with a “blessing of the fleet” and feature 60 art vendors, 20 food vendors and other exhibits, as well as the annual favorite, Dock Talks, a feature organized by FISH member John Stevely, a former University of Florida Sea Grant scientist.

Lipke said some vendors will be brought closer to the streets than last year but she and her committee still must iron out the details.

In the past, a nonprofit group of Cortez fishers, Fishing for Freedom, sponsored touch tanks and cast net demonstrations, but their 2019 contribution is uncertain, according to FFF president Mark Coarsey.

“The boys are having to fish farther away,” Lipke said about red tide’s effect on local fishers and their catch — including losses from the stone crab season.

“Although the bait is coming inshore now, the mullet fishers are working down south, Everglade City, and trucking it back,” she added.

Coarsey planned to meet with his members in the next week to decide on the group’s participation in the festival.

Entertainment for Feb. 16 includes the Shanty Singers, Doug Demming, Eric von Band and Koko Ray.

The Feb. 17 lineup includes Soupy Davis and his band, Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots, Jason Haram and the Karen and Jimmy Band, as well as the Eric von Band on the Bratton Store porch.

“We definitely don’t want beautiful beach weather,” von Hahmann said, as last year’s dismal turnout was blamed on sunny skies, poor signage and more festivals competing for seasonal traffic, including the Thunder by the Bay Music & Motorcycle Festival in Sarasota.

In 2018, FISH recorded 13,000 attendees, with $54,000 in profits. In 2017, a first-day rainout saw lower attendance at 17,000 — but slightly better profits at $80,000. In 2016, the celebration drew an estimated 18,000-19,000 visitors and raised $118,000 in net proceeds.

With the online applications, food vendors have been encouraged to identify their source of products. For artists, 70 percent of their work must reflect commercial fishing, historic preservation, the Florida coastal ecosystem or traditional crafts.

Festival profits support habitat restoration on the 100-acre FISH Preserve bordering Sarasota Bay, as well as the group’s historic buildings and educational and environmental pursuits.

For more information about the fest or vendor applications, go to: www.cortez-fish.org/fishing-festival.

2 of 6 intruders in Anna Maria detained by homeowner

An upstairs apartment in the 300 block of Magnolia Avenue in Anna Maria became the scene of an alleged burglary when the resident returned home and discovered six young men in her residence.

At about 11:30 a.m. Jan. 7, resident Laurie Jo Higgins returned home with Amanda Miller Culpepper and saw six males run out her back door and down the stairs.

Higgins reported $50 stolen from the home, adding Jan. 10 that she is still taking inventory.

Higgins said her two sons were home at the time, but one son was in the shower and the other was in a bedroom wearing headphones and did not hear or see the intruders.

She recognized one of the perpetrators, but said no one in her family had invited them to the residence.

Higgins said they exited through the back of the house, and she believes they came in the front door to look for money and valuables.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, according to Sgt. Mike Jones, who heads the Anna Maria substation. No one had been arrested or charged in the incident as of Jan. 11.

Jones said he is not sure if the intrusion was a burglary or trespass. MCSO will be conducting multiple interviews, he said.

In Higgins’ attempt to apprehend the intruders, she said they “overpowered her,” but she did stop two of the six intruders and brought them to authorities.

She also said the group attempted to enter another house in the neighborhood.

Streetlife – 01-16-2019

Anna Maria

Jan. 7, 500 block of Villa Rosa Way, juvenile disturbance. A father went to the MCSO-Anna Maria substation to report his daughter ran away, while the daughter called 911 to report her father “went crazy.” At the house, a deputy reported the mother “began antagonizing” deputies and the daughter fled on foot. The daughter returned to the house and was taken by Florida Department of Children and Families to stay the night elsewhere.

Anna Maria is policed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Bradenton Beach

Jan. 6, 700 block of Gulf Drive North, warrant/drugs. Bradenton Beach police, assisting Sarasota Police Department with an investigation, arrested a 54-year-old Pensacola man wanted on warrants for grand theft. The man initially lied, giving officers the name of his twin brother. Police determined the man’s identity and arrested him on the warrant and for giving a false name. On a pat-down, officers found he had unprescribed pills in his shirt pocket and added charges for possessing controlled substances. Police determined the 2009 BMW the man and his wife were using stolen, so it was transported to the BBPD station for safekeeping.

Bradenton Beach is policed by BBPD.

Cortez

Jan. 4, 3700 block of 117th Street, battery police/domestic. A 44-year-old woman was arrested for pushing a sheriff’s deputy after officers responded to a domestic disturbance between the woman and her boyfriend. The woman became enraged when the officer said he would give her boyfriend a wallet he had left behind.

Cortez is policed by the MCSO.

Holmes Beach

Dec. 20, 600 block of Manatee Avenue, marijuana. After pulling over a vehicle for nonfunctioning tag lights, Holmes Beach police ticketed a 29-year-old passenger for possessing 5.6 grams of marijuana in violation of the city ordinance.

Dec. 23, 2700 block of Avenue C, disturbance. A 911 call alerted Holmes Beach police to a woman screaming. When officers responded, they found a 13-year-old girl in a driveway, who told police she had refused to get in a car with her mother’s boyfriend and an altercation ensued. She also told police she hated the boyfriend due to his past abuse to her mother. The teen was visiting her grandmother, who struggled with the boyfriend as he tried to force the girl into the car. HBPD requested the state attorney review the case for charges against the boyfriend.

Dec. 26, Palm Harbor Drive, noise. Holmes Beach police were dispatched at 12:20 p.m. in response to noise complaints. From the street, officers reported hearing loud music and yelling. An officer observed eight vehicles at the residence and three people shouting on the deck of the house. The noisemakers went inside when they saw the officer attempting to take decibel meter readings. The officer spoke to the property owner and reported the owner seemed unaware and unconcerned about the noise. The report was flagged for follow-up.

Dec. 31, Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, traffic. Numerous people approached a Holmes Beach police officer about a yellow pickup truck almost hitting people in the beach parking lot. The officer then observed a woman driver almost collide with vehicles in front and behind her. When the light turned green, she accelerated and nearly hit another vehicle and curb before the yellow truck came to rest in the grass. The officer requested Manatee County Sheriff’s Office backup for an investigation into a possibly impaired driver, but a deputy was unable to respond. The woman was ticketed for careless driving, failure to wear a seat belt and violating a vehicle registration law. An HBPD officer escorted her home and her vehicle was towed.

Jan. 1, 7300 block of Gulf Drive at the beach, alcohol. Two men and a woman in their 20s from St. Petersburg, Tampa and Atlantic Beach were drinking beer and running with a dog in the surf. They were cited for possessing alcohol on the beach.

Jan. 1, 100 block of 50th Street, criminal mischief. A 62-year-old person reported an unknown person threw a rock that shattered the vehicle sunroof.

Jan. 1, Sunbow Bay, 3800 block of East Bay Drive, burglary/theft. Unknown persons cut a bicycle lock and stole a woman’s bicycle valued at $500.

Holmes Beach is policed by the Holmes Beach Police Department.

Streetlife is based on incident reports and narratives from the BBPD, HBPD and MCSO.

Man arrested for DUI, drugs in Holmes Beach

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Ethan Brannock, 29

Turning east onto Manatee Avenue from Gulf Drive, a man weaved into a cement curb and was arrested for
impaired driving.

Ethan Brannock, 29, of Bradenton, was arrested at 2:53 a.m. Dec.15, 2018, for driving under the influence and
possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana.

Holmes Beach police stopped Brannock in a 2016 Toyota Tundra in the 700 block of Manatee Avenue.

According to the report, Brannock denied driving the vehicle, and the report noted the motorist’s answers were sarcastic.

He also told officers he had nothing to drink, but changed his story several times to consuming one beer, two beers and six beers, the report stated.

The officer noted the odor of marijuana after approaching Brannock and, in a search of the vehicle, found open beer cans and 2.7 grams of marijuana in the center console. Police also ticketed the motorist for violating the open container law.

Brannock was taken into custody and transported to the Manatee County jail.

He posted a $620 bond and was released.

Brannock’s arraignment is set for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.