Saturday, October 29, 2011

Manatee sheriff: Woman returns home to find $70K in jewelry, car missing

A Bradenton woman returned home Friday after being away three days to find  $70,000 in jewelry missing and her car gone, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office reports.

There were no signs of forced entry into the home in the 7700 block of Ninth Avenue Drive North, a media release stated.

Bradenton man dies after motorcycle accident

BRADENTON -- A 34-year-old Bradenton man died Friday night at Bayfront Medical Center after his 1993 Harley Davidson motorcycle was involved in a collision early Friday at U.S. 41 approaching the Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center driveway, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Donald Wemple did not have his lights on when he was struck by a Ford Explorer at 12:20 a.m. Friday, a witness told the FHP.

The driver of the Ford Explorer made a left turn and did not see the motorcycle, the FHP reported.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Manatee sheriff's office: Man chokes woman, takes her paper prescription

MANATEE -- Manatee sheriff's deputies are looking for a man after he allegedly choked a woman and made off with her paper drug prescription Wednesday, the sheriff's office reports.
The 31-year-old woman told the suspect she was going to fill her prescription and a struggle ensued at a home in the 5700 block of 11th Street East at around 1:30 p.m., a media release states.
The suspect, said to be between 25-30 years old, 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, grabbed the prescription, threw the victim on the bed, choked her and finally made off with it, the release states.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another arrest made in Bradenton homicide

BRADENTON -- A third person has been charged in the slaying of Ervin Perez, a 27-year-old migrant worker who was shot and killed Saturday morning, according to the Bradenton Police Department.

John Tyson Jr., 25, of Bradenton, turned himself into the Bradenton Police Department at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and has been “cooperative” with law enforcement about the shooting, said Capt. Warren Merriman III.

Tyson Jr. has been charged with principle in the first degree to murder and is currently in Manatee County jail on a $1 million bond.

Also charged in this case are Travin Martin Jr., 23, of Bradenton, and Charles Brown, 25, of Palmetto, who were arrested Saturday after they ran a traffic sign in the 1300 block of 27th Street East.

Read more here.

Bradenton gang member sentenced to 60 years in prison

MANATEE -- A 25-year-old member of a Bradenton street gang has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on racketeering-related charges.

Eric Santiago, a member of the Brown Pride Locos, was found guilty Tuesday of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering. Judge Harry Rapkin then sentenced Santiago to two consecutive 30-year sentences.

Santiago and seven other BPL members in 2007 were charged with racketeering because of their criminal activity as members of the Brown Pride Locos.

In 2008, Santiago was tried, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but that conviction was overturned last year after an appeals court found that two prior drug-related convictions prosecutors had used to build the racketeering case against him, had been overturned.

Read more

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No injuries following Manatee shooting

MANATEE -- No injuries have been reported following an early morning shooting in Manatee County, the sheriff’s office reports.

The incident occurred at about 4:35 a.m. Saturday when two 25-year-old victims were sitting outside their residence in the 900 block of 35th Avenue West. Two men approached them on foot and fired shots toward them, according to a media release. The shots hit an unoccupied vehicle.

The suspects then fled on foot, the release said.

Witnesses told deputies that a car was heard leaving at a high rate of speed after the gunshots, the release said.

The investigation is ongoing as the suspects have not been located. The suspects were wearing all black.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the sheriff’s office (941) 747-3011.

Man killed after morning shooting in Bradenton

BRADENTON -- An unknown 27-year-old man was shot and killed Saturday morning in the 600 block of 21st Street East, the sheriff’s office reports.

At about 4:15 a.m., Bradenton Police Officers heard multiple gunshots in the area of the 2000 block of Martin Luther King Avenue East. As officers were responding to the location, according to a media release, a concerned citizen also called 911 to report the victim, whose name has not been released, had been shot by unknown person, the release said.

Upon their arrival, officers found a deceased male who had been operating a vehicle and had sustained an apparent fatal gunshot wound, the release said.

According to Capt. Warren Merriman III, the motive and circumstances behind the homicide are not known at this time and police are working on piecing the situation together.

“We don’t have any motive right now and we’re trying to follow up on a few leads,” he said.

Merriman did add there were not any indications of drug or gang violence in this case and he doesn’t believe it to be linked to a shooting that occurred around the same time in Manatee County that resulted in no injuries.

Anyone having information with regard to this case is asked to call Detective Kevin Bunch at the Bradenton Police Department, (941) 932-9300, ext. 380, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 by calling Crime Stoppers (866) 634-8477 (TIPS) or send an anonymous E-Tip thru the web at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tired of violence, Palmetto residents call for change

PALMETTO -- It was a passionate group that met Thursday night in Palmetto.

About 70 turned up at the Palmetto Youth Center to call for change in their community, which has recently experienced a mass shooting that killed two and wounded 22 others.

It’s a community where, for years, a grocery store owner allowed a vicious criminal element on his property to degrade the neighborhood around it.

Some spoke of the sadness of losing young people to crime. Some railed at police hiring practices, saying more black officers would help them reclaim their community.

But the overall theme that grew out of the meeting, organized by county Commissioner Michael Gallen, was: We have to work together.

“It’s difficult when you see these young, intelligent black kids killing each other,” said Elston Brown, representing the Apollo Lake Park Neighborhood Association. He said many of the victims are former students from his years as a teacher.

Read more

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manatee deputies shoot with stun gun, arrest armed robbery suspect

MANATEE -- Deputies early Thursday arrested an armed robbery suspect, but not before they had to shoot him with a stun gun, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies went to a residence in the 2800 block of 17th Street West, after learning that suspect Walter Barnes was there.
As they approached, Barnes fled by trying to jump over a fence, but he was confronted by a police dog. When he returned to the residence, Barnes was confronted by deputies, according to a news release.

When he refused to show his hands and tried to run away, he was shot with a stun gun and taken into custody, the report states.

In addition to the armed robbery charge, Barnes faces several drug-related charges after deputies found cocaine and crack cocaine while searching him, according to the sheriff's office.

Barnes was being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.

4 Manatee robbery suspects arrested in Hillsborough after Interstate 75 police chase

MANATEE -- Four suspects in a Bradenton robbery were arrested early Thursday after authorities chased them on Interstate 75 into Hillsborough County, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

About 4:07 a.m., the suspects allegedly robbed a woman of cash while she was stopped at the intersection of 51st Avenue East and 30th Street East in Bradenton. During the robbery, one of the suspects fired a gunshot into the air, according to a news release.

After getting an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspects fled. A short time later, their vehicle was spotted near Interstate 75 and State Road 70 east and deputies began pursuing north on I-75, according to the report.

The suspects refused to stop. At one point, they exited at State Road 64 East, but then got back on the interstate heading towards Hillsborough.

The suspects again exited the interstate at Big Bend Road and were able to avoid stop sticks that had been placed on the road by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, according to Manatee deputies.

Hillsborough deputies tried again with the stop sticks at U.S. 41 and Riverview Road. The suspects drove over the devices, flattening two tires. The vehicle stopped and the suspects were arrested.

The vehicle had been reported stolen out of Tampa. No weapons were recovered at the scene, but the vehicle had not been processed, according to the report.

The four suspects, who are all from Tampa, were identified as Demario Murray, 24; De’Eric Moore, 17; Antwon Moore, 22; and Timothy Jefferson, 20.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Man, 82, thwarted from trying to jump off Skyway Bridge

:MANATEE -- An 82-year-old man was taken in under the Baker Act on Wednesday morning after his ex-wife tipped off law enforcement that he was about to jump off the Skyway Bridge, the sheriff’s office reports.

After she called the Bradenton Police Department, toll booth personnel were alerted of the man’s vehicle description. They said that he had just gone through a toll booth and was headed toward the bridge, a media release said.

A Manatee deputy was able to catch up to the vehicle and initiate a traffic stop, the release said. The driver exited the vehicle and the deputy secured him before he was able to make it to the edge of the railing.

The man admitted he wanted to commit suicide and was taken to Manatee Glens.

Four unlocked vehicles, two residences burglarized in Manatee County

MANATEE   -- Four unlocked vehicles and two residences were burglarized Wednesday morning in East Manatee, the sheriff’s office reports.

All four vehicles and one residence were left unlocked, a media release said. The other residence was occupied at the time.

The burglaries occurred sometime between midnight and 5 a.m. in the 4900 and 4800 blocks of West Country Club Drive and 5000 block of Inverness Drive.

 Audio devices were taken from the unlocked residence, the release said. In the occupied residence, suspects attempted to take a TV that was in the kitchen.

A GPS, loose change, iPod, sunglasses and an $80 check were among the items taken from the vehicles, the release said.

No description for the suspects was provided.

 Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at (941)745-3011.

Palmetto Police Department searches for Metro PCS robbery suspect

PALMETTO --  The Palmetto Metro PCS store was robbed Wednesday afternoon, the Palmetto Police Department reports.

The incident occurred at the store, 651 10th St. E., just after 3 p.m.

That’s when a man walked into the store, pointed an angular object concealed in a T-shirt at the clerk and demanded money, a media release said.

The clerk complied with the demands, the suspect left the store with an undisclosed amount of cash and fled westbound on foot, the release said.

The suspect is described as a man between 30 and 45 years old, thin to medium build, and between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall.

He was wearing a green shirt with white lettering on his left chest, and white lettering and a design on the back, the release said. The suspect also had long black shorts and a camouflage ball cap with sandals.

Anyone with any information about this crime is asked to contact Detective Chris Cavazos at 723-4587, ext. 6124, or the Manatee County Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-8477. Callers may remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Crime tip: Turn on the light

Motion lights around a home or business can not only help light up a path, but they can also deter robbers, the Manatee sheriff's office says.

According to a media release, thieves are less likely to break into a car, home or office if the area has light surrounding it. One obvious reason: The light allows property owners, neighbors and law enforcement a way to see any would-be robbers.

To save on your electric bill, the sheriff's office suggests using a motion sensor.

Additional charges filed in Bradenton prostitution case

BRADENTON -- Additional charges have been filed against three of the four Bradenton adults accused in the coercion of a 15-year-old Bradenton girl into prostitution, according to Detective Kevin Bunch of the Bradenton Police Department.

Anissa Lawson, 38, and Donald James, 44, who were arrested in this case along with Quental Harris, 28, and Anthony Gentile, 41, befriended the girl by offering her rock cocaine in August, the warrant stated.

Gentile’s latest charge is one count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, according to arrest reports. This is in addition to five charges of engaging in sexual activity with a person between 12 and 15 years of age.

He is currently being held in Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $100,000.

Lawson faces two additional charges of child abuse, one charge allowing a child to engage in a sexual performance, procuring a person under age of 16 and carnal intercourse with a minor.

Her previous charges include nine counts of child abuse, eight counts of procuring a person under the age of 16 for prostitution, nine counts of promoting sexual activity with a victim younger than 15 and, possession of a controlled substance and eight counts of lewd and lascivious battery, the court documents stated.

She is in Manatee County jail on a $207,620 bond.

James faces additional charges of two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of cannabis, possession of a controlled substance and domestic battery.

Those charges were added to his prior charges of child abuse, possession of a controlled substance, procuring a person under 16 for prostitution, engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 or older but less than 16, and intentionally touching a person under 16 in a lewd or lascivious manner, according to the release.
He is being held on a $62,360 bond.

Harris faces one charge of lewd and lascivious battery and was released Sept. 29 on a $10,000 bond.

Read more

Reputed Manatee members of SUR 13 gang charged

MANATEE -- Thirteen reputed members of the SUR 13 criminal street gang have been charged with racketeering and related charges, following an 18-month investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

The sheriff’s gang unit executed four search warrants Monday morning and arrested two suspects, officials said.
Four other suspects were already in jail and two were in prison. Five remain at large, according to a department news release.

Two of the suspects, Daniel Robledo, 25, and Manuel Ramirez, 20, were charged with murder in the June 15, 2009, shooting death of Rolando Martinez-Rosales in Bradenton. Robledo was already in jail, charged with murder in the July 23, 2011, shooting death of Elvis Ruiz in Bradenton.

Ramirez remains at large.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act -- commonly referred to as the RICO Act or RICO -- is a federal law which allows extended criminal penalties for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. According to legal websites, it allows leaders of a gang to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them.

All of the defendants in the Manatee case face RICO and conspiracy to commit racketeering charges, officials said. This is the sheriff’s second RICO operation involving the gang SUR 13.

“It takes a number of these known gang members off of our streets, and the crimes they have been committing in the past now, hopefully, will stop, if we can get them convicted and sentenced to prison,” said Sheriff Brad Steube.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

No injuries following shooting in Heritage Harbour

MANATEE -- There were no injuries following a shooting into a Manatee home Saturday morning, the sheriff’s office reports.

A single gunshot was fired between 1 to 2 a.m. at the residence in the 7000 block of Chatum Light Run in Heritage Harbour, which is just north of State Road 64 and east of Interstate 75.

The bullet went through a vacant bedroom window, through a wall and into a closet, the media release said.

A female, 39, was home during the shooting, but was not hurt, the release said.

Anyone with more information about this incident is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011.

$25K savings bond, $10K in jewelry taken in Manatee burglary

:MANATEE -- A $25,000 savings bond and $10,000 worth of jewelry were taken from a Manatee home during a burglary earlier this week, the sheriff’s office reports.

The items were inside a safe at a residence in the 4700 block of Pinnacle Drive, a media release said. Personal information also was taken during the burglary.

 The incident occurred sometime between Wednesday and Friday, according to the release.

There didn’t appear to be any forced entry into the home, the release stated.

Anyone with more information about this incident is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011.

Bradenton police investigation continues into girl lured into prostitution

PALMETTO -- Drugs played a major factor in the coercion of a 15-year-old Bradenton girl into prostitution, according to a search warrant released this week.

Anissa Lawson, 38, and Donald James, 44, who were arrested in this case along with Quental Harris, 28, and Anthony Gentile, 41, befriended the girl by offering her rock cocaine in August, the warrant stated.

When the victim first met Lawson and James at the Sunshine Motel, 180114th St. W., she told them her age and Lawson advised that she knew how old she was and that the victim had gone to school with her daughter, the warrant said.

The girl went back to the motel and Lawson and James explained that in order to buy more rock cocaine she would have to go into prostitution, the warrant said.

Lawson then lined up men for sexual encounters and told the girl they would share the money she made from her actions, the warrant said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Palmetto looks to nonviolence

MANATEE -- Dr. Martin Luther King’s work on nonviolence is being called upon by the city of Palmetto, which is dealing with an unsolved September shooting that claimed the lives of two and wounded 22.

Palmetto will host Kingian Non-Violence Seminars on Nov. 5 and 12, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant announced Thursday.

The seminars are the result of a partnership between the Palmetto Police Department and the Jim Walter Partnership Center at the University of South Florida, and its executive director, Manuel Rivero, Groover-Bryant said.

“This training program will provide not only community leaders, but people from all walks of life, the opportunity to learn different steps to deal with confrontation in a nonviolent manner,” Rivero said.

The seminars consist of a six-step training curriculum, Rivero said.

The Palmetto Police Department hopes the seminars will unite community, city officials, nonprofits and faith-based organizations in a combined effort to end violence through joint participation in productive programs, said Lt. Scott Tyler of the Palmetto Police Department.

The event, which is open to the public, will be held, tentatively, at Bible Baptist Church on 17th Street in Palmetto, according to a news release.

A time is yet to be determined.

Manatee sheriff’s office gets re-accredited

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has been re-accredited by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation, according to a media release.

This marks the fifth time the agency has been re-accredited by the commission and resulted in the agency being recognized as an excelsior agency by the commission, which is granted to those agencies that have been re-accredited at least five times without any conditions.

The sheriff’s office is audited every three years by the commission to assure continued compliance with 80 standards, the release said.

The sheriff’s office is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. and the American Correctional Association.

HB police chief helping officers on home front

Chief Jay Romine.
Photo from
HOLMES BEACH -- Domestic violence can impact everyone, even law enforcement and correctional officers.

That’s why Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine has been working since 2009 on a domestic violence prevention program for the law enforcement community.

He’s been integral in the development of the Law Enforcement Families Partnership program with the Institute for Family Violence Studies at Florida State University.

The cornerstone of the project is a free, online curriculum that teaches officers how to keep their homes free of violence, and emphasizes healthy families and relationships.

“We interviewed a lot of officers and found if they even feel they are struggling, whether it be an anger issue, problems at home or anything like that, they are a little less inclined to seek out help than the average citizen would be,” Romine said.

Read more: 

Police: Man charged with having sex with Bradenton girl

BRADENTON -- A 29-year-old Pinellas County man was arrested and charged Wednesday with having sexual relations with a then-14-year-old Bradenton girl he met through a dating website, the Bradenton Police Department reports.

Cory R. Hall and the minor, now 15, began to meet up in March via a dating site that utilizes a cell phone application, according to a media release.

The juvenile used her actual age on her site profile, the release said. He also used his actual age, 28 at the time, on the site.

BPD Detective Kevin Bunch said a traffic stop at a Pinellas County park tipped off authorities about the relationship.
They both told the Pinellas deputy who pulled them over that they didn’t have IDs and that they were cousins, according to Bunch.

After further investigation, they admitted to not being cousins and the deputy “found some lingerie in the car and he admitted he got it for her,” Bunch said.

That’s when the Pinellas sheriff’s office contacted the Bradenton Police Department

Read more:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Teen charged in Manatee teacher’s slaying

NORTH PORT -- It’s been a little more than six months since Manatee School For the Arts teacher Kenneth Ellis was killed at his North Port home.

For his students, all the emotion of the tragedy came rushing back Wednesday when they learned North Port police had charged Katrelle D’mario Johnson, 19, in the teacher’s shooting death.

Jamie Rolle, 16, found out as she got to school.

“All day I have been on the verge of exploding with countless emotions that were just ready to pour out,” Jamie, a sophomore and one of Ellis’ tae kwon do students. “It’s been hard going from everyday seeing him to not anymore. It’s been really, really difficult.”

Police say Johnson, a North Port High School student, confessed during a jail house interview last month to the March 29 killing.

During a press conference, North Port Police Capt. Robert Estrada gave a run down on how the events of that night unfolded.

“This was a total random act,” he said.

Johnson and the other suspect had seen Ellis’ wife, Elizabeth, sitting at her computer in the front room and thought she was alone, Estrada said.

The doorbell rang shortly after 10 p.m.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Man, 19, charged with killing popular Manatee School for the Arts teacher

NORTH PORT -- A 19-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the March 29 slaying of Kenneth Ellis, a popular teacher at Manatee School for the Arts.

Katrelle D'mario Johnson admitted to shooting Ellis when he answered the door at his North Port home, North Port police said. Investigators were seeking a second suspect.

According to police, Johnson and another person may have seen Ellis' wife in a window and thought she was home alone. They rang the bell and may have been surprised when Ellis answered the door, officials said.

Police connected Johnson to the crime from a gun found in a Sarasota field.

Johnson was already in jail in connection with June 21 slaying of Robert Mann in Sarasota when investigators developed evidence that linked him with the Ellis slaying, officials said.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, working with the U.S. Marshals Service Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, in July arrested Johnson in Saginaw, Texas, north of Fort Worth.

A second suspect, Deifalla Malik Johnson, 19, has been charged in the Mann case.

Bay News 9 contributed to this story.

Woman escapes home invasion attempt in Bradenton

MANATEE -- A 40-year-old woman was able to flee her home after two masked gunmen early Wednesday kicked in her front door and tried to rob her, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

About 12:05 a.m., the suspects broke into a home in the 4900 block of Lake Hill Court, Bradenton, and demanded money, according to a news release.

The woman was able to get out of the house, and the suspects fled in an unknown direction by an unknown means, according to the report.

Multiple deputies, including K-9 units and the sheriff's helicopter, responded, but the suspects were not located. The suspects were described as having their faces covered and wearing all black clothing, according to the sheriff's office.

Lake Hill Court runs off 49th Avenue West, one block east of 34th Street West.

Manatee sheriff's employee suspended for hiring company

MANATEE — A sheriff’s office employee was suspended for 36 hours after she hired a company without permission to do work for the agency and the had them hire her son for employment, an internal investigation report said.

In a sworn testimony, Valerie Griest, an application server manager, admitted that she failed to inform her supervisor in the Information Technology division prior to enlisting a temporary staffing agency, Synergy One, to assist in a web development project she was managing, the report said.

She also stated she failed to inform her supervisor that her son would complete the web programming project she was supervising. She added she was not trying to be deceitful and secretive when she made her choices, the report said.

According to the investigation, Griest asked Synergy One to do the programming jobs for the sheriff’s website because she felt the department was too understaffed to do it in a timely manner. In a letter written by Greist’s director to the chief inspector in August he stated: “The problem I have with Varlie enlisting the services of a staffing agency is that I was never informed. She has been using the services of Synergy One for this program without my knowledge or approval.”

The letter went on to say he took issue with the employment of her son.

“Had Valerie followed the correct protocol to check whether her son could do work for the agency, I personally would have done all possible to see if there was an avenue. I would have taken the time to see if there was a way of using him without causing a conflict,” he wrote.

Griest testified her intentions for employing her son was soley because he was already well versed in the theory and direction of the website, the report said. However, she did answer “absolutely, yeah,” when asked if she agreed she failed to keep her chain of command informed of her actions.