Edwin Exaus produced this update.
Hourly News Update
The suspect in a double homicide in Ocala, Ricardo De Jesus Barrera, died Tuesday night at a local hospital, according to the City of Ocala Police Department.
Authorities believe Barrera shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child, Bonnie Motto, and her mother, Julia Motto, on Monday, October 20.
The bodies of the two victims were found at Springwood Village Apartments in Ocala. A 6-year-old girl and 22 month old boy were also found at the scene, but neither were physically injured.
At approximately 2:56 p.m., officers from Ocala Police Department responded to a disturbance at 1525 SE 25th St.
When officers arrived to the scene there was an exchange of fire between them and the suspect. Barrera fled on a motorcycle, but officer Lieutenant Daniel Wilson chased after him. Shots were fired between the two. Barrera then crashed and was taken to a local hospital where he died.
New information regarding the Treon Harris sexual battery accusation was released Wednesday afternoon, nearly two weeks after the investigation in the incident ended. Though the police report had been previously released, most all the information had been redacted.
Janine Sikes, assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs at the University of Florida, emailed the documents to media outlets at 12:58 p.m. on Wednesday. In her email, Sikes said the university will make no statement.
The documents, which total 175 pages of information, shed light on the incident that took place in the early morning hours on Sunday Oct. 5 between Harris and the woman who filed the original complaint against him.
The woman gave her initial account to University of Florida Police officer Jessica Zarate at Shands South emergency room about 24 hours after she said the sexual battery occurred. The woman asked if her father could be on speaker phone while she spoke to Zarate.
The woman’s statement recounts that on Saturday Oct. 4, the victim was at RAIN nightclub with a friend. She said “there were a lot of UF athletes at that club that night, some were smoking and some were drinking.” She did not specify “what they were smoking” and she added that she also consumed “a few alcoholic beverages” at the club.
At the end of the night, Harris asked if he could ride back to the Springs Residential Complex with the woman. On the way back, the woman and Harris were seated in the backseat of the car. Harris put his hand on her leg but the woman immediately turned him down and told him “he was not gonna get laid.”
Upon arrival to Springs Residential Complex, the woman asked Harris to walk her to her dorm but instead he led her to his dorm, which is in a different building than hers. The woman eventually asked if she could stay the night, because she was tired. Harris said yes and the two got into the only bed in the room.
The police affidavit of the woman’s initial account states: “Harris flipped over and was on top of her. (She) said it felt like dead weight and she couldn’t really move. (She) said she kept telling him to get off her and that she didn’t want to have sex with him.”
It was at that point in the interview with Zarate that the woman’s father “cut her off” and asked to speak with her in private. When Zarate returned to the room, the woman confirmed she wanted to move forward and press charges.
In an interview with UFPD Detective Justin Faroni, Harris said the woman “kept trying to sleep with me.” Harris’ account of the night varies from the woman’s in many ways, but Harris does confirm the two left the nightclub RAIN together. He said he dropped the woman off at her dorm room, but then she wanted to go with Harris to his dorm.
“You know, we were talking and she did – she started kissing,” Harris said. “We’re like, we’re kissing each other. Then like it just happened. We had sex.”
Harris said the woman never pushed him off.
“She said while it was happening she was telling you no, she didn’t want this to happen, Okay?” Faroni asked.
“No, no, no,” Harris responded.
Both the woman’s and Harris’ individual accounts of the night concurred that Harris used a condom during intercourse.
Harris asked when the woman called the police. Faroni said the woman reported the incident on the morning of Monday Oct. 6, a full day after the alleged incident occurred.
“Why she didn’t call yesterday?” Harris responded.
Included in the documents released on Wednesday is an exchange between Harris and the detective describing a series of text messages from Harris to one or more individuals. One of the messages from Harris said: “Don’t tell nobody bout [sic] nothing.”
Harris received two texts in response: “And don’t try me ever again,” and “I wouldn’t even come near me if I were yu. [sic]”
Harris said he texted the woman’s phone saying “don’t tell anyone.”
He said she responded: “She be like it’ll be between me and you, something like that.”
As of Oct. 10, the woman had dropped the accusation against Harris and he was cleared to return to all University and University Athletic Association activities.
The redacted documents include:
University of Florida Police Department offense report
A transcribed interview with Harris and the UFPD detective investigating the case.
Editor’s note: this story has been updated from an earlier version with a more detailed account of the documents.
Aaron Brand/WUFT News
A proposed rule change by the U.S. Forest Service, which was announced on Sept. 4 in the Federal Register, could require media outlets to face a $1,000 fine or pay for a $1,500 permit and receive permission before filming or photographing within any of its 439 congressionally designated wilderness areas, 17 of which are located in Florida.
The new directive is necessary to give special use authorizations that allow the public to use Forest Service lands for still photography and commercial filming. The previous directive addressed photography, but commercial filming regulations were considered inadequate, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Following the release of the directive for public comment Sept. 4, First Amendment advocates said it is vague and goes against freedom of the press. Requiring permission to shoot video beforehand could allow the Forest Service to prevent shooting video footage for potentially negative stories.
Florida nature photographer and former newspaper photographer for the Gainesville Sun, John Moran, said he does not have enough information to take an official stance on the issue, but that the way the directive sounds is troubling.
“If the proposed rules are as they appear to be, it would seem that the federal government is flirting with doing more damage to their public relations than any perceived benefit they might accrue as a result of the new rule changes,” Moran said. “My understanding is that these proposed rule changes would not apply to ‘Joe Sixpack’ and the public despite initial appearances that perhaps it could.”
Park Services Specialist Amber Roux said that Florida’s state parks only require a permit when normal park operations would be interrupted by the photography or video shoot. State parks do not fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.
“If anybody has any questions about the photography or media that they’re recording, like if it’s for a film that’s for profit or something like that, then they should just contact the park directly,” Roux said.
Following outcry over possible First Amendment violations in the directive, the Forest Service issued a press release Sept. 25 to clarify its position and extend the public comment period from Nov. 3 to Dec. 3. The release also stated that the $1,500 permit fee was “erroneous” and referred to a different directive.
“The U.S. Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in the release. “To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities.”
Hobby photographer Jeff Donnell said that he can see both sides of the argument, but doesn’t understand the Forest Service’s need for the extra permit.
“I can respect the fact that they’re trying to preserve nature, but at what cost?” Donnell said. “I can understand if (people are) going out there trashing the woods, but most of the time when you’re taking photos of something, you’re appreciating it for its beauty.”
The request to reappoint Matthew Brower as Ocala’s city manager was rejected on a three-to-two vote in the Ocala City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
The result did not come as a surprise after Brower received a mixed performance evaluation result by five council members and after Ocala’s three unions — the Fraternal Order of Police Ocala Lodge No. 129, the Professional Firefighters of Ocala, IAFF Local 2135 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — publicly expressed their lost confidence in his abilities as city manager.
Although some community leaders expressed their support for Brower in the meeting, the three union leaders complained about unions’ dissatisfaction with Brower’s leadership, exemplified in Brower’s lack of efforts in negotiation and his “cronyism” by “reclassifying certain employees to give them raises while other employees go without increases.”
Robert Altman, president of Professional Firefighter of Ocala, thought Brower did not communicate well with employees or successfully promote real communication between unions and the council. Altman said Brower had his own agenda to work on instead of conveying unions’ true opinions.
Council member Mary Rich voted for renewal of Brower’s contract. Before the vote, Rich said giving Brower at least a one-year extension would be in their best interest.
“And if he does something that you don’t like, go to him and talk to him,” she said.
Rich expressed concerns about the evaluation on Brower, which was given to two of the five city employees with contracts due, and said the council should not “get rid of” him based on this evaluation.
“We should do them all instead of picking one or two,” she said.
Rich gave Brower the highest rating in the evaluation.
Council member Jay Musleh, who created the evaluation, explained there was not enough time to review all five people. Musleh said the review was intended to introduce some procedure to evaluate those whose contracts were up for renewal pending a vote.
Musleh said the council will work out a method of evaluating all such individuals in the future.
Council member Brent Malever gave Brower the lowest rating on the evaluation.
“Everything can be done better,” Malever said.
Malever said his biggest problem was with money spent on different projects he said aren’t going anywhere.
“We are looking out for our citizens,” he said. “I have to make my vote count in the right direction.”
Council member Jim Hilty echoed Malever’s sentiment to consider “what is good for the community,” but he also wondered if now was really the right time to lose a city leader. Hilty voted for renewal of Brower’s contract.
Brower expressed his honor to serve as city manager and thankfulness for those supporting him after the vote. He recognized those who love the city and who want to make the city a great place to live and prosper.
“Remember that vision is bigger than me,”Brower said. “I’m asking you to continue to fight for that vision, continue to work hard for that vision, and help that vision be realized.”
Brower was appointed city manager of Ocala in February 2011. His contract will end on December 21, 2014.
Bradford county joins Levy county Monday in opening their doors for early voting. Alachua county will begin early voting Wednesday and Marion county on Thursday. These are the few counties that will have early voting until every county is open for a mandatory early voting period from this Saturday until Nov. 1.