Two Children Injured in Drive by Shooting in Marion County

By on September 12th, 2014 | Last updated: September 12, 2014 at 5:21 pm

UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.: Scroble said bullets penetrated the home and wounded one child in the buttocks and the other in the lower abdomen.

Investigators are still on the scene but had no comment at this time.

Ocala resident Ciera Richardson said shootings like this have become more frequent in the area. She said it isn’t unusual to hear gun shots in the neighborhood.

“I don’t want to say every week, but its been happening often,” she said.

Many neighbors did not want to comment on the shootings in fear they would be putting themselves in danger.

Original Post: Two children, ages 4 and 8, were injured in a drive-by shooting in Marion County on Friday around 2:10 a.m. at 1111 NW 3rd St in Ocala.

According to the Ocala Police Department, Ocala Fire Rescue responded and transported the injured children to the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital for treatment. Both children are currently in stable condition.

Officers also found multiple bullet holes in the residence’s exterior.

A previous call was received by OPD at around 1:47 a.m. about another drive-by shooting at 1910 NW 26th Ave.

Officers found bullet holes to the home and a car parked in front of the residence. No one was injured.

OPD had worked a previous call involving two drive-by shootings at the same location the night before. Only one of these incidents resulted in an injury.

It is still unknown as to whether these two shootings are related to each other.

Detectives are actively working on the cases.

OPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Angy Scroble said further information will be released as it becomes available.

Silvia Rueda contributed reporting.

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Candlelight Vigil Brings Awareness to Discrimination After 9/11

By on September 12th, 2014 | Last updated: September 12, 2014 at 10:30 am

Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, several American communities are still feeling the backlash.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaida launched a series of attacks on the United States that killed 2,996 people and affected countless others. Following the attacks, members of the South Asian-American, Muslim-American, Sikh-American and Arab-American communities faced discriminatory backlash based on perceptions of similarity to the group of individuals responsible for the attacks.

Several student organizations, including the Asian American Student Union, Arab Students Association, Islam on Campus and Sikh Students Association, came together for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the attacks, the lives that were lost and the consequences for those who survived.

Community members take part in a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Sept. 11.

Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

Community members take part in a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Sept. 11.

These student groups wanted to show their side of the story.

Sohaib Ahmad, president of Islam on Campus, remembers the jokes he endured from other students in third grade. Following Sept. 11, they called Ahmad “Osama’s son.” He said he began making fun of himself before anyone else could have the chance.

“I was ashamed of being Muslim,” Ahmad said.

Sameer Saboungi, president of the Arab Students Association, also has memories of feeling self-conscious and afraid.

“They told us not to speak Arabic, not to attract attention or draw attention to us,” Saboungi said of his parents and grandparents.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, anti-Islamic hate crimes increased by over 400 percent, from 28 instances in 2000 to 149 instances in 2012. Muslim and Arab are often confused and wrongly interchanged descriptions. Islam is a religion; Muslims follow the Islamic religion. Arabs are those from an Arabic-speaking country, most of which are in northern Africa and western Asia. Some Muslims are Arab; some Arabs are Muslim. Some are just one or the other.

Ahmad said he still gets looks of distrust that make him feel like an outsider.

“I go through hurt. I go through anger. I go through love and acceptance,” he said. “I am human too, just like they are.”

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New program helps UF students “Walk Safe” at night

By on September 12th, 2014 | Last updated: September 12, 2014 at 9:42 am
"Walk Safe" volunteers discuss the safest routes to use when walking students on campus.

Rochelle Alleyne / WUFT News

"Walk Safe" volunteers discuss the safest routes to use when walking students on campus.

A week ago, making a trek across the University of Florida campus wasn’t much of an issue for most UF students. But after a recent string of similar assaults on and near the UF campus, many students are left on edge.

“Now as soon as it falls dark, I get a little worried because Gainesville has such a problem with any kind of crime,” said Maggie Bassetti, a UF student.

Local law enforcement have increased street patrols, but simply “can’t keep everyone safe,” said UFPD Captain Jeff Holcomb.

To remedy this, officers are also encouraging students to avoid walking alone at night by taking the bus, using SNAP or walking in groups. While these options work well for many, countless UF students may still end up walking alone at night.

A SNAP van drops students off at UF's Plaza of the Americas.

Rochelle Alleyne / WUFT News

A SNAP van drops students off at UF's Plaza of the Americas.

To prevent this from happening, the University of Florida Police Department has teamed up with various student organizations, the most recent being the UF Interfraternity Council, to create the Walk Safe Student Escort Program. The service is staffed by student volunteers, who partner up to patrol campus for students in need of a walking buddy.

The program launched on Sept. 8 and while it’s estimated to continue for at least several weeks, “it’s just too early to tell [how long it will run],” Holcomb said.

In its first two nights alone, Walk Safe volunteers estimate that they’ve escorted over 100 students across the UF campus. Those same volunteers believe the “built-in buddy system” shows just how far the Gator community reaches.

“I just want to show that UF students are there for each other and we’re all Gators here,” Walk Safe volunteer Ryan Wolis said.

Many of the students who have heard about the program agree.

“I think it’s a great idea that there are people who actually show the initiative to help. That shows that at UF you just don’t go here for [an education], but there’s actually a community here,” UF Student Heiu Ngyeun said.

Students who need an escort may approach a pair of Walk Safe volunteers on campus and ask for a walking escort to an on-campus location or someone to stay with until their transportation arrives. Official Walk Safe volunteers will wear brightly colored vests, carry a UFPD volunteer card and travel in pairs. Escorts are usually stationed at Library West, the Reitz Union and Marston Science Library.

Students may also call the Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP) at 392-7672 for an escort. Callers will be asked to provide their full name, pickup location, destination and the size of their group. The service currently runs from 8 p.m. until 3 a.m.

Volunteers who are interested in participating as an escort in the Walk Safe Student Escort Program must be a current UF student and a member of a registered student organization.

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Alachua County Teacher Refuses To Give Standardized Test

By on September 11th, 2014 | Last updated: September 11, 2014 at 7:13 pm

An Alachua County teacher is refusing to administer a state-mandated test to her students.

In a Facebook post Monday, and in a Gainesville Sun article earlier this week, Lawton Chiles Elementary School kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles publicly announced that she would not give her students the Fair Assessment test.

A teacher at Lawton Chiles is refusing to administer a standardized test to her students. School administrators encourage parents who are concerned about standardized testing to reach out to state legislators.

Amanda Di Lella / WUFT News

A teacher at Lawton Chiles is refusing to administer a standardized test to her students. Instead, the school's principal will be administering the test to her kindergarten students.

The computerized test is given to students three times in the school year to predict their literacy. Bowles’ students, who don’t always know how to use a computer, said it could take up to 45 minutes per student.

In a portion of the post, she wrote, “I cannot in good conscience submit to administering this test three times a year, losing six weeks of instruction. There is a good possibility I will be fired.”

“Students [you] must be tested individually on a computer while the teacher is sitting with headphones,” said Judy Black, principal of Lawton Chiles. “Her concern is that the 17 other students in her class do not have her attention and are not getting any education from her at the time that she’s doing this.”

Fair Assessment is one of several standardized tests that the young students take each year.

“It’s test after test after test all year long,” Black said. “They have end-of-course tests. They have fair testing. They have a discover-ed test they give, and these tests have to be given individually on a computer to [with] a 5-year-old. Some 5-year-olds have never had their hand on a mouse before.”

The state now mandates that all kindergartners take the Fair Assessment before Sept. 30, and Black said she will be administering the test to Bowles’ class in her absence.

Some people have taken to Facebook to praise Bowles and offer support.

“I admire her for the stand that she’s taken,” said Karen McCann, president of Alachua County’s Education Association. “I know all the other teachers I’ve talked to feel the same way about it.”

McCann and Black encourage parents who are concerned about this type of testing to reach out to the state legislator for change.

The Fair Assessment has been around since 2009. The Alachua County School Board Human Resource Team is currently reviewing the situation and has not made any decisions on what will happen to the teacher.

“We love her as a teacher,” Black said. “So, we’re willing to see what happens.”

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Alachua County Animal Services Receives New Agility Equipment from Girl Scout

By on September 11th, 2014 | Last updated: September 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm
Dog walk donated to Alachua County Animal Services by local Girl Scou

Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

The dog walk was donated to Alachua County Animal Services by a local Girl Scout.

Alachua County Animal Services received five new pieces of agility equipment for the dogs in its care.

Volunteers are now able to exercise the dogs every day on traditional agility competition equipment: an A-frame, a dog walk, weave poles and a jump. The final piece of the collection is a shade hut.

The equipment was donated by local Eastside High School senior Jenny Banks as part of a project to achieve her Gold Award. The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. It is equivalent to the Eagle Scout for Boy Scouts, said the troop’s co-leader Eileen Sayeski.

Jenny Banks presents agility equipment to the community at Alachua County Animal Services

Photo provided by family

Jenny Banks presents agility equipment to the community at Alachua County Animal Services.

Similar structures were available in one of the play yards at ACAS, but they were rotting. The new structures will replace the old ones, providing a safer experience for the dogs and volunteers.

Hilary Hynes, Public Education Program Coordinator for the ACAS, says that the equipment provides confidence building for the dogs and teaches them obedience skills as well as controlled walking skills that make them more adoptable.

Weave poles help dogs learn to walk closer to owners.

Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

Weave poles help dogs learn to walk closer to owners.

ACAS has 105 dog runs, similar to kennels, and the shelter is currently about 80 percent full. The property also contains eight play yards, however, only two of them have anything in them.

“All of these dogs are brilliant, they just need a chance to show it,” Hynes said.

Hynes and Banks worked together for about a year. Most of the $490 project was funded by previous Girl Scout cookie sales. Banks also received donations from friends and family and used some of her own money.

Banks spent 93 hours planning and designing the project, including 18 hours of construction and eight hours of painting.

Jenny Banks at home in Gainesville with her Girl Scout vests and badges.

Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

Jenny Banks at home in Gainesville with her Girl Scout vests and badges.

Banks said she wanted to focus on animal health, care and adoption for her project and contribute back to the animal community in Gainesville.

“I really like being able to inspire people through good actions,” she said.

Banks has been in Girl Scouts for 13 years.

“I’m really proud,” Sayeski said. “(For Jenny) to have achieved this award really is amazing.”

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Sept. 11, 2014: Afternoon News In 90

By on September 11th, 2014 | Last updated: September 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Jacob Schrull produced this update.

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Investigation Finds One Of The Four Attacks Unfounded

By and on September 11th, 2014 | Last updated: September 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Earlier today investigators with the Gainesville Police Department declared one of four recent attacks on female students on the University of Florida’s campus unfounded.

On Sept. 5, a female student at the University of Florida reported to UF police that she had been attacked by a suspect on campus near Library West. However, in a follow-up interview with the Gainesville police, the woman’s recollection of that night was different.

“It became very evident, during our investigation, that what she originally reported may not have happened,” said Officer Ben Tobias, spokesman for the GPD.

Tobias said it was the first time the department’s investigators had a chance to speak to the woman, explaining that they give people who have experienced some kind of traumatic incident time to collect their thoughts.

The woman still maintains being “groped” by an “unknown male,” but says it occurred at an establishment off-campus, according to a UF Police Department press release. Tobias confirmed Balls Bar located on University Ave. as the establishment mentioned.

In regard to the suspect’s description, the woman initially provided one matching that of the instigator in the incidents currently being investigated. While the initial description was similar to the other three attacks occurring on or near the campus, the investigation revealed this information to be questionable.

“She got that information, we believe, from a friend of hers who is also a friend of one of the other victims,” Tobias explained. “So she knew that information. It had already been in the news and she said her mind just filled in the blanks when she was hysterical and intoxicated.”

The woman admitted being intoxicated when she reported the incident, according to a press release from GPD. The police do not believe the victim “consciously fabricated a story with any sort of malicious or criminal intent to mislead police,” according to the release.

Tobias said that this incident is in no way connected to the other attacks.

“It’s not going to change our response,” Tobias said. “It’s not going to change the tenacity that we’re bringing to the investigations. So in the grand scheme of things, this does not take away from anything.”

This story has been updated from its original version with additional quotes from Tobias.



Crime | 2 Comments

Sept. 11, 2014: Morning News in 90

By on September 11th, 2014 | Last updated: September 11, 2014 at 11:21 am

Edwin J. Exaus produced this update.

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In The News: Oscar Pistorius cleared of murder charges, Florida homeowners face special foreclosure, Lake Mary middle schooler found dead after suicide, Bond villain ‘Jaws’ dies

By on September 11th, 2014 | Last updated: September 11, 2014 at 10:51 am
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Student Demonstration Draws Attention to Police Brutality in U.S., Israel

By on September 10th, 2014 | Last updated: September 10, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Students for a Democratic Society and Students for Justice in Palestine held a people’s eulogy in Turlington Plaza on University of Florida’s campus Sept. 10. The demonstration was held to draw attention to those killed in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and in Ferguson, Mo. over the summer.

Students held signs in the shape of grave markers with pictures of those who had died in the conflicts, including Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Mohammed Sinokrot and Derek Williams.

Tesneem Shraiteh, 20, president of Students for Justice in Palestine, spoke at the event. She said the purpose of the rally was to “bring attention to the intersectionality between police brutality in the U.S. in the murder of unarmed black men and the murder of Palestinian men, women and children by the Israeli Defense Force.”

Shraiteh herself is Palestinian and spoke about the military oppression the people of Palestine face.

“We don’t agree with that, so we want to bring attention to it and just raise awareness.”

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