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Five dead plus shooter at Orange County shooting scene

Five people plus the apparent shooter are dead in an early morning mass killing at the Fiamma company in east Orange County Monday morning.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said a man he described as an apparent disgruntled former employee killed four men and a woman Monday morning and then killed himself, in a camper and RV accessory business in a light industrial park east of the city of Orlando.

“It’s a sad day for us once again here in Orange County,” Demings said.

Demings and Danny Banks Orlando special agent in charge for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said there is no evidence to suggest any terrorism links, and there are no indications that the shooter was associated with any subversive or terrorist organization.

“What this is at this point is likely a workplace violence incident,” Demings said.

The man, age 45, whom law enforcement has not identified, entered the building through unknown means with a handgun and a knife, and shot the victims and then himself. All those shot died, including a man who died while being treated at Orange County Regional Medical Center, he said.

“There is no indication he used the knife on anyone this morning, but shot five innocent people this morning and then turned the gun on himself,” Demings said.

Seven other employees were in the building at the time, and none was hurt, he said. Sheriff’s detectives are interviewing them.

Demings said the business has Italian ownership.

Deputies received a call of a shooting at 8:03 a.m. and were on the scene within two minutes.

The man identified as the shooter was fired in April, Demings said.

Deming said there also was an incident reported from the business in June of 2014 in which the man was accused of battering another employee. No charges were filed at that time. The man also has a record of minor arrests including battery, Demings said.

Banks credited the rapid response of Orange County Sheriff’s Office for saving the lives of the others in the building.

“I give great support to the sheriff and his staff. we know we lost several individuals due to violence today,” Banks said. “But seven other individuals lives were saved by the quick actions of the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies that got here within two minutes of this incident occurring.”

The mass shooting is stunning Orlando, which is preparing for a remembrance next Monday of the worst mass shooting in recorded American history, at the Pulse Nightclub, June 12, 2016.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said residents must remain vigilant.

“I wish to express my regrets, my sympathy, my sorrow, for the family members of those that we lost this morning. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this play itself out in our community and in other communities across the nation,” Jacobs said. “And it is incumbent upon all of us not to become complacent or become callous to these horrific situations, but for each of our citizens to be vigilant. If they see something that doesn’t seem normal, they need to say something.”

“One thing we know about Central Florida is we have expert law enforcement men and women, and we have a community that cares and has shown that compassion time and time again,” Jacobs added.

Gov. Rick Scott released the following statement:

“Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.

The scene is next door to Restaurant Equipment World, a business owned by a very prominent Republican in Orange County, Jerry Pierce. He has hosted visits at that business by numerous officials including Scott, and most recently attorney general candidate Jay Fant, who joined a small-business town hall there as part of his campaign kickoff in May. Pierce also led efforts to create a veterans memorial in Lake Nona near the new Veterans Affairs Hospital.

The scene is just a mile south of Full Sail University, and Demings said a family reunion site is being set up there.

Markeith Loyd hit with two red-light running tickets while he was in jail

Accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd has been cited for two more offenses; but unlike the murder charges he faces, if he challenges the new charges he likely would beat them: red light running tickets.

The tickets, issued because of evidence gathered by red-light cameras in Orlando, were both for dates when Loyd already was in jail, charged with first-degree murder for the slayings of Orlando Police Department Sgt. Debra Clayton this past January and for Loyd’s pregnant girlfriend, Sadie Dixon in December, 2016.

The tickets were issued for offenses that occurred on Jan. 27 and Jan. 30, 2017. After a nine-day manhunt, Loyd was captured and arrested Jan. 17, 2017. He has been in jail ever since.

Unclear is how both tickets were issued on May 15 when either no one connected the dots between the alleged traffic violator, Markeith D. Loyd, 41, of Orlando, and the alleged killer in jail, Markeith D. Loyd, 41, of Orlando, or no one cared that Loyd could not have driven on those dates. The name of the Orlando official who approved and signed the tickets was redacted from records available from the Orange County Clerk of Courts Office.

Neither the city nor Orlando Police Department responded to whether anyone had been aware, before Orlando-Rising.com inquired Friday morning, that Loyd had been cited for running red lights while he was in jail. The tickets were mailed to Loyd’s home address, not the jail.

Florida law does not require officials to check names on citations in red-light camera cases. Drivers receive are mailed an initial notice of the violation. If they do not respond, formal uniform traffic citations must be issued by a traffic infraction enforcement officer, who must have special training and certification in Florida red-light camera and traffic enforcement laws, but need not be a full law enforcement officer. In Orlando’s case, the enforcement officers are not law enforcement officers.

Under Florida law, red-light camera notices and violations are sent to the vehicle’s owner. One acceptable defense under Florida law: if the vehicle owner can demonstrate that someone else was in control of the car at the time of the violation.

“As a city, we must ensure we follow the red light camera state statute, per Florida law. When a violation is determined to have happened, we are legally bound to issue that citation. Per state statute, citations are always issued to the vehicle owner in first position on the registration of the vehicle,” stated Orlando Press Secretary Cassandra Lafser.

The first red light allegedly was run at 10:34 p.m. on Jan. 27, on eastbound West Colonial Drive at the Mercy Drive intersection. The second was at 6:13 a.m. on Jan. 30 on northbound John Young Parkway at the Colonial intersection. The two intersections are just a few blocks apart. In both cases, the cited car was registered to Loyd, a 1992 Buick sedan.

A critic of Florida’s red-light camera law, Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, said the situation is yet another reason the law is badly flawed. It is bad enough, he said, that defendants cannot face their accusers, but now there is situation that the accusers need not consider if the defendants could have possibly done it.

“It shows me that clearly red-light camera ticket is not reliable,” he said. ‘It’s totally unacceptable that because it’s your car… you’re guilty.”

There is no indication of who was driving the Buick on those two days.

 

 

Orlando denied federal anti-terrorism money again; Val Demings says ‘we are baffled’

For the third-straight year, Orlando has been denied local anti-terrorism money for not being a significant enough target under federal guidelines, exasperating Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings who has pushed federal officials to reconsider their decision-making process.

Demings, as have other current and former members of Congress from Orlando, has been pushing U.S. Homeland Security Department officials to reconsider decisions that leave Orlando out while not taking into account the scores of millions of visitors who populate the region each year and create potentially tempting targets for terrorists.

Nor does the process apparently take into account last year’s massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, the deadliest terrorist attack in America since 9/11.

“We are baffled to learn that once again, the Orlando area has been left out of the Urban Area Security Initiative,” Demings said in a news release issued by her office.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, also of Orlando, joined her statement of frustration and determination, saying the federal formula appears to be “completely and unconscionably broken” if it cannot recognize Orlando’s risks.

Earlier this year Demings, a retired Orlando police chief, and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican whose hometown of San Antonio also got passed over for recent grants, organized a bipartisan group with 19 other members of Congress, calling for an increase in counter-terrorism funding for the nation’s at-risk cities.

Currently, only the “highest-risk” cities nationwide are eligible, as judged by U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

It’s an issue that Demings husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina also testified about in a congressional hearing last year, arguing that the Homeland Security’s scoring system for the Urban Area Security Initiative, was unfair to cities like Orlando.

“Well before the Pulse nightclub shooting, local law enforcement had asked Congress to add the Orlando area to the list of cities who receive funding for counterterrorism efforts, in part because our city is a global destination, with a record 68 million visitors last year,” Demings stated.

“I will continue to urge Congress to expand the list of cities included and work to ensure that we have the proper funds to prepare and respond to terrorism in Central Florida,” she added.

“Working with my Central Florida colleagues, I will follow up with the administration to forcefully argue that the current funding formula is dead wrong,” Soto said in a statement issued by his office. “If the occurrence of a terrorist attack in a recent year, and a city’s ranking as the number one destination for international tourism do not result in funding, then the formula is completely and unconscionably broken beyond repair. The Trump Administration needs to start over from scratch and run an open, but speedy, consultative process with Congress and America’s mayors, beginning now, to fix this problem going forward.”

Knox to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary Friday

Winter Garden-based Knox Medical is set to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary Friday in a location near Florida Hospital’s downtown campus.

Knox is one of nine companies statewide licensed to produce and sell medicines derived from cannabis. Knox has been in operation for several months, relying primarily on delivery service, and earlier this month opened its first storefront, in Gainesville. The Orlando dispensary will be its second, and the company vowed to open more in Jacksonville, Lake Worth, Tallahassee, and St. Petersburg in a short time.

The Orlando location hold a grand opening at 11 a.m. Friday, at 1901 N. Orange Ave. in Orlando, about six blocks from Florida Hospital, a location consistent with the company’s vowed strategy of locating near major medical centers.

The facility, the first of its kind in Central Florida, is open to qualified patients who have registered with Florida’s Compassionate Use Registry.

Like the Gainesville dispensary, the Orlando storefront will be low-key, with a single sign announcing “Knox Cannabis Dispensary.” The interior also is designed to be low-key, looking more like an optician’s office than like some of the marijuana shops that opened in California, Colorado and elsewhere under the medical marijuana laws sweeping through states.

“Knox Medical is working with Florida’s top architects and designers o create a cohesive dispensary experience that puts the needs and interests of our patients first,” said a statement from Knox’s founder and chief operation g officer José Hidalgo, and co-founder and chief operating officer Bruce Knox.

Florida approved a limited medical marijuana law in 2014, allowing for non-euphoric products designed to treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions, plus some cancer patients. Last fall Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a much broader medical marijuana initiative. The Florida Legislature failed to adopt enabling legislation, so the current legal parameters of medical marijuana are a little unclear.

State’s unemployment rate drops to 4.5%

Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to its lowest rate in nearly a decade in April, state officials announced Friday.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5 percent in April, down from 4.8 percent one month earlier. The drop marks one of the lowest rates since September 2007, and is only slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

“Florida businesses have excelled over the past six years thanks to the policies of Gov. (Rick) Scott and his administration,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the DEO, in a statement. “Unemployment continues to drop, private sector jobs are on the rise and Florida families are flourishing. We must not give up on our efforts to make Florida the best place to start and grow a business.”

The DEO reported there were more than 8.5 million jobs in April, up 215,400 jobs compared to a year ago.

Professional and business services saw the largest growth, adding 39,500 jobs over the year in April; followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 36,600 new jobs; construction with 34,400 new jobs; and education and health services with 32,700 jobs.

Twenty-three of the state’s 24 metro areas saw over-the-year jobs gains, according to the DEO.

Orlando once again led the state in job creation, adding 42,700 private-sector jobs year-over-year in April. The unemployment rate in the Orlando metro area was 3.6 percent.

“I am proud to announce today that the Orlando area continues to lead the state in job creation, which is great news for families and business in Central Florida,” said Scott in a statement. “Florida’s unemployment rate has also reached a nearly 10-year low, which is sending a message across the country that our state is a top destination for new jobs and opportunities.”

Leisure and hospitality saw the largest growth, with 13,400 new jobs; followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 8,800 new jobs; financial activities with 4,800 new jobs; and manufacturing with 1,600.

The Orlando-area was second among metro areas for job demand, with 37,024 job openings.

The Tampa Bay-area led the state when it came to job demand, with 47,412 job openings. It also ranked first in the state for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) openings with 14,898 openings in April.

The region’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in April.

Scott is expected to highlight the job numbers during an event in Miami later today.

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 race

Republican House District 44 candidate Bobby Olszewski is rolling out his endorsement backers for two major fundraisers late this month as he gears up for what will be a big special election primary battle in Orange County.

One fundraiser, set for the Shutts and Bowen law firm in Orlando on May 30, features the trio of honorary hosts U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It also features 30 other hosts who cover a who’s-who of local politics in west Orange County, where HD 44 is located.

The other fundraiser is set for the next night at SMGQ Law Firm in Coral Gables.

The HD 44 race has not been scheduled for a special election yet, but it will be, because incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving for an appeals court judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals,

And earlier this week the HD 44 Republican primary contest, seen by Republicans as an important seat with a strong track to a speaker’s job, became a battle, with the entry of Kissimmee chamber CEO John Newstreet.

Olszewski has spent the past couple of months lining up endorsements, and he’ll be rolling out those people at his Orland fundraiser.

Among dozens of other hosts listed are Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, Orange County School Board Members Joie Cadle, Christine Moore, and Linda Kobert, former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Amy Mercado say special session needed to end cannabis legal limbo

Saying that the current limbo of law is bad for doctors and patients, Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado pleaded with Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Legislature leaders to call a special session to deal with medical marijuana.

“We are here because 71 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional right to medical cannabis. But we also are here because unfortunately once again Tallahassee politicians have thwarted the will of the people and they have refused to implement Amendment 2, medical cannabis,” said Smith, of Orlando. “They should be ashamed.

“While the out-of-touch, old-fashioned conservative majority in Tallahassee continues its hand-wringing over whether or not cannabis is actual medicine… or whether they can actually get over themselves and listen to the voters, qualified patients are dying, qualified patients are waiting,” he continued. “And there is no question that the governor, the Senate president of the senate and the speaker of the House need to be leaders and officially call for a special session and demand that the Legislature implement the will of the voters immediately.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called for a special session to pass implementing legislation to fill out the laws for the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative approved by 71 percent of the voters in November. Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott have not. The Florida Legislature failed to pass the implementing bill on the last day of Session earlier this month.

Cannabis activist and author Gary Stein argued that the lack of implementing laws means that the qualifying patients – and the doctors who assist them – are caught in legal “fog” between what should be authorized under Amendment 2 and what little cannabis law and regulation exists based on the 2014 “Charlotte’s Web” bill the Florida Legislature approve.

Mercado, also of Orlando, talked about how her grandmother went through chemical and radiation therapy for stage 4 cancer, and she and the family wanted to try everything and anything. “Had medical cannabis been available, I’m pretty sure we’d have tried that too,” she said. “So we need to make sure, and ensure, that no one gets the way of patient access to medication that makes them feel better.”

Smith and Mercado also called on the Florida Department of Health to lift rules that would not be allowed under Amendment 2, but which slow down or prevent people from using medicines derived from cannabis.

Among them, they called for Florida to:

– Waive the 90-day waiting period for patients to access the medicines after they have been certified as qualified patients.

– “Stay out of the sacred patient-doctor relationship.”

– Stop rules that prevent qualified patients from getting access.

– Protect employees who can be legally fired from their jobs for using medicines derived from cannabis in their homes.

– Expand qualified conditions to include non-malignant chronic pain.

– Open the market to allow more competition, including to minority-owned businesses.

– Allow for smokable cannabis.

Kissimmee chamber chief John Newstreet enters HD 44 race

Orlando Republican John Newstreet, chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and a former aide to U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio, announced he’s entering the House District 44 race going to a special election this summer.

“I’m honored by the number of people in the community, and across the state, who have encouraged me to enter this race and represent West Orange County in the Florida House,” Newstreet stated in a news release from his campaign. “I believe I’m prepared and qualified to successfully champion the conservative values that will grow our economy, strengthen our schools, keep our taxes low, cut job-killing regulations and protect our Second Amendment rights.”

Newstreet enters a race in which former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski had established himself as the early front-runner, even before Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving to take an appointment from Gov. Rick Scott as a judge on Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Republicans covet as a potential springboard to the House speaker’s position because of its relative safety, and because the special election winner will have a leg up on the freshmen of 2018. Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando also is in the Republican primary race.

The Democratic candidate is Orlando businessman Paul Chandler.

No dates have been announced for the special primary or special general election for the seat, but they are expected this summer.

Newstreet is a native Floridian who grew up in a home of nine children, and says that gave him the ability to “bring people together for a common goal.” Newstreet also is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and a graduate of University of Central Florida. His degree is in business administration.

“My time in the Coast Guard was a tremendous gift that helped shape who I am today,” Newstreet said in the release. “Should I earn the trust of the voters, I will be a passionate advocate for our veterans and our military service men and women.”

A resident of the Orange Tree community in the Dr. Phillips region of Orlando, Newstreet began his professional career as a financial advisor. He also has served as state director for the American Legion. For the past three years he has led the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. That group’s board voted unanimously to allow him to run for the state representative post.

His volunteer service includes numerous charities such as Give Kids the World, as well as a leader for business and industry at the Osceola County Emergency Operations Center. Newstreet currently attends Holy Family Catholic Church.

“Serving community, lending a helping hand and doing what’s right is what we were taught growing up,” Newstreet said. “Those are the same values I will take with me to Tallahassee as West Orange’s next State Representative.”

Adam Putnam brings ‘Florida First’ tour to Altamonte Springs

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his “Florida First” campaign to the Orlando area for the first time Tuesday afternoon, promising conservative, pro-growth values and belittling liberals he expects to go after him.

The fifth-generation Floridian and former state and U.S. lawmaker continued the opening themes of his brand new campaign, declaring “Florida exceptionalism” is why people want to visit and move here and vowing to promote that as Florida’s governor, and to prevent it from turning into a liberal and high-tax bastion like California, Illinois and New York.

“I believe there is a special obligation to be a Floridian, to keep Florida special, knowing that people from all over the world want to visit or move here. I want to Florida to be more than a prize for a life well-lived someplace else. I want Florida to be the launch pad for the American dream!” Putnam said to a warm reception of more than 100 people at the Eastmonte Civic Center in Altamonte Springs.

“And it can be that if we put Florida first!” he declared.

In his speech Putnam broke little new ground compared with what he’s been saying since he kicked off his campaign before 2,000 people in his hometown of Bartow last month.

In a press availability afterwards, Putnam said there is plenty in the 2017-18 budget just passed by the Florida Legislature that he would veto, though he was not specific; he criticized the Legislature for not reaching a deal on a medical marijuana enactment bill; said he would vote as a member of the Florida Cabinet to pardon the “Groveland Four,” as requested by the Legislature.

He also deflected a question about whether he would, as governor, invoke a states’ waiver included in the American Health Care Act to opt Florida out of having to cover pre-existing conditions. As a former member of Congress, Putnam expressed skepticism that the waiver will still be in the bill when it leaves the U.S. Senate, and said he hopes the final bill includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Putnam begins his campaign with a 10-day, 22-stop tour that’s hitting both big cities and small towns.

So far he has no real competition for the Republican primary, and his independent political committee, armed with almost $8 million to start, may intimidate away all but the most courageous. The Democrats, meanwhile, are heading for a primary brawl, with three major candidates so far, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King, and others mulling the race.

Putnam spoke of conservative leadership over the past six years fueling the Florida economy, painting images of hotel maids opening their own bed-and-breakfasts, and of the Space Coast being even better with private space industry emerging there than it ever was when it relied on NASA.

“American exceptionalism, Florida exceptionalism, is still very much alive and well in the Sunshine State in 2017 and it will be even stronger when I get elected,” he said.

“Florida, with limited government, a focus on Constitutional freedom, liberty, law and order, Florida is the destination of choice for people to come here to find their piece of the American dream,” he added.

He called for protection of gun rights and boasted that the state’s number of concealed weapons permits dramatically increased under his commission, and argued that is a key reason why Florida’s crime rate has fallen.

Putnam also called for the state to not only push technical and vocational education more, but said the state needs to do a better job of advising students of the high-wage jobs they can pursue with vocational education.

He also vowed great support and homage to be paid to service members, veterans, police and other first responders.

“And our men and women in law enforcement, the military, and those who serve our nation and their families will know that Florida is the most veteran and military and law enforcement friendly state in the entire country, hands down,” Putnam said.

Val Demings, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spend Mother’s Day with women troops in Iraq, Afghanistan

Orlando’s U.S. Rep. Val Demings and Miami’s U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen made a week-long visit to visit troops in Afghanistan and Iraq this week, including a Mother’s Day visit at which Demings was able to deliver cards from students in her Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Demings, a Democrat, and Ros-Lehtinen were part of a bipartisan group of members of Congress to make the tour to conduct oversight of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with a focus on the contribution, efforts, and concerns of women in the United States Armed Forces and local women.

“This was my first trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, and it was such an honor to meet with our female troops and commanders, and see firsthand the difference they are making in Afghanistan and Iraq all while protecting our homeland,” Demings stated in a news release issued by her office.

The delegation met with U.S. female service members, toured local businesses, participated in roundtables with Afghan Female Police and Soldiers, met with Iraqi women leaders, and humanitarian leaders. Others in the group in clouded U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican; Susan Davis, a California Democrat; Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican; and members of the House Armed Services Committee.

“I’m encouraged by the work being done through USAID to enhance and further the lives of women in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must continue to invest in these important programs, that help to enrich the lives of families and give them hope for the future,” Demings stated.

The Mother’s Day cards were delivered to women in the service.

“We just wanted to show them how much we appreciate the sacrifices they make to serve us, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day,” Demings said.

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