All posts by Kevin Connolly

Hurricane Irma cleanup inspired by Charles Richard Beall

You don’t need to bring gloves or any equipment.

Just show up at 8 a.m. Saturday in the Winn-Dixie parking lot, preferably wearing patriotic-themed clothing,  and prepare for hard work in honor of a local hero.

Hurricane Irma downed trees at a property occupied by the mother of Vietnam War hero Charles Richard Beall. U.S. Highway 17-92 is named in his honor.

Now his mom, 88-year-old Arbutus Beall, and her family need help, according to community activist Bret Douglas, a volunteer who runs the DeBary Legacy page on Facebook.

The DeBary businessman is asking for volunteers to help clear downed trees from her property on Monroe Avenue.

Douglas, a Gulf War-area veteran and horticulturalist, wants the cleanup to be a celebration of  Charles Richard Beall’s life.

Beall was 20 when he was fatally wounded on March 6, 1968 while storming enemy bunkers during the Viet Cong Tet Offensive.

He attacked as snipers shot at an army convoy.

As his platoon tried to rescue the convoy, Beall “rushed the bunkers, one by one, firing into them. Three bunkers were destroyed. He was killed attacking the fourth,” the Orlando Sentinel said in 1996.

That was the year U.S. 17-92 in DeBary was renamed in his honor.

A Beall relative recently reached out to Douglas for help after Irma stormed across Florida.

“I think this is worse than Matthew,” he said, referring to a powerful hurricane in October 2016. Then, as now, the burly man muscled into action.

Douglas, who owns a DeBary landscaping firm called Ironclad Landscape Management, has been highlighted on social media for working hard to help those who need it the most.

The 50-year-old volunteers in DeBary by removing trees, trimming limbs and fixing fences. He said he focuses on helping the elderly, disabled and low-income residents.

Douglas is also building a local ministry with a food bank for the needy.

He says he gets about five to six calls per week from people who need help.

“We answer them all,” Douglas said.

Anyone who wants to help Douglas clean up Arbutus Beall’s property should show up at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Winn-Dixie at 2 N. Charles R. Beall Blvd.

Douglas will lead volunteers in a prayer and provide directions to the Beall home. He’ll also provide drinks and food. And gloves.

“Just show up,” he added.

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Hurricane Irma orphaned baby squirrels in DeBary, elsewhere

 

Lisa Kestory gave the furry critter a kiss.

“When God wants to remind humans what falling love feels like, He sends a baby squirrel,” Kestory said on Facebook today.

The squirrel rehabber at Ahopha Wildlife Rescue said 22 baby squirrels, as well as other displaced animals, are being cared for at the DeLeon Springs-based nonprofit owned by Tom Scotti.

SquirrelGirl, as Kestory is called, recently set up an account on GoFundme.com to help Ahopha Wildlife Rescue rescue squirrels and other animals displaced or injured by Hurricane Irma.

Most of the rescued animals are birds, including waterfowl and sandhill cranes, as well as “lots” of baby squirrels, she wrote.

“Donations are desperately needed for rescue supplies, pet formula, nipples and syringes, medical supplies, medical care and most importantly, FUEL for the Ahopha Wildlife Rescue vehicle to be able to get to the wildlife at rescue locations all over Central Florida, so they can be taken to the local rehabbers and Veterinarians for emergency care,” the GoFundme account says.
Baby squirrels were found across west Volusia after the storm.

On Sept. 11 , the day after Irma, Ej Bielen‎ posted this on the DeBary Proud! Facebook page:
“Found a baby squirrel in the Streets on naranja and Valencia. He’s still alive and has a small injury to his tail. We bandaged him up. He had a sibling next to him that unfortunately didn’t survive due to cars driving through. Luckily we found him before the next car did. He is very young and not moving too much but looks to be breathing normal. Eyes are still closed. If anyone has any tips on how to care for him or wants to help us out please provide guidance. Thank you.”

Kestory’s call for help prompted positive responses online.

Brandy Dantas of DeLand said this to Kestory on Facebook: “Do y’all need any blankets or supplies like that no extra money right now but can see what I have around the house to donate. Would love to help out any way I can Tom does amazing work and I have brought a few baby squirrels to him in the past.”

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DeBary mayor: ‘Keep your fingers crossed!’

Mayor Bob Garcia this morning expressed optimism about electricity restoration for still-powerless neighborhoods in DeBary.

Electricity has slowly been returning to DeBary homes and businesses after Hurricane Irma downed power lines and caused other problems with distribution networks Sunday.

“I believe that based on what I see the [equipment] and supplies are coming into DeBary,” Garica said online Saturday. “Keep your fingers crossed!”

The message was posted on Facebook’s DeBary Proud! page by DeBary resident Diane M Van Auken on behalf of Garcia, who is “not on social media,” the post said.

“The power company is working hard to get All the power restored in DeBary,” said Garcia. His update also said:

  • Traders Cove has power
  • Highland Marina has partial power restored and is waiting for transformers and tree removal
  • Linemen in Terra Alta are also waiting for tree removal and transformers

“The Vistas area (where Mayor Garcia & his family live) were hit hard and are still without power,” he wrote. “There are many problems there that are being worked on before the power can be restored.”

He said it is possible homes in the Valencia Circle area may get power by tonight or no later than Sunday.

Duke Energy says it has 81,055 Volusia customers. Of those, 65,438 had power restored and 6,126 remained without electricity as of 4 p.m. Saturday. Power restoration was estimated by midnight Sunday.

Florida Power and Light said 20,670 of its 176,800 customers in Volusia County are without power as of Saturday.

According to Florida’s Department of Emergency Management:

Duke Energy had more than 1.3 million customers affected by Irma. Power has already been restored to more than 1.1 million customers.

  • Duke Energy expects power restoration to be completed for western service areas the night of Friday, Sept. 15.
  • Duke Energy expects power restoration to be completed for central and northern service areas the night of Sunday, Sept. 17.

Florida Power and Light had 4.4 million customers affected by the storm. Power has already been restored to more than 3.4 million customers.

  • FPL expects power restoration to be completed for the East Coast the night of Sunday, Sept. 17.
  • FPL expects power restoration to be completed for the West Coast by Friday, Sept. 22.

This isn’t the first time Garcia was featured on social media because of the storm.

On Saturday, as the storm approached, a Facebook user posted video of Garcia urging residents to volunteer for cleanup and repairs after Irma passed.

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‘This is the time to hunker down,’ Volusia manager says



Volusia County officials tonight urged residents to stay indoors as Hurricane Irma hammers Florida. A countywide curfew begins at 9 p.m. today and lasts until noon Monday.

“This is the time to hunker down,” said Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen.

About 4,000 people are currently in emergency shelters in Volusia County. He said the most damaging winds are expected between 11 p.m. today through 10 a.m. Monday.  Gusts of 75 miles per hour are possible.

“We strongly advise that everyone stay inside and not go out in the storm,” Dinneen said. “The ground is saturated from the rain and power lines may be down.”

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said officers will use “discretion and common sense” while enforcing the curfew.

“Those who are evacuating, unavoidably traveling for work or who have an urgent need to travel in the area are free to do so if absolutely necessary.” a county news release said. “The intent of the curfew is to keep people safe, discourage loitering and prevent looting – which won’t be tolerated.”

Other updates from the county:

  • All bridges in Volusia County to the beachside are closed.
  • The north causeway in New Smyrna Beach and the Main Street Bridge in Daytona Beach have westbound lanes open for those who are leaving beachside.
  • Turnbull Bay Bridge in New Smyrna Beach and Highbridge in Ormond Beach are closed.

The number for the Citizens Information Center is 866-345-0345.

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Hurricane Irma: DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia asks for help


As Hurricane Irma neared, DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia this morning urged residents to quickly complete storm preparations and volunteer if possible to help the community.

Garcia made his comments at about 9 a.m. from the parking lot of Genuine Bistro & Lounge at the crossroads of DeBary’s busiest roadways: U.S. Highway 17-92 and Highbanks Road.

He said residents should complete preparations by 5 p.m. today or, if they’re planning to evacuate, they should leave immediately.

His comments were captured by a Facebook user and posted online.

Garcia was flanked by City Commissioner Erika Benfield and workers can be seen in the background completing storm preparations.

Volusia County is facing an increased threat for tornadoes based on the latest track, according to county emergency managers.

They are expecting 8 to 12 inches of rain with some areas
receiving 15 inches.

After the storm passes and conditions are safe, residents should check on their neighbors to make sure they are safe. Garcia urged residents to clean up, but not to put debris near roadways, fire hydrants and utility poles.

He encouraged residents to join him sometime Monday after the storm passes to volunteer with cleanup efforts.

He said he expects to stage at noon Monday near the intersection to coordinate volunteers.

“I need your help,” Garcia said.  “This is not going to be sponsored by the city. This is us coming together as a community.”

Garcia made his comments shortly before a briefing by Volusia County emergency managers and Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

Chitwood said Volusia County will be under a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 9 a.m. Monday.

Volusia County’s Citizens Information Center is answering questions from callers right now. The number is  866-345-0345.

“We do not want people in the water or at the beach today and in the coming days,” the county said in a news release this morning. “Beach officials are flying the double-red flag. After the
storm, please wait [for] an announcement that it is safe to visit the beach. There may be debris in the water and along the shore.”

The county said Florida Power & Light is expected widespread
destruction throughout its service area. More than 16,000 workers from nearly 30 states are responding.
“FPL expects 3.4 million customers may lose power as a result of Irma, and could experience prolonged outages, based on the current forecast,” the county said.

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DeBary car cruise-ins: Should city get involved?

Nearly every month, car enthusiasts cruise into the Winn Dixie parking lot in DeBary for fun and friendship.

DeBary city staffers took a closer look at this car cruise-in and others in Central Florida for Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

In recent months, City Council members discussed preliminarily whether the city could somehow tap into the popularity of cruise-ins to help provide local entertainment and raise the profile of the River City in a positive way.

The staff report details the state of local cruise-ins but leaves the question of getting involved up to City Council members.

“One question to be considered is if we already have a successful car cruise event, that doesn’t cost the city money, do we need to do anything else?” the report asks.

The issue is listed as a discussion item on Wednesday’s agenda.

As many as 80 cars show up during winter months for the DeBary cruise-in. That number drops to 30 vehicles during summer months.

The event is held on the first Saturday of every month except for September. The summer month hours are from 5 to 8 p.m. and winter month hours are from 3 to 6 p.m.

“They have several business sponsors including AutoZone, Subway” and Chick-fil-A, the staff report said.

“This organization is associated with the Coachman clubs who also have chapters in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach. It is important to note that most of these events are termed cruise-ins so special event insurance is not required.”

The report offered details about cruise-ins in DeLand and Sanford. Both are free to the public with no cost to the city.

An event in Longwood is affiliated with a cruise-in club and held the second Saturday of every month.

Organizers charge $400 for marketing, promotions and DJ’ing the event.

“The City of Longwood acquires vendors for $35 ea., handles traffic safety, pays the $400 per event and provides marketing assistance to the club,” the report says.

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DeBary proudly assembling for Hurricane Irma


Got a skill? Want to help? DeBary residents are assembling a volunteer response team in case Hurricane Irma hits.

Tentative plans call for a meeting of potential volunteers Monday night with a location and other details to be released on DeBary Proud on Facebook.

“We are hoping to have people of all skills available for storm or other natural disaster events that can help along side first responders,” Jason Clisby wrote.

Volusia County offers up-to-date information about storm preparedness, including important checklists, online.

DeBary has been hit hard by flooding in the past, even by indirect storm strikes.  As a result, millions have been spent upgrading the River City’s storm-water systems.

Even with those upgrades, DeBary could suffer widespread flooding under a major storm, Public Works Director Alan Williamson told the City Council in June.

Tropical Storm Fay dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

Clisby issued an invitation for storm response volunteers on Sunday morning.

“If you are interested in volunteering or just getting more info, comment in this post.,” he wrote. “We will update as we have more information. We will likely call for a bigger meeting one evening this week to get everyone on the same page.”

The National Hurricane Center said this about Irma on Sunday:

  • It’s too early to say with certainty where Irma might hit in the U.S. mainland, though projections show it aiming at Florida and sitting northeast of Cuba by Friday.
  • Hurricane Irma is a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph while moving west-southwest.
  • The storm will power up as it moves over warmer water over the next three to five days.

“After 5 days, the forecast becomes much more uncertain, with most models suggesting a sharp turn north while remaining offshore,” the National Hurricane Center said this morning. “However, direct impacts to Florida can’t be ruled out as forecasts a week out are historically unreliable.”

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Daraja Adero Tinsley: DeBary suspect has criminal past

Daraja Adero Tinsley, a suspected Ormond Beach cell-phone store robber caught in DeBary last week after a chase, has been accused of similar crimes in the past, records show.

Tinsley was charged in 2015, along with 15 others, in a high-profile crackdown of two Orlando street gangs targeting cell-phone stores.

The gangs, One-Way Boyz and Young Cutthroats, stole phones and other devices tethered to displays, according to Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

The suspects involved in the AT&T robbery at  Slayton Wireless at 374 W. Granada Boulevard on Aug. 29 allegedly pushed a clerk and ripped phones off a display.

Sherrif-Mike-Chitwood

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood spotted their getaway car and law enforcers chased it until it crashed in DeBary.

Tinsley ran but was eventually taken down by a K-9 unit. The other two suspects — Wendell Harp, 18, and Sheldric J. Slater, 19 — gave up. No previous criminal charges in Florida could be found Saturday for Harp and  Slater.

Tinsley, however, was on community supervision for the 2015 case when he was arrested in DeBary.

Records in Orange County show an arrest affidavit for violation of probation was filed for Tinsley in that case.

Tinsley was charged with one count of racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering on Nov.  4, 2015. At the time, Bondi’s office said Tinsley and each of the other co-defendants faced as much as 60 years in prison.

Tinsley pleaded no contest on May 12, 2016 and was found guilty of both charges.  He was sentenced to four years of community supervision, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Records show he was previously sentenced to two years of community supervision for crimes in Polk County including burglary and trespassing.

He was sentenced in July 2014 to two years of community supervision for a grand theft charge in Orange County, records show.

In his most recent case, Tinsley is charged with fleeing, resisting an officer without violence, grand theft, robbery and grand theft valued at $300 or more but less than $5,000.

Harp is charged with grand theft valued at $300 or more but less than $5,000 and robbery.

Slater is charged with grand theft valued at $300 or more but less than $5,000, robbery and giving a false name to law enforcement.

HARP

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DeBary crash after chase ends with 3 arrests


An urgent voice crackled over the airwaves.

“They’re getting off at Dirksen. They’re getting off at Dirksen.”

Minutes later, three suspects – accused Ormond Beach cell-phone store robbers  — roared off Interstate 4 and crashed in DeBary as a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office chopper captured the action.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood spotted the suspects’ vehicle — a white Dodge — heading south on Interstate 95.

Daraja Adero Tinsley
Sheldric J Slater
Wendell Harp

Cops were looking for the vehicle after three suspects robbed an AT&T store in Ormond Beach on Aug. 29.

The store’s clerk was shoved into a counter and several iPhones were stolen.

Chitwood spotted the getaway vehicle and called in a description and tag number.

The driver refused to stop for a traffic stop. Chitwood radioed in that it failed to stop and started to flee on Interstate 4 heading west.

“Sheriff Chitwood authorized a vehicle pursuit for his agency and pursued the vehicle with marked VCSO Deputy Sheriffs car and FHP marked patrol car,” a report said.

Chitwood said the vehicle then got off at Dirksen Drive heading west.

“The vehicle then crashed near Dirksen Drive/Grande Vista Street. The three occupants of the vehicle then started to run on foot from within the vehicle,” the report said.

Deputies told them to stop – but only two did: Wendell Harp, 18, and Sheldric J. Slater, 19.

Daraja Adero Tinsley, 20,  ran, according to a report and chopper video.

Deputies with two K-9 police dogs later took Tinsley later down near Dirksen and Agua Vista drives in DeBary.” A report said he was taken for medical treatment but details were not released.

A report said he was taken for medical treatment but details were not released.

All three remained at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach on Saturday.

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Dwayne L. Taylor fraud conviction: Volusia pol faces possible prison sentence

 

Today’s wire-fraud conviction of Volusia County politician Dwayne L. Taylor shows federal officials are taking a tough stance against corruption, officials said.
The 49-year-old former state representative from Daytona Beach used $60,000 in re-election campaign donations for personal expenses, a federal indictment said.
“These types of crimes erode the public trust in our elected officials,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said in a statement. “This conviction sends a clear message that such acts will not be tolerated and that we will hold anyone who breaks the law accountable for their actions.”
Taylor is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and Daytona Beach City Commission.
A federal jury in Orlando convicted Taylor today on nine counts of wire fraud.
He faces as much as 20 years in prison per count. His sentencing is set for Nov. 16.
“According to evidence presented at trial, during Taylor’s 2012 and 2014 reelection campaigns, he falsely reported thousands of dollars of expenditures to the State of Florida in order to conceal his misappropriation of over $60,000 in campaign funds through a series of unreported cash withdrawals, checks written to himself, and checks written to petty cash, in violation of Florida law. Taylor then used the misappropriated funds for personal expenditures unrelated to his re-election campaigns,” a news release from Muldrow’s office says.
Candidates are not allowed to use campaign donations for personal expenses other than “expenses actually incurred for transportation, meals, and lodging during travel in the course of the campaign.”
Taylor left the state House last year because of term limits, sunshinestatenews.com said.
His district spanned a section of Volusia County between DeLand and Daytona Beach.
Taylor lost in the Democratic primary for District 6 in Congress in 2016, according to the Palm Beach Post.
The FBI investigated his spending for his 2012 and 2014 reelection campaigns.
“It is disappointing that an elected official would exploit the generosity of his constituents to advance his personal lifestyle,” said Charles P. Spencer, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “Corrupt public officials undermine the integrity of our government and violate the public’s trust, which is why combating public corruption remains the FBI’s top criminal priority.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roger B. Handberg and Embry J. Kidd are prosecuting Taylor.

20170309_taylor_indictment_0

 

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