Hammond Stadium workers keep coming back for more

FORT MYERS– Minnesota Twins spring training workers John McConaughey, Ed Odland and Mike McMillen all have one thing in common; they love baseball. 

If you’ve ever been to Hammond Stadium, you’ve seen them. The men and women scattered around Century Link Sports Complex donning those baby blue polos and greeting baseball fans with smiles. 

McConaughey has worked for the Twins for nine years, while Odland and McMillen are first timers. 

“It’s my first year, I love baseball,” said McMillen. “Why don’t you come down and see if I can get a job and by-golly I got a job and I love it!” 

Most of the workers are snowbirds, they will head back to the Midwest after the final spring training game this Saturday, but there’s no question we will see them ready for round two next year. 


Inside look at Cape Coral police body cameras

It has been one week since Cape Coral police started wearing body cameras when responding to calls and traffic stops. We got an exclusive inside look at how the cameras are working.

It’s just another day at work. But before Cape Coral police officer Hugh Esterle can hit the streets, he now has to put on one more piece of gear.

“It’s almost really a protection thing at this point,” said Esterle.

Cape Coral police officers started wearing body cameras last week.

“They’ve come in handy as far as investigative tools,” said Esterle. 

But he says they do bring some challenges, especially when people aren’t comfortable being recorded.

“It’s almost a little bit of an obstacle for me. I finally get them at ease and then have to say, by the way I’m recording,” he said.

The department is still going through training with the body cameras, which includes tweeking its policy for when to use the cameras.

“I always let them know that they’re on camera,” said Esterle. “But if a crime is happening, too bad, so sad, I’m recording.”

Depending on the nature of the call, he says, typically, the cameras are turned on as soon as the officer receives a call. It is their goal to make the streets safer for both officers and citizens.


ABC7 Extra: Rescue at sea

New tonight in the ABC7 Extra: Rescue at sea.
A nine-man crew was trapped in rough waters off Massachusetts – their engine gone and sails twisted in knots.
Forced to jump ship and hoping someone would catch them when they land, here are the dramatic images.

Lee County tax office begins taking concealed weapon applications

Starting Wednesday morning gun owners in Lee County will have a much easier time applying for a concealed carry permit.

The Lee County Tax Collectors Office on Thompson Street will begin accepting applications beginning Wednesday morning at 8 am.

“It just helps with that one stop shopping that our residents want,” says Larry Hart, Lee County Tax Collector.

Up until now, Lee County and Collier County residents would have to travel to the nearest Department of Agriculture Office in Punta Gorda in order to apply in person.

“They (Department of Agriculture) only have eight offices in the state of Florida, but there’s a tax collector in each county so all 67 counties have an opportunity to help the taxpayers in their community.”

This is part of a state-wide push to reduce long drives and wait times.

“We’ve been waiting for this to happen for a while now,” said Fowler Firearms Manager John Dezendorf.

We are told dozens of appointments have already been scheduled and tomorrow is full, according to Hart.

For more information on how to schedule an appointment to apply for a concealed carry permit click here.


Collier County School Board gets facilitator’s help

The Collier County school Board wrapped up a special meeting Tuesday night with the help of a facilitator from the Florida School Board Association.

Board members are trying to tackle some topics that have caused tension over the past few months.

They were only able to get through about half of the agenda but most of the board members said they felt like Tuesday night was a productive use of time that was focused around clarifying some of the policy – or lack thereof – that has caused them problems.

Facilitator Kelly Owens said they still have a lot of work to do – but added that embracing their differences is one of the biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s special board meeting.

“I think we could’ve done this in a regular board meeting or a work session without a facilitator so now I don’t think it was as productive as I thought it may be,” said Board Member Kelly Lichter.

Owens says she reviewed hours of video from previous board meetings before facilitating the 4-hour long session, which cost the district more than $1,100.

“I think it also gave us pause to … Give some direction on particular issues that we’ve not been dealing with very well,” said Board Member Kathleen Curatolo.

The board clarified some policy questions – while at the same time tried to tackle the issue of getting along.

“I think it went really well it was relatively productive I think one of the best thing that came out of it was a process for putting items on the agenda,” said Board member Erika Donalds.

They hope that some changes will allow them to have more meaningful conversation in the future.

Some of these board meetings have been going on until the early morning hours so they agreed to let members of the public speak closer to the beginning of the meeting instead of waiting until the end.

A lot of big issues didn’t get discussed Tuesday night but the board plans to work on getting them onto future work session agendas.


2 to vie in May for Ward 3 Fort Myers City Council seat

Voting unfolded Tuesday to fill the Fort Myers Ward 3 City Council seat left by Christine Matthews who resigned late last year because of family reasons.

Two candidates – Terolyn Watson and Interim City Council Member Levon Simms – are now expected to face off in May.

When it was all over, 41.53-percent of the votes went to Watson. 30.97-percent went to Levon Simms and 27.50-percent went to Mildred Barnes, according to unofficial results.

A candidate needed to get 50-percent of the votes plus one to win on Tuesday. Since that did not happen, the top two candidates will run against each other in May during another special election.

Turnout had been slim – or 17-percent, according to the unofficial results.

The seat represents about 4,200 residents who live in this area of Fort Myers.


Fort Myers man arrested in killing of teen

Fort Myers police have made an arrest in Monday’s fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy.

Police announced Tuesday they have arrested Jddarrian Irons, 24, on charges of second-degree murder and robbery with a firearm in the homicide.

Ismael Torres of Fort Myers was found with a gunshot wound in a yard outside of a home in the 3600 block of Seminole Avenue on Monday at 10:19 am.

Police were called for a report of gunshots and that is when they found Torres unresponsive. He was given CPR at the scene but died there.

Members of the United States Marshal’s Fugitive Taskforce on Tuesday located Irons in a motel room on the 4500 block of Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers.

Irons was taken into custody without incident, according to police. He is being held without bond at the Lee County Jail.

First appearance

At his first appearance Wednesday morning, Irons told the judge he’s innocent and didn’t kill the 17-year-old City of Palms High School student.

The victims mother was in tears and asked the court to hold him without bond.

“My son was a student… he was a good son… he didn’t deserve this from Mr. Irons… I would like to ask everyone here for no bond or high bond in consideration,” she said in court.

The state considers Irons a flight risk and says if he’s convicted of this crime, he’ll receive a minimum of life in prison because he’s a “re-offender.”

We discovered he’s been booked into the Lee County Jail 16 times and has served time in the Department of Corrections for carjacking and resisting officers.




Fla. man accused of threats against Charlotte County Justice Center

A Florida man is accused of threatening to blow up the Charlotte County Justice Center and hire a man to kill a local judge and clerk of Courts.

Security is not something taken lightly at the Charlotte County Justice Center.

Just ask one of the many visitors there like Maria Mullins.

“There’s plenty of security here, you have to go through a lot just to get inside,” says Mullins.

The case is the same in courthosues across the nation and with proper reason.

“Due to the increasing number of threats on government institutions nationwide we have reports that show targets against courthouses are on the rise,” says Justice Center Administrator Jon Embury.

Look no further than Charlotte County’s Justice Center.

State prisoner Frank Cavanaugh was arrested Monday and is accused of making bomb threats against the center in 2011.

But it didn’t stop there. According to arrest documents Cavanaugh sought the help of another inmate to carry out death threats against County Clerk Barbara Scott and Circuit Judge Keith Kyle.

“I would be fearful,” says Mullins.

Cavanaugh was serving time in a state prison for aggravated battery when he was accused of making these latest threats.

Embury says threats of this nature are part of the reason he’d like to see security expand at the Justice Center.

“That’s one of the key components of the Expansion Project… To enhance our security within this facility.”

Cavanaugh was originally set to be released from prison in 2039.

He’s currently being held on a $130,000 bond.


Fla. bills to make texting while driving a primary offense gain traction

A Senate committee Tuesday approved two bills that would strengthen the state’s ban on texting while driving. 

Both bills would mean texting while driving could be considered a “primary” offense so law enforcement  could pull you over for texting behind the wheel. 
Right now, police can only cite drivers for this if they are pulled over for other reasons. 
According to Florida Highway Patrol in the first 15 months of the Florida ban on texting while driving law, over 2,000 citations were written. Lee County ranks 5th in the state.
Cape Coral spokesperson Dana Coston said: “The officer will have an additional tool in their tool box to make the initial stop.”
The topic has been trending on social media and a very popular issue of discussion on the ABC-7 Facebook page.

Florida moves to make texting while driving a primary offense

Texting while driving has been a hot button issue, one that the Florida Senate is moving forward through the legislature.

Florida is one of the few states where texting and driving is not a primary offense. Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia give their officers the ability to pull over drivers on suspicion of texting while driving. Two bills would add Florida to that group.

Senate Bill 192 and 246 are pushing the bills through and if signed into law would start October 1.

“What you will have is the officer will have an additional tool in their tool box to make the initial stop,” what spokesperson for Cape Coral Police, Dana Coston.

According to the FHP, in the first 15 months of the Florida ban on texting while driving law, more than 2000 citations were written.

For law enforcement it is difficult to prove in court. For now, law enforcement has to have a visual of the driver being distracted to pull the driver over.

The Senate Committee heard from both lawmakers introducing 192 and 246. The Committee voted 5-3 to move the bill forward.