Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

Woman charged after duct-taping dog’s muzzle shut

A woman who posted a picture of her chocolate lab-mix with its mouth taped shut on her social media page has been charged.

Katharine F. Lemansky, 45, better known as Katie Brown on Facebook, was charged with Class 1 Misdemeanor Cruelty to Animals after admitting the incident took place. The charge carries a fine and possibly up to 150 days in jail with no additional charges pending.

“Taping the dog’s muzzle shut was a terrible decision on Ms. Lemansky’s part, and charging her with animal cruelty under North Carolina law was the right thing to do,” said Cary Police Captain Randall Rhyne. “At the same time, it’s important to also note that our animal control officers who physically examined both Brown and her littermate found the dogs to be very well cared for, which is why we did not and could not remove them from the owner. The dogs are current on their shots, spayed, and microchipped. They are clean and well-nourished and appear to be comfortable in their surroundings. And there were no signs of injury to Brown’s muzzle, not even detectable hair loss.”

Her Facebook page was labeled with a South Daytona, Florida location, but was charged in Cary, North Carolina where she was living with the dog.

Town of Cary Police worked with law enforcement officials across two states to determine jurisdiction and to pursue a quick resolution to the situation that had prompted a public outcry and messages to local officials from thousands of people across the globe.

Categories
ABC-7 | WZVN

Parents of one of students stunned at Dunbar High speaks

Two high school students in Lee County were stunned by a Taser twice by a school resource officer with one of them even complaining of chest pains afterward.

It happened last Monday at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers where a student watching the fight captured the whole thing on their cell phone camera. In the video, Michael Searcy, a freshman at Dunbar High, is in the white tank top.

The parent’s of the 15-year-old told ABC7 their son is no longer welcome at Dunbar High. The principal told them he’ll be placed in an alternative learning center, but for now, that’s the least of their concerns.

“When my son fell out on his back and was not moving, the officer went over him and tazed him again,” said Searcy’s mother, Denise Hutchins.

Hutchins admits her son started the fight last Monday. She ventures to say she understands the officer’s decision to use the Taser, but after watching the video, she believes he took it too far.

“He’s still a kid, so why should they treat him like he’s no one,” said Hutchins.

“At what point do you decide when is enough? When you decide you wanna stop? It’s not right,” said Searcy’s father, Michael Searcy.

ABC7 went to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to get answers.

In a statement from LCSO, they said: “The deputy was duty bound to stop the fight before one of them was seriously injured. The deputy felt his safety was at risk as well and then deployed the Tazer. This force was necessary to perform official duties and once the deputy gained compliance the Tazer was no longer used.”

In the statement, we’re told the SRO was trying to stop the fight before a student got seriously injured. The teens didn’t listen to him to stop, and the deputy felt threatened. The department said he acted appropriately.

Hutchins said she should have been notified immediately by the school, but the district disagrees. Because Searcy was arrested, the district said the sheriff’s office should be the agency to contact parents.

“No one would ever talk to me. They overlooked me like I am no one. Like we are nobody and I don’t think that’s right,” said Hutchins.

Searcy was at the meeting with his parents on Monday — his first time back to school since the fight.

ABC7 asked the school district if the other student will be sent to the alternative learning center. The district could not comment.

Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

Parents of one of students stunned at Dunbar High speaks

Two high school students in Lee County were stunned by a Taser twice by a school resource officer with one of them even complaining of chest pains afterward.

It happened last Monday at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers where a student watching the fight captured the whole thing on their cell phone camera. In the video, Michael Searcy, a freshman at Dunbar High, is in the white tank top.

– Using our app? CLICK HERE to watch video

The parent’s of the 15-year-old told NBC2 their son is no longer welcome at Dunbar High. The principal told them he’ll be placed in an alternative learning center, but for now, that’s the least of their concerns.

“When my son fell out on his back and was not moving, the officer went over him and tazed him again,” said Searcy’s mother, Denise Hutchins.

Hutchins admits her son started the fight last Monday. She ventures to say she understands the officer’s decision to use the Taser, but after watching the video, she believes he took it too far.

“He’s still a kid, so why should they treat him like he’s no one,” said Hutchins.

“At what point do you decide when is enough? When you decide you wanna stop? It’s not right,” said Searcy’s father, Michael Searcy.

NBC2 went to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to get answers.

In a statement from LCSO, they said: “The deputy was duty bound to stop the fight before one of them was seriously injured. The deputy felt his safety was at risk as well and then deployed the Tazer. This force was necessary to perform official duties and once the deputy gained compliance the Tazer was no longer used.”

In the statement, we’re told the SRO was trying to stop the fight before a student got seriously injured. The teens didn’t listen to him to stop, and the deputy felt threatened. The department said he acted appropriately.

Hutchins said she should have been notified immediately by the school, but the district disagrees. Because Searcy was arrested, the district said the sheriff’s office should be the agency to contact parents.

“No one would ever talk to me. They overlooked me like I am no one. Like we are nobody and I don’t think that’s right,” said Hutchins.

Searcy was at the meeting with his parents on Monday — his first time back to school since the fight.

NBC2 asked the school district if the other student will be sent to the alternative learning center. The district could not comment.

Categories
ABC-7 | WZVN

Push on for affordable housing in Immokalee

There’s a new push to provide one of the most under-served communities in Florida relief and a brighter future. Two groups have partnered together with the goal of providing the people of Immokalee a better place to live.

It’s one of the few areas in Collier County where trash is allowed to build up in vacant lots. The community often gets put on the back burner compared to upscale Naples.

The reality is, what you see when driving through the tiny agriculture-driven community is not at all representative of its determined people.

“People here are working hard and farming all of the time,” said Joseph Jaque of Immokalee.

He moved to Immokalee from Haiti 20 years ago and walks the main street every day. What he sees is no comparison to anything closer to the Gulf of Mexico, yet both communities happen to be in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.

“Immokalee, I think, is a good community, but so many people live in debt.”

The small community often attracts missionaries sent to poverty-stricken communities to educate and promote economic development, like Shaylor Christiansan of Utah.

“There are a lot of good people here,” said Christiansan. “They have a lot of faith, just not the necessary resources.”

In a way, the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders and Florida Housing Coalition, have the same goal. As they research the biggest problems Immokalee faces and the issues that Collier County has with funding, they are coming up with new ways to build affordable homes there.

“It’s really challenging for low-income folks to stay above the water in an economy that is surging,” said Noel Poyo, Executive Director for NALCAB. “And that’s really what we’re beginning to see.”

Plus, as federal and state funding for housing decreases, counties like Collier need help stepping outside of the box to look for potential financial resources.

Poyo said his organization helps Latino and minority communities attract and generate investment. His team will spend the next several months working with Collier County to understand their needs and take advantage of opportunities discovered along the way.

“It doesn’t matter how low-income or challenging it is,” said Poyo. “There are opportunities to be found there. There are people worth investing in.”

Categories
ABC-7 | WZVN

Warmer ocean water breeds health risks

When the ocean water is warm, not only are stingrays more likely to stick around, but the water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria.

Physicians at a Fort Myers Beach medical center are worried about an uncharacteristically high number of stingray accidents in recent weeks, and they’re blaming the warmer weather.

The water temperatures went down to about 76 degrees on Monday, but higher temperatures within the last several days were recorded in the 80s.

A physician associate at Estero Medical Center spoke with ABC7 and said they saw 11 cases related to stings of the rays in one day last week. They’ve seen about a 300-percent increase in incidents from 2015 at this time. 

A big reason for this jump is the extended stay of the stingrays in Southwest Florida. It’s even more important to make sure to see a doctor if you are stung. 

The Lee County Health Department says there has not been an increase in bacterial infections around the beach, but if the water is above 80 degrees, there is a potential for bacteria to grow in the water. Don’t go in the water if you have a fresh, open wound because if there are increased numbers of bacteria in the water, the cut could become infected.

The physicians aren’t saying this to scare people from going into the water, but to just be aware.

Categories
ABC-7 | WZVN

Shooting aftermath impacts SWFL Planned Parenthood clinics

Planned Parenthood clinics across the country — including here in Southwest Florida — are increasing security after Friday’s deadly shooting rampage in Colorado Springs. 

Employees at Fort Myers and Naples facilities said they have been harassed both publicly and on social media since Friday’s events.

“This is the utmost importance to us making sure we have a safe environment for our staff and for our patients,” said Barbara Zdravecky, Planned Parenthood’s CEO. 

“There has been a lot of ugly rhetoric that has been directed our way and we have received phone calls and certainly email messages and our staff has been harassed on Facebook.”

Zdravecky said staff members will escort people into the buildings, volunteers are helping and law enforcement is, she said, “quietly patrolling.”

The Florida Family Policy Council, an anti-abortion group, had planned to rally against Planned Parenthood on Dec. 7 in Tallahassee — but postponed their event to the spring in the aftermath of the shootings.

The council’s John Stemberger said Gov. Rick Scott will not take away federal funding from Planned Parenthood, as governors in other states have promised.

“It would cut off a very important service that’s available in this community that people can’t always afford,” said Kathy Mayo of the National Organization for Women.

Indeed, Planned Parenthood supporters claim cutting funding would hurt those with limited access to healthcare.

“To defund the whole program would be such a loss for the young girls today or even any age woman,” said Pat Coby of Fort Myers.

Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

Shooting aftermath impacts SWFL Planned Parenthood clinics

Planned Parenthood clinics across the country — including here in Southwest Florida — are increasing security after Friday’s deadly shooting rampage in Colorado Springs. 

Employees at Fort Myers and Naples facilities said they have been harassed both publicly and on social media since Friday’s events.

USING OUR APP? WATCH VIDEO HERE.

“This is the utmost importance to us making sure we have a safe environment for our staff and for our patients,” said Barbara Zdravecky, Planned Parenthood’s CEO. 

“There has been a lot of ugly rhetoric that has been directed our way and we have received phone calls and certainly email messages and our staff has been harassed on Facebook.”

Zdravecky said staff members will escort people into the buildings, volunteers are helping and law enforcement is, she said, “quietly patrolling.”

The Florida Family Policy Council, an anti-abortion group, had planned to rally against Planned Parenthood on Dec. 7 in Tallahassee — but postponed their event to the spring in the aftermath of the shootings.

The council’s John Stemberger said Gov. Rick Scott will not take away federal funding from Planned Parenthood, as governors in other states have promised.

“It would cut off a very important service that’s available in this community that people can’t always afford,” said Kathy Mayo of the National Organization for Women.

Indeed, Planned Parenthood supporters claim cutting funding would hurt those with limited access to healthcare.

“To defund the whole program would be such a loss for the young girls today or even any age woman,” said Pat Coby of Fort Myers.

Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

NBC2 Investigation: Cape Coral pool draining ordinance

An ordinance about draining pool water might not offer the best solution, according to the Environmental Resource Division.

This comes after an NBC2 story last week about two people who drained pool water straight into canals in Cape Coral.

According to Lab Supervisor Rob Johnson, putting pool water in the canals can cause serious damage.

– USING OUR APP? WATCH VIDEO HERE

“The problem is there’s chlorine in that water,” Johnson said. “When it gets into the canals, the chlorine reacts with organics in canals and makes all kinds of nasty things that you don’t want to have.”

Johnson says pool water should be spread across a lawn to minimize the amount that runs off into canals.

“By the time it gets to the canal after it’s gone through your lawn, that chlorine is gone and the chlorine is what the concern is about,” Johnson said.

That raises some questions about the current ordinance for draining pool water. It states the discharge should go to “an approved storm sewer or other approved drain or outlet.” As many NBC2 viewers pointed out, the storm sewer also leads straight to the canals.

NBC2 reached out to Cape Coral City Council members about the apparent contradiction.

“I would be in favor of reviewing any ordinance that may be ‘counter-intuitive’ to the act or acts that the ordinance require,” Councilman James Burch said before adding he’ll ask the city manager to review it.

“As newer research is available and modern technologies are easier to access, it is always important to look back at laws that can be modernized for the 21st century. Draining of pools and different techniques can be one of those laws to be looked at,” Councilman Richard Leon wrote.

Councilwoman Rana Erbirck also said she plans on looking into it.

According to the code book, the rule on pool draining was written in 1980. One of its main focuses was on keeping pool water out of the sanitation sewer. Johnson says that’s because an influx of water could overload the wastewater system and cause major problems.

Still, he says the canals are hardly a better destination with chlorine combining with other organics posing a potential health risk for humans and wildlife alike.

“The carcinogens that are in that canal, they could get into the food chain and get into the drinking water of people who have wells,” Johnson said.

Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

Push on for affordable housing in Immokalee

There’s a new push to provide one of the most under-served communities in Florida relief and a brighter future. Two groups have partnered together with the goal of providing the people of Immokalee a better place to live.

It’s one of the few areas in Collier County where trash is allowed to build up in vacant lots. The community often gets put on the back burner compared to upscale Naples.

– USING OUR APP? WATCH VIDEO HERE

The reality is, what you see when driving through the tiny agriculture-driven community is not at all representative of its determined people.

“People here are working hard and farming all of the time,” said Joseph Jaque of Immokalee.

He moved to Immokalee from Haiti 20 years ago and walks the main street every day. What he sees is no comparison to anything closer to the Gulf of Mexico, yet both communities happen to be in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.

“Immokalee, I think, is a good community, but so many people live in debt.”

The small community often attracts missionaries sent to poverty-stricken communities to educate and promote economic development, like Shaylor Christiansan of Utah.

“There are a lot of good people here,” said Christiansan. “They have a lot of faith, just not the necessary resources.”

In a way, the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders and Florida Housing Coalition, have the same goal. As they research the biggest problems Immokalee faces and the issues that Collier County has with funding, they are coming up with new ways to build affordable homes there.

“It’s really challenging for low-income folks to stay above the water in an economy that is surging,” said Noel Poyo, Executive Director for NALCAB. “And that’s really what we’re beginning to see.”

Plus, as federal and state funding for housing decreases, counties like Collier need help stepping outside of the box to look for potential financial resources.

Poyo said his organization helps Latino and minority communities attract and generate investment. His team will spend the next several months working with Collier County to understand their needs and take advantage of opportunities discovered along the way.

“It doesn’t matter how low-income or challenging it is,” said Poyo. “There are opportunities to be found there. There are people worth investing in.”

Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

Development of Fort Myers Beach vision unveiled

We’re getting our first look at plans for a big development on Fort Myers Beach — including four resort hotels and a parking garage — that will certainly change the look of the area.

The new hotels would straddle Estero Boulevard close to the Matanzas Pass Bridge.

– Using our app? CLICK HERE to watch video

The developer unveiled his master plan at a meeting Monday afternoon. The developer team led by Tom Torgerson presented renderings of a future Fort Myers Beach at a meeting at FSW.

Some say it’s a necessary change that will pump more than a billion dollars into the local economy while others worry the Fort Myers Beach they love will soon be gone.

Torgerson and his wife rented a house on Fort Myers Beach on a visit and fell in love. Eventually, Torgerson and a partner started purchasing beachfront properties. Those properties have turned into a vision that would change the island.

“Change is hard for everyone,” said Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cerecita.

Torgerson’s vision features four hotels, a parking garage with 1,500 spaces and a roundabout that developers say will help alleviate traffic problems.

“The beach can’t take that much. It’s too much,” said Tracey Gore, Fort Myers Beach resident for 40 years.

When Gore saw artist renderings of the proposed Hilton property, she couldn’t believe it.

Torgerson said the plan is conceptual, and nothing is final yet.

Ron Turrisi has lived on Fort Myers Beach since 1994 and said he has concerns, like what will happen with Crescent Family Park.

“We live here for a reason. We all have an emotional tie to it. What it is. What it was. It was small town USA,” said Turrisi. “When you have a large development like that and take back a public resource like that, they have to replace it.”

If the construction does get underway, the park will not be part of the plans as it will be replaced by storefronts and a pedestrian mall. Torgerson, who led the property acquisition charge, told NBC2 the park isn’t much use.

Turrisi also feels there are some positive aspects of the plan with one of them being “five-hundred new jobs.”

An economic study sponsored by the developers said the 10-year economic impact of the plan will be more than $1.5 billion.

County Commissioner Larry Kiker said the mall and hotels simply replace the hotels that were there before Hurricane Charley. The view will be gone. He also said safety concerns that exist near Times Square now outweigh other arguments.

The developers will perform this presentation again at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 14 5:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at The Chapel by the Sea on Fort Myers Beach where the public will have the chance to ask questions.

CHECK OUT THE PHOTO GALLERY BELOW TO SEE UNVEILED RENDERINGS