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Car shot at on US-41 in south Fort Myers

A Lee County woman says her car was shot at on a busy south Fort Myers road while her two young nieces were in the backseat.

It happened Sunday on US-41 south of Six Mile Cypress Parkway.

She said her windows were shattered and now, she’s afraid to drive in that area.

“I was pretty upset; I’m not going to lie. I kept thinking how to use to the different road, had I gone a little slower,” said Merilyn Ramos.

Deputies told her had the window been all the way down, she could have been struck in the neck.

“In the way it hit, it would’ve aimed at my neck or torso.”

Her nieces, ages 3 and 4, were yelling in fear when it happened.

“The little girls, they were scared. They were just like what’s going on because they screamed.”

Ramos said she heard a big bang right after passing the Jamaica Bay community.

“You hear what sounds like a burst or something breaking, and I didn’t quite realize that it was my window until I turn and I seen it and I see the hole, and I’m like oh my God.”

She said she was terrified to see what looked like a bullet hole, shattering her driver’s side window.

Deputies believe she was randomly shot at by a BB or pellet gun.

“What if there is somebody out there just shooting at random cars or people?” she asked.

She said she wants investigators to find whoever shot at her, fearing someone else may get hurt.

“As long as it hit the window, it didn’t harm me. Didn’t stop me from getting home to my kid, I can deal with it. It’s OK… I mean it’s not OK but…”

After the shooting, deputies searched a wooded area nearby with K-9s and a chopper but didn’t find anything or anyone.

Get More: About pellet guns

If it was a pellet gun that shot at her window, that’s still scary because those pellets can be almost as dangerous as a gun’s bullets.

Pellets can reach velocities of more than 1,000 feet per second. That’s about half the speed of a bullet but nearly four times as fast as a paintball.

Anything past 350 feet per second can be deadly.

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Car shot at on US-41 in south Fort Myers

A Lee County woman says her car was shot at on a busy south Fort Myers road while her two young nieces were in the backseat.

It happened Sunday on US-41 south of Six Mile Cypress Parkway.

She said her windows were shattered and now, she’s afraid to drive in that area.

“I was pretty upset; I’m not going to lie. I kept thinking how to use to the different road, had I gone a little slower,” said Merilyn Ramos.

Deputies told her had the window been all the way down, she could have been struck in the neck.

“In the way it hit, it would’ve aimed at my neck or torso.”

Her nieces, ages 3 and 4, were yelling in fear when it happened.

“The little girls, they were scared. They were just like what’s going on because they screamed.”

Ramos said she heard a big bang right after passing the Jamaica Bay community.

“You hear what sounds like a burst or something breaking, and I didn’t quite realize that it was my window until I turn and I seen it and I see the hole, and I’m like oh my God.”

She said she was terrified to see what looked like a bullet hole, shattering her driver’s side window.

Deputies believe she was randomly shot at by a BB or pellet gun.

“What if there is somebody out there just shooting at random cars or people?” she asked.

She said she wants investigators to find whoever shot at her, fearing someone else may get hurt.

“As long as it hit the window, it didn’t harm me. Didn’t stop me from getting home to my kid, I can deal with it. It’s OK… I mean it’s not OK but…”

After the shooting, deputies searched a wooded area nearby with K-9s and a chopper but didn’t find anything or anyone.

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Deputies: Your safety comes first when helping us

At least two cases this month of good Samaritans stepping in to help law enforcement during traffic stops in Southwest Florida is causing many to ask: what should you do if you see an officer struggling?

Collier County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Wednesday, advising people to put their own safety first if they choose to help or not help an officer or deputy.

The sheriff’s office said the statement released Wednesday is not discouraging people from assisting officers who are outnumbered or being attacked, but more of a reminder to assess the situation and personal skills before jumping in.

“You need to make a decision based on your own physical abilities, your training, your experience,”said CCSO Commander Bill McDonald.

Experience to take down someone attacking a police officer is not something most Collier County residents say they have.

“I definitely would never intervene in a situation like that,” said Hannah Wild.

If worse came to worse though, some say they would help out.

“If an officer is suddenly attacked, dispatch might not know that, and there may not be help coming on the way,” McDonald said.

“Because I have a medical background, I would probably jump in and help. If you have skills and I think it’s better to help,” said Collier County resident Marina Supp.

Collier County sheriff’s deputies ask before you even think of getting involved, you dial 911.

If you feel the need to physically help, give the officer a clear notice you’re there.

“You need to let the officer know that you’re there and you’re there to help. You need to make your intentions known because the officer doesn’t know who’s coming up behind him in a physical confrontation,” McDonald said.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office advises that whatever you decide, remember your own skin is in the game the moment you get out of your car.

“First and foremost is the safety of the individual making that decision,” McDonald said.

“I think it’s an important reminder to us to just be aware of what’s going on around us and make your safety a priority,” Wild said.

A final piece of advice from deputies: If you find yourself in a situation where you’re backing up law enforcement, stop immediately once police backup arrives.

Full statement from CCSO:

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has received questions from the public asking what they should do if they happen upon a lone deputy who is in a physical struggle to bring a combative subject under control. These questions have come in the wake of several high-profile events both locally and around the nation in which members of the public have assisted law enforcement officers in these types of situations.

We appreciate our community’s concern for the safety of our deputies, but if you encounter a law enforcement officer who is alone and in a physical struggle to gain control of a subject, remember that your own safety must be your first priority.

Your response will depend on your comfort level, your training and the details of the rapidly unfolding situation at hand. If you want to assist, you can do so by remaining a safe distance from the situation and calling 911. Provide the emergency dispatcher with your location and as much detailed information as possible about what is happening.

Should your training and comfort level dictate that you are able to assist physically, the first thing you should do is loudly announce your presence and intent and follow the commands of the deputy. As more deputies arrive you should disengage from the situation but remain on scene.

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Woman tied to Club Blu shooting to plead guilty

A woman arrested in connection with the deadly Club Blu shooting plans to enter a plea on Friday.

Court documents show Jazmin Barron, 33, of Lehigh Acres, will plead guilty to making false statements in records of a federal firearms licensee. She was scheduled to go to trial December 5th.

It carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison without parole, a maximum fine of $250,000, supervised release of no more than three years, and a special assessment of $100.

Barron was arrested July 29th, days after two teenagers were killed and 18 other people injured in a shooting at Club Blu on Evans Avenue in Fort Myers.

On July 26th, Fort Myers Police recovered a Masterpiece Arms pistol from the scene at Club Blu. The bullets inside the gun were consistent with the bullet casings found at the scene. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the gun was traced to Barron, who purchased the gun on February 20, 2015.

ATF attempted to contact Barron at the Lehigh Acres address listed on the ATF form required to be filled out by the buyer and seller during the purchase of a firearm. When ATF went to the residence, it appeared to be a vacant lot. 

ATF officials were able to find Barron’s current residence through the state’s driver’s license database.

On July 27th, authorities called Barron and asked if she had purchased a Masterpiece Arms pistol from Gunsmoke and Lead, LLC in Lehigh Acres. Barron said she did, but the firearm had been stolen from her residence. 

Barron told investigators she could not remember what residence she was living at or which law enforcement agency she notified regarding the theft.

Barron later said the gun had not been stolen, and she still maintained possession of it. She told investigators she would meet with them and provide information about the location of the gun.

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Fort Myers police connect with teens to better relationship

Lee County students are making their voices heard to Fort Myers police about what it will take to make a difference in their communities.

It’s part of phase one of the Fort Myers Community Engagement project to get more people involved in putting an end to violent crime in the city.

Consultants hired by Chief Derrick Diggs organized students from the Success Academy to take part in the talks on Wednesday.

Consultant and Fort Myers native Travis Loggins started by asking everyone to say one word to describe how they view Fort Myers.

At 16 and 17 years old, students were a little apprehensive to speak their minds but eventually opened up.

For Travon Collins, his respect for Fort Myers police comes from understanding their sacrifice.

“Every single day, they do their job, they love it, and they don’t know what can happen to them,” Collins said.

Collins can’t say his friends feel the same way. The stigma behind speaking to any authority figure is constantly on their minds. Some argued that the show of force by the police department is only retaliated with force.

At the Dr. Carrie Robinson Center, the same consultants are hosting leadership training sessions with FMPD and community leaders willing to take part.

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Lawmakers want to study effects of medication on breastmilk

Some lawmakers want the government to do more research on the health risks of mixing medications with breastfeeding.

The House is expected to vote on a bill Wednesday night.

New moms who take medicine for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or depression are forced to make a difficult choice: Treat their condition or breastfeed their baby.

Supporters of a new bill called the “Safe Medications for Moms and Babies Act” are looking to make that choice easier.

First-time mom Nieves Lebron had a lot of questions while she pregnant with newborn son Joseph.

“I had an app on my phone. I went to Babies R Us. My sister is crazy about reading, so she read me all these articles.”

But one thing she knew without a doubt: “This baby is not getting formula fed. He has to be breastfed.”

She studied up on all the positive effects of breastmilk, not only an immune booster at birth but a provider of long-term protection, according to Lebron’s doctor, Dr. Karysse Trandem, an ob/gyn.

“We know that infants that aren’t breast fed have a higher risk of allergies, of obesity, of diseases in the stomach and gut,” Trandem said.

What about chronic diseases for moms who are breastfeeding?

“We know that breastfeeding moms, whatever they consume whether it’s good or medication, automatically goes through the breastmilk to the baby.”

There’s more unknown when it comes to medications passed from a mom to her baby through breastmilk, forcing those women to decide between their own and their baby’s.

“Even the first few days of life for the baby, if the mom can breastfeed before restarting her chronic medications, that first few days of colostrum can make a difference in the baby’s life,” Trandem said.

It’s a different that Lebron is grateful she can pass on to her baby without having to sacrifice her health.

“I would definitely advise them to not give up. Because even though there’s not that much research done already I know there’s somebody that’s definitely willing to help,” Lebron said.

The Safe Medications for Moms and Babies Act would create a new task force of federal and medical experts to study the issue and report to Congress.

It’s co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida. 

Numbers show 13.4 million adult women deal with diabetes in the US.

High blood pressure impacts almost seven percent of women ages 20 to 34. That number goes up to 19 percent in women ages 35 to 44.

When it comes to depression, women tend to experience symptoms more often than men.

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Cyber Monday sales fuel package theft concerns 

Cyber Monday broke records this year.

Shoppers spent an astonishing $ 3.45 billion. More than one billion of that money was spent by people shopping on smartphones or tablets.

If you were shopping online during Cyber Monday, Black Friday, or the weekend in between, those packages are probably starting to arrive, but with them come thieves, snatching things right off your front porch! It’s such a problem this time of year that the Wednesday after Cyber Monday has actually been dubbed National Package Protection Day.  It’s an effort to raise awareness with shoppers about the ways homeowners can protect themselves.

According to Consumer Affairs, more than 23 million Americans have their packages stolen annually. Local law enforcement said they see a spike in these crimes every year.

“There’s a sheer increase in packages period. The thieves know this, so they are going to go for it when the holiday comes around,” said Cpl. Philip Mullen with the Cape Coral Police Department. “Unfortunately, thieves look for opportunities whatever season it is – Christmas is rife with opportunity for thieves.”

Unless you catch them in the act, police say it’s hard for patrols to spot these criminals – and they’re getting smarter. 

Instead of searching for packages, some thieves are going straight to the source, following delivery drivers on their routes. 

ABC7 caught up with some local drivers on their routes who say they’re trained to watch for someone following their trucks. They’re also taught to leave packages in less visible areas, behind a screen door or column on the porch.

There are things you can do to keep your stuff out of the wrong hands. 

· Schedule a delivery for when you’re home and require a signature for the package if you can.

·  Have it delivered to the store or the post office, where you can go to pick it up. It’s not the most convenient option, but one that will save you from missing a very valuable purchase.

· If you have a neighbor you trust, ask them to snag your stuff before the crooks can.

·  A more expensive option – invest in a home security system or a video doorbell.

“A security system on your house is always good, and that’s not just for packages that’s for your entire home,” Mullen said.  

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Ecstasy could be used to treat PTSD

The illegal party drug ecstasy, or MDMA, could be the answer those suffering from PTSD are looking for according to researchers.

The FDA has approved three large scale trials of ecstasy to treat PTSD that will allow for 230 patients.

In prior studies, 56 percent of patients said their symptoms declined in severity after receiving three doses of the drug and by the end, two-thirds of the patients did not meet the criteria for having PTSD.

Those offering therapy in Southwest Florida say there is a great need for help. 

“I don’t think there’s a magic anything. I do think that we need to broaden our horizons somewhat. I don’t really have an opinion on it. There are a lot of substance abuse that goes along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so I think we have to be cautious, however, I don’t think we have to rule out things that may be beneficial,” said Gail Doxie, licensed mental health counselor.

The non-profit Miles of Smiles is a 20-acre ranch located in North Fort Myers and specializes in equine assisted therapy.

It’s a haven for local veterans looking for help.

“It’s a much more free kind of process here, much more free because they are not in office, they don’t feel like they’re confined. The animals themselves are therapeutic even before we start the therapy with the animals,” Doxie said.

Twenty percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets suffer from some form of PTSD and around 68,000 veterans live in Lee County alone.

Shannon Walker runs the non-profit Northwest Battle Buddie in Washington. She believes the illicit street drug is not the answer.

“The last thing they want to be on is more prescription drugs. Especially a drug like that that is so highly addictive and causes brain damage,” Walker said.

Walker matches services dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD.

She said the dog is a companion for life, not a temporary fix that could lead to addiction.

“It’s not a weekend getaway, it is a consistent support, daily therapeutic way to continue life and have a hope of freedom and independence,” Walker explained.

If the third round of testing is successful, ecstasy may be available as a prescription in 2021.

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NBC2 Investigators: A day with the US Marshals Task Force

NBC2 was given exclusive access to the US Marshals Task Force involved in Wednesday’s shooting in Estero.

It was a typical day for the Task Force. They started before 7 a.m. Wednesday in Estero doing surveillance on suspect Trey Chenault.

What they do every day is nothing short of breathtaking – walking headfirst into potentially deadly situations to take the most violent offenders off the streets of Southwest Florida.

This is a side of justice rarely seen. Teams in full tactical gear, sniffing out leads and tracking down wanted criminals.

They approach houses and apartments with focus and force while keeping a close watch on every door and window.

While NBC2 was with them, they arrested six suspected violent offenders.

Other local law enforcement agencies tell NBC2 that without the Task Force, it would be much harder to take down violent criminals who need to be locked up.

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Local legislators get top jobs in Tallahassee

Southwest Florida has been given some extra clout in Tallahassee.

Three local legislators have been given top leadership roles during the 2017 legislative session, and that could mean cleaner water on our shorelines.

Many residents tell NBC2 they’re hoping legislators can achieve at least one thing important to us all.

Judy Piotrowski of Fort Myers said she is embarrassed to invite her northern friends down to visit the beach.

“I’d like to see the water cleaned up,” Piotrowski declared.

Piotrowski isn’t alone.

Spencer O’Neil of Cape Coral said the water quality is a big issue for him.

State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto believes that could soon change.

“Future generations deserve to have a solution that works for everyone,” Benacquisto said.

She’s been given a leadership role in Tallahassee. She’s only the second woman to chair the Rules Committee, a position she believes can solve the toxic Lake O discharges.

“We have to advance the solutions that are already on the table and look for new and innovative ways to make sure we solve this problem long term because it’s not going away,” Benacquisto said.

Representative Ray Rodrigues agreed. He represents those living along the coastline.

“My goal is to make sure we fund all of these projects,” Rodrigues said.

As House Majority leader in Tallahassee, he believes he can make a difference.

“The water projects that get priority are the projects that reduce releases on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee,” Rodrigues said.

Finally, State Rep. Matt Caldwell hopes to speed things up now that he chairs the Natural Resoruces Accountability Committee.

“Really it would be about speeding up that timeline and seeing what we could do to tackle that and get it done more quickly,” Caldwell said.

Before the murky water turns away visitors like Todd Shepka and his family.

“If the beaches are subpar and the water is black, it’s not really all that inviting,” sais Shepka.

All three legislators expect to have more answers during a delegation meeting on January 19th at Florida SouthWestern State College where you can voice your concerns.