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ABC-7 | WZVN

Raw sewage spills into North Fort Myers waterway

Eighty thousand gallons of raw sewage spilled into a North Fort Myers waterway next to where people draw their well water.

ABC7’s drone flew over Powell Creek to get a better perspective of where it flowed, near Dor Lee Lane and Laurel Drive.

A pumping station failed, causing the sewage to back up through a manhole and flow into the creek and downstream, where it pooled just feet away from where people draw their well water.

“I hope it doesn’t do anything to the water because we all have well water around here.”

Elly and David Spurlock have been using the creek for years to kayak and fish.

“We’re raising the grandkids that are six and seven. In the summertime, they play in the creek.”

The busted pump belongs to the Florida Governmental Utility Authority.

“I don’t comprehend what 80,000 gallons is but that sounds like a lot.”

Drone footage shows the direction of flow south, where it eventually collected at a weir. That’s where workers have focused their attention, working to pump the sewage out of the creek.

Shelby Tompkins said she didn’t receive any notification from FGUA about the problem.

Some residents didn’t even know about the spill until ABC7 arrived.

“It’s a small little neighborhood back here. They wouldn’t have had many people to tell. It would have been nice.”

A representative for the utility said they followed required protocol, insisting they didn’t notify neighbors because the sewage affected only surface water.

“Our well is about 40 feet from the creek.”

Workers collected samples for testing. Until they know for sure what’s in the water, the Spurlocks are keeping their distance.

Test results should be available by the end of the week.

FGCU said anyone who lives near Powell Creek can call them with their concerns.

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ABC-7 | WZVN

‘Can you hear me?’ phone scam on the rise

If you receive a call and the caller asks, “Can you hear me?”, you might end up a victim to fraud if you say “Yes.”

It’s the latest phone scam targeting millions across the country, including Southwest Florida.

Scammers are using robots to call and secretly record you. The answers you give them are then used against you – and your wallet.

Investigators say they’re seeing a big spike in Southwest Florida, with scammers using local numbers to get you to pick up.

Caller: “Hi, this is Josh from the consumer department – can you hear me okay?”

If you answer “Yes,” it’s secretly recorded. Later, the scammer calls back demanding payment, using the recording as proof that you agreed to pay for goods or services.

“They like to target this area,” said Beth Schell, fraud specialist with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

She said her office is getting more complaints about this scam – 15 reported in the last 24 hours.

“Some of those folks are saying I’ve said yes, and now they’re panicked about what’s going to happen.”

Robo calls are a devious new trend. Some technology so advanced, robots can string along a conversation to get you to share personal information.

It’s causing concerns among residents.

“That’s scary. That’s scary, but that’s the way were heading with technology these days,” said Karen Verdecia.

The Better Business Bureau said more than half of their scam calls this month are reports of this ripoff.

Investigators are warning everyone to be wary of who’s on the other end of the call.

“If I don’t know the number, they’re going to leave me a message, and if it’s important, I’ll call them back. Otherwise, I don’t answer,” Verdecia said.

The protect yourself, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:

· Never give out personal information;

· If you receive a pre-recorded sales call, or if someone asks, “Can you hear me?” – hang up.

Get More: What to do

The BBB is also seeing a jump in these scams, tracking the reports on a “Scam Tracker Map” on their website.

So far, no one is reporting any money lost in Florida.

Overall, about a quarter of people contacted for a phone scam end up falling victim.

If you get one of these calls, change your passwords. The scammers probably already have your information.

In the case of this scam, if you answer and the caller asks, “Can you hear me?”, don’t reply, just hang up – or don’t pick up the phone if you don’t know the number.

Consider joining the Do Not Call registry. This can make it easier to figure out if a scammer is calling.

Finally, if you get one of these calls, check your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

‘Can you hear me?’ phone scam on the rise

If you receive a call and the caller asks, “Can you hear me?”, you might end up a victim to fraud if you say “Yes.”

It’s the latest phone scam targeting millions across the country, including Southwest Florida.

Scammers are using robots to call and secretly record you. The answers you give them are then used against you – and your wallet.

Investigators say they’re seeing a big spike in Southwest Florida, with scammers using local numbers to get you to pick up.

Caller: “Hi, this is Josh from the consumer department – can you hear me okay?”

If you answer “Yes,” it’s secretly recorded. Later, the scammer calls back demanding payment, using the recording as proof that you agreed to pay for goods or services.

“They like to target this area,” said Beth Schell, fraud specialist with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

She said her office is getting more complaints about this scam – 15 reported in the last 24 hours.

“Some of those folks are saying I’ve said yes, and now they’re panicked about what’s going to happen.”

Robo calls are a devious new trend. Some technology so advanced, robots can string along a conversation to get you to share personal information.

It’s causing concerns among residents.

“That’s scary. That’s scary, but that’s the way were heading with technology these days,” said Karen Verdecia.

The Better Business Bureau said more than half of their scam calls this month are reports of this ripoff.

Investigators are warning everyone to be wary of who’s on the other end of the call.

“If I don’t know the number, they’re going to leave me a message, and if it’s important, I’ll call them back. Otherwise, I don’t answer,” Verdecia said.

The protect yourself, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:

· Never give out personal information;

· If you receive a pre-recorded sales call, or if someone asks, “Can you hear me?” – hang up.

Categories
NBC-2 | WBBH

Raw sewage cleanup efforts underway in N. Fort Myers waterway

The cleanup of 80,000 gallons of raw sewage that spilled into a North Fort Myers waterway has begun.

The NBC2 Sky2 drone flew over Powell Creek to get a better perspective of where it flowed, near Dor Lee Lane and Laurel Drive.

A pumping station failed, causing the sewage to back up through a manhole and flow into the creek and downstream, where it pooled just feet away from where people draw their well water.

“I hope it doesn’t do anything to the water because we all have well water around here.”

Elly and David Spurlock have been using the creek for years to kayak and fish.

“We’re raising the grandkids that are six and seven. In the summertime, they play in the creek.”

The busted pump belongs to the Florida Governmental Utility Authority.

“I don’t comprehend what 80,000 gallons is but that sounds like a lot.”

Sky2 shows the direction of flow south, where it eventually collected at a weir. That’s where workers have focused their attention, working to pump the sewage out of the creek.

Shelby Tompkins said she didn’t receive any notification from FGUA about the problem.

Some residents didn’t even know about the spill until NBC2 arrived.

“It’s a small little neighborhood back here. They wouldn’t have had many people to tell. It would have been nice.”

A representative for the utility said they followed required protocol, insisting they didn’t notify neighbors because the sewage affected only surface water.

“Our well is about 40 feet from the creek.”

Workers collected samples for testing. Until they know for sure what’s in the water, the Spurlocks are keeping their distance.

Test results should be available by the end of the week.

FGUA said anyone who lives near Powell Creek can call them with their concerns.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Cape police working to cut response time

Police in Cape Coral are trying to get to you faster — 16 seconds faster, actually.

That may not seem like a lot of time, but police say those few seconds can make all the difference in the world to victim of a crime or an accident.

Currently it takes a Cape Coral police officer an average of five minutes and 35 seconds to make it to a scene.

In 2017, the department wants that time shortened by 16 seconds.

“Particularly priority one calls, being your violent crimes, felonies in progress. When you’re talking about a person who is being physically harmed or physically threatened, 16 seconds is an eternity,” said Lt. Dana Coston.

Residents NBC2 spoke to are happy the faster response time is a goal of the department for this year.

“It will save a lot more lives.” said Josh Pasoriza.

“Every second counts, I mean 10, 15 seconds seems like a lifetime. I think it would be great even if they could do 16 seconds, I mean it would be great if they could do more, but you know, you got to start somewhere.” said Laura Louder.

The department said a variety of factors will help make the new average response time of five minutes and 19 seconds a reality.

“The size of patrol beats that officers are assigned to, the number of officers that are working at any given time,” Coston said.

The police department is currently hiring for 12 officer positions.

Coston said once those spots are filled, that will help the department achieve the quicker response time average.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Caught on cam: Cop vs. EMT

WSAZ — A Facebook video appears to show a Portsmouth, Ohio police officer with his hand on or around a medic’s neck and throat at the scene of a call.

The video has been shared hundreds of times and sparked outrage online, but both police and witnesses said the video doesn’t tell the whole story.

Witnesses said a man had been in a fight and was knocked unconscious.

Police and EMS responded, and when the man who’d been injured came to, he wasn’t calm, Trevor Conley said.

“He just woke up from being knocked out, and he’s got guys all around him grabbing a hold of him,” Conley said. “You’re going to freak out.”

They said they watched a police officer use a Taser on the man, and a medic tried to intervene on the man’s behalf.

“The EMT said, ‘You can’t be tasing this guy, he’s bleeding, got head problems,’ ” Josh Journey said. “Then after that he grabbed the EMT, took him across the street, and I saw him have his hand on his throat all the way across the road and had him up against that cruiser.”

“When the EMT was telling him ‘you can’t do that, you can’t do that, he’s got head trauma,’ he grabbed him up here,” Chad Bennett said, motioning around his neck.

Journey said that’s when he started recording with his phone.

“He saw us with our phones out,” Journey said. “That’s when he came across the street at us and was pretty hostile.”

Read more from WSAZ

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Exclusive: Lehigh Acres business owner targeted by gun-toting customer speaks

A Lee County business owner is speaking out after an angry customer pulled a gun and starting firing inside his store.

It happened last week at Caribbean Cycles off Gunnery Road in Lehigh Acres.

The entire confrontation was caught on the store’s surveillance cameras.

The shop’s owner, Danny Borges, said it all started when 24-year-old Marvins Labissiere walked inside to talk business. Borges said Labissiere is no stranger to the store, having visited several times in the past.

When the two began arguing, Borges asked Labissiere to leave the shop. He said Labissiere made it clear he was packing heat.

“I told him, look, I don’t have no guns. You better leave,” said Borges. 

Video from the store’s surveillance system shows Labissiere then pull out a gun and point it straight at Borges, before firing off one shot in his direction.

“He takes his gun out and swings it at me,” said Borges. “As soon as I turn around, he fires one shot towards me, missing me by maybe a couple inches.”

The bullet missed Borges, but did pierce a metal canister containing harmful chemicals.

“I couldn’t believe how he missed me,” said Borges, reflecting on how close he came to getting hit. “I can’t believe I’m still here, standing now talking to you.”

After traveling through the metal cannister, the bullet then flew through a bathroom wall, where it landed on the floor.

“If somebody would’ve been washing their hands, they definitely would’ve gotten shot in one of their legs,” said Borges.

Labissere ran away but was later arrested by deputies on a warrant.

Borges said he’s grateful the bullet didn’t hit his uncle or cousin, who was also working in the shop at the time. He’s now trying to make light of what could’ve been a deadly situation.

“I’m like a cat, I have a couple lives now,” he joked. “I’m down to one now.”

As of Tuesday night, Labissiere was still being held in the Lee County jail and is facing one charge of aggravated assault.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Fort Myers begins search for new fire chief

The search for a new fire chief in Fort Myers is officially underway as a private group is chosen to recruit qualified candidates.

A selection committee on Tuesday chose Slavin Management Consultants of Georgia to lead the search. The group will find a replacement for former chief Trenton Bowen who announced his retirement in December.

Shortly after, Bowen was then placed on administrative leave by city officials.

“It’s no secret that obviously the fire department has had its fair share of issues,” said Kirsten O’Donnell, public information officer with the City of Fort Myers.

In 2015, NBC2 confronted the department about Denny Hejja, an engineer for the department who also owned a boat repair shop in Cape Coral.

Six different days, he was seen at his shop. Each day, he tallied nine hours on his time card for work at the fire department. Bowen defended Hejja, saying he was assigned to fix boats when he could.

A 2016 investigation commissioned by City Manager Saeed Kazemi presented serious allegations. Some alleged that there was evidence of favoritism toward union paying firefighters. The investigation concluded there was more mounting evidence of poor bookkeeping and personality conflicts that went ignored.

A decision on the fire chief position is not expected until at least the end of Spring.

“They do a lot of interviews with the city manager and other stakeholders in the city,” O’Donnell said.

Interim Chief Vincent DiCristafalo said he will put his name in the running for the position. The city has yet to release how much money is being paid to the recruiting firm.

“Obviously the city will be working to find somebody who can handle some of the particular situations that have come with the fire department in the past,” O’Donnell said.

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ABC-7 | WZVN

Gulf shrimp supply dropping

Scientists say the amount of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico is going down.

Shrimp are the fuel running Dennis Henderson’s business, which is doing just fine.

“Right now, they [captains] are catching shrimp in places they haven’t caught shrimp in 12 to 15 years.,” said Henderson, a co-owner of Trico Shrimp Co.

Thousands of pounds of shrimp flood into Trico every day, riding the conveyor belt from seafaring ship to distributing truck.

“We went through probably two months, September and October, very bad,” Henderson said. “Then it picked up, and we’re doing real well now.”

This picture of prosperity isn’t being duplicated everywhere. New numbers from NOAA show the amount of shrimp being caught in the Gulf of Mexico is going down.

Shrimpers caught more than 3 million pounds less this past December, than in Decembers past.

Worthy of note to Henderson.

“NOAA, maybe they’re on the right track, but they need to do a study, get some of these universities, give them some grant money, and let them do studies on why there’s no shrimp here, why there’s shrimp here,” Henderson said.

Meanwhile, Tina Swanbeck’s taste for shrimp has taken her around the seafood markets on Fort Myers Beach.

“Everywhere we’ve been riding our bikes today, we see signs for shrimp. So a lot of people have shrimp to offer,” Swanbeck said.

An offer she fears could be taken off the menu, given NOAA’s statistics.

“It concerns me because there must be something wrong in the environment that’s happening,” Swanbeck said. “So I wonder what we can do to help it.”

Last year was the fourth year in a row where landings were smaller, according to NOAA. It’s a stretch of time Henderson said shows more of the state of the shrimping industry, which can only get better.

“It’s hard to say what’s going on in the shrimping industry,” Henderson said. “You’ve gotta look at it over a year, two years, five years, 10 years. But I think it’ll get better.”

In the same report noting this decline in shrimp, NOAA also highlights an increasing price per pound for certain kinds of shrimp.

Get More: Shrimping in Florida

The peak shrimp season runs from May through December.

According to the state’s Department of Agriculture, shrimp was – by the pound – the most caught seafood in Florida last year.

Florida shrimpers landed more than 19 million pounds from the Gulf and Atlantic, making up about 15% of the domestic total.

All that shrimp is worth more than $49 million dockside, and that’s not including farm-raised shrimp.

According to NOAA, shrimp caught off the American coastline has steadily become a smaller portion of the total U.S. shrimp supply over the past 20 years.

Thailand is the world’s biggest exporter.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

CNN — President Donald Trump will nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Trump announced Tuesday night at the White House.

The nomination of Gorsuch, a 49-year-old federal appellate judge from Colorado, gives Trump and Republicans the opportunity to confirm someone who could cement the conservative direction of the court for decades.

His selection also sets up an intense fight with Senate Democrats, still angry over the Republicans’ decision to essentially ignore former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the empty Supreme Court seat last year.

Introducing Gorsuch, Trump said he had committed as a candidate to “find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court.”

“Millions of voters said this was he single most important issue for them when they voted for me for president,” Trump said. “I am a man of my word.”

“Today I am keeping another promise to the American people by nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”

Trump made the announcement after an unusual day in which both top candidates for the nomination — Gorsuch and Judge Thomas Hardiman — were brought to Washington as the suspense built.

The court has been operating with eight justices since the sudden death last February of Justice Antonin Scalia. If confirmed, Gorsuch would continue the ideological balance that existed before Scalia’s death, with four conservatives, four liberals and Justice Anthony Kennedy as a swing vote between the blocs.

Trump selected Gorsuch — who sits on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — from a list of 20 potential justices compiled during the presidential campaign in a direct appeal to conservative and evangelical voters skeptical about his commitment to their values.

Gorsuch’s opinions on religious liberty, where he sided with the challengers to the so-called Obamacare contraceptive mandate, and on the separation of powers, where he said too much deference was given by the courts to administrative agencies, are key to his appeal to Republicans. As is his age. At 49, he could carry on Trump’s legacy long after the President leaves office.

Gorsuch’s legal philosophy

Unlike others on Trump’s list, Gorsuch has an Ivy League pedigree, having attended Columbia and Harvard, and also studied at Oxford, where he earned a doctorate in legal philosophy.

Gorsuch is a fourth generation Coloradan and a former clerk to both Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.

“It is an extraordinary resume. As good as it gets,” Trump said.

“The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute,” Trump said. “I only hope that Democrats and Republicans can come together for one, for the good of the country.”

On the bench he joined an opinion siding with closely held corporations who believed that the so called contraceptive mandate of Obamacare violated their religious beliefs. The ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Gorsuch wrote separately holding that the mandate infringed upon the owners’ religious beliefs “requiring them to lend what their religion teaches to be an impermissible degree of assistance to the commission of what their religion teaches to be a moral wrong.”

He also wrote a majority opinion in a separation of powers case holding that too much deference was given to administrative agencies. This issue is a favorite of conservatives and Gorsuch’s beliefs align with those of Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas.

Gorsuch, in a speech last year at Case Western Reserve University School of law, aligned himself with Scalia’s judicial philosophy.

“The great project of Justice Scalia’s career was to remind us of the differences between judges and legislators. To remind us that legislators may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future, ” he said. “But that judges should do none of these things in a democratic society.”

At the White House Gorsuch he would faithfully commit to upholding the laws of the nation, saying he would act as a “servant of the Constitution and laws of this country.”

Like Trump, he cited Scalia as a model.

“Justice Scalia was a lion of the law,” he said.

Democratic opposition

When Obama nominated Garland to take Scalia’s seat last year, liberals hoped that they would get a liberal majority that would swing the court left on key issues such as abortion, campaign finance and voting rights.

But Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings, citing the impending election which was still eight months away.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Trump “outsourced this process to far-right interest groups.”

“President Trump said he would appoint justices who would overturn 40 years of jurisprudence established in Roe v. Wade,” Leahy said. “Judge Gorsuch has shown a willingness to limit women’s access to health care that suggests the President is making good on that promise.”

Democrats have said they would fight the new nominee “tooth and nail” putting not only his or her credentials to the test, but holding Republicans responsible for what liberals say is a “stolen seat.”

After Trump’s unexpected win, conservatives rejoiced, expecting the new president to nominate someone to the bench in the mold of Scalia. They also hope that with three justices on the Supreme Court in their late 70s and early 80s, Trump might have at least one more vacancy to fill.

If, for example, Justice Anthony Kennedy were to step down, the conservatives might be able to chip away at Roe v. Wade, the landmark opinion that legalized abortion.

Mother was EPA administrator

Gorsuch’s confirmation would mean a return to Washington.

He spent part of his youth in Washington when his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served in the Reagan administration as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

She resigned in 1983 under controversy after refusing to turn over toxic waste records to Congress.

He served as a partner at a prestigious Washington Law firm, Kellogg, Huber as well as Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.

Gorsuch and his wife Louise have two daughters. They live in Boulder, Colorado.

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