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PHOTOS: Escaped elephant strolls through WI neighborhood

CNN – Kelly’s plight was pretty relatable. We’ve all woken up around 5 a.m. at some point and felt like eating several hundred pounds of food.

For Kelly, though, the scope of her hunger was quite literal. Like other 8,400-pound Asian elephants, she eats that much on a daily basis.

The elephant escaped from Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin, early Friday. It didn’t take long for neighbors a couple blocks away from Kelly’s home to notice the giant visitor in their backyard, munching on some plants for an early-morning snack.

Scott O’Donnell, the circus director, said this kind of escape isn’t common. It took some scheming with the other elephant in Kelly’s enclosure, Isla.

Isla, who also turns out to be pretty relatable, is attracted to anything shiny — including the nuts and bolts in the enclosure.

She released a couple of bolts holding onto a latche hinge, giving Kelly the opportunity to escape. Isla was less tempted by the surrounding greenery and stayed put. Kelly, on the other hand, knew not to pass on the opportunity for some free grub.

“Kelly’s probably the more inquisitive one, and definitely the more food-motivated one,” O’Donnell told CNN.

The elephant handlers at Circus World aren’t usually any farther than 20 feet away from the enclosure, but O’Donnell said Kelly was sure-footed enough to slip away unnoticed.

“They highlighted an area that we now know was a weakness,” he said.

Serving and protecting elephants

As it turns out, Baraboo is a pretty convenient place to lose an elephant.

The 12,000 people in the Wisconsin town are no strangers to the circus. Several brothers in the Ringling family — yes, those Ringling brothers — started their iconic circus in Baraboo in 1884. It was a lot more common back then to see a few elephants strolling down the street, O’Donnell said.

Today, the town is home to Circus World, an attraction that includes an actual circus (hence the elephants) and a museum showcasing the Ringlings’ story and circus history.

Baraboo hosts a circus parade every year, with Kelly and Isla taking part in the festivities. The high-profile animals receive a police escort during the event, which brings us back to why Baraboo is a great place for an elephant to escape.

Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf said his officers have already been specially trained on how to handle elephants for the annual parade. So when dispatch got the call about Kelly chilling out in someone’s backyard, they knew exactly how to respond.

“It’s more what not to do than what to do,” Schauf told CNN. Officers, or anyone else staking out a friendly neighborhood elephant, shouldn’t use any sudden movements, sirens or emergency lights that would scare them.

After contacting the trainer, the officers just kept their eyes on Kelly until the handler arrived about 45 minutes later. Schauf said there was never any real danger to the public or Kelly.

“In this particular case, Kelly was just out enjoying the fresh bounty of the day,” Schauf said.

Making the trip home

Kelly journeyed home about as you might expect for a four-ton animal: slowly and in the middle of the street.

It took only one call of her name for Kelly to follow her trainer all the way back home.

“She’s got one speed, which is kind of plunky,” O’Donnell said. Sauntering back a couple blocks toward home took Kelly about five minutes.

In spite of her plunkiness, Kelly admirably stuck to her original goal. With the neighborhood plants not quite satisfying her hunger, she continued to nibble on grass and “tree bits” as she made her way back to the circus.

By Nancy Coleman, CNN

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ABC-7 | WZVN

Convenience store robbers take off with cash, beer

Deputies are searching for a trio who stormed into a Lee County convenience store and held the clerks at gunpoint early Friday. 

It happened at the Circle K on Metro Parkway just before 4 a.m.

Surveillance photos of the incident show the three black males with a gun — one with a shotgun, another with a handgun and the third with an assault rifle. 

“That’s ridiculous that we have people around here doing that. That own that kind of weapon,” said Fort Myers resident Rachel Quackenbush. “Somebody could have died and for what? Gas station money?”

The suspects ordered the two employees on duty to get on the ground at gunpoint and stripped them of their cellphones. 

After pocketing an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspects picked up two 18-packs of Coronas and took off in a dark-grey GMC Acadia. 

The SUV had a white towel or T-shirt covering the license plate. 

The suspect with the black rifle is described as having long dreads with burgundy colored tips. The man with the handgun was wearing a black ski mask and was decked out in all black.

The third suspect was wearing a gray beanie hat and had his face covered with a red bandana. Each one was wearing blue gloves. 

App users click here to watch the surveillance video

Anyone with information on the identity and whereabouts of the suspects is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).  All callers will remain anonymous and will be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.  Tips may also be made online at www.southwestfloridacrimestoppers.com or by submitting a tip on the P3Tips mobile app.

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2 arrested after fatal drug deal in Cape Coral

Cape Coral police said Friday that two men were arrested in the shooting death of another after a drug deal went awry.

Julio Dominguez, 26, is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault for pointing a gun at a witness.

Grenier Dominguez, 19, is charged with an accessory to second-degree murder and aggravated assault for pointing a gun at a witness.

Both faced a judge Saturday morning to learn they’ll be held in the Lee County Jail without bond.

During the hearing, it was learned a witness was riding with the two suspects. That witness told police he heard several shots and watched the victim, 19-year-old Nicholas Goffar, run from the house with Julio Dominguez chasing him. Goffar collapsed at a nearby intersection and was holding a five-pound bag of marijuana.

The witness told police the suspects also pointed a gun at him, which led to those aggravated assault charges each suspect faces.

The shooting happened late Thursday in a neighborhood around NW 24th Terrace, just off Kismet Parkway.

According to police, Goffar was buying the five pounds of marijuana for $9,000 from the two men. After he attempted to steal the drugs, the suspects and Goffar exchanged gunfire. Goffar was shot twice in the back.

Goffar was taken to the hospital where he later died.

The suspects’ next court date is July 31.

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2 arrested after drug deal turns fatal

Prosecutors revealed more details in a Cape Coral shooting that left a man dead during a drug deal.

Nicholas Goffar, 19, was killed Thursday at a home on NW 24th Terrace near Kismet Parkway.

Police arrested Julio Dominguez, 26, on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault for pointing a gun at a witness; and and Grenier Dominguez, 19, on charges of being an accessory to second-degree murder and aggravated assault for pointing a gun at a witness.

Both faced a judge Saturday morning to learn they’ll be held in the Lee County Jail without bond.

According to police, Goffar was supposed to buy five pounds of marijuana for $9,000 from the two men. After he attempted to steal the drugs, the suspects and Goffar exchanged gunfire. Goffar was shot twice in the back. He later died at the hospital.

During Saturday’s hearing, prosecutors said a witness was riding with the two suspects. That witness told police he heard several shots and watched Goffar run from the house with Julio Dominguez chasing him. Goffar collapsed at a nearby intersection and was holding a five-pound bag of marijuana.

The witness told police the suspects also pointed a gun at him, which led to those aggravated assault charges each suspect faces.

The suspects’ next court date is July 31.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:
– Killer of Cape Coral honor student sought by police
– Man killed in Cape Coral shooting

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Friends call for prayer for pregnant woman struck by lightning

A mother of two is in critical condition after a bolt of lightning hit her head.

When first responders arrived at the Whispering Palms community near Colonial Country Club, they found Meghan Davidson barely breathing.

Matt Davidson, her husband, was working at a local gym when he was notified of what happened. His business partner and close friend, James McCoy, recalls Davidson rushing to his wife’s aid.

“He left immediately. We didn’t know what was going on,” McCoy said.

Already nine months pregnant, Davidson was walking with her mother when the unthinkable happened. Once at HealthPark Medical Center, doctors rushed to deliver their baby boy, Owen, seven days before his due date, to avoid further complications. 

“I just want her and the family to be OK,” McCoy said.

Hospital officials are not releasing information on Owen’s condition, but family friends said he too is being monitored closely. Friends are now calling for prayer.

“Matt wants everybody to just keep praying,” McCoy said.

A closed prayer service was held for the Davidson family at HealthPark.

– RELATED STORY: What to do when lightning strikes

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What to do when lightning strikes

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the Sunshine State, you’ve probably experienced a Florida thunderstorm.

This week, Southwest Florida residents were reminded of just how dangerous these storms — and the lightning they produce — can be. In just one afternoon, lightning split apart a tree trunk, filled a Fort Myers store with smoke, and sent Meghan Davidson, a pregnant Fort Myers woman, to the hospital

Already this year, two people have been killed in Florida when they were struck by lightning.

Most lightning happens during the summer when many families like to enjoy time outside. You can stay safe if you know when to take shelter — and where to go. 

It’s something Keisha Stark has wondered about before. 

“When we were driving into town the other day, we ran through a storm,” Stark said, “And we wondered, ‘Can it hit the car? Can lightning hit the car? And what do we do if that happens?'” 

Experts say you can be seriously hurt or killed even if it’s not a direct hit. Lightning can strike nearby taller objects and jump to you — or travel through a ground current. It can even cover long distances through conductive materials.

These days, many outdoor facilities have warnings like lightning detectors in place to warn you of approaching storms, but the best defense is still your eyes and ears.

If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning, and you should head indoors.

Experts say your best bet is to take shelter inside a solid structure with four walls, a roof, and wiring, like your home, school or office. 

Stay away from doors and windows, and any metal or electrical equipment. That means places like your bathroom with pipes and a sink, or your kitchen full of appliances aren’t good places to stay.  Using landline phones or computers is also a bad idea.

You can also be safe in an enclosed car with a metal top.

If you are caught outside, avoid open areas, but try not to stand near any tall, isolated trees. You don’t want to be the tallest object in an area or be standing next to it.

For more information, check out the NWS’s Lightning Safety Resources.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

NBC2 Investigators: Report details changes needed at Fort Myers FD

A new report looking into the Fort Myers Fire Department lists more than 100 recommendations to help the department meet national standards.

While a city spokesperson said the report is not alarming, the biggest and most expensive issue continues to be funding for 21 firefighters currently staffed through a federal grant.

The report was completed by Public Safety Solutions Inc (PSSI). The company also investigated complaints of a toxic work environment and favoritism toward union members within the department, although they did not sustain the majority of the allegations.

Many of the recommendations in the new master plan are regarding policy and procedural changes. City spokesperson Kirsten O’Donnell says the majority of those are not cause for concern.

“A number of the recommendations are relatively minor,” O’Donnell said.

“Things like changing the names of some positions, some departments, some minor departmental restructuring.”

· RELATED DOCUMENTS (PDF): Fort Myers FD Master Plan – Part 1 | Part 2

But there are more daunting tasks for FMFD. PSSI recommended the fire department include at least four firefighters on every response vehicle, which is not done in all cases currently. They also instructed for more complete training standards and recommended focusing on diversity in the hiring process.

According to fire professionals NBC2 spoke with, the most pressing task is one that has plagued city council for years. PSSI recommends the city and fire department find funding to staff 21 firefighters currently employed because of a nearly $4 million grant through FEMA.

O’Donnell says the city has already applied for the grant again and is hopeful.

“If the city does not receive that grant, you know how you structure the fire department to accommodate for that,” O’Donnell said.

Much of that will be up to new Fire Chief John Caulfield, who takes the position later in July.

“With a new chief brings new leadership, new ideas,” said Fort Myers City Councilman Johnny Streets.

Streets says many of the issues at the fire department previously exposed by NBC2 were not noticed by the council ahead of time.

“We as the leadership in the city council standpoint seem to not know much with what’s going on in the fire department,” Streets said.

Previous Fire Chief Trenton Bowen and Deputy Chief Walt Stevens retired after being placed on leave by the city manager.

Streets is hoping the new chief will steer the department in the right direction.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Pregnant Fort Myers woman struck by lightning in critical condition

A mother of two remained in critical condition Saturday after a bolt of lightning hit her head.

When first responders arrived at the Whispering Palms community near Colonial Country Club, they found Meghan Davidson barely breathing.

RELATED STORY: Pregnant woman struck by lightning in Florida

Matt Davidson, her husband, was working at a local gym when he was notified of what happened. His business partner and close friend, James McCoy recalls Davidson rushing to his wife’s aid.

“He left immediately. We didn’t know what was going on,” McCoy said.

Already nine months pregnant, Davidson was walking with her mother when the unthinkable happened. Once at HealthPark Medical Center doctors rushed to deliver their baby boy Owen, seven days before his due date., to avoid further complications. 

“I just want her and the family to be okay,” McCoy said.

Hospital officials are not releasing information on Owen’s condition, but family friends said he too is being monitored closely. Friends are now calling for prayer.

“Matt wants everybody to just keep praying,” McCoy said.

A closed prayer service was held for the Davidson family at HealthPark.

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NBC-2 | WBBH

Controversy surrounds Punta Gorda police chief after ‘not guilty’ ruling

The City of Punta Gorda is doing an internal investigation on police chief Tom Lewis to determine if he will keep his position. 

A jury of six people found him not guilty on Thursday of misdemeanor culpable negligence in the 2016 shooting death of Mary Knowlton at a police training demonstration. Since the verdict came out, Punta Gorda has been buzzing about what’s in store for Lewis. 

RELATED: Police chief acquitted in fatal citizens academy exercise

He wasn’t the one who shot and killed Knowlton. It was Lee Coel, a former officer at the Punta Gorda Police Department. 

But even after Lewis was found not guilty of the charge, some people like Thomas Culkin, Punta Gorda resident, believe the city should cut ties with him. 

“It was his department, someone lost their life under his watch, and it’s probably best for the department, the city, the town for him to step aside and let someone else come in,” Culkin said. 

Others in the community still stand by Lewis. Crystal Matthews, another resident of the city, is one of them. 

“I don’t feel that the chief of police should have been held accountable,” she said. “Unfortunately this day in time, I think a lot of times when we have tragedy, we want to create more tragedy in order to solve it, and I don’t believe that’s the answer.”

Lewis remains police chief, but on administrative paid leave, at least until the internal investigation is complete. 

“[The internal investigation team] is going to sit down and interview each of the officers and get a full understanding from their perspective on what happened, and they’ll report their findings back to the city manager so that he can make his decision,” Sandi Poreda, City of Punta Gorda spokesperson, said. 

Poreda said the investigation shouldn’t take long, but couldn’t give an exact time. 

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Killer of Cape Coral honor student sought by police

Police are still searching for whoever shot and killed an honor student.

Thursday night, Cape Coral police swarmed the neighborhood around NW 24th Terrace, just off Kismet Parkway. There, they found 19-year-old Nicholas Goffar with a gunshot. He later died at the hospital.

We caught a car with bullet holes on the driver side still parked in the driveway of the hole Friday, as investigators continue working.

“Cops, there was tons of them everywhere,” said neighbor Richard Allen. “I mean it was lights everywhere. Here, there, down there they weren’t letting anybody in.”

– RELATED: Man killed in Cape Coral shooting

Goffar’s sister told us he was known for his smile and laugh. He played basketball often and worked as a waiter. He even had plans to attend college in the near future.

“My brother was an amazing person. He made friends everywhere he went and lit up a whole room when he walked in. He was an IB student, had dreams to go to USF after he moved me in there, and he wanted to travel everywhere. He talked about Peru, going to the islands. He was so outgoing, carefree and genuinely cared about everyone he met. He did not deserve this, and it will leave a hole in my family forever.”