Women hurt, one critically, in home fire in Fort Pierce

FORT PIERCE — Two women were hurt, one critically, in an early morning home fire in Fort Pierce, according to the St. Lucie County Fire District.

Fire District crews responded shortly after 1:40 a.m. to the fire in the 1600 block of Wyoming Avenue. When firefighters arrived, one woman was out of the home, but another was still inside, the Fire District said.

Firefighters extinguished the fire shortly after 2 a.m. and rescued a woman in her mid 80s from the home. She was taken to a hospital with critical injuries and the other woman, in her 60s, was taken to the hospital as well.

Two cats that were still inside the home died in the fire, Fire District spokeswoman Brenda Stokes said. The cause of the fire, contained to the living room, is under investigation, the Fire District said.

Further details on the fire were not immediately available.

This story will be updated. 

More:SLC brush fire fully contained, officials say

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/st-lucie-county/2017/05/21/women-hurt-one-critically-in-home-fire-in-fort-pierce/101980450/

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Elderly woman rescued from Florida house fire

According to the St. Lucie County Fire District, a neighbor called to report smoke coming from a home in the 1600 block of Wyoming Avenue. When fire rescue personnel arrived, a 60-year-old woman was already out of the home, but an 80-year-old woman remained inside.

Article source: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local/elderly-woman-rescued-from-florida-house-fire/Qi3pxqEd0oUpVtmgoGLVOI/

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Sex offender accused of raping woman in Fort Pierce

FORT PIERCE — A sex offender was arrested Friday after a woman told deputies the man forced her into a bedroom and raped her, according to a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Andrew Raymon Halla, 47, of the 3200 block of South U.S. 1, Fort Pierce, was arrested shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday and charged with sexual battery. He is being held at the St. Lucie County Jail without bail, the release states.

A woman told deputies that on March 15, she, Halla and several other friends were talking and drinking at Halla’s home, according to a sheriff’s arrest report. About 5 p.m., the woman left and went to her home, followed by Halla.

After he knocked on the door and the woman answered, Halla forced her into a bedroom and held her down while he had sex with her, the report states. The next day, the woman reported the rape to deputies, who arrested Halla on Friday.

Halla has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions of aggravated battery, sexual battery, false imprisonment and failure to register as a sexual offender, the release states.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2017/05/19/accused-sex-offender-arrested-on--sexual-battery-charges-in-fort-pierce/101883668/

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Popular Fort Pierce restaurant damaged by fire

The Lee County Coroner identified all four people who died when their private plane crashed in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Article source: http://www.wflx.com/story/35480041/popular-fort-pierce-restaurant-damaged-by-fire

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Sex offender accused of raping woman in Fort Pierce – TC Palm

FORT PIERCE — A sex offender was arrested Friday after a woman told deputies the man forced her into a bedroom and raped her, according to a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Andrew Raymon Halla, 47, of the 3200 block of South U.S. 1, Fort Pierce, was arrested shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday and charged with sexual battery. He is being held at the St. Lucie County Jail without bail, the release states.

A woman told deputies that on March 15, she, Halla and several other friends were talking and drinking at Halla’s home, according to a sheriff’s arrest report. About 5 p.m., the woman left and went to her home, followed by Halla.

After he knocked on the door and the woman answered, Halla forced her into a bedroom and held her down while he had sex with her, the report states. The next day, the woman reported the rape to deputies, who arrested Halla on Friday.

Halla has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions of aggravated battery, sexual battery, false imprisonment and failure to register as a sexual offender, the release states.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2017/05/19/accused-sex-offender-arrested-on--sexual-battery-charges-in-fort-pierce/101883668/

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Fire spares Fort Pierce restaurant’s main building Saturday – TC Palm


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Images from a commercial fire at the Chucky Duck restaurant,Images from a commercial fire at the Chucky Duck restaurant,Images from a commercial fire at the Chucky Duck restaurant,Images from a commercial fire at the Chucky Duck restaurant,Images from a commercial fire at the Chucky Duck restaurant,

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FORT PIERCE — A hot grill sparked a fire at a restaurant Saturday morning, but firefighters had the fire under control in about 15 minutes, according to a news release.

Firefighters were called to the Chucky Duck restaurant at 1507 Avenue D, Fort Pierce, at 7:47 a.m. A hot barbecue grill used the night before still was hot and ignited a screened porch on the back of the building, according to a news release from the St. Lucie County Fire District.

The fire was knocked down about 8 a.m. The porch was destroyed and there was soot and water damage to the back of the building, but the main structure is intact, the release states.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/st-lucie-county/2017/05/20/fire-spares-fort-pierce-restaurants-main-building-saturday/101917266/

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Attorney: Fired Fort Pierce police sergeant should get his job back

FORT PIERCE — A union attorney for former Sgt. Brian MacNaught said he shouldn’t have been fired for having an unauthorized body camera in his patrol car the night he shot and killed 21-year-old Demarcus Semer.

Greg Forhan, who is representing MacNaught on behalf of the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association Public Employees Association, said he sent a letter to each city commissioner last week detailing precisely why his client is disputing his May 8 firing.

“He will get his job back,” Forhan wrote.

MacNaught and former Officer Keith Holmes were notified May 5 they were going to lose their jobs after a seven-month investigation found they violated several of the Police Department’s policies and procedures during an April 23, 2016, traffic stop in which Semer was fatally shot, police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney previously said.

According to the investigation, MacNaught violated two Police Department policies and procedures — insubordination and neglect of duty — and one of the city’s rules and regulations — code of conduct.

The violations were based on the fact MacNaught was in possession of an unauthorized body camera purchased for the Special Weapons and Tactics team in 2013, according to the investigation. MacNaught, a member of SWAT, was instructed in January 2015 to collect all body cameras and put them into a storage locker.

“The order Sgt. MacNaught received specified that the administration did not want the cameras used in the line of duty or in training,” Forhan wrote. “Sgt. MacNaught did collect all of the cameras; however, he did keep one camera out so that he could use it as a static display when showing the public the different equipment that the SWAT team has available.”

MacNaught didn’t use the body camera or ever turn it on, Forhan wrote, and MacNaught’s actions were in compliance with the order because he made sure the body camera wasn’t used in training or in the line of duty — he only used it as a static display.

All MacNaught would’ve needed was a clarification of the order explaining the police command staff didn’t want the body camera to be displayed, Forhan wrote.

City officials declined comment about the letter because of the pending litigation, said Ed Cunningham, public information officer for the Police Department.

“The acts of Sgt. MacNaught concerning the body camera don’t warrant his termination,” Forhan wrote. “The termination of a career sergeant under these facts is beyond excessive.”

Both MacNaught and Holmes have appealed their firings to the city. Forhan wrote he plans to take MacNaught’s case to arbitration, but it could take as long as 60 days to get there from the time he filed his grievance form with the city May 9.

MacNaught and Holmes, both 14-year veterans of the Police Department, were cleared of any criminal charges related to the shooting by a grand jury on Sept. 21.

“It is ironic that Sgt. MacNaught is being fired for merely having a body camera in his possession,” Forhan wrote. “Had Sgt. MacNaught been allowed to have and use the body camera, much of the turmoil over the past year could have been avoided, and Sgt. MacNaught would have had the evidence to clear his name.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/st-lucie-county/2017/05/18/attorney-fired-fort-pierce-police-department-sergeant-get-his-job-back/101845334/

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No policies, rules violated, fired Fort Pierce police officer says

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Former Fort Pierce police officer Keith Holmes speaks about how he shouldn’t have been fired and how he didn’t violate department policies or procedures. PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM.COM
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FORT PIERCE — Fired police Officer Keith Holmes said he didn’t violate any police policies or city rules during a traffic stop April 23, 2016, in which 21-year-old Demarcus Semer was fatally shot.

“I’ve served this community with dedication, and I’ve been very humble throughout this whole event and throughout my whole career here,” Holmes told Treasure Coast Newspapers/TCPalm.com on Friday afternoon. “I’ve always wanted to help other people.”

Holmes and former Sgt. Brian MacNaught, both 14-year veterans, were fired May 8 after a seven-month Police Department investigation found they violated several department policies during that traffic stop. A grand jury cleared Holmes and MacNaught of criminal charges Sept. 21.

Chief Diane Hobley-Burney said the two officers made a series of tactical errors that created a dangerous situation.

Not only did the violations found in the internal investigation have nothing to do with the traffic stop itself, Holmes said, but he didn’t do anything wrong.

“Chief Hobley-Burney said that we violated several policies,” Holmes said. “We did not.”

Disputing violations

According to the investigation, Holmes violated 12 department policies and city regulations: three instances of failure to keep his video system operating, three instances of violating the department’s code of conduct, two instances of insubordination, two times neglecting duty; having an unauthorized firearm and failing to follow policy.

Holmes contested all, which relate to the following:

Possession of unauthorized equipment: Holmes personally owns a long gun that was in the trunk of his vehicle and a pair of prohibited hinged handcuffs found at the shooting scene.

Holmes pointed to department policies and procedures at the time that allowed officers to carry other firearms for sport or personal protection, as long as they’re not used on the job. Nothing in the department’s policies and procedures at the time prohibited hinged handcuffs, he said. He kept a hinged pair he personally bought as a backup but never used them. He kept the pair as backup for instances like the night of the traffic stop when his department-issued handcuffs were covered in blood because of an arrest about an hour earlier. The only reason they were found at the Semer traffic stop is because they fell out of his duty belt when Semer’s vehicle dragged him, he said.

Violations with his video system: Holmes said he told his sergeant during two separate inspections that his dashcam video system wasn’t working properly, and Holmes was instructed to have it checked by a technician, but he didn’t. He said he told his sergeant he didn’t know how to properly operate the video system, and Holmes was instructed to get proper training, but he didn’t.

Holmes pointed to department policies and procedures at the time, saying the responsibility is on the department to make sure audio and video equipment is properly installed, as well as all officers being trained before using the equipment. He said he wasn’t given a timeline of when to fix the video system, and he was already in the process of getting it fixed. If he had violated a training order, he said, there’s a process of remediation and suspension before going straight to termination.

Maj. Charles S. Courtoy, who led the internal investigation into the shooting, wasn’t available Friday afternoon for comment. Hobley-Burney declined comment late Friday.

Going forward

Holmes said he’d do everything the same way he did it on the night of the traffic stop if the facts and circumstances were the same.

He’d been on road patrol during the night shift in the northern part of the city for two months leading up to the shooting. During that time, he seized multiple guns and responded to reports of gunfire. He said it affected his job.

“It makes a more heightened sense of alertness, knowing that there’s shootings going on,” Holmes said. “Every stop is a potential stop you may get a gun on.”

He couldn’t answer whether new training for traffic stops would’ve made a difference that night.

“Not every traffic stop goes according to plan,” Holmes said. “No one can be properly trained for any instance of what happened. It’s an unfortunate incident that did happen.”

Body cameras, which the city bought after the shooting, would’ve made a difference that night, he said.

“I wish we did have the body cameras that night,” Holmes said. “It would’ve showed the actual whole story.”

Holmes, who had initiated the Semer traffic stop, was run over by Semer’s car and dragged, injuring his leg.

“I’ve been through two surgeries — probably pending another surgery on my leg,” he said. “It’s still not correct.”

Both he and MacNaught have appealed their firings with the city. Holmes said he and his attorney requested the city go straight to arbitration to save time and money, but there’s not been a decision.

He wants his job back to clear his name.

“It’s always been about what we as a person can do for the badge,” Holmes said, “not what the badge can do for us.”

Previous coverage

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/st-lucie-county/2017/05/19/fort-pierce-police-department-fired-officer-keith-holmes-interview/101853314/

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Doctor gifts Fort Pierce Performing Arts Academy with baby grand

FORT PIERCE — The Fort Pierce Performing Arts Academy announced the donation of a baby grand piano. The piano was donated by Dr. Jimmy and Jan Autin.

Dr. Autin, a local ENT surgeon, has been very involved in the Treasure Coast music and theater scene since he and wife Jan relocated here from New Orleans in 1984.

He is currently performing with the McCartney Mania tribute act.

“We love to help when we can with allowing our young ones exposure to music, art, and theater,” he said, “especially those that may not be able to access this in the regular school system. The various programs offered at the Fort Pierce Performing Arts Academy are a great boon to the community, and should become even more so as they continue to grow.”

Fort Pierce Performing Arts owner expressed gratitude for Dr. Autin’s generosity.

“It is exciting to bring this teaching studio and recording studio to downtown Fort Pierce,” said owner Angelone. “It is the perfect complement to the Sunrise Theatre and the Black Box, adding an instructional element and an intimate performance space for local use. We have been able to provide great programming in thanks to a grant from the Division of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the State of Florida (Section 28,25, Florida Statutes).

“This year, we have been able to bring grammy-award winning artists, international screenplay writers and other professionals to our community as artists in residence,” said Angelone. “Their work has had a phenomenal impact on local aspiring professionals. In the near future we will have another master class in screenplay writing on site, and a master class in movie directing, all presented by special guest professionals. We look forward to playing an exciting role in growing Fort Pierce as the Cultural Hub for the Arts on the Treasure Coast!”

The Fort Pierce Performing Arts Academy offers a summer music academy and private lessons for piano, strings, vocals, and brass. The program rents out its 40-seat black box theater their recording studio is now booking. Learn more at http://fortpierceperformingarts.com/.

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/specialty-publications/your-news/st-lucie-county/reader-submitted/2017/05/18/doctor-gifts-fort-pierce-performing-arts-academy-baby-grand/101841918/

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New details in possible lightning injury of Fort Pierce man in Martin

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A worker was seriously injured at an Ocean Breeze Park construction site and taken to a local hospital, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said. DAN RORABAUGH/TCPALM.COM
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MARTIN COUNTY — Co-workers of a man critically injured after he was possibly struck by lightning at a construction site said they heard a loud bang, but never saw lightning, according to a Martin County Sheriff’s Office report.

Guadalupe Salinas, 46, of the 300 block of South 21st Street, Fort Pierce, was taken to Martin Medical Center with critical injuries. An update on his condition was not available Thursday.

Salinas works for Prestige Gunite Inc., a concrete contractor based in Fort Pierce, said Martin County Sheriff’s Detective Karl Nelson. Christopher Mason, communications director for Prestige Gunite, said Salinas’ injuries “were the result of an errant lightning strike.”

“Our hearts go out to (Salinas’) family at this difficult time,” Mason said. Mason declined further comment.

Salinas and his co-workers were working on a pool shortly before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at an Ocean Breeze Park construction site near the 3000 block of Northeast Indian River Drive at the time of the incident, the report said.

Worker William Betes said he was doing plumbing work in a building adjacent to the construction site when he and his co-worker, David Suarez, heard what he said “sounded like a bomb going off”. Betes, 58, of Palm City, said he and Suarez ran to the site, saw Salinas face up in the pool and helped his co-workers get him out of the empty pool under construction.

Betes said he didn’t see any burns on Salinas’ body, but did see a big black and blue mark on Salinas’ forehead. Betes and Suarez, who both work for Jensen Beach Plumbing, noticed the man was not breathing and performed CPR on him until emergency medical services crews arrived, Betes said.

Before the incident, Salinas was sweeping about 2 feet from the edge of the pool, co-workers told deputies.

They said it was raining lightly when they heard the explosion, the report said.

More:Worker injured from possible lightning strike

Patrick Read, general manager for Prestige Gunite, said the incident is a tragic circumstance.

“There was no warning and no indication a storm was coming,” Read said.

Showers, thunderstorms and a couple of lightning strikes moved west from the shore into Martin County at the time of the incident, said Jessie Smith, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

The Sheriff’s Office, Fire Rescue and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incident.

No further information was available. 

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Scientists identified all-time world records for both the longest lightning bolt and the world’s longest-duration lightning flash.
USA TODAY

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/martin-county/2017/05/18/more-details-revealed-in-possible-lightning-strike-in-martin/101830866/

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