Entries in Gainesville (4)


Sinkhole Swallows Florida Family’s Entire Backyard, Threatens Home

A sinkhole that opened up May 3, 2012, behind a Windermere, Fla. home has grown to about 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep. (ABC News)(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- For the second time this month, a Florida family is at risk of having their home swallowed by the earth.  A sinkhole sucked in Robert Matheny’s entire backyard Friday, and as of Monday, the hole was about 105 feet long and 80 feet wide, slowly edging toward the house.

“I pulled open the curtains and there it was,” said the Gainesville father.  “My first words were, do you think it’s time to move?”

The massive hole has forced Matheny and his wife out of the place they called home for the past 37 years.

“It took 12 hours to get 27 years of stuff packed up and out of the house,” Matheny said.  “I want to just move out and let somebody else deal with it.”

Metheny said most of the movement has been happening inside the hole, but still, he and his family are not taking any chances.  They say they won’t be coming back.

The Methenys aren’t the only Florida residents to be forced to evacuate their home.  Earlier this month a Windmere family awoke to find their backyard gone as well.  A sinkhole that swallowed several objects, including four trees and a hammock, had grown to at least 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep.  This incident raised concerns among neighbors, who feared they would also have to flee the area.

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Sinkholes form when ground water builds up and dissolves minerals into the earth, creating a hole so large that the land on top caves in. Geologists say that years of drought without a major hurricane striking the area is what may have helped the hole threatening the Matheny home.

County officials say the family’s neighbors are not in danger.

Although the Mathenys have lost the land where they watched their children grow up, they say they’re thankful no one was there when the ground caved in.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Pastor Terry Jones Has Received 300 Death Threats

Mario Tama/Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- Florida Pastor Terry Jones -- who last month supervised as another pastor soaked the Islamic holy book in kerosene and set it ablaze -- and members of his small Gainesville, Fla., church have received at least 300 "credible" death threats since demonstrations in Afghanistan against Jones' actions turned violent, causing some Afghan protesters to lash out at United Nations workers and others thought to be associated with the West.

ABC News has learned that the FBI is alerting Jones and Wayne Sapp, the man who actually lit the Koran on fire, of specific threats -- ones that reference a time and place where an attack may occur.

They have "crossed the point of no return," Sapp told ABC News. "We can't go back now," he said.

In an interview this weekend with ABC News, Jones said that he did not feel personally responsible for the violent protest at a United Nations compound in Afghanistan on Friday left 11 dead. Instead, he said, the violence proved his point.

"We wanted to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element," Jones said. "I think [the attack] proves that there is a radical element of Islam."

The deaths followed a protest march in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday against the actions of the American pastors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Koran-Burning Pastor Reacts to the UN Staffers Killed in Afghanistan

Mario Tama/Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- The following is a transcript from ABC News' Bill Weir's interview with Pastor Terry Jones on Jones' response to the United Nations saying their staffers were killed in Afghanistan during a violent protest over his Koran burning. This interview aired on ABC’s World News and Nightline on April 1, 2011.

Nightline anchor Bill Weir: Everyone from President Obama to Secretary Gates to General Petraeus implored you not to do this and you told us back in September that that actually helped change your mind and backed you off a bit. So why did you go through with this earlier this month? Why did you burn a Koran after all?

Pastor Terry Jones: Well, like you said, we did decide to cancel our "International Burn the Koran Day." We still wanted to make an awareness of the radical element of Islam. We wondered how could we do that. How could we give Islam a fair shake, give them an opportunity? As you realize "International Burn a Koran day," that was of course somewhat of a lopsided story. We had that the Koran was guilty, that we were going to burn the Koran as a protest against the radical element of Islam. After that was canceled, we still wanted to continue our campaign raising an awareness of this dangerous religion and this dangerous element. After this much though we came up with "International Judge the Koran Day." We decided we would put the Koran on trial. We had reps from the Muslim community, we had Imam here. We had people who converted from Islam to Christianity. We had a prosecuting attorney. A defense attorney. And the Koran was put on trial.

Weir: And who was the judge and jury in your trial?

Jones: I was the judge, but I did not determine the verdict. I was just a type of referee to make sure everybody got their fair time to defend the Koran or make a defense against the Koran.

Weir: And who was the jury? Who was the jury -- who condemned the Koran?

Jones: Individuals mainly from around Florida. The jury was open to Muslims, we did have no Muslims on the jury but what we did try to do--like a regular American jury--we did try to make sure the people were not already prejudice or against the Koran. They were to listen to the evidence, like I say we had on both sides of the fence. We had definite authorities concerning the Koran. If the Koran was found not guilty then I was to issue a public apology for our accusations and insults against the Koran. If the Koran was found guilty then there were four forms of punishment by which the people could choose. Those forms were burning, shredding, rounding and the Koran would face the firing squad. The one that the people chose was burning--that was why the Koran was burned after it was found guilty.

Weir: So just to be clear...your jury was made up of random Floridians or members of your congregations or people from your community?

Jones: Made of random people from around Florida -- yes. We put an invitation out to people who wanted to be on the jury, and these were the people who expressed a desire to do that.

When you got news of [Friday's] deadly riots there in Afghanistan, what was the first thought that went through your head?

Jones: Yeah, yeah of course we were very saddened and devastated by that. It is of course a terrible thing anytime anyone is killed. Anytime someone's life is cut short through murder or even accident. I think it definitely does prove that there is a radical element of Islam. I believe we need to take this evidence, we need to take this action and those people and those countries should be held accountable. I believe the U.S. needs to stand up. I believe the U.N. needs to stand up to countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Muslim-dominated countries. They have been persecuting, killing Christians for generations. I believe that it's time that we stand up and force them, encourage them to adapt human rights into their laws, into their constitution and that these types of actions should not be allowed.

Weir: Should you bear any responsibility for inciting [Friday's] horrific actions?

Jones: We do not feel responsible -- no. Um, we feel more that the Muslims and radical Islam uses that as an excuse. If they didn't use us as an excuse, they would use a different excuse--

Weir: But don't your actions just make it that much easier--Pastor Jones--for these radical Islamists to incite this sort of thing?

Jones: Do I think it made it easier?

Weir: Yeah, they have a specific incident of an American burning their most sacred text. Doesn't that make it easier for these radicals to incite and spread their murderous hate?

Jones: As I said I definitely believe that they use that as an excuse--

Weir: Then why do it? Why give them that excuse?

Jones: It's an excuse they can use, but it's also not a reason to back down and it's not the reason to point the finger at us. Just because we have done something that offends them. We live in the USA. If my neighbor does something that is offensive to me, no matter what he does, it does not give me to the right to enter into his house and kill him.

Jones: I believe that we definitely have to call these people and these countries into accountability.

Weir: Everybody has done that from the president to the U.N. Arrests have already been made for these particular people--Yes, nobody disagrees that they should be brought to justice. But the larger issue--your involvement in all of this come down to whether it is wise to incite even more anger and hatred. When you burn the text that 1.3 billion people consider holy, how does that raise awareness of the radical fringe?

Jones: Well, I think we see that very clearly with what they did. And I would strongly disagree that our government or any other government has done anything. They definitely have not--

Weir: It just happened, it just happened a few hours ago.

Jones: People for years and years and we have never forced them to adapt human rights, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion. People who live in those countries are fearful for their lives and we have not done nothing.

Weir: But here's the ironic part to your argument there [cross talk]. The timing of this comes at a time of unprecedented awakening across the Arab world--people are motivated by what you are talking about, democracy, freedom of speech, taking to the streets--not a religious movement, purely a democratic, populist movement, but now this incident--and the headlines will be that this is a result of your actions--may help derail that very thing that you're asking for. Doesn't that strike you as ironic timing?

Jones: I don't think it will do that. As I said, I believe that it is time to raise that awareness. it is time that moderate Muslims who desire to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion--that is truly going on in those countries. It is not an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood or some other radical group to take over. And we think that even moderate Muslims could stand up and they could speak out against Jihad, against Sharia, against the radical element of Islam.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Shooting In Florida Leaves 5 Wounded, 2 Dead

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- A random shooting spree Monday has left 5 wounded and 2 dead, Gainesville, Florida police told ABC News. 

The gunman reportedly drove around the area in his truck shooting individuals. 

Police said that the first 911 call reporting the incident came in at 4:06 p.m. Eastern time. By 4:16 p.m. Eastern time, the last 911 came in from an individual reporting that a person was found deceased in a vehicle.  Police believe the man found deceased in the vehicle appears to be the gunman.  

Lt. Steve Maynard said, "We have not developed a motive, nor have we been able to develop a connection between the shooter or shooters and any of the possible victims in this case."

Copyright ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio