Entries in Tampa (26)


Woman to Attacker in Court: ‘I’m The Victor’

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A Tampa, Fla., sexual assault victim, refusing to remain anonymous or shoulder any embarrassment, this week confronted the teen who was convicted of attacking her in a parking garage two years ago, ABC affiliate WTFS reported.

“I’m not the victim, I’m the victor,” said Heidi Damon, standing face-to-face and addressing Jovon Cooper. “What you have done to me is unforgivable. So, don’t expect me — 20, 30, 40, 50 years or on my deathbed — to ever say ‘I forgive you.’”

ABC News and other news organizations typically do not reveal names of those who’ve been sexually assaulted, but, at her request, Damon’s confrontation was videotaped Thursday.

Sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years probation, Cooper was 16 years old when he attacked Damon, choking her until she blacked out. When Damon woke up, she was naked from the waist down but had not been raped.

Still, she said, the trauma gave her chronic headaches, kept her out of work for a year and stole her sense of security.

“So many times, victims hide under their covers, and no one gets helped by that,” she said. “And if I don’t talk, how can I help somebody?”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amid Web Support for Suspect, Cops Concerned about Tampa School Bomb Plot Copycats

WFTS/ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Since Jared Cano's Aug. 17 arrest for allegedly plotting to bomb Freedom High School in Tampa, Florida, a series of groups have cropped up on Facebook in support of the 17-year-old, including "Save Jared Cano" and "Support Jared Cano."

The largest by far is the "Free Jared Cano" group, with more than 700 "likes" on the evening of Aug. 18.  Many of the comments on the page are critical of  what cops say is Cano's detailed plan to kill two school officials and 30 students with bombs on the first day of school next Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the Tampa Police Department is aware of the growing online community, and the dozens of commenters who support Cano -- and law enforcement is concerned it could indicate possible copycat offenders.

"My understanding is that folks that were responding on a Facebook page, supporting his position, they weren't seeing the gravity of his situation," said Maj. John Newman of the Tampa Police Department.  "The investigation, with exception of arrest, is far from complete.  We want to make sure he was operating by himself and there are no copycats out there.  We're looking at every possible lead."

Jay Reeve, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University, said a Facebook page glamorizing or popularizing Cano's actions could increase the possibility of copycats, similar to the way Cano was attempting to replicate the efforts of Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

"I think there could be some serious consequences to that depiction of Jared as someone who did something who garnered attention from peers," Reeve said.  "You could predict that someone is going to emulate that."

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor told reporters Wednesday that investigators recovered bomb-making materials from Cano's home, including fuses, timers, shrapnel, accelerant and plastic tubing.  No firearms were found in his family's apartment, police said.

They also found a manifesto that detailed minute-by-minute plans for the purported attack, including specifications about where he apparently planned to place bomb in Freedom High School, from which he had been expelled in March 2010.

Police said Cano's manifesto specified his goal of surpassing the number of students who were killed and injured during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed and another 24 were wounded.

He has since been charged with threatening to throw, project, place, or discharge a destructive device.  He also faces charges for possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tampa Bomb Plot Teen's Friend Says He Was 'Just Venting'

WFTS/ABC News(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A Florida 17-year-old charged with plotting to kill school officials and students with bombs was "just venting anger" and would never have gone through with the attack, a friend of his claims.

Jared Cano wrote a manifesto that detailed his plans for an attack starting at 5 a.m. next Tuesday -- the first day of classes at Freedom High School in Tampa, Florida, the school Cano was expelled from in March 2010.  The unnamed friend was at the home of Cano when he was arrested on Tuesday.

"He wouldn't go and do something like that.  He'd say he's going to in the heat of the moment but that's his way of venting, I guess," Cano's friend told ABC Action News in Tampa.  "I think he was just venting anger on a piece of paper."

The two friends would often play video games at the home where Cano lives with his mother, and were planning to do just that on Tuesday when police arrived at the home to arrest the teenager.  The friend said that he initially thought the arrest may have to do with marijuana charges, a drug Cano publicly admits to admire on his Facebook page; he has also been arrested for possession of marijuana in the past.

Cano has an "extensive criminal record," according to police, who confirmed that he had broken into a house and stolen a firearm.  The victim of that theft, a convicted felon, did not press charges.  Cano had also been charged with the possession of marijuana, carrying a concealed weapon and a taser.

Police said on Wednesday they recovered bomb making materials from the home including fuses, timers, shrapnel, accelerant and plastic tubing -- though no firearms were found.

Cano's friend says that he does believe that his friend could have written a manifesto detailing such a plan to kill dozens at his former school, but it would only be a way for Cano to vent his frustration and anger.

"He doesn't know how to vent," the friend told ABC Action News.  "I told him, 'Dude, go in your room, scream in your pillow or something.'"

According to Christopher Farkas, Freedom High School principal for the past three years, Cano was suspended from that school in March 2010 for an off-campus incident.  Police confirmed that he was expelled from school for his previous burglary.

Police said they have no reason to believe that anyone else was involved in the bomb plot.  They reported that the family had been cooperative.

Cano has been charged with threatening to throw, project, place, or discharge a destructive device.  He also faces charges for possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tampa School Massacre Thwarted

Tampa Police say they have thwarted Jared Cano's "catastrophic" plot to blow up a school on the first day of classes. (WFTS/ABC News)(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A Tampa teenager has been arrested and charged with plotting to kill two school officials and 30 students with bombs on the first day of school scheduled for next week in what would have been the most serious school attack since the Columbine massacre.

Jared Cano, 17, wrote a manifesto that detailed his plans for his attack starting at 5 a.m. next Tuesday, Police Chief Jane Castor said at a news conference Wednesday. The manifesto included information about the layout of Freedom High School in Tampa, Fla., and where exactly Cano was planning to place bombs in the school.

Castor also said they recovered bomb making material from his home including fuses, shrapnel, accelerant and plastic tubing. No firearms were found in his family's apartment, police said.

The arrest on Tuesday came just hours after someone alerted police about Cano's alleged plot, Castor said. The tipster's identity has been kept confidential but that person was praised Wednesday as a "hero."

Police said that Cano specified in his manifesto his goal of surpassing the number of students who were killed and injured during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

On April 20, 1999, Columbine High School seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, wielding automatic weapons, slaughtered 12 students and one teacher. Another 24 were injured in the 45-minute rampage.

Cano is the latest student to express admiration for the Columbine killers. Seung-Hui Cho sent a tape praising Klebold and Harris before going on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech that left 33 people dead in 2007.

The teen's manifesto targeted two individuals "in the administration at Freedom High School," both of whom have been alerted that they were target, the chief said. Cano expressed feelings of "ill will" towards both of them in the manifesto.

He also targeted 30 students for death, the police said.

Police said they have no reason to believe that anyone else was involved in the bomb plot. They reported that the family, who has been cooperative, did not know that their son had materials to build a bomb in his room.

Cano has been charged with threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device. He also faces charges for possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

Lewis Brinson, assistant superintendent for administration of Freedom High School, said school will open on Tuesday as scheduled, with counselors available to students if necessary. Electronic messages have also been sent out to parents of students informing them that the school is working with the Tampa Police Department to keep the school safe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fla. Woman Gambles $14M, Fleeces In-Laws

BananaStock/Thinkstock(HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla.) -- A Florida woman's gambling addiction was so severe that she pumped $14 million into the slots and is accused of stealing her in-laws' life savings to fuel her habit, police said.

Jennifer Dennison, 42, was arrested after Hernando County sheriff's detectives wrapped up a five-month investigation. "Theoretically, she could spend the next couple decades in prison," Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said. She was charged with 16 counts including exploitation of the elderly, forgery of checks, and organized scheme to defraud.

Dennison's in-laws, 88-year-old Laverne Robert Dennison and 73-year-old Janet A. Dennison, bounced a check in August of last year, launching the investigation that led to the woman's arrest.

Dennison hit the slots at Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, winning a total of nearly $13 million. But she pumped every penny of that back in, plus at least $700,000 more, police say.

The thrill of the buzzing slot machines led her to fleece her in-laws of their retirement money, drain their bank accounts and cash in their insurance policies, police said. "Ms. Dennison was the one who had basically wiped out their accounts to the tune of over $500,000," Nienhuis said.

Jennifer Dennison's husband, Scott, holds a power of attorney for his parents, but Jennifer Dennison made all of the financial decisions for the family.

The gambling industry is increasingly targeting women online with so called sexy slot machines and offering prizes like a Manhattan shopping spree. There are even Sex and the City-themed slot machines that let you gamble with Carrie Bradshaw.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Possible Tornadoes In Tampa as East Coast Prepares for Beating

WFTS-TV Tampa, Fla.(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A powerful storm is moving through the eastern United States, prompting tornado warnings, heavy rainfall and snow in parts. In Tampa, Fla., a large storm cloud packing possible tornado-like activity loomed over the area Thursday.

“That is about a large of a tornado that I've seen in the Bay area in a while,” said ABC’s Dennis Phillips, describing the severe system passing through Tampa.

“This is not one to mess around with,” Phillips told local residents. “If you live in this area, go to an interior part of your room.”

In Pinella County, Fla., near Tampa, ABC’s Alison Morrow described a scene of “almost eerie calm, where the sky is sort of a grey-blue color, and then you just lose complete visibility; the rain, pounding on the windshield.”

The storm is expected to affect the East Coast, from Florida to Maine. More than a foot of snow is expected in New England.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Biden Staffer Puts Reporter in Closet at Florida fundraiser

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(Tampa, Fla.) -- Team Biden gave new meaning to a closed-door affair when a member of Vice President Joe Biden's staff directed a reporter into a closet during a recent Democratic fundraiser in Florida.

The incident took place on Wednesday when Vice President Biden and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., attended a $500-a-head fundraiser at the Winter Park manse of developer Alan Ginsburg.

Scott Powers, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, attended the event as the designated pool reporter, there to record the proceedings for the press corps in general.

However, in order to keep Powers from mingling with guests at the fundraiser, a Biden staffer ushered him into a storage closet.

"Scott - You have our sincere apologies for the lack of a better hold room today," wrote Elizabeth Alexander, a spokeswoman for Vice President Biden, in an email to Powers. "I am told, once the Vice President and Senator Nelson arrived, the situation was quickly rectified – and hopefully you weren’t waiting too long. Thank you for your patience and flexibility."

Powers told ABC News that a "low-level staffer" put him in the closet and wouldn't let him leave.

"When I'd stick my head out, they'd say, 'Not yet. We'll let you know when you can come out,'" Powers said.

He said he was held for roughly 75 minutes in the closet, was allowed out for 35 minutes during remarks by Biden and Nelson, and then sent back into the closet.

Alexander's note to him was thus "a little lame," Powers said.

On Friday, Powers said Ginsburg called him and apologized, saying Biden's advance team made all the decisions about the event. The wealthy Democratic fundraiser told the reporter he hadn't even been aware that Powers was there, much less shoved into his closet.

A statement from the VP's office noted that, "It is standard policy for the Vice President's office that a print pooler cover the speaking program at fundraisers. This has been the consistent policy throughout the Administration. At times, these fundraisers are at private homes and 'hold rooms' are provided for pool reporters to wait for the speaking program to commence.

"A hold room, however, should not be a storage room. This was the unfortunate mistake of an inexperienced staffer and the Vice President's office has made sure it will never happen again."

Biden's office added that in this particular occasion, "Half of the hold room was used for storage by the home's owner and the other half was open space. The speaking program began approximately one hour after the reporter arrived, which he covered as the pool reporter, and he departed the home as soon as the motorcade left."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama's High-Speed Rail Plan Derailed in Florida

Thinkstock Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- President Obama's vision for a national high-speed rail network was dealt a significant blow Friday when the Florida Supreme Court upheld Gov. Rick Scott's authority to unilaterally kill a cornerstone of the plan.

Scott last month rejected $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money to fund new express train service between Orlando and Tampa that had been under consideration for decades.

The move was hailed by Scott's Tea Party supporters, but it was challenged by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers who said the governor had exceeded his constitutional authority.

The court ruled that Scott acted legitimately, effectively ending prospects for completion of the rail project.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had set a deadline of Friday for Florida to accept the cash, which would have covered nearly all the costs, before offering it to one of 13 similar projects in 31 states.

Obama, who was to appear in Florida on Friday with former Gov. Jeb Bush to talk about education reform, had touted the Florida high-speed rail line as a positive example of how to improve the country's infrastructure.

But Scott repeatedly voiced concerns about the potential of cost-overruns and long-term operating costs that could hit Florida taxpayers.

The state of Florida faces a $3.6 billion budget deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tampa Couple Arrested After They Use Stun Gun to Discipline Teen

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) --  A Florida couple who allegedly zapped a 13-year-old boy in their care with a stun gun to discipline him have been charged with child abuse, Tampa police said.

Christopher Lewis, 22, and Deonijhane "Amy" Menifield, 19, were arrested earlier this week, Tampa police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor said. She said Lewis was a relative of the victim, a 13-year-old boy whose name is not being released for confidentiality reasons, and was taking care of him.

Lewis had bought the stun gun about a week before the arrest, police said. "Since that time, both suspects have been using the stun gun as a form of discipline against the victim," according to a police statement.

"The 13-year-old boy told one of the employees at his school what was going on, and the employee called the police," McGregor said."We noticed visible marks on the boy that were consistent with his story." The teenager had been shocked on his upper thigh, cops said.

Lewis and Menifield were arrested at their Tampa home on Tuesday and were both charged with child abuse. Lewis also faces charges of carrying a concealed weapon. Police said that when they arrested him, he was carrying a 12-inch hunting knife in his jacket.

A neighbor, Frances Helms, told ABC affiliate WFTS-TV that she watches the victim and saw the marks on the boy's arms this week. "It looked like a burn mark," said Helms.

"It's terrible, I would never treat a son of mine like that. It shouldn't be that way," she said.

Lewis told the station the teenager was his brother and denied using the stun gun on him. Police would not confirm the exact relationship between Lewis and the child.

Stun guns, originally developed for use by police, have been abused by private citizens in other recent incidents around the country. Last year in New Hampshire a couple were charged with using a stun gun on their three children, and in Jacksonville, Fla., a mother was charged with battery after she zapped a football coach with a stun gun during an argument.

It is legal in the state of Florida for ordinary citizens to possess stun guns, according to Deputy Dave Burney of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, as long as the guns are hand-held and do not have a "projectile device" like the TASER guns that are only legal for police use; those fire metal probes strung on thin wires which deliver a debilitating shock at a distance.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dad Buries Children Allegedly Killed by Tampa Mom

Julie Schenecker. Photo Courtesy - Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- A teenage brother and sister who Tampa, Florida police said were shot by their mother last month for being "mouthy" were laid to rest Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Army Col. Parker Schenecker, who was in Qatar when his children were killed, spoke at the funeral for 16-year-old Calyx and 13-year-old Beau, reminding mourners to hug their children at every chance they can get.

Meanwhile, Tampa police released information Tuesday that the teens' mother, Julie Schenecker, had written a note in which she complained about waiting three days to be approved for the .38-caliber pistol that was allegedly used in the murders.

According to authorities, Julie Schenecker has confessed to killing her children for repeatedly talking back to her and being "mouthy."

Police said Julie Schenecker first shot her son in the face while driving him to soccer practice and then returned home to shoot her daughter in the back of the head while she worked on a computer.

Julie Shenecker, who was later found by a neighbor on her porch drenched in blood, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and remains behind bars awaiting trial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio