TIME Crime

At Least 3 Wounded in Shooting at Florida State University

Florida State Shooting
Students call their friends still locked down in Strozier Library after a shooting at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 20, 2014 Steven Cannon—AP

The campus was put on lockdown as police conducted a sweep

Correction appended, Nov. 20

An unidentified gunman was shot and killed by police after opening fire at Florida State University’s Strozier Library just after midnight Thursday in an attack that left at least three people wounded.

“We are reaching out to campus administrators to ensure anyone who witnessed this is able to get counseling,” a police spokesman told reporters. “We don’t have any other concerns about other shooters or any other threats to the campus.”

Officials sent out emergency-alert text messages warning students of a “dangerous situation” and calling on them to “seek shelter.” As the situation unfolded, social media was rife with images and videos of students taking cover on the university’s campus as police warned over a loud speaker that there had been a shooting at the library.

At least two individuals were being treated at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare hospital for gunshot wounds, according to ABC news.

An official at Florida State University Police Department declined to comment on the incident when contacted by TIME but said a statement would be released soon.

“This is always stuff you hear about happening at other schools like there are other crazed gunman at colleges but not at Florida State,” student Blair Stokes, who was in the library during the incident, told CNN. “I think this is another issue about gun control and about how we can be doing more in America.”

— With reporting by Turner Cowles

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of people treated at a local hospital for gunshot wounds. It was two people.

TIME technology

See How Terrifying the World’s Tallest Roller Coaster Is Going to Be

This four-minute animation gives you a front seat view as the terrifying 'Skyscraper' climbs 570 ft before plummeting through loops, dives and spins

Plans for what will be the world’s tallest roller coaster were unveiled Monday in Orlando, Florida.

‘The Skyscraper’ is part of Skyplex Orlando and features a 570 ft climb before dropping its riders into spins, loops and dives. It will open to thrill-seekers in 2017, the Independent reports.

Riders will be flung over angles more acute than 90 degrees and tumble into several barrel rolls.

“Skyscraper will not only take riders higher than ever before, but also introduce one thrill right after the next – there’s no ‘down time’ on this four-minute coaster experience,” president of U.S. Thrill Rides, Michael Kitchen, told the Orlando Sentinel.

For those not brave enough to be launched down the coaster but who still want a piece of the action, there will be an observation deck 535 ft above the ground.

[Independent]

TIME Baseball

Marlins Sign Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in the Largest Contract in U.S. Sports History

Miami Marlins v Milwaukee Brewers
Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins makes some contact at the plate during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 11, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mike McGinnis — Getty Images

The 25-year-old slugger is set to make more than $300 million over 13 years

The Miami Marlins spared absolutely no expense this week to ensure that their star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton stayed with the franchise.

Late on Monday, the baseball club announced through their website that the team and Stanton had agreed on a new, record-setting 13-year contract worth $325 million — making the deal the largest in North American sports history, according to CBS Sports.

“This is a landmark day,” said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, according to MLB.com. “I’m happy for the city. I’m happy for him. And I’m thrilled for baseball. We have a player who is committed to us, and we’ve committed to him for the life of his career.”

Miami’s all-out financial offensive to keep one of baseball’s best sluggers on their roster is likely designed to inject new momentum in the franchise’s fan base, after years of disappointment. The Marlins have failed to reach the playoffs since 2003 and recorded the lowest payroll in the league in 2014.

The team is scheduled to hold a formal press conference later this week in Miami to announce the finer details of their new contract with Stanton.

TIME Crime

Florida Executes Man Convicted of Killing His Wife and Stepdaughter

Death row inmate Chadwick Banks is seen in an undated picture from the Florida Department of Corrections in Raiford, Florida
Death-row inmate Chadwick Banks is seen in an undated picture from the Florida Department of Corrections in Raiford, Fla. Handout—Reuters

Chadwick Banks had spent half his life in prison

A Florida man who spent more than 20 years in prison for killing his wife and stepdaughter was executed by the state on Thursday.

Chadwick Banks, 43, was administered a lethal injection on Thursday evening at the Florida State Prison, Reuters reports.

Banks was arrested in 1992, four days after he fatally shot his wife Cassandra Banks while she was sleeping. He later confessed to raping and killing his 10-year-old stepdaughter Melody Cooper soon after the shooting.

Banks’ execution is the 89th in Florida since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

[Reuters]

TIME poverty

Cops Stopped a 90-Year-Old Man From Feeding Homeless People

Arnold Abbott
Homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, of the nonprofit group Love Thy Neighbor Inc.,right, shakes hands with a Fort Lauderdale police officer, left, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Abbott and a group of volunteers were feeding the homeless in a public parking lot next to the beach when he was issued a summons to appear in court for violating an ordinance that limits where charitable groups can feed the homeless on public property. Lynne Sladky—AP

They were enforcing a controversial law against outdoor feeding, designed to reduce large public gatherings of homeless

A Florida senior was stopped and issued a citation by police last Sunday for trying to feed homeless people at a Fort Lauderdale park.

Arnold Abbott, 90, runs a group called Love Thy Neighbor and has been providing food to the homeless for over 20 years. He had barely served three or four of the 300 meals he prepared when police officers stopped him, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

The officers were enforcing a new law against public feeding sites, which is aimed at reducing the city’s homeless population.

“I’m not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in city of Fort Lauderdale,” explained mayor Jack Seiler. “Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive.”

[Sun-Sentinel]

TIME Bahamas

A Celebration Cruise Liner Was Evacuated After Hitting an Unknown Object at Sea

Passengers speak of panic and fear

Passengers on board a cruise through the Bahamas had to be evacuated Friday when their ship struck an unknown object at sea and lost power.

The Bahamas Celebration cruise was en route to Florida when it was forced to return to port on Grand Bahama Island after the incident, which occurred around 9 p.m. Friday, CNN reports.

Passengers told the news network that there was panic on board.

Armando Fana, 44, said: “There was folks crying … You could see people were kind of jockeying for the life jackets.”

Other passengers alleged that the crew were not organized. Cindy Parette, 47, said: “One crew member would say one thing, and then another crew member would say something else … They had no idea what to do.”

Celebration Cruise Line said in a statement that the passengers were placed in resorts on the island.

“No passengers were ever in any danger, and everything was handled in an organized and efficient way by ship, corporate and Bahamian personnel,” the cruise line maintained.

The ship’s 960 passengers and crew were returned to Port Miami on Saturday evening and two Celebration cruises due to leave on Saturday and Monday were canceled.

Crews were working to assess the damage to the vessel.

[CNN]

TIME Crime

Florida Man Gets Life in Prison for Killing Teen Over Loud Music

Defendant Michael Dunn walks back into the courtroom after a short afternoon break during his trial in the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. on Sept. 27, 2014.
Defendant Michael Dunn walks back into the courtroom after a short afternoon break during his trial in the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. on Sept. 27, 2014. Bob Mack—AP

He shot at unarmed black teens 10 times

A Florida man has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killing of an unarmed Florida teen after an altercation over the teen’s loud music, the Associated Press reports.

Michael Dunn, 47, was convicted of first-degree murder after a September trial. Earlier this year, a jury in February couldn’t agree on whether to accept Dunn’s claim that he acted in self defense when he fired his gun 10 times at a vehicle carrying 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who was shot and killed in the altercation. The jury in February did convict Dunn on three accounts of attempted murder, one for each of the passengers riding in the vehicle with Davis.

The racially-tinged case — Dunn is White and Davis was black — has drawn comparison to the shooting of other unarmed black teens like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

In practical terms, Friday’s decision changes little for Duncan, who already faced a 60-year conviction for the attempted murder convictions. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty.

[AP]

TIME justice

Suspicious Prison Deaths Put a Spotlight on Florida

Latandra Ellington Florida Department of Corrections

Several deaths while in prison custody are under investigation

On Oct. 1, Latandra Ellington was found dead inside the Lowell Correction Institution in Ocala, Fla., apparently from repeated blows to her stomach. About a week and a half before, the 36-year-old inmate had written a letter to her aunt, saying she was concerned for her safety in prison and claimed that an officer named “Sgt. Q” was threatening to kill her.

According to attorneys representing Ellington’s family, an independent autopsy shows blunt force trauma and hemorrhaging to her body from what appeared to be punches or kicks. The attorneys, along with several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, are calling for a federal investigation into her death.

The Ellington case is one of several suspicious deaths in state prisons that have made headlines in Florida, including a deadly incident in 2010 involving Randall Jordan-Aparo, who reportedly died while being gassed in his cell, and Darren Rainey, who died in 2012 after being forced to take a scalding hot shower that caused his skin to separate from his body.

Ellington’s death is the third fatality in custody at Lowell this year. Two others at the prison are under review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

While the inmate mortality rate in Florida and across the country has remained relatively steady over the last decade, Florida outpaces most states in terms of mortality rate per 100,000 inmates, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Florida Department of Corrections. In 2001, 182 prisoners died in Florida compared with 297 in 2011, but the population also grew at a similar rate over that same time period. The mortality rate per 100,000 prisoners slightly increased from 253 in 2001 to 294 in 2011.

Part of that may be due to the rapidly aging prison population in Florida, which mirrors the state’s population generally. From 2001 to 2008, the number of Florida inmates who were 55 and older increased by 161%, says Bill Bales, a criminology professor at Florida State University. And the number of federal and state prisoners in the U.S. who were 55 and older increased 94% in the same time period, according to Pew Research.

Overall and nationwide, the largest share of prisoner deaths—almost 90%—are due to illness. But the share of state prisoner deaths due to homicide—which includes homicide committed by other inmates, prison staff or those resulting from assaults prior to incarceration—have increased from 1.4% in 2001 to 2.1% in 2011 around the country, according to BJS.

This year in Florida, there have been three homicides and one suicide in state prisons. Investigations into 99 other deaths are currently pending.

Dan Mears, a criminal justice professor at the University of Florida, says prisons with increases in suspicious inmate deaths often have problems that start at the top and work their way down. Florida’s Department of Corrections, for example, has gone through four leadership changes in the last five years.

“At the end of the day, when you’re asking why some prisons have higher rates of suicide or higher rates of suspicious deaths and why they increase over time, it’s often because they’re being poorly administered—and oftentimes they’ve hired new officers who aren’t as highly trained,” Mears says. “That could potentially fuel those deaths.”

Mears adds that badly run prisons often have inadequate training for officers and don’t properly teach them how to handle conflicts with inmates, which can often lead to fatal consequences.

In September, the Florida DOC fired dozens of employees, many of whom have been involved in deaths that are currently under investigation, including that of Jordan-Aparo, who was gassed in his cell. Their dismissal letters said they were fired for participating “in a force incident that resulted in the death of an inmate.”

A Lowell prison official, Sgt. Patrick Quercioli, is now being investigated in Ellington’s death, according to the Miami Herald, and has been arrested twice while tallying 22 use-of-force filings while working for the DOC.

“Our department should be held to the highest standards, and I have zero tolerance for anything,” DOC Secretary Michael Crews said in a statement.

As the state reviews the case, attorneys for Ellington’s family, who also represent the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen shot and killed by George Zimmerman in February 2012, are calling for the Department of Justice to investigate.

“She was not sentenced to the death sentence,” said civil rights attorney Daryl Parks, according to the Herald. “The Department of Corrections certainly owed her far greater protection.”

TIME Crime

WATCH: Florida Police Officer Tasers Unarmed 62-Year-Old Woman in Back

He has been put on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation

A Florida police officer is under investigation after he was caught on camera firing a Taser into the back of a 62-year-old woman.

Terry Mahan of the Tallahassee Police Department was with colleagues responding to reports of brazen narcotics sales on Tuesday afternoon when the incident occurred.

Three people were arrested at the scene, after which a woman, Viola Young, approached the squad car apparently to inquire about one of the detainees.

She was advised to stay back, according to a police statement Wednesday, and an altercation ensued. At one point Mahan yanked Young’s arm and then fired the Taser as she attempted to walk away.

Tallahassee Police chief Michael DeLeo said that the video was strong enough evidence to put Mahan on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation.

“We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident,” he said. “We want to be transparent with the community by sharing what we can at this point, including the video.”

Neither Young nor the three others arrested have been charged with any drugs offenses.

TIME Crime

Florida Man Guilty of Murdering Teen in Fight Over Loud Music

Defendant Michael Dunn walks back into the courtroom after a short afternoon break during his trial in the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. on Sept. 27, 2014.
Defendant Michael Dunn walks back into the courtroom after a short afternoon break during his trial in the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Fla. on Sept. 27, 2014. Bob Mack—AP

Dunn was already likely to spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of attempted murder, but could now be sentenced to life without parole

A Florida man was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday in the 2012 death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who the man shot and killed following an argument over loud music.

Michael Dunn, 47, had previously been found guilty on four counts in Davis’ murder, including attempted second-degree murder, during his trial this past February. His original jury, however, was unable to come to a decision on the first-degree-murder charge. The Florida jury finally reached a verdict of guilty after several hours of deliberations Wednesday following a retrial.

Dunn, who could now face life in prison, showed no emotion when his verdict was read, according to local news reports.

During his trials, Dunn argued he shot Davis out of self-defense, claiming he saw the teen flash a weapon before opening fire. CNN reports detectives did not find a weapon matching Dunn’s description on Davis’ body or in his car.

[CNN]

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