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Secret Santa drops $1K gold coin in red kettle for what might be second year in a row

The Salvation Army Corps of Springfield, Ohio, got a kick start to its holiday fundraising when they found a gold coin worth $1,000 in one of its red kettles.

It’s the second time in two years that a South African gold coin wrapped in a $100 bill has been dropped in a red kettle at the Kroger store on Bechtle Avenue, Salvation Army Resource Developer Ryan Ray said.

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Around the same time last year, a gold coin valued at $1,200 was dropped in the bucket, Ray said.

The Salvation Army never figured out who dropped the coin, he said.

The Red Kettle Campaign kicked off on Nov. 4 and runs through Christmas Eve.

More than 800 Clark County families signed up for Christmas assistance through the Springfield Salvation Army office this year, Ray said.

Money raised in the kettles goes toward community programming for the Salvation Army throughout the year. The organization says that for every dollar donated to the Salvation Army in Clark County, 83 cents goes back to the community.

Police: Child taken along for ride as 4 people rob Central Florida home

Four thieves burglarized a Central Florida home while a child sat in the back seat of a getaway car, police said.

The burglary happened during the middle of the day Tuesday in the Orlando suburb of Ocoee.

Thanks to astute neighbors, the thieves only made it about three miles down the road, police said.

Officers said they caught the culprits and found the stolen items and the child, who is younger than 10.

According to a charging affidavit, neighbors called police after they watched the car with the four people inside pull up to the home.

The affidavit also said one woman got out and banged on the door, and when no one answered, the two men inside the car got out and, "ran up to the door and kicked it open.”

Police said the culprits ran out of the home with a briefcase, got in the car and drove away.

Neighbors said it is important to look out for each other.

"I think it's great I think we need to do that," neighbor Alice Nice said.

The child was placed in the custody of relatives.

Detectives said they are working on charging Kameron Allen, Tyshira Davis, Kiara Jackson and Joshua Joseph with child endangerment.

The four were arrested and charged with burglary and remain in the Orange County Jail.   

No injuries were reported.

Man,mistaken for deer, shot, killed by brother on hunting trip

An Atlanta man was shot and killed Saturday by his brother while on a hunting trip with family members in South Carolina, an official said.

The brother of Brian Gregory Pickle, 30, mistook him for a small doe or a coyote, Union County Sheriff David Taylor said Tuesday afternoon.

Brian Pickle and Scott Leonard Pickle had the same Roswell Road address, Taylor said. Their father, who lives in Arlington Heights, Ill., also was in the hunting party.

>> Read more trending stories  

The incident happened shortly before 6 p.m., not long before nightfall on land leased for hunting, Taylor said. Because darkness was near, Pickle’s brother said he felt limited in time to take a shot, never thinking it could’ve been a person, Taylor said.

“We see these types of accidents all too frequently,” Taylor said.

The autopsy showed that the victim died of a gunshot wound to the head, coroner William Holcombe said.

“It was a family hunting outing turned horribly tragic,” the coroner said.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is investigating the incident.

College student becomes youngest elected to Florida House of Representatives

Amber Mariano cut her four classes on Tuesday, but the third-year political science major at the University of Central Florida more than likely won’t be penalized by her professors. In fact, she might get extra credit.

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Not only was she studying the political process, she was winning at it.

Mariano, a Republican candidate who turned 21 on Oct. 18, became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House of Representatives, winning District 36 by 719 votes over incumbent Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy. Before Mariano, the youngest person elected to the Florida House was Adam Putnam, who was 22 when he won in 1996 and is now Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.

“It was honestly the best night of my life,” Mariano told WFTS.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the margin was 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent out of 66,939 ballots cast in Pasco County, located north of the Tampa Bay area — according to final but unofficial results.

Mariano the youngest of any gender since 1996, when Adam Putnam, then 22, won his first statehouse race.

According to her website, Mariano gained experience on the issues of education and health care during her time working for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Washington, D.C. During the 2016 Florida legislative session, she worked for state representatives Rene “Coach P” Plasencia and Scott Plakon. She received endorsements from Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Mariano, who plans to attend law school after graduation, is no stranger to politics. Her father, Jack Mariano, won re-election to a fourth term as a Pasco County commissioner.

“We didn’t expect this opportunity to present itself so quickly in her life,” Jack Mariano told WFTS. “But I will tell you at 6 years old she said she wanted to be the first woman president.

“So it’s been in her blood from way back when.”

“He says I’m leapfrogging him. He just wanted me to follow my dream,” Amber Mariano told WFTS.  “And this is my dream.” 

Jacksonville attorney arrested for sexual contact with inmate

A Jacksonville attorney has been arrested for battery on a female inmate, who is his client.

The affidavit for arrest warrant obtained by WOKV claims 45-year-old Anthony Blackburn was alone with his client in an interview room at the Pre-Trial Detention facility with the lights off and door closed for 16 minutes. During that time, Blackburn allegedly showed his female client pornographic images while “he attempted to arouse himself”.

Blackburn is then accused of starting a sexual conversation with the inmate, grabbing her hand to put on his penis and placing his hand on her vagina, outside of their clothing. He stopped after seeing a Corrections Officer approach the room, according to the affidavit. The CO then opened the door and told Blackburn to turn on the lights.

The affidavit says the inmate did not want to allow Blackburn to touch her, but “felt obligated to do so because the defendant led her to believe he would help her get her jail sentence reduced”.

Blackburn is also accused in court records of giving the tablet with pornographic images to another female inmate he was representing. That inmate confirmed to investigators that she had had “inappropriate sexual conduct” with Blackburn while at the jail.

Court records show Blackburn has posted bond on the misdemeanor charge of simple battery. His arraignment has been set for October 17th.

WOKV has reached out to the Sheriff’s Office for comment on the alleged activity within the Jail facility. We will update as more information becomes available.

What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case

More than a week after Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were killed in their southern Martin County home, Florida, much remains unknown about what led to the seemingly random, but unusually brutal, stabbings.

The couple often kept their garage door up, said Stevens’ brother-in-law, Doug Maddox, with a seat open and the TV on for friends and family. Mishcon was found stabbed to death at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 15 in that garage. Stevens was found dead in the driveway.

>>Read more trending stories

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home on Southeast Kokomo Lane, just north of the Jupiter border, they also found 19-year-old Austin Harrouff. The Jupiter teen was clinging to Stevens and biting off pieces of the man’s face. He already had bitten the man’s abdomen, deputies said.

A neighbor told deputies he tried to intervene in the attack but was stabbed, too. That neighbor, Jeff Fisher, went back to his home across the street and called 911. He was “bleeding profusely,” he told a dispatcher. His wife said he had been stabbed in the back.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder called Harrouff “abnormally strong.”

Yet friends of the sophomore at Florida State University said he “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

So what was the motive?

“We may absolutely never know,” Snyder said.

Nothing indicates Harrouff knew the couple. Their family members have said they don’t recognize the teen. Fisher told a dispatcher shortly after he was stabbed that he didn’t either.

>>READ MORE: Dad says Austin Harrouff may have mental illness

Officials have been unable to talk to Harrouff, the Sheriff’s Office says, because he has been sedated or hooked to breathing tubes since he arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center immediately following the stabbings. The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, but has not provided a statement.

The details of Harrouff’s injuries, and a complete toxicology report, haven’t been released.

He arrived making “animal-like noises,” the Sheriff’s Office said, and was delusional. His parents said the teen had been acting strange for at least a week; his father said the strange behavior had been going on for months. His mother told Jupiter police that Harrouff had told her he had “super powers” and that he was immortal.

Harrouff’s dad, Wade, thinks mental illness may have triggered the attacks. The teen hasn’t been diagnosed, his dad said, but schizophrenia runs in the family.

Were drugs involved?

The sheriff speculates drugs, like flakka or bath salts, may be involved. Yet Harrouff dared deputies to drug test him after they took him in to custody: “Test me. You won’t find any drugs.”

>>READ MORE: What is flakka and what does it do to your body?

Initial tests indicate Harrouff didn’t have street drugs, like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or marijuana, in his system at the time of the attacks.

“I don’t think he did (use drugs),” Wade Harrouff said. “I guess we’ll find out when the test comes.”

Those drug tests of Austin Harrouff’s blood -- which are being done by the FBI -- will show whether drugs like flakka or bath salts were in the teen’s system.

Until then, detectives are in “a holding pattern,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Is Austin Harrouff’s condition affecting the investigation?

The teen’s condition also is stalling the investigation.

The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, over a week after the incident. He has not spoken to authorities yet. 

The day after the fatal stabbings, Snyder said Austin Harrouff’s injuries were “life-threatening” and that his condition was getting worse. Eight days after the attack, officials are saying the teen is in critical, but stable condition. On Tuesday, though, his father said his organs were failing. His son’s liver is malfunctioning, his lungs are filling with fluid and he has bleeding of the esophagus. The Sheriff’s Office said it would not release details of Austin Harrouff’s treatment plan at the hospital. 

The night of the attack, Harrouff was out to dinner with his parents at Duffy’s Sports Grill in Jupiter with his parents. Harrouff left the restaurant, his father said, and went to his mother’s house. There he attempted to drink cooking oil, according to his father.

Afterward, Harrouff’s mother, Mina, brought him back to the restaurant. There, Harrouff’s father became upset with his son and grabbed him by the collar.

It’s unclear if there was a fight, but surveillance video from the restaurant shows Harrouff eventually leave, walking calmly out of the restaurant. He then made his way to Stevens and Mishcon’s home, about four miles north along Island Way.

What happened when Harrouff reached the garage?

The Sheriff’s Office said the teen may have ingested something “caustic” in the couple’s garage.

“There were things he could have consumed, and that first night at the hospital, the hospital speculated based on what they were seeing in his body fluids, that perhaps he had ingested something caustic from the garage,” Snyder said.

The blood test results “will provide a big piece of the unknown,” Snyder said.

What happens when Harrouff is released from the hospital?

As soon as Harrouff is released from St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Sheriff’s Office said it will charge him with two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Police: Florida man upset he was late for probation meeting chokes dog

Kyle Oloughlin woke up Thursday afternoon and realized he was late for his probation meeting, he told Boynton Beach, Florida, police.

Upset, Oloughlin yelled at his stepfather, and that’s when 4-year-old pit bull Lilly started barking.

Frustrated by his situation and the dog, he grabbed Lilly up off the ground by her neck and choked her, according to the police report.

Oloughlin, who was arrested Thursday, refused to come to court for his first appearance hearing Friday morning on charges of animal abuse and domestic violence. The 33-year-old will be held without bail at the Palm Beach County Jail until Saturday, when he’s expected back in court.

Oloughlin’s stepfather told police he and someone else in the home on the 100 block of Southeast Fifth Avenue, just south of Boynton Beach Boulevard and west of U.S. 1, told him to let the dog go but he refused. The man said the 100-pound dog was struggling to breathe and making choking noises, according to the report.

When Oloughlin wouldn’t let go of the dog, his stepfather grabbed a metal softball bat and struck Oloughlin twice on his shoulder, police said.

Once he dropped the dog, Oloughlin went after his stepfather and pushed him against a wall. Lilly went to defend the stepfather and bit Oloughlin just as police arrived, according to the report.

Police said the dog didn’t seem to have any injuries, but was “definitely frightened.”

Oloughlin, who has a long history of arrests for domestic batteries but only a few convictions, is serving 12 months of probation for reckless driving and possession of paraphernalia.

Violent arrest of teacher caught on video; officers face investigation

Officials are investigating an Austin police officer’s violent arrest of an African-American elementary school teacher who was twice thrown to the ground during a traffic stop for speeding and comments by a second officer who told her police are sometimes wary of blacks because of their “violent tendencies.”

Video from the previously unreported June 2015 incident was obtained by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV this week. The video shows the traffic stop escalating rapidly in the seven seconds from when officer Bryan Richter, who is white, first gives a command to 26-year-old Breaion King to close her car door to when he forcibly removes her from the driver’s seat, pulls her across a vacant parking space and hurls her to the asphalt.

Richter wrote in his report of the incident that he acted quickly because King demonstrated an “uncooperative attitude” and was “reaching for the front passenger side of the vehicle.” He didn’t know whether she had a weapon, he wrote. He said King resisted by pulling away from him and wrapping her hands and arms around the steering wheel.

Police charged King with resisting arrest, but the Travis County attorney dismissed the case after reviewing the police dashcam video.

As King was being driven to jail, a separate police video recorded a conversation between King and officer Patrick Spradlin in which he said whites may be concerned about interacting with blacks because they can appear “intimidating.”

The Austin Police Department issued the lowest level of discipline to Richter — counseling and additional training — after Richter’s supervisors looked into his use of force, but his conduct was never formally investigated by internal affairs. Spradlin was not punished for his comments because the department only learned about them after the Statesman began inquiring.

In an interview this week, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the department has opened an administrative review into how Richter’s supervisors evaluated his actions and a separate criminal investigation. Officials are also investigating Spradlin’s comments. But Acevedo said that, under state civil service law, he cannot take disciplinary action beyond a written reprimand against the officers for this incident because it happened more than six months ago.

“After reviewing both videos, I and our leadership team were highly disturbed and disappointed in both the way Ms. King was approached and handled and in the mindset that we saw on display in those videos,” Acevedo said. “But there is another piece, which has caused concerns as to our review process and the systems we have in place.”

He said he regrets that he didn’t know about the situation sooner and that he is taking renewed steps to help citizens learn how to respond when they feel mistreated by officers.

“We need to help our community overcome the fear or reluctance, which I understand, to file a complaint,” he said. “This is critical if we are to weed out bad officers and bad behavior.”

Neither officer has previous suspensions with the department.

A year later, public scrutiny

The 2015 case had received no outside scrutiny until prosecutors flagged it in recent weeks.

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said he ordered a resisting arrest charge against King immediately dropped — King paid a $165 fine and court costs for speeding — once he reviewed the videos earlier this year and sent it to felony prosecutors to review Richter’s actions.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said her office viewed the video about two weeks ago and asked the Austin police Special Investigations Unit, which looks into cases of possible officer misconduct, to assist them. Lehmberg said the case likely will be presented to a grand jury.

The emergence of the video comes at an intensely strained time nationally between police and many in the minority community that has played out over the past two years, marked by protests after high-profile controversial police use of lethal force and the recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.

Texas officials are still grappling with the aftermath of the Sandra Bland case last year, which made national headlines after she was wrestled to the ground by a state trooper during a traffic stop. Part of the arrest was caught on dashcam video; Bland later committed suicide in a county jail. The officer was fired.

And in Austin, many are still reeling from the February shooting of David Joseph, a naked, unarmed 17-year-old shot and killed by former Officer Geoffrey Freeman after police said Joseph charged at the officer. Freeman was fired, but a grand jury declined to indict him.

In an interview this week, King said she is contemplating a lawsuit against the officer and the Austin Police Department and has hired attorneys Broadus Spivey and Erica Grigg to represent her.

“When I looked at this video, I was heartbroken because I thought, ‘That would never happen to me because I’m white,’ ” Grigg said.

‘It happened really fast’

King’s account, police reports and dash camera videos help provide a narrative from the incident on the afternoon of June 15, 2015.

King, who grew up in Austin and is finishing a master’s degree at Texas State University, said she was driving on a lunch break. Richter said he clocked her Nissan Versa speeding at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone traveling eastbound on Riverside Drive.

King got out of her car in a Wendy’s parking lot, and Richter is seen approaching her in the dashcam video. What’s being said is not entirely clear on the video, but Richter wrote in his report that King told him she was going inside for lunch and that he suspected she was trying to elude him because she didn’t appear to have a wallet. He asked her return to her car.

King sat in the driver’s seat but kept the door of her car open and her legs and feet outside the car. Richter is heard instructing her to sit fully in the car so that he could close the door.

“I did this so that if she decided to exit the vehicle again, it would give me some sort of reaction time to her doing so, versus her being half way out of the vehicle with the door open giving her an easy escape,” he wrote.

“At this point I was worried her uncooperative attitude would only escalate once I returned to my vehicle (to write the ticket),” Richter said in his report.

At that point, the video shows Richter reaching inside and grabbing King, who told police she weighs 112 pounds, as she begins to scream. The car’s horn is blaring during the struggle, and then, King is heard asking Richter, who had been shouting, “Stop resisting!” to allow her to get out on her own.

The struggle then continued, and Richter is seen throwing King to the ground. He yells for her to put her hands behind her back. King said in an interview that she struggled to do so as the two continued tussling.

The officer is then seen throwing her to the ground again.

King said that she did not think Richter gave her an opportunity to respond to his commands.

“It happened really fast,” said King, who suffered minor scrapes and bruises and saw a doctor the following day. “I wasn’t given enough time.”

In subsequent videos, King is seen distraught and handcuffed in the back of a police car, yelling at other officers to keep Richter away from her and her property. Spradlin’s comments came as he and King neared the jail and engaged in a conversation about race and police.

“Why are so many people afraid of black people,” Spradlin asks King.

She replies, “That’s what I want to figure out because I’m not a bad black person.”

“I can give you a really good idea why it might be that way,” the officer tells her. “Violent tendencies.”

When she asks if he thinks racism still exists, he says, “Let me ask you this. Do you believe it goes both ways?”

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you hear about stuff like that, it is the black community that is being violent. That’s why a lot of the white people are afraid, and I don’t blame them. There are some guys I look at, and I know it is my job to deal with them, and I know it might go ugly, but that’s the way it goes.

“But yeah, some of them, because of their appearance and whatnot, some of them are very intimidating,” he says.

Austin police policy requires officers to use the minimum amount of force necessary in dealing with suspects. Departmental policy also requires police to maintain an impartial attitude, saying officers “will not express or otherwise manifest any prejudice concerning race, religion, national origin, age, political affiliation, sex or other personal characteristics in the performance of their duties.”

More than a year later, King said she remains distraught about what happened and that it has forever changed how she views police.

“I’ve become fearful to live my life,” she said. “I would rather stay home. I’ve become afraid of the people who are supposed to protect me and take care of me.”

Wright State withdraws from holding first presidential debate

Wright State president David Hopkins announced Tuesday the university has withdrawn from hosting the first presidential debate in September.

He said Tuesday that Wright State is withdrawing as host of first presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 26, citing escalating costs for security and the inability to raise enough money.

Hopkins said in an exclusive interview that he was motivated in part by security concerns raised by the recent attack in Nice, France.

“I can’t assure the safety of our students and the community,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins informed the Commission on Presidential Debates at noon Tuesday, and hopes to recoup at least some of the $2 million fee that was paid to the commission in advance. Approximately $500,000 had been spent already on Nutter Center upgrades.

The university has raised about $3.5 million in contributions, state funding and in-kind pledges.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, was listed as the debate’s backup site.

The Commission on Presidential Debates posted this announcement on its website:

“In light of Wright State University’s announcement of earlier today, the September 26, 2016 Presidential Debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. The Commission very much appreciates Wright State’s efforts. Hofstra University served very successfully as a presidential debate site in 2012. On September 23, 2015, the Commission announced that Hofstra University had agreed to serve as an alternate site this debate cycle if needed. The Commission looks forward to working with Hofstra once again.”

The president of Wright State’s faculty union, Martin Kich, said canceling the debate was probably for the best.

“I think It’s unfortunate we’ve gotten two months away from it and we have to pull the plug on it. I don’t think that makes anyone look good," Kich said. "But if the alternative is we would be left with a sizeable financial liability because of this, then I think it’s the smart thing to do,” he said.

Kich said he felt the university was low-balling what the debate was actually going to cost.

“Under ideal circumstances, I think it would be a nice thing for the university to host this kind of an event, but given the financial issues the university is grappling with, from the start this seemed like a kind of dubious proposition.”

Read more here.

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