Cigarette butt leads to arrest after robbery during Hurricane Irma

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 3:58 PM

Cassandra Taylor, 32, left, and Oscar Bravo, 25, right, were arrested and charged in several burglary cases in Florida, including one during the Hurricane Irma evacuation last fall. They were caught after DNA testing on a cigarette butt found at a crime scene.
Volusia County Sheriff’s Office
Cassandra Taylor, 32, left, and Oscar Bravo, 25, right, were arrested and charged in several burglary cases in Florida, including one during the Hurricane Irma evacuation last fall. They were caught after DNA testing on a cigarette butt found at a crime scene.(Volusia County Sheriff’s Office)

A cigarette butt left at a home that was burglarized during Hurricane Irma led to the arrest of a Florida woman and her alleged accomplice, sheriff officials said.

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Cassandra Taylor, 32, was arrested after deputies said she burglarized and ransacked a DeLeon Springs home on Billings Avenue in Volusia County last Sept. during the emergency evacuation caused by Hurricane Irma.

The victim told deputies they’d evacuated their home ahead of Irma on Sept. 9 and when he returned home he found couches in the living room overturned and sliced open, his bedroom drawers opened and several items missing from the house. 

Among the stolen items were six purses, 31 pairs of jeans, six pairs of sneakers, 50 chair covers, a DVD player and a piggy bank full of money. 

Deputies couldn't figure out who committed the burglary until investigators received information during a different burglary investigation that Taylor and another possible suspect may have burglarized the home. 

Investigators recently received DNA results from a cigarette butt found on the bedroom floor, which matched Taylor. 

Sheriff officials said Taylor confessed to the burglary. 

Because the incident occurred during a state of emergency, Taylor faces an enhanced charge of burglary to a dwelling during a state of emergency, as well as a charge of grand theft.

>> Related: Police: 4 children shot at park near Florida high school

Deputies said Oscar Bravo, 25, was arrested Sunday evening and was also charged with burglary.

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Broward County Sheriff visits Parkland school shooting victim in hospital

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 8:57 PM

Victims of the Florida High School Mass Shooting

The Broward County sheriff said he was honored to visit a young student who survived the Feb. 14 South Florida school shooting that's left a community reeling. 

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The Broward County Sheriff's Office published a photo of Sheriff Scott Israel holding the hand of Anthony Borges, 15, in his hospital room.

"Fortunately, he is recovering -- but has a long road ahead with more surgeries needed," the Sheriff's Office posted. "Please join us in praying for the swift recovery of Anthony and all the other victims of this horrific criminal act."

The Sheriff's Office said in the Facebook post that Borges was shot five times during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Seventeen people, including students and staff, were killed in the shooting.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, who admitted to the shooting, remains in custody at the Broward County jail after being ordered held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder.

As memorials for the shooting victims continue, students are demanding tighter gun control and walkouts are being planned in the wake of the tragedy. 

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Florida sheriff pushes for 'game changer' program to arm teachers

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 7:50 PM

Shooter Reportedly In Custody In Florida High School Shooting

Sheriff Grady Judd in Polk County, Florida, went on the news Saturday to talk about the so-called “Sentinel Program” as a possible legislative response to mass shootings like the one that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week, that left 17 dead.

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Judd called the program a “game changer” by arming select educators whose backgrounds have been vetted thoroughly, who have been psychologically evaluated and trained in weapons more intensely than law enforcement by state standards.

The sheriff argued that the solution is not something he wants, but it’s something that must happen.

“We have got to wake up, wake up and understand that we have to have … specially trained people that have concealed firearms that can run to the threat and protect our children,” he said.

“Do you know that there is gun control on every campus in Florida -- and, I would submit, across the United States -- that you can’t bring a gun on campus. And no one does, except the crazed person, the active shooter. There has to be a line of defense,” Judd said.

“There’s no absolutes in life, but I can tell you this: At least two coaches were killed standing in front of and trying to protect kids. Don’t you believe it would be a game-changer if they had a gun to defend the children?”

Students and parents have responded to the mass shooting perpetrated by Nikolas Cruz by calling for stricter guns laws in Florida.

Many participating in the #NeverAgain campaign seem to agree that they don’t want to arm teachers, but want “genuine, lasting change.”

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Republican mega-donor issues ultimatum on assault weapons

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 6:29 PM

WATCH: President Trump Addresses the Nation After Florida School Shooting

Al Hoffman Jr., a North Palm Beach real estate developer and major Republican donor, is cutting off donations to candidates who do not support a ban on assault weapons, according to a report in the New York Times.

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Hoffman said he would urge other Republican donors to support an assault weapons ban, according to the report. Hoffman announced the ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott. Hoffman has donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes over the years.

A critic of President Trump, Hoffman supported Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign and donated more than $1 million to Right to Rise, a super PAC that supported Bush’s brief candidacy, according to the report.

“I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons,” Hoffman wrote in the email. “Enough is enough.”

The loss of Hoffman’s support could be especially harmful to Scott, who is considering a Senate bid this year. Republican Rep. Brian Mast also will not see any donations from Hoffman if he does not support new gun legislation, according to the report.

Hoffman, who has a history of speaking his mind, has threatened to cut donations before. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post in 2013, Hoffman said he would be reluctant to raise money for candidates who do not support “reasonable” gun control. The same year, Hoffman wrote a letter to former House Speaker John Boehner, urging him to also support gun measures.

Hoffman, a former Republican National Committee finance chair and ambassador to Portugal, further rankled Republicans in 2013 when he said President Barack Obama was right on gun issues, Hoffman made the comment after most Senate Republican and a few red-state Democrats blocked legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers.

Hoffman alluded to past mass shootings in his email after the deaths of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. He said future gun massacres are inevitable without government intervention, according to the New York Times report.

“If we go from Orlando to Las Vegas, and now Parkland, you just have to know that there are others around the country just dreaming about staging another mass murder.”

Republican lawmakers in Florida have pushed back on gun control initiatives, despite the state being the site of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando -- the second-worst mass shooting in U.S. history that left 49 dead. Only the October shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas claimed more lives, with 58 killed.

The day after the Parkland shooting last week, Senate President Joe Negron said his interest would be focused on improving school safety and access to mental health treatment – not restricting gun laws.

“My focus is on making sure that lawful citizens who are obeying the law and entitled to their constitutional rights have appropriate access to firearms,” Negron said.

Although several gun bills were introduced during the state’s ongoing legislative session, the only one likely to pass -- HB 1419 and its companion SB 1048 -- expands the rights of a licensed person to carry a concealed weapon inside a church or other house of worship.

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Ohio sheriff: I will offer free conceal, carry class to teachers

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 7:24 PM

WATCH: Florida Teacher Speaks Out About High School Shooting

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said Sunday he will take steps to bolster local school safety by training those who work there.

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Jones posted to social media that his office will offer free conceal-and-carry classes to a limited number of teachers in Butler County. He also said training on how to react during school shootings would be provided.

He said the details would be coming soon online at the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Jones said Saturday he has “been saying this for years” as he tweeted a Fox News story that Polk County, Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd said it would be a “game changer” to allow some handpicked teachers to carry firearms in the classroom.

Jones, in a video posted Thursday, urged local schools to act now to improve school security in the wake of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Wednesday.

He said local schools should stop doing fire drills and allow armed former police and military veterans into buildings to help protect students.

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