Alburn Edward Blake, a 60-year-old Jamaican immigrant, went into a Wendy’s Restaurant in West Palm Beach this week and began firing shots indiscriminately around the dining area. He then shot himself. Four were wounded, and two – including Blake – were dead. The other person who died was Lt. Rafael “Ray” Vazquez, 42, of the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Department. The investigation continues, but authorities say they have turned up no motive for the deadly rampage.
The South Florida Times continues its historic expansion, and with this comes the need to hire additional staff. At present, there are employment opportunities available, including a position for a graphic designer. Qualified candidates should contact Crystal Thomas, senior graphic designer at, 954-356-9360.
The latest humdinger in scandal-plagued Lauderdale Lakes City Hall involves allegations that former city insurance benefits administrator Geraldine “Geri” Peterkin committed insurance fraud, and falsified documents. Peterkin was fired in August 2007, but has been fighting to get unemployment benefits. She has maintained her innocence, and her termination has further split an already divided city commission. Now, emails and notes are going back and forth about commissioners and staff, and it is getting ugly. Stay tuned.
Edison High Brawl
A brawl that took place at Miami Edison Senior High School last week left a number of students injured. Many in the community are frustrated with the response from school officials. There was also a major police presence, where some officers donned riot gear, as others came with K-9 attack dogs to get the situation under control. Allegations that school officials overreacted, and that police used excessive force, are being investigated. It must be instilled in students that a school’s sole purpose is to provide an education. Nonetheless, it does not appear that
K-9 attack dogs were required, and the decision to do so must be reviewed.
The state Legislature began its six-month session this week, and legislators will have their work cut out for them. Florida residents are facing a continued property insurance crisis, the property tax amendment that passed is full of loopholes, rendering it useless, and local governments are implementing record increases in service costs. In short, it’s a mess, and something must be done.
I can’t remember when so many white folks who were not developers seeking to snatch up land on the cheap gathered on Sistrunk Boulevard. They came to hold a vigil over the violent killing of 17-year-old Simmie Williams, who was felled by bullets from an unknown shooter. The group successfully sought to bring attention to the shooting, hoping to find the killer. Williams was dressed in women’s clothing, and may have been a male prostitute who strolled along sidewalks there. While there is no concrete evidence that the slaying was based on Williams’ sexual orientation, what we do know is that another young black male’s life has been snuffed out, and we must find the killer and curtail crime in that area.
The Fraternal Order of Police union is expressing concerns about the wisdom of the city of Fort Lauderdale’s retention of City Manager George Gretsas. Members of the union are set to cast ballots for a no-confidence vote on Gretsas, and one can hardly blame them. Under Gretsas, far too many city departments and operations have failed to serve the public, and community members have repeatedly complained that he ignores them when they raise issues of concern with his office. This is unacceptable, and taxpayers deserve better.
Clergy Court Date
Broward Circuit Court Judge Leroy H. Moe has set May 5 for the start of a civil trial in which the Rev. Mack King Carter, pastor of the New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Carter’s wife are accused of improperly converting thousands of dollars in church funds to their own personal use. The plaintiffs are Kevin Mitchell and other former members of the church’s oversight boards, which were dismantled in 2006.
Revelations of fraudulent activity in Broward County’s Community Action Agency apparently have not prompted many changes. The CAA is set up to distribute state and federal funds to the needy, but the agency has failed to do so over the past several years. Millions of dollars had to be returned to those agencies while the needy went without adequate help from the agency. It seems that staff is scrambling to disburse funds at the last minute to keep the state and federal funds from having to be returned, unused, again. Legal Aid Service of Broward County attorney Sharon Bourassa confirmed that her agency has been contacted by the CAA in an effort to distribute funds, but this late effort may not be enough. Somebody over there needs to get fired.
Suspended Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman pleaded not guilty to assault charges this week, stemming from his pulling a gun on a fellow shopper in a grocery store during last Thanksgiving. Salesman says he was threatened, but a video shows Salesman was the aggressor. In any event, no matter what happens in this case, Salesman should resign his seat, focus on his trial, and let the people of Miramar move forward.
Elliot Cohen has resigned as the director of media relations for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The circumstances surrounding his departure are not immediately known, but he has been replaced with Jim Leljedal, a longtime BSO spokesman.
A former Crystal Lake Middle School geography teacher, Adrian Valdez, 31, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, to be followed by three years house arrest, then 50 years probation, for molesting students, investigators say. Valdez was arrested in 2005 following allegations that he gave a 12-year-old boy an after-school detention, then offered him a ride home. Investigators say he took the child to his own house and molested him. Two other students later came forward with similar allegations.
Jhonnell Harris, a 20-year-old ex-felon, remains in custody with no bond on charges of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and theft charges after he allegedly shot Miami-Dade rookie officer Roberto Gonzalez this week. Gonzalez was investigating a burglary at a warehouse when he encountered Harris, who ran, and then turned and fired multiple shots, hitting Gonzalez twice.
Gospel vs. Drugs
A group of 14 churches from Miami and Coral Gables that comprise The Ministerial Alliance is installing anti-drug signs in both cities. The signs, painted in black and white, are emblazoned with the phrase, “Drug Dealers Destroy Communities; Report Drug Dealers” and include non-emergency numbers to call police. The group is augmenting the signs with sermons, youth forums and other initiatives designed to flush drugs out of the neighborhoods where the churches are located. Drug sales and drug crimes are at an all-time high in certain neighborhoods.