Deadly motorcycle accident shuts down eastbound Highway 92 in Lakeland

(Photo: Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A deadly accident has shut down the eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 92 in Lakeland, officials said.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said a motorcycle collided with a semi-truck on Highway 92 near Fish Hatchery Road at about 7:55 a.m. Monday.

At least one person has died, but it’s unclear if any other injuries were reported.

The eastbound lanes of Highway 92 will be closed until further notice.

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Florida man accused of stabbing has ‘no regard for human life’: sheriff’s office

POLKCOUNTY

LAKELAND, Fla. — A suspect accused of stabbing a man on the Fourth of July is on the run, authorities said.

Rudy Gonzalez Jr., who was released from prison earlier this year for two cases of battery domestic violence, has a warrant for attempted murder, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The 24-year-old Lakeland man repeatedly stabbed a Lake Wales man on July 4 before running off; the sheriff’s office added that since being released on parole and after this latest crime, "he has no regard for human life."

The victim is said to be in critical but stable condition.

Gonzalez is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Polk County Sheriff’s Office Detective Hartgraves at 863-678-4115. People also can remain anonymous by contacting Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS.

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Lakeland’s Se7en Wetlands Makes Cut in Gov. DeSantis Budget

Established more than 30 years ago, Lakeland’s Se7en Wetlands opened to the public in April 2018, with hiking trails for hikers to enjoy. (Stephanie Claytor/Spectrum News)

LAKELAND, Fla. — In the 2019 budget, Gov. Ron DeSantis approved several appropriation requests from Polk County legislators.

Se7en Wetlands receives funding for educational center Florida Polytechnic University’s Advanced Mobility Institute also gets funding

Topping the list, $500,000 to fund Florida Polytechnic University’s Advanced Mobility Institute, which is where autonomous vehicle research is expected to take place.

Polk State College also received $1.25 million in operational supports and $2.54 million in access to academic and workforce programs, according to the District Chief Legislative Aide in Sen. Kelli Stargel’s office.

Another big win, especially for nature lovers, was Lakeland’s Se7en Wetlands receiving $500,000 to construct an educational center at the waste water treatment facility.

Established more than 30 years ago, the facility opened to the public in April 2018, with hiking trails for hikers to enjoy.

"We’re excited that we did not make the veto list this year for sure," said Environmental Program Specialist Julie Vogel.

Gov. Rick Scott approved funding for the facility in 2016 and 2017, but vetoed $800,000 in funding in 2018. The money was going to fund constructing trails on the other five wetlands on the property and opening them up to the public.

The educational center will teach people about the water cycle and how the wetlands help suck up excess nutrients from the treated water before it flows back into the ocean, helping to prevent things such as Red Tide.

Se7en Wetlands has received multiple awards including the Public Education Award from the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA), according to Vogel.

No date has been set yet for when construction will begin on the center.

Here’s a complete list:

Entity

Project/LFIR

Final result

Vetoed list

Sponsor(s)

HEALTH

Fl. Baptist / One More child

Single Mom’s program – #1173

200,000

Stargel/Tomkow

Anti Trafficking – #1173

100,000

Stargel/Burton

Family Support – #1174

200,000

vetoed

Stargel

Voices for FL

Open Doors Network – #1161

750,000

Stargel

All Pro Dad

Foster Parent/adoption #1167

475,000

Stargel

Pace Center for Girls

2,500,000

Tomkow

Parenting with Love and Limits

HB 2671

$750,000

Burton

Polk State College

Operational support

1,250,000

Stargel – support from delegation members

Access to Academic & Workforce Programs

2,540,288

Stargel – support from delegation members

2+2 Student Success Incentive Fund

349,353

Stargel

Polytechnic

Advance Mobility Research #1168

500,000

Stargel – support from delegation members

Graduate Program Growth #1172

500,000

-$500,000

Stargel

Statewide but Crystal Lake Elementary is part of this statewide initiative

$7,435,571

Stargel/Burton

YIG

Youth in Government – part of YMCA educational outreach

100,000

Stargel

Academic Tourney

Polk hosts but this is a statewide program

132,738

Stargel

First Robotics

#2222

200,000

-$200,000

Stargel

Heartland Waters

The Polk County 15 municipal governments prioritized their projects – this funding is for the top 3.

1,8442,279

Stargel

Lakeland’s Se7en Wetlands

Educational Center (HB 2169) (Senate Form 1722)

Albritton/ Burton

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Lakeland July 4 Fireworks, Boat Races, Bands, Food: 2019 Guide

July 4 promises to light up the night around Lakeland. (Photo by Paul Scicchitano)

LAKELAND, FL — If you love fireworks — and who doesn’t, except the occasional golden retriever and Labradoodle — we found plenty of displays that are set to light up the skies around Lakeland on July 4.

Patch is compiling a complete guide of fireworks displays, restaurant promotions and other events by location.

You’ll also find parking and transit information and even an updated weather forecast closer to the big day to make this your best Independence Day ever. We’ll keep adding new events right up until the holiday so bookmark this page and remember to refresh your browser for the latest information.

LAKELAND

Red White & Kaboom 2019 July 3

TT.Mims Corp. Red, White & Kaboom Independence Celebration will take place at Lake Mirror along the Frances Langford Promenade on July 3 from 6 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. The City Saints will entertain the crowd ahead of a fireworks display that launches at 9 p.m. This is a free event, but organizers are asking that everyone bring at least one non-perishable food item that will be donated to Volunteers in Service to the Elderly.

The event will also feature a number of food trucks around Lake Mirror. Bring a blanket, visit the food trucks and listen to the free concert before the fireworks being. Kevin Cook, one of the organizers of the event, said people will also be able to sign up for a watermelon-eating contest featuring several age categories around 7 p.m. when the band takes its first break.

"This a fun, but messy addition," said Cook. "Rest easy because participants get rain ponchos to protect clothing and we have plenty of paper towels." The event concludes with a dramatic display of fireworks over the lake. You can bring your own cooler but no glass bottles will be permitted. Also, no tents or beach umbrellas will be permitted. Look for #redwhiteandkaboom2019 and #RWK2019 on social media.

City parking garages will be open for T.Mims Corp. Red, White & Kaboom. Click here for more information on parking.

SARASOTA

Celebrate July 4 at Island Park for a fireworks spectacular on the Fourth as Sarasota prepares to celebrate 35 years of powerboat racing history at the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. There will be plenty of available seating all throughout Island park and along the bayfront. The fireworks light up the skies at 9 p.m. on July 4. Island Park is located at 5 Island Park Dr. in Sarasota.

Come to the Hyatt Regency Ballroom on Friday, July 5 to meet the powerboat racers ahead of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. The event takes place from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The hotel is located at 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota.

This event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Rossiter’s Harley-Davidson, 330 Cattlemen Road in Sarasota. The show entry fee is $5 for the motorcycles and $10 for the cars.

This free event provides a great photo opportunity for the entire family to see the powerboats up close. The block party takes place on Orange Avenue to Gulfstream Avenue and S. Palm Avenue from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Leave your coolers at home.

Race fans can expect to see more teams compete this year while taking advantage of an expanded viewing area along Lido Beach. The races take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 400 Benjamin Franklin Drive. The event is free but you can opt for a paid VIP experience at Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach. CBS will air its coverage on Sunday, August 4, at 3 p.m. eastern. Fox Sports has not yet announced an air date, but the show will air sometime in August. A live stream of the race will be shown here.

Director of Sports for Visit Sarasota County, Shelby Connett, noted: "Sports tourism plays a major role in our local economy and this festival continues to be one of our biggest sporting events. With national televised coverage on CBS Sports and Fox Sports Florida this is good news for our economy and great exposure for Sarasota."

Suncoast Charities for Children continues to be the driving force behind all the events associated with the festival and is the only race site run entirely by a local non-profit charity. Donations of any amount are welcome.

Related festival events also include:

To purchase race day tickets, make a donation, or to learn more click here. For event updates to your mobile device text powerboats to 941-229-7774.

Florida Studio Theatre

The theater’s home improv team presents "When X Meets Y: American Revolution," a special holiday improv show celebrating Independence Day. Inspired by audience suggestions and three random notes on the keyboard, members of FST Improv will weave a story of love and laughter that unfolds during the American Revolution. Just as waterfront fireworks and the local annual boat show have become Independence Day traditions in Sarasota, so has FST Improv’s special July 4 show. "When X Meets Y: American Revolution" follows a band of colonists as they fight the British, but with an exciting romantic twist. "When X Meets Y: American Revolution" will play in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on July 6. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased by calling FST’s Box Office at 941-366-9000, or via the website by clicking here. A full menu and bar will also be available. Doors open one hour prior to the show.

BRADENTON

Independence Day With Bradenton Marauders July 3

Celebrate Independence Day early as the Bradenton Marauders host City of Bradenton Night with a spectacular fireworks display planned for after the game. In honor of the "941" area code, tickets will be priced at $9.41 and include a free Marauders hat and drink voucher. In addition, the first 1,500 fans will get a free shirt. There will also be a patriotic-themed jersey auction. The first pitch is at 6:30 p.m. The Marauders play at LECOM Park, 1611 9th St W in Bradenton. Click here to purchase tickets.

Know of other events in the area? Post them on the Patch calendar or share details on our free Neighbor Post feature.

Planning a celebration for the Fourth? Check out epic July Fourth essentials like red, white and blue swag, patriotic games and luminous LED lights to ensure your party is the best in the USA.

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Florida veterinarian convicted of animal cruelty charges

The Lakeland Ledger reports that 68-year-old Gail Nichols faces up to five years in prison after a jury convicted her late Thursday. Evidence showed the horses were malnourished, infested with parasites and had hooves so overgrown the animals had difficulty walking.

Nichols claimed on the witness stand that the horses were born with deformed hooves, were not in pain and that their conditions were unavoidable.

Authorities seized 28 miniature horses, two full-sized horses, eight dogs and two birds after Nichols and her husband were arrested in 2017 at their Polk County property. The husband is set to stand trial later on similar charges.

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Colorful Florida Sheriff’s Image Captured In Bobbleheads

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd’s likeness has been captured in a baseball bobblehead. (Courtesy Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

LAKELAND, FL — When the Lakeland Flying Tigers take the field Friday night they will be under the watchful eye of colorful Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Make that 2,400 watchful eyes of the good sheriff.

The first 1,200 paid adult fans, 13 and up, will each receive a voucher for a free Sheriff Grady Judd bobblehead as they enter the stadium. The bobbleheads will be distributed starting in the fifth inning.

"You can take me home, your very own Sheriff Grady Judd bobblehead, to look over your house when you’re not there," Judd said in a promotion for the giveaway by the minor league franchise owned by the Detroit Tigers.

Judd’s folksy way of describing some pretty terrible criminals and their misdeeds have made him one of the best known figures in central Florida and within Florida law enforcement circles.

Earlier this month, Judd described a North Carolina fugitive like this:

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"For some reason, he thought Polk County would be a good place to hide. We’re not too fond of the bad guys who are already in the county," said Judd on social media. "We certainly aren’t thrilled with out-of-state bad guys who want to bring their violent drama here."

This week Judd had this to say about a suspected thief:

"If we had to say something nice about him, we would say that he doesn’t let failure stop him," the sheriff lamented. "Too bad he can’t put that quality to good use instead of using it for criminal exploit."

The unusual giveaway is part of the team’s law enforcement appreciation weekend. On Saturday, the sheriff’s office is playing against the Lakeland Police Department in a battle of the badges softball game prior to the Flying Tigers game.

The bobbleheads are sponsored by 97.5 WPCV and Browning Moving and Storage. Fans must be present to claim their bobblehead.

The gates open on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Flying Tigers hit the field at 6:30 p.m. to play Fort Myers.

On Saturday, the gates open at 3 p.m. The first pitch for the softball game will be at 3:45 p.m. Teams will halt play at 5 p.m. before the Flying Tigers take the field at 6 p.m. with new specialty jerseys.

The jerseys will be available for $100. Jerseys will be game worn and autographed by a Flying Tigers player or coach following the game.

Proceeds from the jersey raffle will benefit the corresponding foundations of the Lakeland Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The team is also offering a promotion for a signed Sheriff Grady Judd Bobblehead as well as two tickets to the May 31 game. See details below:

What does the sheriff think about the bobbleheads?

"He loves it," spokesman Brian Bruchey said of the lawman’s reaction. "Several people pooled their money together a few years back and had one made for a Christmas gift. We’ve even had some fun with it on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ve gotten a lot of requests for one."

Click here to purchase tickets to the Lakeland Flying Tigers. For additional event information, contact Dan Lauer at 863-413-4115 or via email at dan.lauer@tigers.com.

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Clemens hits walk-off homer, Lakeland beats Palm Beach 3-1

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Kody Clemens hit a walk-off two-run homer, as the Lakeland Flying Tigers beat the Palm Beach Cardinals 3-1 on Tuesday.

The Cardinals tied the game 1-1 in the top of the seventh when Rayder Ascanio hit an RBI single, driving in Scott Hurst.

Lakeland starter Tarik Skubal went 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run and three hits. He also struck out two and walked one. Max Green (1-0) got the win with two innings of scoreless relief while C.J. Saylor (2-2) took the loss in the Florida State League game.

Cole Peterson singled three times in the win.

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With the win, Lakeland improved to 4-1 against Palm Beach this season.

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Silver Alert issued for missing Lakeland man with dementia

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The Lakeland Police Department has issued a Silver Alert for a missing man with dementia.

John Patrick Gordon, 79, was last seen leaving the parking garage at Lakeland Medical Center at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, according to police.

Gordon left in a silver 2008 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck bearing Florida Tag# KGK-X21. The truck has a sticker on the rear that says either “Alley Cat” or “Ally Cat.”

Police said Gordon was last known to be in the Daytona Area around 6 p.m. and was last seen wearing a multicolored black, brown, and gold striped shirt, khaki pants, and possibly white shoes.

Anyone who sees him can call 911 or the Lakeland Police Department at 863-834-6900.

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Policelli hits two homers as Lakeland defeats Bradenton 13-7

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Brady Policelli hit two of the Lakeland Flying Tigers’ season-high five home runs in a 13-7 win over the Bradenton Marauders on Friday. The Flying Tigers snapped a six-game losing streak with the victory.

Christin Stewart, Dylan Rosa and Zac Shepherd also homered for the Flying Tigers.

Policelli hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Aaron Shortridge and then hit a solo homer in the ninth off Ryan Valdes.

Burris Warner (1-1) got the win with three innings of scoreless, one-hit relief while Drew Fischer (0-1) took the loss in the Florida State League game.

Robbie Glendinning doubled twice and singled for the Marauders. Cal Mitchell homered and singled, driving in three runs and scoring a pair.

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Policelli, Burch lift Lakeland over St. Lucie 10-4

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Brady Policelli tripled twice, scoring two runs as the Lakeland Flying Tigers defeated the St. Lucie Mets 10-4 on Wednesday.

Luke Burch tripled and singled with three RBIs for Lakeland.

Lakeland got on the board first with a run in the third inning. After hitting a triple with two outs, Policelli scored on a single by Kody Clemens.

After Lakeland added six runs, the Mets cut into the deficit in the seventh inning when Blake Tiberi hit a two-run double and then scored on a two-run single by Jacob Zanon.

Lakeland starter Elvin Rodriguez (2-1) picked up the win after allowing just three hits over five scoreless innings. Opposing starter Tommy Wilson (1-2) took the loss in the Florida State League game after allowing three runs and six hits over 5 1/3 innings.

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