Florida lawmakers debate school-safety bill in rare session

The Florida Senate agreed to advance a bill that would increase school safety and restrict gun purchases during a rare Saturday session that often turned into a debate on gun control and arming teachers in the aftermath of last month’s Parkland school shootings.

The Senate spent nearly eight hours debating dozens of amendments to the 100-page bill before finally approving the legislation for a final vote on Monday. Democratic proposals to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines were rejected, as was a Democratic proposal to strip language from the bill that would create a program to arm teachers who have gone through law-enforcement training if school districts choose to take part in the so-called marshal plan.

The Senate began the session at 10 a.m. and was originally supposed to wrap up discussion by 1 p.m. But senators extended the session and didn’t wrap up until after 6 p.m.

It was clear that senators were divided on the bill, and not just on party lines. While crafted by Republicans, some GOP senators still opposed it because they don’t agree with raising the minimum age to guy a rifle from 18 to 21 or requiring a waiting period to buy the weapons.

Democrats believe the legislation doesn’t go far enough in some ways and too far in others. And while some oppose the bill, others believe it’s at least a first step toward gun safety.

Democrats want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Many also oppose arming teachers. The bill also includes provisions to boost school security, establish new mental health programs in schools, and improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.

But much of the debate Saturday revolved around gun control and whether people should have a right to own an assault rifle.

“Every constitutional right that we hold dear has a limitation,” said Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer. “These are just military-style killing machines and the right of self-defense and the ability to hunt will go on.”

Republicans argued that banning such weapons would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“Our founding fathers weren’t talking about hunting, and they weren’t talking about protecting themselves from the thief down the street who might break in,” said Republican Sen. David Simmons. Simmons said people need guns to protect themselves from a tyrannical government.

“Adolf Hitler confiscated all the weapons – took all the weapons, had a registry of everybody – and then on the night of June 30th, 1934, sent out his secret police and murdered all of his political opponents,” Simmons said. “You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does.”

The Legislature wraps up its annual session on Friday. Lawmakers are scrambling to take some kind of action before then. The full House has yet to take up its version of the bill.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been lobbying lawmakers to pass his plan to assign at least one law-enforcement officer for every 1,000 students at a school. Scott is opposed to arming teachers.

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Nikolas Cruz’s brother regrets bullying alleged school shooter, police report says

The younger brother of the man who allegedly killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school told investigators that he bullied his sibling when they were younger, according to a sheriff’s report.

Zachary Cruz said two days after the massacre that he felt guilty about the incident and thought he possibly could have prevented it, a Palm Beach County detective wrote in the report.

Cruz, who has turned 18 since the shooting, told the investigators from Palm Beach and Broward counties that he and his friends had bullied Nikolas Cruz, something Zachary “now regrets ever doing,” according to the report.

Zachary wishes that he had been nicer to his brother, the detective wrote. Zachary Cruz also may have had some resentment because Nikolas Cruz may have been the “favored brother,” the report said.

Nikolas Cruz allegedly used a semiautomatic rifle to kill 14 students and three teachers on February 14 at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. The shooting spurred a national debate over gun laws.

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Miami schools chief abruptly declines offer to lead NYC schools

The Miami schools chief hired to lead New York City schools abruptly backed out of the job during a public meeting Thursday, a move that surprised and frustrated Mayor Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio’s office announced on Wednesday that Alberto M. Carvalho would become New York’s next school chancellor, CNN affiliate WABC reported.

But Carvalho told his board and others gathered at an emergency meeting that he would be staying put in Miami-Dade County, citing his commitment to children.

“I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement and a pact I have with the children of Miami,” Carvalho said, prompting cheers.

Carvalho said he “underestimated the emotional tug, the level of commitment, the power that crying members of the community have had on me.”

“Against probably my personal best interest, I am making a decision and announcing a decision today, after speaking with the honorable Mayor Bill de Blasio, that I shall remain in Miami-Dade as your superintendent,” he said.

Mayor: Educators nationwide ‘want this job’

The mayor told reporters Thursday he had discussed the next steps with Carvalho on Wednesday night.

“I will say that, I think, like many of you, I was very surprised by Mr. Carvahlo’s decision. I thought we had found the right candidate,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said Carvalho called him during a break at the Miami-Dade board meeting and “expressed trepidation and concern and … second thoughts.”

“I obviously reiterated to him that he had already accepted the job and we had put out publicly with his agreement,” the mayor said. “We had a couple of different conversations and he kept saying to me he didn’t think he could take it after all and that was his ultimate decision.”

“I think he has been honest today that he did not keep his agreement,” the mayor said.

The New York public school system is the largest school district in the country, serving 1.1 million students in more than 1,800 schools.

“Educators all over the country want this job and we’ve had a huge amount of interest,” de Blasio said.

He said Carvalho “told me repeatedly this was his dream job.”

“But if he wasn’t interested in the job, I don’t know why he flew up here several times and had incessant conversations about all the details and agreed to the release of the information publicly,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio said New York City schools chancellor Carmen Farina, who already retired, will continue in her role until March.

‘Be honest, do right’

Carvalho told his board he struggled with his decision to turn down what he called the “most coveted job in education.”

His phone buzzed Wednesday night with hundreds of missed calls and text messages, Carvalho said. He said one of his best friends, a priest, left him a voice mail.

The priest said: “Little brother, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, you’re going to do well. Follow your heart, be honest, do right,” Carvalho recalled.

He then asked the board for two separate breaks before announcing his decision.

Before de Blasio addressed reporters, his spokesman, Eric Phillips, criticized Carvalho on social media.

“He was a Yes for a week+, until he was a No 15 minutes ago. Bullet dodged.”

The mayor said that, while he thinks “the world of Eric,” he “would not have said it that way.”

Carvalho has led the nation’s fourth-largest school system since 2008.

In 2014, he was named Florida’s Superintendent of the Year and the National Superintendent of the Year.

In a tweet, he thanked de Blasio, the school system and “the people of New York City for all you have offered me.”

“This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made,” he wrote.

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Suspects arrested in I-95 takedown after 2-year plot to rob, kill armored truck guards

A two-year plot to rob two armored bank vehicles and kill the drivers ended last month on Interstate 95 in Martin County, authorities announced Thursday.

Three suspects were arrested hours before they planned to act on their alleged plot, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

Daryl Canady, Alger Ellison and Martiavius Williams, all of Palm Beach County, were taken into custody on the morning of Feb. 20 after authorities swarmed them in the southbound lanes of I-95.

According to a federal affidavit, the group planned to rob an armored truck that was picking up a large sum of money from a PNC Bank branch on Gatlin Boulevard in Port St. Lucie.

Authorities said the suspects mapped out a plan to steal millions of dollars before fatally shooting the two armored-truck guards.

Investigators said the suspects then planned to rob another armored truck, again plotting to kill the guards.

The joint takedown involved the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.

All three suspects were taken back to Palm Beach County, where they remain in federal custody.

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Wind pushes Brevard County fires’ smoke to South Florida

The burns weren’t visible Thursday night, but some South Florida residents who could smell the smoke were calling their local fire departments to report it. 

Dispatchers said the direction of the wind was to blame for the smell in west Broward and Miami-Dade counties. 

Florida Forest Service crews were conducting a controlled 100-acre fire and a 325-acre fire in Brevard County. The controlled burns prevent wildfires by clearing debris.


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Detectives search for 5 suspects in Lauderhill murder

Detectives are searching Thursday night for two men and three women suspected of being involved in the murder of a 44-year-old man in Lauderhill. 

Surveillance video shows the victim, known as both Emerald SR and Martin Young, walk into an elevator with three women about 6:19 a.m., on Feb. 11. It was the last time he was seen alive. 

About an hour later, one of the three women — who was holding a black purse, wearing a red dress and nude high-heeled sandals — walked out of the building through the lobby.

Minutes later, surveillance video shows the suspects running away. The other two women weren’t wearing their shoes and one even ran out carrying some of her clothes.

According to Lt. Michael Santiago there was a shooting and the victim died of a gunshot wound. There is a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the murder.

Detectives were asking anyone with information to call 954-497-4700 or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.



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