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FSU Shooting Victim Recovering

November 26th, 2014 by Matt Galka

A campus group at FloridaState say last week’s shooting is proof that licensed students should be allowed to carry guns on campus.  Matt Galka tells us more about the push, and spoke to the man who was working in the library before he was shot by a mad gunman.

Nathan Scott is recovering comfortably in his home.  He works at Florida State’s Strozier library, and just about a week ago, his shift started at midnight – about 30 minutes before a gunman started shooting.

“He raised the gun and fired the shot, and we could kind of hear, after, the ‘click, click, click’ going on. There was definitely intent to fire more than one shot,” said Scott.

He showed us the x-ray of where he was shot in the leg.  He says he’s been thinking about how lucky he was that things didn’t end up worse.

Now a campus group says the shooting is proof gun laws need to change.  FSU’s Students for Concealed Carry fired off a letter to lawmakers asking them to reconsider allowing permitted students to carry at school. The group’s president, Erek Cullbreath, says it could have prevented last week’s tragedy.

“That could have never happened, It could have been way worse, it was a packed library, there could have been tens of people killed in the minutes it took for police to respond,” said Cullbreath.

Nathan Scott is a member of the group.  His views haven’t changed even after being a victim of gun violence.

“I mean, yea, if I had a gun I probably would have been at least been able to protect myself, I don’t know if I would have taken it to work,” said Scott.

The law almost changed in 2011 before Florida State’s current president stepped in. When President John Thrasher was a State Senator – he played a big role in keeping the law in place.  Thrasher’s friend Robert Cowie had just lost his daughter, Ashley, in a shooting incident at a Florida State fraternity house. The Senator said he couldn’t support the bill in the months after.

If the law were to be changed, only students 21 and older would be granted a concealed carry permit unless they’ve been honorably discharged from the military.

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Mental Health Needs Lacking

November 26th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

In the wake of the shootings at Florida State University and the killing of a deputy sheriff at the hands of an anarchist, mental heath professionals are saying more value needs to be placed on mental heath counseling.  Florida ranks last or near the bottom on mental health and drug abuse funding.

Police described the man behind the FSU shootings this way. “Mr. May was in a state of crisis.”

And two days later, 53-year-old Curtis Wade Holley opened fire on first responders. “This person was anti government, anti establishment” says Leon County Sheriff’s spokesman James McQuaig.

Friends and family had sought help for FSU Shooter Myron May to no avail even after the 30 year old left bizarre voice mails for a fellow conspiracy theorist. On a YouTube video posted by the recipient, he is heard saying “Renee, look, I’m getting hit by direct energy weapons right now as we speak.”

The problem is that as daily stresses increase, mental health funding has been stagnate says Mike Hansen of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health.  “That infrastructure is crumbling. Resources have not been put in to keep pace with increased costs, and if we don’t get additional resources, that existing system is going to fall apart. It is falling apart already” says Hansen

When the friends of Myron May reached out and sough help for what they perceived to be mental health issues, They were told nothing could be done. That’s despite a state law that would have allowed a judge to order May to take medication without being institutionalized.

The Program has never been funded says Hansen.

“We’re paying for it anyway. We’re paying for it in an inappropriate way, and we get results nobody likes. I’m not saying we can ever prevent things like this, but there are probably things we can do to make it less likely to happen.”

A state survey says the state is meeting less than half the need for mental health care.

Providing mental heal care for everyone who needs it would cost the state upwards of 600 million more dollars a year. When patients aren’t treated, they often end up I emergency rooms or jail.


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Officer Down

November 25th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Florida law enforcement said their final goodbyes to one of their own Tuesday. Matt Galka tells us about the somber ceremony for a Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy killed over the weekend.

Deputy Chris Smith loved two things: his family, and his job.  There was no length he wasn’t willing to go for either one.

Smith was ambushed and killed over the weekend while doing his duty by responding to a house fire that was intentionally set.  As thousands of police officers from around the state said goodbye to the man they affectionately called “Tater,” they remembered his commitment to the community.

“Wednesday night we were talking about some remodeling we were doing in the church and some of the contractors were asking for some helping hands, and he said ‘Preacher I’d be there but I have to work Saturday.’ Little did we know that would be his last day of work. Brother Chris wanted to be there and help,” said Dr. David Walker who was Smith’s pastor.

The service was attended by local elected officials as well as the Attorney General and the Governor. Governor Rick Scott ordered flags at half staff to honor Smith’s memory.  State Senator Bill Montford said it was tough seeing someone from his district make the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s a sad day for this community and all of Florida. It’s a good reminder, though, of how important law enforcement and first responders are to us,” said Sen. Montford (D-Tallahassee).

The 47-year-old had been in law enforcement since 1989, and will be forever remembered in the hearts behind badges around the state. Smith was laid to rest in his hometown of Monticello, Florida.

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Woman Who Inspired “Warning Shot” Legislation Enters Plea

November 25th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

The Jacksonville area woman who inspired legislation allowing the use of warning shots instead of deadly force has entered a plea deal instead of facing a possible 60 years behind bars. The NRA says the case of Marissa Alexander has been unjust since the beginning.

In July 2010, Marissa Alexander fired a shot in the direction of her now ex-husband.  Prosecutors claimed it was out of anger, not self defense. Two years later, she was given 20 years for firing a gun under the states 10-20-Life law.

“32 yeas, 7 nays, Mr. President. And so the bill passes.”

It was that sentence that inspired state lawmakers earlier this year to pass what has been dubbed the warning shot, or threatened use of force legislation. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers of Milton. “This is about self defense. This is about the right thing to do” said Evers as the bill passed the Senate on April 3rd of this year.

The NRA’s Marion Hammer, who helped shepard the bill through the legislature says Alexander should never have been charged. “Because, 10-20-Life was never intended to be used in cases of self defense, and this clearly was a self defense case,”

A year ago, Alexander was released on bail and put on house arrest pending a new trial.   This time around she faced sixty years. So, on Monday, she appeared in court and agreed to serve three years on aggravated assault charges. She is expected to be released in January. Hammer says Alexander did what was right for herself and her children. “Why should she be the standard bearer for changing a law and be punished just to affect the kind of change that needs to be made.”

The warning shot legislation inspired by Alexander became law in June, and while she still faces some time in prison, others will not.

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PSC Ditches Energy Conservation Measures

November 25th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

By a 3-2 vote. The state Public Service Commission today adopted a staff recommendation, allowing utilities to reduce energy conservation programs. Environmental groups criticized the vote. In a statement, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said “Instead of siding with customers, the PSC sided with monopoly utility shareholders, once again, by setting meager goals that promote the construction of new power plants – which earn the companies a hefty profit, while leaving fewer opportunities for customers to lower energy use and save money on bills.”

The PSC did agree to hold public hearings to discuss cost effective and feasible solar programs.


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Pastors Seek Calm

November 25th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Pastors from the National Action Network today called on Black Floridians to remain calm in the face of Ferguson, Missouri. In calling for peaceful protests and a dialogue with police, The Reverend RB Holmes called for law enforcement to be respected.

“Violence has never worked. Violence is not the answer. This is a comprehensive issue of distrust of police officers. We have to continue to work toward strengthening community and police relationships” says Holmes.

The pastors are also calling for more counseling, and the development of mental health programs, as well as more social services to ward off poverty.



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Campus Shooting Victim Paralyzed

November 24th, 2014 by Matt Galka

One victim remains in the hospital after last week’s shooting on Florida State’s campus.  Matt Galka spoke with the student’s sister who provided an update on the 21 year old’s condition.

Farhana Ahmed calmly stood in front of reporters Monday afternoon.  She would have had every reason to be shaken up, though, after her brother Farhan “Ronny” Ahmed was one of three victim’s in last week’s shooting at Florida State’s Strozier Library

“Ronny immediately knew that something was wrong, because one of the first bullets struck his spine, and it’s left him paralyzed from the waist down,” said Farhana Ahmed.

Ronny is a 21 year old bio-medical engineering student at FSU.  He was studying for finals at the library when a gunman opened fire.  His sister praised the police who quickly responded and the school for helping them through this difficult time.

“If not for their quick response, probably a lot more students would have gotten hurt, and Ronny himself was probably saved by the quickness of their actions,” said Farhana.

Ronny is still in the hospital but he is doing better.  His condition was upgraded from critical to serious. Florida State president John Thrasher said the school will do whatever it can to help the Ahmed’s.

“Florida State University is 100% committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to fulfill Ronny’s dreams, as Farhana said, of achieving his goal of graduating from Florida State University,” said Thrasher.

Ronny’s friends have set up an account online to help pay for medical bills and long term care.  The site reads that Ronny was the first person shot, but was still able to alert authorities.

Farhana says the family is grateful Ronny is still with them, and she still has a brother.

“It’s just me and him, so I’m really glad he’s still here, because we need each other,” she said.

Ronny Ahmed has a year and a half left before he graduates, something his sister says he still plans on doing.

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Florida State Shooting

November 20th, 2014 by Matt Galka

More details are starting to emerge from the shooting nightmare that happened on FloridaState’s Campus last night.  Matt Galka has been on the scene since the news broke at 1 a.m., and brings us the very latest.

Tallahassee police confirmed Florid aState alumnus Myron May was the gunman who opened fired at Strozier library Thursday morning.

He injured three people using a semi-automatic handgun. Campus police shot and killed him outside the library’s doors.

“13 days ago – FSU conducted active shooter training,” said FSU Police Chief David Perry.

He credited recent training to a quick response. School president John Thrasher was in New York City when the shots were fired, and did everything he could to get back quickly…and try to return the campus to normal.

“Strozier library will be open again. The rest of the events that we have scheduled this weekend, we plan to move ahead with,” said Thrasher.

Florida’s Governor traveled to FSU to address the situation.

“Just like any tragedy, the ultimate question of ‘why’ will never satisfy the answers of those whose loved ones have been injured or killed,” said Governor Rick Scott.

Multiple vigils were held throughout the day.  With students still in shock hours after the tragic event.

“I live right off campus, and your heart just drops, I started crying, and you just think about how lucky we are to be here,” said FSU Senior Emma Blanton.

While some questions have been answered, many still remain. Police are still searching for a motive as to why May would open fire in a library filled with hundreds of students.

Police said that they found evidence May thought he was being “targeted,” but by who or for what still have yet to be answered.

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Video from Inside FSU Library

November 20th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

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November 19th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Around 1 million Floridians could benefit from Medicaid expansion, something Florida has so far not taken up. As Matt Galka tells us, it doesn’t look like that fight will get anywhere again in 2015.

As new House and Senate leaders were sworn in this week, the same question remained: would Florida accept federal money and expand Medicaid. It’s a move that could help nearly one million people.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli didn’t jump at the opportunity

“We believe, we stand firm, where we believe we are right now and that’s without expansion,” he said.

Floridians falling into the coverage gap are part of the working poor: people who make too much for Medicaid but too little for open market coverage.  Senate President Andy Gardiner says Washington isn’t being very flexible with the money

“The Federal Government ahs given us absolutely no flexibility at all on any expansion of medicaid, it’s either all or nothing, and I think that’s been one of the biggest problems,” said Sen. Gardiner.

Florida Legal Services released a report last week that said hospitals could be losing billions of dollars because of the failure to expand. Director of Advocacy Anne Swerlick says safety net hospitals will take a hit next summer.

“Special funds that were going to our safety net hospitals amounting to one to two billion dollars a year, those funds will no longer be available,” she said.

While there doesn’t appear to be a movement to accept the $50 billion dollars in funds like there was two years ago, Florida Democrats will continue to make noise.

“Healthcare effects everyone that’s alive, at some point in their life, this is something that if we don’t address, people are dying,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, the House Democratic leader.

The Governor has supported expansion in the past. It remains to be seen if he’ll push for it in his second term. Florida is one of 23 states that have refused federal money for Medicaid expansion.

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