Month: April 2016

Man with cerebral palsy made honorary fire rescue member


BARTOW, Fla. (April 15, 2016) – Orisson De La Roche travelled to Winter Haven from Miami Thursday, April 14, and thought he was going to see his twin brother Isaac be sworn in as a Polk County firefighter paramedic, but he was in for a big surprise. Right after his brother was sworn in, Orisson was made Polk County’s first honorary firefighter.

“During training I always ask each person why they want to be a firefighter paramedic. After Isaac told the team why, everyone was in tears,” said Medical Training Officer Ramon Gonzalez. “We had to do something for Orisson. So he’s now the first honorary firefighter for Polk County Fire Rescue.”

Orisson received a uniform, which he says he’ll cherish forever. “I feel completely honored. It’s amazing! My brother is an exceptional person; beautiful human being. He’s my best friend, my mentor and someone I can look up to everyday of my life.”     

Isaac is stationed at Medic 721 in Mulberry, Florida. He said his brother “can live through me and my accomplishments. He will have a smile on his face.”


State Road 60 Traffic Fatality

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Homicide deputies are conducting an overnight single car fatal crash.  The decedent was a child passenger.

Preliminary information is as follows, at approximately 11:40 pm, on Monday, April 11, 2016, an adult male driver from Lake Wales was operating a 2004 Suzuki SUV eastbound on State Road 60 approximately one mile west of West Lake Wales Road, Lake Wales.  His passengers included an adult female from Lake Wales, and a 7-year-old child.

For unknown reasons, the SUV drove off the right (south) side of the roadway onto the grass shoulder where it lost traction and began to rotate counter clock wise as it re-entered the roadway.

Upon re-entering the eastbound lanes, the SUV began to flip multiples times and again left the south edge of the roadway. It came to final rest upside down facing southwest in a shallow ditch running along the SR 60.

As the SUV flipped, the child was ejected from the SUV and came to rest along the right edge of SR 60 eastbound. The child died at the scene.

Within minutes of coming to final rest, the SUV caught fire and began to burn with the adult female passenger still inside the vehicle. The driver was found outside of the vehicle.

Passing motorists, Southeast District Patrol Deputies, and a Polk County Fire supervisor all arrived on scene and utilized multiple fire extinguishers to slow the fire long enough to extricate the adult female passenger.  Additional Fire/Rescue personnel arrived and the fire was extinguished.

Both the driver and the adult passenger were transported to Lakeland Regional Health where the female is currently listed in critical condition, while the driver is currently listed in stable condition.

Through the initial investigation, it appears as though the child was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.  The female passenger was belted, but it is unknown at this time if the driver was wearing a seatbelt.

Eastbound SR 60 was closed for approximately one hour.  Single lane travel in each direction lasted until 5:00 am this morning, Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

There is no evidence or witnesses indicating other vehicles were involved in the crash. Impairment does not appear to be a factor. Speed may be involved and distracted driving is being investigated.

The investigation is ongoing.

April Happenings at the History Center

Bartow, Fla. (April 6, 2016) – Journey into Polk history this month at the Polk County History Center. The following programs and events are open to the public and free of charge:

·         April’s Family Program – Curators of Curiosity – All Month – Earth Day is Everyday

o   Celebrate Earth Day in Polk. Visit the History Center and discover the ways in which our environment influenced Polk’s development. Create a water cycle wristband and an Earth Day puzzle to quiz your friends and family. A listing of Earth Day activities across the county will be provided for those interested in learning more.

·         April 16 , 11 a.m. – Architectural Tour

o   Join us for a family friendly architectural tour of the History Center and learn more about neoclassical architecture, the construction of the building and the stories behind the iconic Old Polk County Courthouse. The architectural tour is on the third Saturday of each month at 11 a.m.

·         April19, 12:15 to 1 p.m. – Lunch and Learn – Marketing Florida Citrus: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

o   Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Citrus Commission, will explore the marketing eras that defined the citrus industry. From citrus crate labels to the Orange Bird and now Captain Citrus, it is evident that “there is amazing inside” the marketing team for Florida Citrus.

The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry. The industry employs nearly 62,000 people and provides an annual economic impact of nearly $10.7 billion to the state.

About the Polk County History Center: The Polk County History Center, 100 E. Main St. in Bartow, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday., or call (863) 534-4386 for more information on exhibits and programming. All events and programming are free and open to the public.

PCSO Robbery Detectives Seeking Information On Two Robbery Suspects

On Wednesday, March 30, 2016, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Robbery detectives arrested 18-year-old Trey Deshawn Hobdy, 2880 Dudley Drive, Bartow, charging him with Armed Burglary, 2 counts of Grand Theft, 3 counts of Grand Theft with Firearm, 2 counts of Petit Theft, 4 counts of Burglary, Tampering with Evidence and Possession of Cannabis less than 20 grams.
Also arrested was 19-year-old Traquavios McKenzie, 2865 Dudley Drive, Bartow.  McKenzie is charged with 2 counts Armed Robbery with Firearm, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery, Armed Burglary, 2 counts Grand Theft, 3 counts of Grand Theft of Firearm, 2 counts of Petit Theft, 4 counts of Burglary, and Tampering with Evidence.
Both are being held on no bond.
Two additional suspects are being sought.  Those suspects are:
17-year-old Mitchel O’Neal, 2952 Morris Drive, Bartow
18-year-old Jaccarion Gray, 2964 Warfield Drive, Bartow
Both O’Neal and Gray have active warrants for Armed Robbery and Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery.
Through their investigation, PCSO Robbery detectives learned that at approximately12:30 am, on Monday, March 28, 2016, Hobdy and McKenzie stole a white work van from Lake Alfred.  The suspects then traveled to the Bartow area where between 1:30 am and 3:20 am, the suspects burglarized five vehicles in one neighborhood; one vehicle was an unmarked PCSO vehicle.  The next day, McKenzie, Gray and O’Neal using a firearm stolen from the vehicle burglaries, committed one Robbery and attempt a second.
During the burglary to the PCSO vehicle, Hobdy and McKenzie pried open the lock box inside and removed an agency vest, two agency issued firearms (Glock handgun and Remington shotgun), a personal AR15, and other miscellaneous items.
At approximately 1:45 am on Tuesday, March 29, 2016, McKenzie, Gray, and O’Neal attempted an armed robbery in Winter Haven Police Departments jurisdiction, in which the victims fled from the suspects.  One of the suspect, using the stolen shotgun, fired into the victims’ vehicle.  There were no reported injuries.  The suspects were seen in the stolen van during this incident.
At approximately 1:59 am, on Tuesday, McKenzie, Gray, and O’Neal committed an armed robbery at a residence on the 4300 block of Scott Drive.  The victims cooperated giving up their personal property.  The suspects were again seen in the stolen van during this incident.
At approximately 2:21 am on Tuesday, a PCSO supervisor observed the stolen van which seemed to be following a light blue Pontiac.  The supervisor attempted to pursue the van as the Pontiac traveled in a different direction.  The suspect inside the van fled on foot in the area 2901 Dudley Drive and the stolen van was recovered.  It is believed the other three suspects were in the Pontiac.
At 3:30 am, on March 28, 2016, McKenzie and Hobdy were seen entering the Circle K located at 4980 Spirit Lake Road, less than three miles from the area of the burglary neighborhood.  The suspects threw personal items belonging to the victims into the store’s dumpster which was later discovered by two citizens.
Detectives were able to positively identify McKenzie, who had an active Polk County warrant for Armed Robbery, and Hobdy from store video.
On March 29 2016, Hobdy was located at his residence where several of the stolen items were located.  McKenzie was located walking along the street nearby. Both were transported to the Polk County jail.
McKenzie confessed to both robberies.  Detectives learned Hobdy was not involved in the robberies committed on March 29, however, he did confess to a robbery of a Papa John’s Pizza in November of 2015 in Winter Haven’s jurisdiction.
Detectives are asking for the public’s help in locating O’Neal and Gray.  Anyone with information in their whereabouts is urged to contact the PCSO at 863.298.6200.
ANYONE WITH INFORMATION WHO WANTS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS AND BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CASH REWARD IS ASKED TO CALL 1-800-226-TIPS or LOG ONTO IS GUARANTEED! iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, please
Both O’Neal and Gray have extensive criminal arrest histories.
O’Neal’s criminal arrest history includes the following:
11/7/11            LPD     Larceny grand theft
11/25/11          PCSO Burglary unoccupied, larceny, grand theft
1/3/14              PCSO Failure to appear warrant
6/29/14            PCSO Burglary occupied, unarmed
Gray’s criminal arrest history includes the following:
4/13/10            BPD    Petit theft
12/28/10          PCSO Assault on Leo/fire/emt, trespassing, obstruction
3/4/11              PCSO Burglary, larceny grand theft, larceny grand theft firearm, VOP
5/2/11              PCSO Corrupt public official
6/5/11              PCSO Marijuana
10/1/12            PCSO Burglar, larceny grand theft, trespassing, larceny petit theft, VOP
9/6/13              WHPD VOP
2/10/14            PCSO Obstruction, VOP
3/20/14            PCSO VOP
4/8/14              PCSO VOP
5/8/14              PCSO Larceny grand theft of firearm, petit theft, marijuana, para, VOP
9/18/14            BPD    Trespass school grounds, VOP
6/5/15              PCSO Marijuana, paraphernalia, VOP
The investigation is ongoing.

Citrus Connection to start Sunday service April 3 between Winter Haven and Lake Wales


Ceremonial ribbon cutting set for April 4 at LEGOLAND Florida Resorts

BARTOW (March 30, 2016) – Citrus Connection will begin providing Sunday public transportation service April 3 linking Winter Haven to Lake Wales.

This is the first time there is seven-day a week public transportation in East Polk since public transit began in Winter Haven 17 years ago. The new service is made possible by a three-way partnership between LEGOLAND Florida Resort, the City of Winter Haven and Citrus Connection.

“We are very proud to be able to take this great step toward expanding service in east Polk,” said Citrus Connection Executive Director Tom Phillips. “This partnership with LEGOLAND and the City of Winter Haven to provide seven-day a week public transportation is historic.”

The service will carry passengers on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, one of the most important corridors in east Polk. The LEGOLAND Route 30 travels to and from the Winter Haven Transit Terminal to Eagle Ridge Mall and back providing much-needed transportation access for the model citizens employed at LEGOLAND all others who work and shop along that corridor.

On Sundays only, the Route 30 will start at the Winter Haven Transit Terminal at 8:15 a.m. It will venture its way toward the Eagle Ridge Mall with time points along Cypress Gardens Boulevard, Cypress Gardens Road, Waverly Road, and Polk State College. The bus will make the return trip form the Eagle Ridge Mall at 9:45 a.m. The cycle will begin again at 12:15 from the Winter Haven Transit Terminal to head back to the mall arriving at 1:30 p.m. The final run from the mall back to the terminal leaves the mall at1:45 p.m. and returns to the Winter Haven Transit Terminal at 3 p.m.

Now the west and the east sides of the county have routes that provide seven-day service. On the west side, Route 3X (Florida Polytechnic Express) carries riders seven days a week to and from the college to local apartments, Publix Plantation Square and the Lakeland Square Mall.

The public is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony to be held at LEGOLAND Florida Resort April 4 at 10 a.m. where LEGOLAND officials, Winter Haven City officials, members of the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District Board, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners will celebrate the new service.

For any and all Citrus Connection route information, please call (855) POLK-BUS or check us out on the web at

Governor Rick Scott Announces License-Free Freshwater Fishing Weekend on April 2-3


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3, will be a license–free freshwater fishing weekend for Florida residents and visitors.

Governor Rick Scott said, “License-free fishing weekends are a great way for Floridians and visitors to enjoy the fishing capital of the world and to experience every fishing opportunity Florida has to offer. I hope everyone enjoys springtime in our state and takes advantage of license-free fishing this weekend.”

“This is a great opportunity to expose new anglers to Florida’s rich fishing heritage,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “We hope residents and visitors alike are inspired to enjoy a weekend on the water here in Florida, the Fishing Capital of the World. We want hooked fish and hooked anglers!”

This free fishing weekend is a part of the four total license-free fishing weekends the FWC offers each year. All bag limits, closed areas and size restrictions apply on these dates. To learn more about license-free fishing days, visit For fishing tips