Astatula

Ocoee Man Killed in Astatula Head-On Crash Friday, Man and Young Girl in Stable Condition

ASTATULA, Florida—A head-on crash killed an Ocoee man Friday afternoon and sent a 7-year-old Eustis girl and a 36-year-old Eustis man to the hospital, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 50-year-old Ocoee man was driving a grey Toyota Tacoma southbound on County Road 561, near Georgia Avenue in Astatula, when he traveled into the northbound lane and struck a white Dodge Ram being driven by a 36-year-old Eustis man around 4:15 p.m., FHP Lt. Channing Taylor said in a press release.

The Ocoee man was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased, Taylor said. The Eustis man and the young girl were transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares and are in stable condition.

State Attorney Creates Animal Cruelty Task Force

OCALA, Florida—In an effort to streamline delivering justice to those who hurt animals, State Attorney Bill Gladson has created an Animal Cruelty Task Force for the Fifth Judicial Circuit that includes Lake, Citrus, Hernando, Marion and Sumter counties, his office said in a press release last week.

The task force includes the Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC,) county animal services, and local law enforcement agencies and the goal is for law enforcement, animal services and animal protection organizations to work together to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty crimes throughout the circuit, according to the press release.

State Attorney Bill Gladson PHOTO: Florida Bar

“My office is committed to aggressively prosecuting animal cruelty cases, and I am grateful for the team which shares our commitment,” Gladson stated. “The reach of these crimes goes beyond harm to innocent animals; these criminals pose a risk to the entire community.”

Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, nearly 70 percent have criminal records.

Windchills in the 20s and 30s Expected this Weekend, Cold Weather Shelters Activated

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—For the second time in less than a month, Lake County is scheduled to open two cold weather shelter locations in anticipation of this weekend’s near-freezing temperatures.

Both locations open Friday; Trinity Assembly of God, 200 Urick Street, Fruitland Park will open at 5:30 p.m. and remain open through 7 a.m. each day, Friday through Sunday, and LifePointe Church, 3551 East Orange Avenue will be open 5 p.m. through 8 a.m. each day through Sunday, according to Lake County Emergency Management.

A warming shelter will also be open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Salvation Army, 2605 South Street, Leesburg,  

Lake Xpress will provide free transportation to cold weather shelters for those who need assistance traveling to a shelter. Schedules are available on Lake Xpress’ website. Residents who do not have access to a Lake Xpress fixed route must call 352-742-2612 to arrange transportation.

Friday night, cold temperatures and breezy winds will bring windchills in the upper 20s to lower 30s. A Wind Chill Advisory has been issued for east Central Florida, according to the U.S. National Weather Service, Melbourne.

“Arctic Blast” Arrives Just in Time for Christmas, Cold Weather Shelters to be Activated

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—In anticipation of this weekend’s chilly weather, Lake County will open two cold weather shelter locations Friday afternoon.

Both locations will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday; Trinity Assembly of God, 200 Urick Street, Fruitland Park will stay open 24 hours a day through Tuesday, and LifePointe Church, 3551 East Orange Avenue will be open 5:30 p.m. through 8 a.m. each day until Tuesday, according to Lake County Emergency Management.

A warming shelter will also be open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday at the Salvation Army, 2605 South Street, Leesburg,  

Lake Xpress will provide free transportation to cold weather shelters for those who need assistance traveling to a shelter Saturday and Sunday. Schedules are available on Lake Xpress’ website.

Residents who do not have access to a Lake Xpress fixed route must call 352-742-2612 by 1 p.m. Friday to arrange transportation. Clermont Police Department will check for those in need at Florida Citrus Tower, 141 South U.S. Highway 27, Clermont between 4:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Friday; if no one is on site, a bus will not be dispatched, according to officials.

According to the U.S. National Weather Service Melbourne, temperatures are expected to be at or below freezing with the wind chill in the 20s in Lake County. Officials are urging residents to make sure pets have a warm place to stay with plenty of food and water, cover exposed pipes, and cover or in bring in sensitive plants.

GRAPHIC: U.S. National Weather Service Melbourne

Tavares Police Officer OK After Exposure to Fentanyl Causes Her to Overdose

TAVARES, Florida—A Tavares Police officer is OK after being exposed to fentanyl and overdosing around midnight Tuesday.

Officer Courtney Bannick was exposed to the lethal drug during a traffic stop where she found various narcotics on a passenger in the vehicle. She placed the suspect into custody and as she attempted to leave the scene, TPD Cpl. Cullen O’Shea heard Bannick breathless and choking on the radio and went to check on her, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan said.

Body cam video showing Tavares Police Officer Courtney Bannick overdosing after being exposed to fentanyl. (part 1)

When O’Shea approached Bannick’s vehicle, he found her drifting in and out of consciousness and she was removed from her vehicle. TPD Sgt. Jason Mahaney and Astatula Police Lt. Rodney Brown assisted with caring for Bannick while she continued to drift in and out of consciousness and she required three doses of Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, Sullivan said.

She (Bannick) is one of our most proactive officers,” Sullivan said. “She’s eager to get back to work.”

Bannick took precautions on the stop, including wearing gloves, and TPD is reminding its officers and the public to be careful, Sullivan said. “Tavares Police Department is thankful for the continuous training and quick response of the officers on scene that were able to assist Officer Bannick. Tavares Police Department recognizes that this day could have ended differently if our officers did not react the way they did.”

Tavares Police Officer Courtney Bannick

Bannick spoke exclusively with Inside Lake Tuesday afternoon.

“I remember starting to talk and inform dispatch I was leaving the scene with the female arrestee. As I put my car in drive and began to talk. I started to choke and feel lightheaded,” Bannick said. “I kept trying to talk on the radio and I wasn’t breathing and could tell I was fading. I kept telling myself to put the car in the park repeatedly. Then I saw O’Shea coming in the mirror.”

Bannick said she does not know how it happened.

“I don’t know how I was exposed, I did search the vehicle prior to searching her so I could’ve been exposed in there,” she told Inside Lake.

Bannick is feeling better, “I feel okay today, I have a headache which they said would be expected due to the Narcan.”

Officers perform traffic stops and find deadly drugs nearly every day; they use precautions, but can be exposed very easily.

“I’m thankful I had immediate help,” Bannick said. “I highly suggest never searching a vehicle or person alone. Always have that back up. If I didn’t have back up there last night, I wouldn’t be here today to talk about it. I hope people take this as a lesson. I’ve done this 100 times before. I search cars every night at work. You never know how strong the drugs really are.

The individuals involved in the traffic stop are facing felony charges, but have not been charged at this time, Sullivan said. The drugs that were found have been sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing.

Body cam video showing Tavares Police Officer Courtney Bannick overdosing after being exposed to fentanyl. (part 2)

Off-Road Crash Kills Astatula Woman Early Sunday Morning

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—A 23-year-old Astatula woman was killed early Sunday morning when the Polaris Ranger side-by-side she was in overturned in a water-filled ditch and trapped her, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The woman, along with a 22-year-old Mount Dora man, a 48-year-old Tavares man, and a 25-year-old woman from Grand Island, were in the all-terrain vehicle in a wooded area near the Orlando North Airpark, off Duda Road near County Road 448A when it overturned and ejected the woman, trapping her beneath the vehicle around 4:30 a.m., FHP Lt. Channing Taylor said in a press release.  

The other three occupants suffered minor injuries and all four were transported to AdventHealth Apopka, where the woman was pronounced dead, Taylor said.

The crash remains under investigation.

Driver Killed After He Loses Control on County Road 48, Collides with Truck and Guardrail

ASTATULA, Florida—A Howey-in-the-Hills man was killed Wednesday afternoon after he lost control of the 2018 CH-R he was driving, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The man was traveling eastbound on County Road 48 near Ranch Road shortly after 12:30 p.m. when he lost control and began to hydroplane on the wet road as rain moved in before Hurricane Ian. The Chevy entered the westbound lane of County Road 48 and hit a 2020 Ford F-150 head-on.

“This impact caused vehicle 1 and vehicle 2 to exit the roadway and collide with the guardrail,” FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

PHOTO: Florida Highway Patrol

The driver of the Chevy was pronounced dead on the scene and the driver of the Ford, a 36-year-old Howey-in-the Hills man, was transported to South Lake Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Crescenzi said.  

The crash closed County Road 48 between Ranch Road and Laylaine Drive, and it remained closed at press time.

Law enforcement agencies are urging residents to shelter in place and stay off the road.

PHOTO: Florida Highway Patrol

Traffic Fatality Closes CR 48, Law Enforcement Urging Residents to Stay off the Roads

ASTATULA, Florida—A traffic fatality has closed County Road 48 between Ranch Road and Laylaine Drive as Hurricane Ian approaches the coast of Florida and weather conditions worsen.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash that killed a 38-year-old Howey-in-the-Hills man shortly after 12:30 p.m. The man was driving a 2018 CH-R and collided with a 2020 Ford F-150. The driver of the Ford was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi.

No other information was available at press time.

Law enforcement agencies are urging residents to shelter in place and stay off the roads.

Tavares Police and LCSO Join Forces for Operation Aware

Operation Aware will provide wristbands and a database for first responders and the special needs community.

TAVARES, Florida—Two law enforcement agencies have joined forces to provide a new tool to the community that will give first responders valuable information when responding to calls for service in the special needs community.

Nearly a year in the making, Tavares Police Department began its Operation Aware initiative in November 2021 and has since teamed up with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to provide wristbands to members of the community that may require a different response from law enforcement.

“We are big on community policing,” TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake last year. “There are always ways we can be better,” she said, “and there are always opportunities for the community to teach us how to better serve them.”

Operation Aware is a “total approach” to the issues facing the special needs community and will provide education, outreach and follow up,” Sullivan said.

Newly-appointed Tavares Police Chief Sarah Coursey worked with Sullivan to get this program up and running. “Operation Aware is near and dear to my heart; it gives us the opportunity to serve our community in a unique way when our response requires a different approach,” Coursey told Inside Lake.

The wristbands are available for community members who have intellectual and developmental disorders, including, but not limited to, autism, dementia. PTSD and Alzheimer’s, according to Sullivan. Loved ones and caregivers are encouraged to reach out to TPD or LCSO and register special needs individuals to get them a wristband and enter them into the database.  

The bright blue wristbands will immediately let law enforcement officers know they are interacting with an individual with special needs, and provide them with vital information including names, addresses, emergency contacts and medical conditions. Officers and dispatchers will have access to the information and individual addresses will be flagged so the officer is aware of any special circumstances before they arrive to the call. Officers will know if the individual is non-verbal, has a sensitivity to lights and sirens and any other pertinent information that would be helpful to officers. They will also help reunification by giving officers and deputies information immediately that can be shared with media outlets and on social media, Sullivan said.  

The wristbands will also be a tool for the public; they will have a number and a QR code that can be scanned and will inform the public to call 9-1-1. The wristband never needs to be charged.    To register, please visit https://tavares.org/1327/Operation-Aware or https://lcso.org/oa/

More Charges For Armed Robbery Duo

TAVARES, Florida—Two men facing numerous charges for robbing three stores in Lake County have now been charged with robbing one more.

 Dustin “Chico” Perdue, 27, of Tavares and Patrick “YG” Brown, 22, were arrested early Aug. 5 after an Astatula traffic stop led to evidence in a robbery of a Clermont gas station just 23 minutes before the stop.

They now stand accused of robbing Golden Ox Liquors 305 East Burleigh Boulevard, Tavares around 10 p.m. June 30. Perdue and Brown are accused of approaching the cash register, pointing guns at the victim and demanding money. The victim complied and the robbers grabbed an undisclosed amount of cash and tried to flee through the Golden Ox Bar that was filled with patrons. They realized their mistake and fled through the front door, according to a report.

Patrick Brown, left; Dustin Perdue PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Perdue and Brown have been charged in four robberies, including stores Clermont, Mount Dora, unincorporated Mount Dora and Tavares. They are being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Perdue is also suspected of murdering Alejandro “Alex” Garcia at Caroline Court Apartments in Tavares on April 8.

Scroll to Top