Suspect Rams 3 Deputies in Stolen Truck, Flees Across 2 Counties, Carjacks SUV and Crashes into School Bus in Groveland Friday  

GROVELAND, Florida—A man is facing a slew of charges in Lake and Orange counties after stealing a struck, ramming three Lake County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars, carjacking a citizen and crashing into a school bus Friday morning, according to LCSO Lt. Fred Jones.

LCSO received a call from the owner of the truck around 6 a.m. and she said her truck had been stolen in the middle of the night. She provided GPS coordinates to LCSO, and deputies tracked to truck to a gas station near Hartle Road in Clermont, Jones said.

They found Joseph Crawford, 23, of Groveland, pumping gas; he fled when he saw deputies, ramming two patrol cars, disabling one. He was later boxed in at a construction site, where he rammed a third patrol car, Jones said. LCSO successfully deployed stop sticks and Crawford continued into Oakland in Orange County. The truck became disabled and he attempted to carjack a vehicle, but was unsuccessful. He then carjacked a Ford Bronco as the driver was exiting the SUV and then fled back to Lake County.

Joseph Crawford was sentenced to three years in prison for false imprisonment and leaving the scene of a crash. He was released in March 2022. PHOTO: Florida Department of Corrections

 He continued fleeing into Groveland, where he crashed into a school bus carrying three children and two adults. None of the occupants on the bus were injured, according to Jones.

Groveland Police Department took Crawford into custody and he was transported to an Orlando hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He is facing three counts of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, fleeing and eluding, grand theft, and resisting in Lake County, Jones said. He is facing additional charges in Orange County.

Crawford’s Lake County booking information and mugshot were not available at press time.

Clermont Mom Arrested for DUI After Allegedly Driving Wrong Way Through School Pickup Line Drunk

CLERMONT, Florida—A Clermont mom was arrested Friday for DUI after driving drunk through the pickup line twice at Pinecrest Lakes Academy, according to an arrest affidavit.

Staff members at Pinecrest Lakes Academy, 14012 Old Highway 50, Clermont requested their Lake County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy (SRD) assist with a parent they believed was intoxicated at the school around 2:45 p.m. Friday, according to an arrest affidavit.

A witness told the SRD Heather C. Tonnellier, 48, ran over a traffic cone and dragged it under her vehicle in the pickup line and when staff members approached her, they told her she had missed pickup time and she had to park and get her child from the front office.  Tonnellier then left the campus.

The witness also told the SRD a teacher called Tonnellier earlier to speak with her about being late picking her child up and missing a volunteer commitment. The witness said the teacher was concerned Tonnellier was under the influence due to her speech pattern, and the witness said Tonnellier had been escorted off campus on a prior occasion due to her being drunk, the affidavit states.

At 3:11 p.m., the SRD was notified Tonnellier had returned to the campus, driving the wrong way through the pickup line and “having great difficulty following the drive when curves and turns were present,” according to the affidavit.

The SRD watched Tonnellier exit a grey Hyundai, using the vehicle for support and as she made her way to the front office she was staggering and unsteady on her feet. She walked past the SRD and the SRD could smell alcohol, she noted in the affidavit.

Heather Tonnellier PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The SRD approached Tonnellier and asked her if she was experiencing a medical emergency, she said no, and the SRD explained people were concerned because she hit the cone and made numerous incorrect turns. Tonnellier seemed “confused” by what the SRD was saying.

The SRD asked Tonnellier if she had been drinking, which she denied and she agreed to perform field sobriety exercises. After the exercises, Tonnellier was taken into custody for DUI. The child was turned over to an emergency contact and Tonnellier was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she provided two breath samples, one .200 and one .198, both more than twice the legal limit. She was booked into LCJ and released on $1,000 bond.

In 2021, Tonnellier was arrested for DUI after being involved in a crash in the middle of the afternoon on State Road 50 in Clermont. At one point she told Clermont Police she believed her child was in the vehicle, but later said she dropped the child off at school. In that case, Tonnellier provided breath samples of .229 and .222, nearly three times the legal limit. According to Lake County Clerk of Court records she was sentenced to probation; she completed the probation and terms in May 2022.  

Clermont Motorcyclist Dead in Wednesday Afternoon Crash

CLERMONT—A motorcyclist was killed Wednesday after an SUV turned in front of him, troopers say.

Just after 2:45 p.m., a 51-year-old Clermont woman was traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 27 near Clermont in a 2015 Cadillac SRX. She attempted to make a left turn on Green Cove Boulevard and turned into the direct path of a 2014 Triumph motorcycle traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 27, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tara Crescenzi said. The motorcycle, being ridden by a 51-year-old Clermont man, struck the SUV.

The motorcyclist was transported to South Lake Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, Crescenzi said. The driver of the SUV suffered minor injuries and was not transported. The crash backed traffic up for miles and remains under investigation.

Map: Florida Highway Patrol

LCSO Identifies Armed Man Killed in Deputy-Involved Shooting Friday

CLERMONT, Florida—The suspect shot by Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies Friday has died.

Deputies went to 9201 Pine Island Road in unincorporated Clermont to perform a well-being check on Donald Charles Brady, 69, Friday morning according to LCSO Sgt. Jim Vachon. Brady, the owner of the home, was armed with a rifle and handgun and confronted deputies who took cover and attempted to communicate with him.

“As events unfolded, an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Vachon said Friday afternoon. Brady was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. No other details have been released.

Brady was charged with driving on a suspended license in 2019, he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation, according to Lake County Clerk of Court online records.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is investigating the shooting, standard practice in an officer-involved shooting.  

Barricaded Subject Shot by LCSO, Transported to the Hospital, Officials Say

CLERMONT, Florida—The barricaded man the Lake County Sheriff’s Office was attempting to negotiate with has been shot, according to LCSO Sgt. Jim Vachon.

“As events unfolded, an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Vachon said. “The suspect has been transported to the hospital for treatment, no law enforcement officials were injured.”

Deputies were on a well-being check at 9201 Pine Island Road when they were confronted by the man, who was armed with a rifle and handgun, Vachon said. Deputies took cover and attempted to communicate with the man, but he retreated into the home and refused to speak with deputies Friday morning.

The man’s name has not been released.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is on the scene investigating, standard practice in an officer-involved shooting.  

BREAKING NEWS: LCSO Attempting to Negotiate with Barricaded Subject in Unincorporated Clermont

CLERMONT, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is attempting to negotiate with a barricaded subject in unincorporated Clermont, according to LCSO Sgt. Jim Vachon.

Deputies were on a well-being check at 9201 Pine Island Road when they were confronted by an individual armed with a rifle and handgun, Vachon said. Deputies took cover and attempted to communicate with the man, but he retreated into the home and refused to speak with deputies.

“The LCSO Crisis Negotiations Team is working towards a peaceful resolution,” Vachon said.

LCSO is asking everyone to avoid the area.

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.

Woman Takes Daughter, 12, on Shoplifting Spree at Clermont Walmart

CLERMONT, Florida—A Kissimmee woman is accused of shoplifting numerous items, some she returned with a found receipt— and she had her 12-year-old daughter with her, according to an arrest affidavit.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded to Walmart, 550 U.S. Highway 27, Clermont on a report of a woman shoplifting with her daughter around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. A deputy arrived and he and a loss prevention officer took Charlene Melissa Hollister, 32, of Kissimmee, into custody, along with her young daughter.

The loss prevention officer told LCSO Hollister walked around the store and selected multiple items, concealing many of them in her purse. She went to the self-checkout, bought a candle and continued to the service desk where she returned multiple items she stole with a receipt she found on the ground, the affidavit states.

Charlene Hollister

Hollister received a gift card worth $102.48 and was apprehended as she made her way to the grocery exit. She was also found with additional merchandise worth $111.24.

The Department of Children and Families was notified, and the girl was turned over to a friend. Hollister was arrested for dealing in stolen property and petit theft. She is being held in the Lake County Jail on $2,000 bond.

Orange County Carjacking Suspects Flee Cops, Flip SUV in Clermont

CLERMONT, Florida—Three Lake County men were arrested Sunday morning after a license plate reader alerted deputies that a vehicle involved in an Orange County carjacking was in Clermont, according to several arrest affidavits.

Shortly before 6:30 a.m. Sunday, Lake County Sheriff’s deputies were alerted that a green Kia Soul involved in an early morning carjacking was in the area of U.S. Highway 27 in Clermont. Deputies began searching the area and located the SUV and attempted a traffic stop.

Jason Curtis Marks, 21, of Lady Lake, put the Kia in reverse and “intentionally struck the front push bumper of a marked patrol vehicle,” the arresting deputy stated in the affidavit.

Marks then turned left, drove over a median and began driving southbound on U.S. Highway 27, fleeing multiple LCSO marked units. Marks was speeding and driving “recklessly” near U.S. Highway 27 and Margaux Drive in Clermont and struck another vehicle, flipping the SUV he was driving, according to the affidavit.

LCSO took Marks, and his passengers, Jonathan Joseph Belcher, 22, of Lady Lake and Sheldon Anthony Shields-Wright, 21, of Leesburg into custody. Upon searching the vehicle, LCSO found two handguns, one being stolen out of Lake County and Marks was found with a ski mask and was wearing a black glove; Belcher had blue latex gloves, the affidavit states.

Marks was arrested for grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding, two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer, possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a concealed firearm and resisting an officer without violence; he is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Belcher was arrested for resisting an officer without violence and possession of a concealed firearm; he is being held in LCJ on no bond.

Shields-Wright was arrested for resisting an officer without violence in this incident, along with armed carjacking in Orange County. He was released from LCJ Tuesday, and it is unclear if he is in custody in Orange County.

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