Leesburg High Student Arrested with Gun on Campus

LEESBURG, Florida—A Leesburg High School student was arrested Friday after he was found with a loaded gun in his backpack at school, according to an arrest affidavit.

A teacher and an assistant principal responded to a classroom to assist a substitute teacher with three students who were possibly smoking a nicotine device around 9 a.m. Friday. The teacher and the AP removed the trio from the classroom and began walking them to an office and they were asked if they had anything they should not have; they submitted to a search, according to the affidavit.

The teacher searched a 16-year-old male’s Nike backpack and found a 9mm Taurus G3c, loaded with a round in the chamber and concealed in an ankle brace. Inside Lake is not naming the teen due to his age. The teacher immediately contacted the school resource officer who responded and secured the gun, according to the affidavit.

The teen was arrested for possession of a firearm on school grounds and carrying a concealed firearm. He was turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Fiery Crash Kills Man In Leesburg Friday

LEESBURG, Florida—A North Carolina man was killed Friday after a Lexus collided with the Cadillac he was driving, according to Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi.

The preliminary investigation revealed Kenny Ray Amdahl, 69, of Hubbard North Carolina, was northbound on U.S. Highway 27/441 at Tally Road in a gold 1988 Cadillac when a silver 2019 Lexus being driven by Terrance Raghoonauth, 29, of Lauderdale, swerved into Amdahl’s lane, colliding with the Cadillac, Iozzi said in a press release.

The Cadillac caught fire and Amdahl was pronounced dead on the scene, Iozzi said. Witnesses are encouraged to call LPD’s Traffic Unit at 352-787-9860; the crash remains under investigation.

An earlier version of this story contained a submitted photo of this crash that included a graphic image we missed. We have since blurred the image. We apologize to everyone who saw the original photo.

Third Annual Back the Blue Walk Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Hundreds of people are expected to attend the third annual Lake County Backs the Blue Walk scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Tavares’ Wooton Park.

In its third year, the walk began in 2019 to show support for law enforcement during a time when the “defund the police” movement was making its way across the country, event organizer Shannon Cook told Inside Lake. Representatives from several law enforcement agencies and numerous public officials are expected to be in attendance.

“The good ones needed to know they were appreciated,” Cook said.

Cook has always had respect for law enforcement officers and the job they do, she said. She grew up and was close friends with Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 9, 2005. Koester, who was 33 at the time, and two other deputies were ambushed while responding to a domestic violence call. All three deputies were shot, and Koester succumbed to his injuries; the other two deputies recovered. Jason Wheeler was shot and paralyzed during his capture and convicted in Koester’s death.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Cook was also close to Chris Daniels, who was serving as Lake County Sheriff when he was tragically killed in a charity bus race in 2006.

“Almost the entire time my son played baseball; Chris Daniels was his coach.” Cook said.

Cook told Inside Lake it is important the community show its support for all of the good officers and those who were lost in the line of duty. She is hoping for a large turnout Saturday, last year’s efforts were hampered by unusually cold weather and it was held Easter weekend.

Saturday’s walk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Wooton Park, 100 E. Ruby Street; donuts and coffee are being provided by Ralph Smith of Lake Tire & Auto before the event. Walkers will travel down Ruby Street to LCSO and then onto the Tavares Public Safety Complex before returning to Wooten Park for a hot dog lunch provided by Pamela O’Donnell and Vic Donahey of Vic’s Embers Catering.

Cook suggests participants use street parking in downtown Tavares, or park in the Tavares Parking Garage, 200 North Sinclair Avenue.

Trio in Car Accused of Trying to Run Deputy Over Facing Litany of Charges

LEESBURG, Florida—The trio accused of being in a car that attempted to run over a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy are facing a litany of charges, according to several booking sheets.

Jeffrey Elijah Gilbert, 20, of Orlando is facing the most serious charge, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a motor vehicle, after being accused of being the driver in Monday’s incident.

According to LCSO, a deputy attempted a traffic stop near Water Oak Country Club Estates on a white Dodge Charger believed to be involved in a shoplifting incident at Walmart, 2501 Citrus Boulevard, Leesburg. Gilbert, along with passengers, Pierre D’Haiti, of Orlando, and Calvin Anthony Williams, of Davenport, both 20, fled the stop in a white Dodge Charger after trying to run the deputy over to “facilitate an escape,” a detective noted in Gilbert’s affidavit.

As the car came towards him, the deputy fired two shots, striking two of the car’s occupants. The Charger fled and the trio abandoned the car near Country Life Mobile Home Park and fled on foot across U.S. Highway 27 into a Dunkin Donuts near the corner of U.S. Highway 27 and County Road 48. When law enforcement arrived, they found Gilbert and D’Haiti in the bathroom, along with scales, a glass jar and two gallon-sized bags of marijuana, the affidavit states.

Gilbert is facing one charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, fraudulent use of a credit card and criminal use of personal identification; He is being held on no bond.

 D’Haiti is facing one charge each of, possession of marijuana over 20 grams, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of another person’s identification, illegal use of a credit card and petit theft; he is being held on $9,000 bond.

Williams is facing four petit theft charges, one charge of scheme to defraud, four charges of illegal use of a credit card, four charges ID theft, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, three counts of violation of probation from an Orange County case and a pending charge that was not available at press time; he is being held on no bond.

Leesburg Mother Charged with Neglect after Volusia Deputies Find 2 Children Unrestrained in Car Pulled Over for Speeding

DeLAND, Florida—A little more than a week after a devastating crash that killed two unrestrained Leesburg children; two more Leesburg children were found unrestrained in a car that was reportedly speeding in DeLand at nearly 100 miles per hour.

Shortly after 12:30 a.m. Monday, two Volusia Sheriff’s Office deputies spotted a white Chevy Impala traveling 57 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone. VSO started to apprehend the car and its speed increased to 70 miles per hour before turning onto International Speedway Boulevard and accelerating to 91 miles per hour in a 50 miles per hour zone, according to a VSO report.

As deputies approached the car, they saw two small children, a 3-year-old girl lying in the front seat, unrestrained, and a 2-year-old boy in the backseat also unrestrained. There were no car seats in the car, according to the report.

VSO spoke with the driver, Carolyn Poitier, 25 of Leesburg, the mother of the children, who said she was headed to Daytona Beach to pick up her boyfriend, the father of the two tots. One of the deputies began to speak with Poitier on the dangers of having her children unrestrained and Poitier, “had complete lack of emotion or concern for her children’s own well-being,” the deputy noted in the report. She also got her children’s ages wrong.

Carolyn Poitier

Poitier said she does own car seats but took the vehicle without the seats because she did not want to strap in her sleeping children; she said always drives in the same manner and “did not seem concerned with the speed.” When asked what would happen if she were involved in a crash, she reportedly said she did not plan to get in a crash.

VSO told her to arrange for her children to be picked up with car seats and “contact was made” with her boyfriend, the children’s father. She was then taken into custody for child neglect and due to a strong odor of burnt marijuana, her car was searched. VSO found three loose pills, identified as Tramadol, a prescription pain killer. She was arrested for possession, in addition to child neglect and issued traffic citations for speeding, careless driving and three seatbelt tickets. A copy of the report was faxed to the Department of Children and Families for review.

The children’s father arrived on scene with car seats and took the children and Poitier was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail, where she was released on $5,000 bond.

This incident comes just 10 days after an Easter Eve crash that killed two toddlers. Two Leesburg boys aged 4 and 2 were unrestrained in a Kia sedan when the Kia was involved in a head-on crash with a Toyota pickup truck. The crash killed both boys and one was ejected, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A 1-year-old boy was airlifted to a local hospital in serious condition. It is unknown if he was in a car seat.

Forward Paths Foundation Benefit May 1, 2022

Tim O’Brien’s, The Things They Carried, a special arrangement with the Susan Schulman Agency from New York City. Adapted for the stage by Jim Stowell and directed by and starring Kenneth Kay. One performance only at the historic Melon Patch Theatre 311 N. 13th Street Leesburg. 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1. Call 352-255-3095 for tickets. Adults, $35; Veterans and Student tickets $15. All proceeds will go to the Forward Paths Foundation.

Sponsored by: MIKE Endowment in partnership with Kevco Builders and Jamie & Company Real Estate

WARNING: Adult Language and Themes

Two Suspects Shot After Driving Towards LCSO Deputy

LEESBURG, Florida—Two people were shot by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy after the vehicle they were in drove towards him when he was outside of his vehicle, according to LCSO Lt. John Herrell.

LCSO deputies were looking for a suspect vehicle after a stolen credit card was used at Walmart, 2501 Citrus Boulevard, Leesburg. Deputies spotted the vehicle in Lady Lake and attempted a traffic stop, but the vehicle fled, Herrell said in a press release.

“At some point during the chase, the deputy, after getting out of his vehicle, reportedly fired shots at the suspect vehicle as it drove towards him,” Herrell said.

The three suspects fled and abandoned their vehicle at Country Life Mobile Home Park, 3813 Victor Boulevard, Leesburg. Numerous witnesses told Inside Lake the car was a white Dodge Charger, but LCSO has not confirmed that. The trio were apprehended at Dunkin Donuts, near the corner of U.S. Highway 27 and County Road 48.

Two of the suspects were transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center with what appears to be non-life-threatening injuries, Herrell said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating.

Sex Offender Busted with Kiddie Porn, Soliciting a Minor; Hundreds More Charges Possible

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A registered sex offender is facing a litany of sex-related charges after Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents searched his phone and found numerous files of sexually exploited children—some of them infants.

Christopher Michael Kinney, 35, of Leesburg, was originally arrested on Tuesday for possession of child pornography and failure to register as a sex offender and was released on $10,000 bond the following day. At the time of his arrest, his phone was seized, and agents found 20 more photos containing male and female children ranging from infants to 13 years old and arrested him again Thursday at his job in downtown Mount Dora, according to an arrest affidavit.

Kinney is now facing 22 counts of possession of child pornography, four counts of distribution of child pornography, two counts of failure to register an online identifier, two counts of distribution of harmful material to a minor and solicitation of a minor. Kinney is being held in the Lake County Jail on $76,000 bond and may be facing more charges.

“It should be noted a brief review of the results of the full forensic examination revealed there are potentially hundreds of additional files depicting child pornography,” the arresting FDLE agent noted in the affidavit.

The initial examination of the phone revealed Kinney using the chat app Wik-r with the username tdrifter69. He communicated with at least two individuals, one he believed to be a bisexual 15-year-old boy. He sent that individual a picture of a sexual organ and said, “I’m 35 bi into young and incest,” the affidavit states. Kinney also had a Grindr account with the username host fwb, but agents were unable to determine if he communicated with minors because of the way the app stores data.

In 2017, Kinney pleaded no contest to traveling to meet a minor for illegal sexual conduct, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. In that case, Kinney thought he was communicating with the father of a 13-year-old girl. He admitted to a Lake County Sheriff’s Office detective he sent a message that said, “bend her over the bed and break her in nice and slow.” Kinney was sentenced to 21 months in prison, followed by two years probation. He served 17 months of his sentence. It is unclear if he completed his probation term.

Leesburg Man Dies in Crash With School Bus

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—A Leesburg man was killed in a crash Wednesday after he collided with a school bus carrying 17 children and ended up in a retention pond, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A Lake County Schools bus, being driven by a 64-year-old Bushnell man was eastbound on Great Egret Drive around 6:40 a.m. when it attempted to make a left turn on U.S. 27. A sedan, being driven by a 36-year-old Leesburg man, collided with the back of the bus and the impact sent the sedan into a retention pond, FHP Lt. Kim Montes said in a press release. The Leesburg man, who was wearing his seatbelt, was pronounced dead on the scene. The bus driver and his 17 passengers were not injured.

The crash remains under investigation.

Free Sealing and Expungement Clinic Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Lake County residents with minor criminal histories have a unique opportunity to quickly and efficiently expunge or seal their record Saturday if they qualify, at the first-ever Sealing and Expungement clinic offered here.

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida is teaming up with the Lake County Bar Association and Lake Young Lawyers Division to offer this free 4-hour clinic scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lake County Courthouse, 550 West Main Street, Tavares. Lawyers and representatives from numerous government agencies will be on hand to help participants navigate through the process, which often can be difficult to do on their own or expensive to hire a private attorney, said Taylor Tremel, an attorney who will be available on-site Saturday, to help. Lake County Clerk of Court Gary Cooney is waiving certain fees and providing the space for the clinic, Tremel said.

Tremel, who has served as an assistant state attorney and a public defender, is now in private practice with the firm Bowen & Schroth in Eustis and is enthusiastic about being a part of this program. “We saw that there was a need, and I thought it was a worthwhile thing to take on” he told Inside Lake.

“This brings everybody together under one roof to help and answer questions. It’s not very often all these groups get together to do something like this,” Tremel said.

Many crimes are not eligible to be sealed or expunged, including violent offenses, Tremel said. If a person was adjudicated guilty for a crime, they are not eligible either.

Participants’ criminal case must have occurred in Lake County to partake in the event and are asked to pre-register at Clinic Screening (legalserver.org) and those who do, may qualify for assistance with the $75 Florida Department of Law Enforcement application fee. Tremel said participants should not overstate their income or overrepresent how much money they have in the bank.

Tremel is hoping for a large turnout Saturday, “It’s a really awesome event,” he said. “I think it’s something that can be done annually.”

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