Fourth Annual Lake County Back the Blue Walk Scheduled for Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Law enforcement and supporters will join forces for the fourth annual Lake County Back the Blue Walk at Wooton Park Saturday morning.

Scheduled for 9 a.m., this is one of many law enforcement events around Lake County held in May during Law Enforcement Appreciation Month. In its fourth 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. Her close friend, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester, 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. 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 on his birthday.

Shannon Cook shows off one of the many gifts she has for the law enforcement officers who attend the walk Saturday. PHOTO: Shannon Cook

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. Usually a one-woman show, Cook has some help this year from Wayne Koester’s brother, Victor Koester, Jolie Fowler, owner of The Car Doctor Automotive Specialist Inc., in Eustis, Lt. Kristin Thompson of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Nina Rosania, who is very active in the community, especially in her efforts helping out small businesses in Lake County.

Participants will meet a 9 a.m. at Wooton Park, 100 East Ruby Street, Tavares. The first stop will be the Lake County Administration Building, then a stop at the Tavares Public Safety Complex and the walk will end at Kalua Beach Bar with lunch. Donuts will be provided before the walk by Lake Tire & Auto in Tavares, and a hot dog lunch will be available at Kalua Beach Bar, provided by the restaurant and Duct-Man Mechanical LLC in Eustis.

Tragic Crash Claims Lives of Mascotte Mom and Baby Monday

SUMTER COUNTY, Florida—A Mascotte mom and her 7-month-old daughter were tragically killed Monday morning after the mom ran a stop sign, struck a car and then a tractor-trailer, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Just before 9:15 a.m., the Mascotte mom was driving a sedan eastbound on County Road 476 in Sumter County when she ran a stop sign at the intersection of State Road 471 and struck another sedan being driven by a 32-year-old Mascotte woman. The second sedan rotated and came to a stop on the west shoulder of State Road 471. The woman driving the second sedan and a 3-year-old girl in the car with her suffered minor injuries. A 4-year-old girl, also in the car, was not injured, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said in a press release.

The first sedan continued and collided with the rear of a tractor-trailer being driven by a 57-year-old man of Winnsboro, South Carolina. The Mascotte mom and her baby suffered fatal injuries; the driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

The crash closed the roadway for nearly 6 hours.

Dry Conditions Force Countywide Burn Ban

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—Lake County officials imposed a burn ban effective Friday that will last indefinitely, according to a press release.

The burn ban is in effect for all of Lake County and prohibits the burning of yard debris, land and recreational fires but does not include outdoor fireplaces, barbecue grills and barbecue pits that have a total fuel area of 3 feet or less and 2 feet or less in height.

Dry conditions forced the move by county officials and surrounding counties have enacted similar bans. For more than three weeks, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) rating has exceeded 500 and the ban is necessary for public safety, the press release stated.

When the KDBI rating falls below 500 for seven consecutive days, the county will lift the ban.

Suspect Who Surrendered to LCSO SWAT Team Monday was Wanted for Attempted Murder, Separate Shooting

EUSTIS, Florida—The man who surrendered to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team Monday afternoon was wanted for numerous charges stemming from two separate shootings this month, including attempted murder.

Eduardo “Gordo” Ramirez, 24, of Mascotte was wanted in the shooting of a man on Bay Lake Road in Groveland Monday, according to an arrest affidavit. LCSO deputies responded to Bay Lake Road Monday at an unknown time, and the victim, who was shot in his left leg, told deputies Ramirez shot him during an argument.

The victim said Ramirez was in the driver’s seat of a white SUV, later identified as a Nissan Murano, when they began arguing and Ramirez produced a pistol and shot him in the upper left leg area. The victim went in the house and Ramirez fled the scene with an unknown male. A family member of the victim called 9-1-1 and he was airlifted to a local hospital for treatment, according to the affidavit.

Multiple public safety agencies stage in an undisclosed location before LCSO SWAT moved in on a home where they found a man wanted for a shooting. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

The victim’s father told LCSO Ramirez was staying at 605 Ohio Boulevard in Eustis and he was found to have an active warrant for another shooting earlier this month. Numerous deputies, including the SWAT team responded to the home on Ohio Boulevard and Ramirez surrendered peacefully, LCSO Lt. John Herrell told Inside Lake Monday. Only Inside Lake was on scene.

The law enforcement activity created concern for residents in the neighborhood that is just a half of a mile from Eustis High School.

Eduardo Ramirez PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

In the other incident, Ramirez is accused of shooting at a man who was following a vehicle he believed his fiancé’ may be in on State Road 50 in Groveland March 3. According to that probable cause affidavit, a man was concerned about his fiancé, who had not been home in two days. He went to look for her and saw her friend’s car at a nearby convenience store. The man followed the car and Ramirez, who was in the car, pulled out a handgun and fired multiple shots at the man. The man pulled out his own gun and fired shots back. He was not injured, but multiple bullets struck his truck, flattening the left front tire and damaging the engine block.

The victim’s fiancé’ returned home after the shooting and told Groveland Police Department “Gordo,” shot her fiancé;’ she later identified him in a photo lineup.  

Ramirez is facing a litany of charges in both cases, including attempted murder with a firearm, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, two counts of shooting a weapon from a vehicle, two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and felony criminal mischief. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $120,000 bond.

Members of LCSO’s SWAT team leave a home on Ohio Boulevard in Eustis after an attempted murder suspect surrendered Monday afternoon. PHOTO: Jolie Fowler/Inside Lake

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 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 or

Mascotte Parents Urged to be Extra Vigilant After Unidentified Man Tries to Lure 2 Small Children to His Car Thursday Morning

MASCOTTE, Florida—Mascotte Police Department is investigating a suspicious incident that involved two small children Thursday morning, according to a social media post by the City of Mascotte.

Around 7:30 a.m. Thursday an older Hispanic man with balding or short hair and stubble on his face, approached two children ages 8 and 10 near the area of Ridgemoor Drive and American Legion Road. The man is alleged to have asked the children in Spanish to come to his vehicle, believed to be a silver 2021 Toyota Corolla. The children refused and the suspect circled back around and told them to get in his car again. The children ran home, and the Corolla left the area in an unknown direction, according to the Facebook post.

MPD canvassed the immediate area with negative results but did obtain a video of the suspected vehicle. The car is described as a silver 2021 Toyota Corolla with “extremely dark” tinted windows. MPD notified surrounding schools and bulletin with a photo of the suspect’s car was sent to local law enforcement agencies.

MPD will be conducting extra patrols each morning and afternoon and urged parents to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activities to MPD.  

See Something, Say Something. Student Comes Forward after Seeing Gun on School Bus

MASCOTTE, Florida—A Lake Hills Academy student was arrested Thursday after another student came forward to the school’s administration about a gun on a school bus, according to Lake County Sheriff’s Office Lt. John Herrell.

Deputies had reason to believe the gun was left on the bus and went to the bus parking lot of Golf Links Avenue in Eustis and found the gun wrapped in a sweatshirt on a seat. The gun was not loaded.

LCSO retrieved video surveillance from the bus, and Trace James Richardson, 16, was seen on video removing his sweatshirt and leaving the Glock handgun on the seat.

Due to the video evidence and witness statements, Richardson was arrested for possessing a firearm on school property and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice. His booking photo was not available at press time.

Lake Hills Academy, 513 Albrook Street, Mascotte, is an alternative school, Herrell said.

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