Leesburg Police Investigating After 2 Teens Shot at Apartment Complex

LEESBURG, Florida—Leesburg Police Department is investigating after two teenagers were shot at an apartment complex Wednesday night, according to Leesburg Police Capt. Joe Iozzi.

LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi told Inside Lake two 17-year-old males were shot at Lake Harris Cove Apartments, 32511 Lake Harris Cove Avenue, near Lowe’s, located at 9540 U.S. Highway 441 shortly before 8 p.m. One teen is being treated at AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares, which caused the hospital to be placed on lockdown, Tavares Police Department Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan said.

The second teen, who has a superficial wound to his finger, is in custody on an outstanding warrant for grand theft auto and other charges. He is not cooperating with police and the incident may be drug related, Iozzi said.

The investigation was still very active at press time and detectives are investigating whether the teens shot at each other; two types of shell casings were found at the scene. Neither victim has life-threatening injuries, according to Iozzi.

“It is an isolated incident and appears to be drug related,” Iozzi said.

Tavares Police Searching for Woman Missing Since Saturday

UPDATE: Celia Schwinden has been found safe.

TAVARES, Florida—Tavares Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a woman who was last seen at her home in the area of Dora Avenue Saturday.

Celia Schwinden, 67, is known to frequent Tavares, Eustis and Leesburg on foot and may be carrying bags with her. TPD is utilizing the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center, bloodhounds and pinged her cellphone with negative results. TPD has also issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) and reached out to surrounding law enforcement agencies, TPD Chief Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake.

“We have all hands on deck,” Coursey said.

Celia Schwinden, 67, is seen here entering her home in the Dora Avenue area Saturday. Tavares Police Department is trying to locate her to check on her well-being.

There has been no activity on Schwinden’s credit or debit cards. She apparently returned to her home Monday and left a note but left her home again. Police did not release what the note said.

“We need to check her well-being,” Coursey said.

TPD officers are canvassing the area and following up on leads, Coursey said, and Schwinden is believed to be wearing the clothing shown in the photos accompanying this article.

If you have information on Schwinden’s whereabouts, call TPD at 352-343-2101 and reference case T23050703.

Apopka Man Accused of Rubbing Up Against 2 Elderly Women in Tavares Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—An Apopka man has been released from the Lake County Jail after two elderly women accused him of rubbing up against them while he was aroused in a Tavares store Saturday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Tavares Police Department responded to the area of Banning Beach Road and U.S. Highway 441 Saturday morning on a report of man masturbating at the register of a nearby business. Inside Lake is not naming the business because it may identify one of the victims.

A TPD corporal spotted a man fitting the complainant’s description of the suspect and carrying a bag from the business where the alleged incidents occurred at a nearby car dealership off U.S. Highway 441. The man, identified at Zehran Wilcox-Maxwell, 25, appeared to be getting into a vehicle as TPD approached him and asked where he had been, the affidavit states.

Wilcox-Maxwell said he was at another store in the area and the corporal asked him if he was at the business where the incidents were reported. He said, yes, and TPD asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell him about. Wilcox-Maxwell said he was in store to buy some items and then came back; TPD told him there was an allegation he was masturbating at the register and Wilcox-Maxwell denied it and told TPD to go check the cameras. Another officer arrived and stayed with Wilcox-Maxwell while the corporal went to the store where the incident allegedly took place, according to the affidavit.

When TPD arrived at the store, a 70-year-old woman said Wilcox-Maxwell pushed up against her once and an employee of the store, who is over 65, twice. Both women started giving TPD more details and said he was aroused while doing it. Wilcox-Maxwell did not expose his penis, but both women said it was “protruding from the front of his shorts,” the affidavit states.

Another customer overheard the conversation and said she had a similar experience with the man, but only provided her name and number before leaving the store.

TPD reviewed the store’s surveillance video and Wilcox-Maxwell is seen in several areas of the store. The cameras did not cover the areas where he touched the women, the corporal noted.

In one frame, Wilcox-Maxwell is seen with his hand near his crotch in a “stroking motion consistent with how someone would pleasure themselves,” the affidavit states.

Police spoke to the two victims and one victim said Wilcox-Maxwell asked her if the store carried drapes and she took him to an aisle to show him. She said he pushed up against her buttocks with an erection and she tried to move away; when she turned to walk away, and he came up behind her and did it again. The second victim told police Wilcox-Maxwell appeared to be masturbating and he approached her and “bumped” into her hip with an erection, according to the affidavit.

When confronted with the allegations, Wilcox-Maxwell denied them and said he has psoriasis on his inner thighs, and he was just scratching himself. He also denied touching any of the women.

Wilcox-Maxwell was arrested for two counts of battery on a victim over 65. According to Florida law, the incidents fall under the battery statute and are not considered sex crimes. He was transported to LCJ, where he was released on $4,000 bond Saturday night.

Motorcycle Crash Kills Leesburg Man, Injures Leesburg Woman

TAVARES, Florida—A late night motorcycle crash killed a Leesburg man and injured a Leesburg woman Wednesday night, according to Tavares Police Department.

A TPD officer was parked in the parking lot of the Tavares Recreational Park (TRP) boat ramp off U.S. Highway 441 and witnessed a 2007 Harley-Davidson with two riders appear to lose control near the entrance shortly before midnight, Courtney Sullivan, TPD Public Information Officer, told Inside Lake.

Gerald Hoffman, 48, was pronounced deceased on the scene and Laura Hoffman, 47, was transported to a local trauma center and suffered minor injuries. Neither rider was wearing a helmet and it is unknown which rider was operating the motorcycle, Sullivan said.  The crash closed the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 441 for more than four hours and remains under investigation.

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.

2 Tavares Middle School Students Arrested Thursday for Threatening School Shooting

TAVARES, Florida—Two 13-year-old girls were arrested Thursday after Tavares Middle School (TMS) students reported finding a threat written on a mirror in one of the girls’ bathrooms on campus, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The TMS school resource deputy (SRD) quickly identified two female students who might be responsible from video surveillance at the school and deputies searched their backpacks and found markers that matched the writing on the mirror, LCSO said. Grace Edge, of Mount Dora admitted to writing part of the threat and said her friend Amiya Walker, wrote the second half of the message. Walker denied her involvement, according to an arrest affidavit.

Both girls were arrested for written threats to kill and disruption of a school function, transported to the Lake County Jail and then turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

This is the second incident in a Tavares school this week. On Monday, Freddy Adams, 16 was arrested at Tavares High School after being found with a 9mm handgun in his backpack.  

Tavares High School Student Busted with Gun on Campus Monday

TAVARES, Florida—A Tavares High School student was found with a gun on campus Monday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Freddy Adams, 16, was pulled out of class around 12:30 p.m. Monday because he and two other students were believed to be under the influence of the drugs, the affidavit states. Adams’ backpack was searched by an assistant principal and he found a small black bag that contained a Remington Arms R51 9mm. The names of the other two students were not released.

The gun was not loaded, but the AP found a magazine that contained six 9mm rounds in the bag with the gun, according to the affidavit. Adams, of Leesburg, was arrested by THS’ school resource deputy for possession of a firearm on school property, carrying a concealed firearm and possession of a firearm by a minor; he was transported to the Lake County Jail.

Late Night Head-On Crash Kills Eustis Man and Altoona Woman Saturday

TAVARES, Florida—Two people are dead following a head-crash on a busy Tavares Road Saturday night.

Shortly before 10:45 pm. Tavares Police Department responded to a report of a crash near County Road 561 and Lona Street. According to witnesses and evidence on scene, a 2019 black Nissan Sentra being driven by Scott Alexander Sawyer, 29, of Eustis, was speeding northbound on County Road 561 and attempted to pass vehicles on a double yellow line. He struck a 2008 gray Mazda Tribute head-on being driven southbound by Lindsay Marie Baker, 26, of Altoona, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake.

“Several area first responders responded to the scene in an attempt to render aid and assist with the investigation,” Sullivan said in an email.

Baker and Sawyer were both pronounced deceased following the crash and TPD traffic homicide investigators responded to the scene and took over the investigation, Sullivan said.

The crash shut down County Road 561 for several hours and remains under investigation.

Man Apprehended in Tavares by Multiple Agencies Last Year Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison

OCALA, Florida—A Leesburg man who was apprehended near a Tavares motel more than a year ago has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Timothy Eric “Tater” Evans, 41, was taken into custody March 3, 2022 near La Bella Inn, 101 West Burleigh Boulevard by multiple agencies on a federal warrant issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) stemming from an incident that occurred in Tavares on May 21, 2021.

In May 2021, Evans was found with a stolen vehicle and an officer with Tavares Police Department searched the stolen vehicle and found MDMA, also known as Molly, and a loaded gun in the center console. A search of Evans’ phone revealed numerous photos of illegal narcotics and guns, along with messages in which Evans was attempting to buy and sell guns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The gun charge was dropped by the state and picked up by the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Evans pleaded guilty in June 2022.

Evans was later taken into custody in Tavares with the cooperation of multiple agencies, including ATF, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Mount Dora Police Department and Tavares Police Department.

PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

“We assisted ATF, FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and Mount Dora Police Department in the apprehension of Timothy Evans on an active federal warrant,” TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake last year. TPD also transported Evans to the Lake County Jail, according to a report.

According to an MDPD report, officers from that agency assisted with blocking eastbound traffic on U.S. Highway 441 near the motel and Evans and another male were ordered out of the vehicle they were in and taken into custody without incident. The vehicle was then towed to MDPD for secure storage.

Multiple sources, as far back as November 2021, have told Inside Lake Evans, an eight-time convicted felon, is suspected of committing a high-profile crime in the area, but he has never been arrested for the crime. Evans’ case was part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together many levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and gun violence, the U.S Attorney’s Office said. Assistant United States Attorney Hannah Nowalk prosecuted the case.

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