Umatilla

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/

Man Arrested in Attempted Murder of Security Guard Wednesday

UMATILLA, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has made one in arrest in the attempted murder of a security guard during an armed robbery earlier this week.

Travontae Shavar Harley, 33, of Mount Dora is accused of entering Hot Spot, 37415 State Road 19, Umatilla shortly before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday with an unidentified black male. The security guard of the internet gaming location, commonly known as “fish games” immediately engaged the pair and the security guard was shot. He was airlifted to a local hospital and his condition is unknown.

The pair of robbers fled the scene in a dark-colored pickup truck and were not apprehended.

According to an arrest affidavit, another internet gaming location was robbed recently, and a phone was found in the path of the robbers’ getaway vehicle. A data extraction was performed on the phone that revealed images of cards belonging to Harley, along with the owner account name similar to Harley’s social media accounts.

Travontae Harley PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

LCSO Street Crimes Unit pulled over a 2020 Nissan Frontier Friday and Harley was taken into custody. A receipt to a gas station was found and surveillance video showed Harley and another black male entering the parking lot of a gas station in a black Frontier about three hours before the shooting. The pair is seen walking into the store wearing pants and shoes that matched the robbers, according to the affidavit.

Harley was taken into custody and arrested for attempted murder while engaged in a robbery, armed robbery, false name to law enforcement, possession of amphetamine and two counts of violation of probation for stalking and criminal mischief. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

LCSO is still searching for the second subject, if you have information, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

LCSO Searching for 2 Suspects After Security Guard was Shot in Attempted Robbery Wednesday Night

Story has been updated with 911 calls added.

DONA VISTA, Florida—The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is searching for two black males who shot a security guard during an attempted robbery at an internet gaming location Wednesday night, according to newly-released information.

Two black males entered Hot Spot, 37415 State Road 19, Eustis around 6:30 p.m. and fired an undisclosed number of shots, striking the security guard, LCSO Lt. Fred Jones said.  The victim was airlifted to a local hospital; his condition is unknown at this time.  

The pair of would-be robbers, described only as black males, fled the scene have not been apprehended.

LCSO, Eustis Police Department, Umatilla Police Department, and the Florida Highway Patrol all responded to the scene and set a perimeter up; officers from several agencies were posted on State Road 19 and County Road 19A near the scene, following the shooting.

Numerous arrests, including minor drug possession and trafficking, have been made in the area in the last several months and many suspects told EPD officers they were leaving Hot Spot, commonly known as fish games. Hot Spot is located just outside of Eustis’ city limits.

The investigation is ongoing, if you have information call Crimeline, 1-800-423-TIPS.

LCSO released 911 calls made after the shooting of a security guard Wednesday night.
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One Person Shot in Attempted Armed Robbery

DONA VISTA, Florida—One person was shot Wednesday night during an attempted robbery at a popular internet gaming location, according to Lake County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Fred Jones.

A black male entered Hot Spot, 37415 State Road 19, Eustis around 6:30 p.m. and fired an undisclosed number of shots, striking one person, Jones said.  The victim was airlifted to a local hospital.

The suspect was not apprehended.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Eustis Police officers set up a perimeter following an attempted robbery and shooting Wednesday night. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

LCSO, Eustis Police Department, Umatilla Police Department, and the Florida Highway Patrol all responded and a perimeter was set up; officers from several agencies were posted on State Road 19 and County Road 19A near the scene.

EPD has made numerous firearms and drug arrests, including minor possession and trafficking, of individuals who told officers they were leaving Hot Spot, commonly known as fish games. Several people who live nearby, and asked not to be named, said the location should be shut down because of the type of people it attracts.  

The investigation into the attempted robbery and shooting is ongoing, if you have information call Crimeline, 1-800-423-TIPS.

LCSO Sergeant Paid Prostitute $80 for Trysts, Unsealed Court Documents Reveal

TAVARES, Florida—A Lake County Sheriff’s Office sergeant arrested last month for soliciting prostitution paid the person $80 per encounter, according to a probable cause affidavit unsealed by County Judge Sarah Jones earlier this month.

LCSO was tipped off to Sgt. Scott Stone’s activities by a woman who told an LCSO captain and a detective her friend of four years confided in her that a “Sgt. Stone” with LCSO was paying the friend to have sex with him in public places. The friend is not named in the affidavit and is referred to as he/she or “the source” throughout the affidavit. Inside Lake will be referring to this person as “the source” for the remainder of this article.

After conducting surveillance on the source, the captain and detective approached the source at a store and conducted an interview. The source said the pair met on a domestic dispute call and exchanged numbers in June 2021. Within two days Stone sent the source a photo of him standing in front of a mirror completely nude, according to the affidavit.

The source did not send a return photo and said about a day later Stone contacted the source to hang out. The source agreed and Stone picked the source up in his personal vehicle. Stone asked the source if they were interested in sex and the source agreed. The source asked where at Stone reportedly replied Home Depot and they stopped at Circle K at the corner of County Road 44 and County Road 473 and Stone made a withdrawal from the ATM.  

The couple went to Home Depot and proceeded to have unprotected oral sex and intercourse, according to the affidavit. Stone then paid the source $80.

In January Stone again contacted the source and the pair met at Walgreens, 11101 U.S. Highway 441 and attempted intercourse. Again, Stone paid $80. Later in January, Stone met the source at an abandoned home in Leesburg while on duty; the home was outside his assigned sector. The source said Stone was in full uniform and parked his marked patrol unit behind the home. The pair touched each other, and Stone did not remove his uniform, and told the source he was nervous because he was on duty.

Stone was interviewed in late April and admitted having sex with the source but denied paying for it. He was asked if he had phone conversations with any known criminals or prostitutes and he reportedly said, “to his knowledge nothing he wouldn’t be afraid Jesus would see.” Investigators found text messages between Stone and the source.

Stone: When is the last time you had sex?

Source: Last night.

Stone: That’s really hot!! For pay?

Source: I have not showered yet but was gonna bath (sic) but I can wait just for you.

Source: Yes.

Source: I have bills.

Stone: Ugh. That’s SO SO HOT!!

A warrant was issued for Stone’s arrest in July and Stone, a 17-year veteran of LCSO turned himself in to the Lake County Jail, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said in a press release last month. He was released from LCJ on $1,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Stone is currently under internal investigation and is suspended without pay, LCSO Lt. Fred Jones said.  

Back to School Events Around Lake County

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—The first day of school, scheduled for Aug. 10 for Lake County Schools, is fast approaching and with increased prices for gas, food and many other essential items, many families are in need of back-to-school supplies or some fun to have with the kiddos before they hit the books.

We have compiled of list of events around Lake County that include supply giveaways and fun and informative events for the kids. Cities are listed in alphabetical order, scroll down until you find an event near you.

Clermont

Saturday, July 30, 9 a.m. to noon. Project Kid Connect presented by Lake County Sheriff’s Office Charities. Backpack and school supply giveaway, food, drinks, rock climb, dunk-a-deputy and more. Location: South Lake District Office,15855 State Road 50, Clermont.

Eustis

Saturday, July 30, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Back to School Bash presented by the City of Eustis. Free food, school supplies and boy’s haircuts while supplies and spaces last. Free pool admission, bounce house and firetrucks and police cars on scene. Battle of the Badges Blood Drive, donors receive $20 eGift card and first responder t-shirt. Location: Ferran Park, 250 Ferran Park Drive, Eustis

Fruitland Park

Friday, July 29, 10 a.m. to noon. Back to School Bash presented by Fruitland Park Library. Free hot dog lunches, school supplies, bicycle helmets and face painting, while supplies last. Free vision and hearing screenings also available. Location: Fruitland Park Library, 604 W. Berckman Street, Fruitland Park.

Groveland

Saturday, July 30, 10 a.m. Back 2 School Backpack Bash presented by the City of Groveland. Free backpacks for grades K-8, adult and child must be present to receive a backpack while supplies last, vendors and a kids zone. Location: Nathaniel Community Gymnasium, 13806 State Road 33, Groveland.

Minneola

Thursday, July 28, 6:30 p.m. Back-to-School Safety Meet-and-Greet with speakers, Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell, Lake County Schools Superintendent Diane Kornegay and Lake County Schools Supervisor of Safety and Security Joseph Mabry. Speakers will discuss how LCSO and LCS are keeping students safe. Location: Minneola City Hall, 800 North Highway 27, Minneola.

Mount Dora

Sunday, Aug. 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Whimsy Market’s Back to School Market Mount Dora. More than 30 vendors, character meet and greet with Elsa, sweet treats and food trucks. Location: Essential Therapies Spa, 1518 North Donnelly Street, Mount Dora.

Umatilla

Saturday, July 30, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Whimsy Market’s Back to School Market Umatilla. More than 40 vendors, character meet and greet with Elsa, carnival games, live music, bounce houses and food trucks. Location: Sunsational Farms, 40541 Roger Giles Road, Umatilla.

Altoona Man Flees LCSO in Stolen Truck, Apprehended by K9

ALTOONA, Florida—A man released from prison just three months ago is back behind bars after fleeing from a Lake County Sheriff’s Office detective in a stolen truck Tuesday, according to an arrest affidavit.

An LCSO detective went to a home on Lake King Road in Altoona Tuesday morning to interview Dennis James Imhoff, 36, about his involvement in a vehicle burglary. When the detective arrived, Imhoff was unloading items from a white Chevy truck, later determined to be stolen, the affidavit states.

The detective identified himself and Imhoff got in the truck and backed through the yard in a “reckless manner,” ran a stop sign at Rea Way and State Road 19 and then traveled to County Road 42. LCSO attempted to stop Imhoff, and he fled northbound on Big Oak Road.

The detective received information Imhoff entered a driveway on East Altoona Road, and he located the truck, covered with a tarp, behind the home. The detective then discovered the truck was stolen from Umatilla on Monday, the affidavit states.

LCSO canvassed the area from 10:50 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday and failed to find Imhoff. Shortly after 3:30 p.m. LCSO received a call Imhoff was around County Road 42, and he was located by a K9 deputy and its handler. Imhoff was instructed to stop running and he failed to, and K9 Murphy was deployed and apprehended Imhoff.

Imhoff was transported to AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares for treatment of a dog bite and medically cleared, according to the affidavit. He was arrested for grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding and resisting without violence.

Imhoff is currently on probation and suspected in more than six grand theft auto cases in Marion County and Volusia County. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond.

Man Accused of Pointing Gun at Trio, “I’m Going to Cap All 3 of Y’all!”

UMATILLA, Florida—A man who allegedly threatened a group of people with a gun scaring a woman so much she urinated on herself, is being held in the Lake County Jail on $26,000 bond.

Jeremy Forest Mitchell, 29, is accused of accosting the woman about some money she allegedly owed him Saturday, according to an arrest affidavit.

The woman told a Lake County Sheriff’s deputy she was riding her bicycle with her friend on State Road 19 Saturday night when Mitchell came up on his skateboard asking about the money. Her boyfriend apparently saw the altercation, approached Mitchell, and asked, “Why are you talking to my girl?” the affidavit states.

Mitchell, of Yalaha, is then alleged to have pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at the trio and said, “I’m going to cap all three of y’all!”

The group backed up and the woman urinated on herself out of fear, she told LCSO. She pulled out her phone and told Mitchell she was going to call law enforcement and Mitchell put the gun away, grabbed his skateboard and fled the area.

Deputies located Mitchell and the victim positively identified him as the perpetrator, according to the affidavit. Mitchell denied the accusations against him and denied talking to anyone that evening. He was taken into custody and found with a small amount of marijuana; deputies did not find a gun.

Mitchell was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of marijuana.

Umatilla Man Accused of Hugging and Trying to Kiss Girl, 11

UMATILLA, Florida—A Umatilla man has bonded out of jail on child abuse and battery charges after an 11-year-old girl accused him of hugging her, rubbing her legs and trying to kiss her, according to an arrest affidavit.

Umatilla Police Department responded to a home Monday after the girl reported to her parents Hector Laguna-Ruiz, 47, touched her. She said Laguna-Ruiz hugged her and tried to kiss her several times and she pushed him away and told him to leave, when he came into her room around 1 a.m., the affidavit states. She said Laguna-Ruiz left and returned 20 minutes later and asked if he could hug her. She said, “no,” and went into the bathroom and Laguna-Ruiz continued to ask her through the door. Then she went to her bed; he sat down and began rubbing her legs and knees and she repeatedly told him to leave.

Laguna-Ruiz told the girl not to tell her parents and he left.

UPD questioned Laguna-Ruiz, who was sleeping on a hammock on the property, and he said he did hug the girl, give her jewelry and money, but did not touch her. He also told police he lets her keep his wallet and money for safekeeping, but the girl said she never did that before now, the affidavit states.

Laguna-Ruiz was taken into custody and transported to LCJ, where he was released on $6,000 bond.

Motorcyclist Killed in Umatilla Saturday Morning

UMATILLA, Florida—A 64-year-old DeLand man was killed when he failed to negotiate a curve on County Road 450 Saturday morning, the Florida Highway patrol said Saturday.

Shortly before 10:45 a.m., the man was traveling eastbound on a 2006 Harley Davidson motorcycle when he failed the negotiate a curve on County Road 450, also known as East Collins Street, near 9th Avenue, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The motorcycle left the roadway and overturned; the man was pronounced dead on the scene. He was not wearing a helmet.

The crash remains under investigation.

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