Inside Scoop

Man Confronted By Homeowner As He Attempts To Steal ATV, Runs Out Of His Slides and Drops His Phone. Text Messages Reveal His Plan

SORRENTO, Florida—A burglary suspect who was being chased by the homeowner he attempted to steal an ATV from, dropped his phone and ran right out of his slides last week; and the found phone led to the capture of both him and his partner in crime, according to an arrest affidavit.

 Before daylight Thursday, a Sorrento resident observed a male, later identified as Tyler Ray Trapp, 22, enter her back porch and take an ATV. The woman woke her husband, who went outside and confronted Trapp.

As Trapp attempted to leave the property, the male victim yelled and Trapp took off on foot, running out of his white Nike slides and dropping his phone, according to the affidavit.

The victims turned the phone and slides over to Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a detective took over the case. After obtaining a search warrant for the phone and looking through it, the detective determined the phone belonged to Trapp—the phone was logged into all his social media accounts, a T-Mobile account was registered to Trapp, text messages referred to him by name and he found a text conversation between Trapp and Jeremy Bradford Williams, 41, discussing the planned theft of the ATV.

That text conversation contained several statements, including: “I have a gig where we can get an ATV and a dump trailer; how are we going to get the trailer and the ATV out of the area; lets just get the ATV tonight because my friend won’t let me borrow the wrecker for the trailer; do we need bolt cutters; will we need a key for the ATV; are you sure there are no cameras at this house; where will you be waiting to pick me up in case something goes wrong.”

A neighbor of the victims who own the ATV had a dump trailer in their driveway, the detective noted in the affidavit.

After gathering evidence from the dropped phone, the detective began surveilling Williams’ residence less than 24 hours after the attempted burglary of the ATV. A red truck pulled up to the residence and LCSO spoke to a man who was there to buy tools he had already partially paid for. He was released and shortly after Trapp and Williams pulled up and were detained. Williams was “misleading” during the interview and would not give his “full involvement” in the burglary, the detective noted. Trapp, however, was more forthcoming. He admitted to the burglary of the ATV and told LCSO there were several stolen items on Williams’ property, including the tools the man came to buy earlier. Those were stolen from Home Depot, according to the affidavit. He also said they stole items from Tractor Supply Co.

Williams gave consent to search his property and the stolen items were located and taken into evidence. The car the pair were in was registered to a couple in Missouri and Williams originally said it belonged to his wife. He later recanted that statement and said he did not know who it belonged to. Trapp said Williams obtained the car, but he thinks it might be stolen and just not reported yet. Trapp also said Williams is involved in drug activity and there may be drugs in the car.

LCSO searched the car before it was towed away, and a black box was found in the car that contained Xanax, fentanyl and 66 grams of methamphetamine. Williams also had $1,600 cash.

Trapp and Williams were both arrested for burglary, grand theft, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and dealing in stolen property. Williams is facing additional charges of trafficking in methamphetamine, possession of fentanyl, possession of Xanax and possession drug paraphernalia.

Trapp was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he is being held on $40,000 bond. Williams is being held at LCJ on $56,5000 bond.

Trapp was arrested earlier this month for burglary and possession of burglary tools after Tavares Police caught him in the garden center of Ace Hardware, 509 South Duncan Drive, shortly before 3 a.m. Feb. 12. He was released on $7,000 bond in that case and that case is still pending.

Man Admits To Stabbing Woman With Machete During Altercation Near Bicycle Trail

LEESBURG, Florida—A man who admitted to police he stabbed a woman with a machete last week because he was tired of her “(expletive) talking,” is being held in the Lake County Jail on $10,000 bond.

Leesburg Police responded to the city’s bicycle trail near the 900 block of Stinson Street on a report of a stabbing, shortly before 10 a.m. Feb. 18. The victim told police she was stabbed with a machete by Kenneth Eugene Hicks, 42, of Eustis, during an argument over ongoing issues and her refusal to allow him to use her illegal drugs, according to an arrest affidavit.

Kenneth Hicks PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

She told police the argument escalated, and Hicks retrieved a machete from his tent and lunged at her in a stabbing motion, leaving a cut about 3 centimeters long on her right ribcage. The victim was treated and transported to a local hospital.

LPD questioned Hicks and he said the victim was trying to provoke him into a physical fight by “talking (expletive)” about him and his mother. He said he had enough of her “(expletive) talking), so he got his machete and stabbed her so she would stop.

Hicks was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and transported to LCJ.

Eustis Man Crashes Through Guardrail, Takes Out $50,000 Electrical Box, Flees, Arrested for DUI

TAVARES, Florida—A Eustis man who was driving under the influence took out a $50,000 electrical box for a traffic light, crashed through a guardrail, fled the scene, and had someone coming to pick him up at the next intersection when Eustis Police caught up with him, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday, Tavares Police responded to the intersection of U.S. Highway 441 and David Walker Drive on a report of a crash and later met with Eustis Police who had the vehicle responsible for the crash stopped at the next intersection near Sonny’s BBQ, according to an arrest affidavit.

An EPD officer told the TPD officer she believed the driver, Sean Donegal Pearce, 25, was under the influence due to his glassy bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and slow movements. The TPD officer could smell alcohol on Pearce as she spoke to him, she noted in the affidavit.

Sean Pearce PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Pearce openly admitted he had been drinking and told police he is not a frequent drinker. He agreed to perform field sobriety exercises and struggled with completing them and was arrested for DUI and taken into custody. He was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he provided two breath samples that registered at .13 and .12, well over the legal limit. Pearce was released from LCJ on $2,500 bond. He was also ticketed for leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.

Leesburg Man Shoots At His Sister In Front Of Multiple Witnesses, Threatens And Batters Leesburg Police Officers

LEESBURG, Florida—A 22-year-old Leesburg man is facing a slew of charges after shooting at his sister, threatening a Leesburg Police officer, and battering another Sunday evening, according to an arrest affidavit.

Leesburg Police responded to a home on Baker Street on a report of a shooting around 6 p.m. Sunday. When they arrived, Anthony M. Jones, 22, was in the front yard arguing with multiple people, according to an arrest affidavit. Two people were reportedly yelling at Jones for shooting at his sister and LPD immediately detained Jones, who told them they would not find the firearms or the casings, the affidavit states.

Police searched the area and failed to find a gun or shell casings, but witnesses who are related to Jones, told them he did shoot at his sister. They refused to provide written statements. Police spoke to the victim who said she argued with Jones about not providing care for his child and he should return the child to his mother due to his erratic behavior. Jones pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it directly at his sister who ran into the house in fear, according to the affidavit. Once she got into the house, she heard three or four shots, she told police.

Witnesses told LPD Jones ran to a neighbor’s house following the shooting and appeared to hand something off to a white male who drove off rapidly after the exchange. Jones refused to be questioned but made several spontaneous statements including calling an LPD K9 handler by his full name, along with the name of his spouse and child. He continued by saying the officer “needed to get off work early for his family’s good,” the affidavit states. He made so many remarks, including he would “headshot” the officer and “spill my tomato on the sidewalk,” the arresting officer was unable to document all of them, he noted in the affidavit.

Jones was arrested and taken to Leesburg Police Department for processing and officers requested Lake EMS respond due to Jones possibly being under the influence of narcotics. Jones began acting belligerent towards EMS staff and tried to prevent Jones from standing up. Jones is alleged to have jerked free and shoved an officer in the chest.

Jones is facing one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of threatening a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and tampering with evidence. He is being held at the Lake County Jail on $210,000 bond.

Man Driving Tractor-Trailer Sideswipes Truck In Apparent Road Rage Incident

CLERMONT, Florida—A Wildwood man was arrested for aggravated battery after purposely causing a collision during an apparent road rage incident earlier this month while he was driving a tractor-trailer for his job, according to a Florida Highway Patrol arrest report.

FHP responded to a crash shortly after 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9 on U.S. 27 near Scholfield Road and found that a collision occurred between Christopher Terrence Brooks, 46, who was driving a Peterbilt tractor-trailer and another man, who was driving a Ford F150. The man told troopers he and Brooks were in their respective vehicles driving northbound on U.S. Highway 27 for a few miles. The man became aggravated Brooks was traveling in the inside through lane below the speed limit, so he passed Brooks and gave him “the bird” as he passed, according to the affidavit.

The man later changed lanes and Brooks attempted to pass him. As Brooks passed, the trailer portion of the tractor-trailer Brooks was driving came into his lane and struck the man’s Ford F150.

Christopher Brooks PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Brooks told FHP a similar story until the collision. Brooks said the F150 was “brake checking” him to prevent him from passing and then came into his lane and he “lightly jerked” the steering wheel to avoid a collision, the affidavit states. Brooks said the entire incident was captured on his dashcam and the trooper informed Brooks he would be getting the dashcam footage. The trooper also questioned the driver of the F150 about Brooks’ accusations of “brake checking” and preventing him from passing. The F150 driver denied Brooks’ claims.

At a later date, Brooks’ employer provided FHP with the video footage and the trooper found both drivers lied, he noted in the affidavit. The driver of the F150 prevented Brooks from passing on multiple occasions and “brake checked” Brooks to the point he almost rear-ended the F150. The F150 then changed lanes and Brooks accelerated and swerved into the F150 as he passed. A second video from the cab of Brooks’ vehicle shows Brooks accelerate past the F150 and sharply jerk the wheel, causing the tractor-trailer to collide with the F150.

Brooks turned himself in Sunday and was released from the Lake County Jail on $2,000 bond.

Man Encounters Eustis Police Twice In 4 Hours, Smashes Cake In Girlfriend’s Face, Goes To Jail

EUSTIS, Florida—A man who encountered Eustis Police twice in just a few hours could have spent the night at a friend’s house and went to court for his misdeeds, but instead he came back home, smashed cake in his girlfriend’s face and ended up in jail.

Shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday a woman approached EPD officers while they were on an unrelated traffic stop and told them her boyfriend, Ronald Lee Thompson II battered her at their nearby home and stolen her wallet, her prescribed medication, and her phone when she tried to call 9-1-1, according to an arrest affidavit.

EPD transported the woman back to her home and when police knocked on the door, Thompson refused to answer. The woman used her key to open the door and EPD found Thompson had barricaded the door with a bed. Thompson, who was spotted sitting in the kitchen by an officer, refused to come out when officers called to him, so multiple officers entered the home and asked Thompson to give his side of the story and he continually refused, according to the affidavit.

Officers detained Thompson and he began speaking to them and said he did not know where his girlfriend’s wallet, medication or phone was, but the phone belonged to him. His girlfriend searched the house for her belongings to no avail and told police she believed they were in the trunk of Thompson’s car, the affidavit states.

Ronald Lee Thompson PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Thompson refused to consent to a search of his trunk and EPD utilized K9 Hulk to conduct an open-air sniff of the car and while Hulk was working Thompson attempted to distract Hulk by yelling. Hulk’s handler warned him he was interfering with Hulk while he was performing his duty and Thompson continued to yell, trying to distract the pup.

While looking for her things, Thompson’s girlfriend opened a white box that was sitting next to Thompson when officers entered, and inside the box were two baggies of marijuana, two vape pens, one with a used THC cartridge, a grinder, three lighters and two boxes of rolling papers. Due to lack of evidence, EPD did not arrest Thompson on domestic battery, but they did inform him he was being arrested for the marijuana and paraphernalia. Thompson reportedly asked if he could avoid going to jail if he was able to produce his girlfriend’s belongings and leave the home for the night, according to the affidavit

Eustis Police Department’s K9 Hulk

Thompson told officers where to find her belongings and he was issued three notices to appear in court. He gathered some personal items and told officers he would walk to his friend’s house because he had been drinking.

About four hours later, just before 3 a.m. Sunday, Thompson’s girlfriend went to Eustis Police Department and said Thompson had returned home, smashed a piece of cake in her face and again taken her belongings. Police arrived back at the home and found Thompson sitting outside and he “appeared to be more intoxicated than at our previous encounter,” the arresting officer noted in the affidavit. Thompson said he came back home because the friend had already gone to sleep, and he did not want to disturb him. He also said he never went in the home after returning.

Police found visible signs of an altercation, including a cake plate upside down on the floor and cake smeared on the fridge. He said he had no idea where his girlfriend’s belongings were and he was told he was being arrested for his previous crimes, as well as grand theft of a controlled substance and petit theft. Thompson was placed into handcuffs and arrested for domestic battery, obstructing a K9 in the course of duty, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia and resisting without violence, in addition to the theft charges. Thompson sat down on the ground and refused to stand and stated several times he was not resisting, just failing to comply. He reportedly said if police were going to arrest him, they would have to drag him out of the yard. Thompson was placed in leg shackles and a hobble restraint and carried to a patrol car. He then agreed to stand and sit in the car without any more resistance, the affidavit states.

Thompson was transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $7,500 bond.

Tavares Police Release Names of Those Cited In Underage Alcohol Sting

TAVARES, Florida—Tavares Police Department has released the names of the four restaurant employees accused of serving minors Friday night.

TPD utilized three confidential informants for its undercover operation and each one used their actual state issued identification, TPD Public Information Officer Courtney Sullivan told Inside Lake. No fake IDs were used in the operation. One informant is 20 and will not turn 21 until close to the end of 2022 and the other two informants are under 18, according to a report.

Around 7:30 p.m., the informants went to Dog House, 201 West Ruby Street and sat at the bar. The 20-year-old informant ordered a vodka and tonic and was asked for identification. The informant produced the identification that stated she was 20 years old and Kayla Maznaritz, 29, of Tavares “looked at her ID for a very long time and eventually asked if she was 21,” the report states. The informant said she was 21 and Maznaritz gave her identification back and served the vodka and tonic. The other two teenagers were asked for identification and said they forgot it. They were not served.

Maznaritz was removed from the restaurant and issued a misdemeanor citation that requires an appearance in court. Maznaritz told TPD she had her manager look at the identification and the manager confirmed the informant was 21, but the informant said Maznaritz was the only one who looked at it.

At 8:40 p.m. all three informants entered Puddle Jumpers, 111 West Ruby Street and sat at a table. The 20-year-old ordered a vodka and tonic and the teenagers each ordered a beer. Dorothy Fox, 49, of Tavares looked at each of their IDs, complimented their photos and handed them back. All three minors were served, and each identification had a large red box with yellow lettering stating when the individual would turn 21.

Around 9 p.m., the trio went to Tiki West, 118 West Ruby Street and sat at the “oyster bar,” according to a report. The 20-year-old informant ordered a vodka and tonic and was asked for identification. The informant produced it and was served by Gabriella Shelton, 29, of Tavares. The second informant produced identification and was not served, and neither was the third informant who said they did not have their identification, the report states.

At 9:15 the trio went to the last restaurant that would serve them Friday night, Buster Tubbs, 110 South New Hampshire Avenue. They sat at a table and ordered a vodka and tonic and beers, according to the report. Server Gerri Roos, 49, of DeLand, asked for their identification because her boss “was around” but she “really don’t care,” the report states. She glanced at two of the identifications and did not look at the third, according to the report.

Fox, Shelton and Roos were all issued misdemeanor citations, along with Maznaritz and TPD turned over its findings to to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency charged with issuing liquor licenses and regulating alcoholic beverage laws, TPD Lt. Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake Friday.

TPD has seen an uptick in minor crimes committed by juveniles lately and stopped a minor walking downtown with a beer earlier this month. “We were informed there were some issues downtown, so we acted quickly to try to prevent further problems like fights, DUIs and disturbances,” Coursey said.

The informants attempted to buy alcohol at four other establishments Friday night. Hemingway’s Wine Beer and Cigar Bar, 126 West Ruby Street; Kalua Beach Bar, 181 South Joanna Avenue, O’Keefe’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 115 S. Rockingham Avenue and Ruby Street Grille, 221 East Ruby Street all denied the minors.

Groveland Man Dies After Truck Overturns Near Astatula

ASTATULA, Florida—A Groveland man died Wednesday after the semi he was driving overturned around 10:20 a.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Kim Montes.

The 58-year-old man was northbound on County Road 48 near Ranch Road when he lost control and overturned, Montes said. The man, who was wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead on the scene.

The crash remains under investigation.  

Rivalry Between Juvenile Gangs Responsible For Multiple Shootings, Police Say. Several Law Enforcement Agencies Working Together

EUSTIS, Florida—Tavares Police arrested a teenager last week on a juvenile pickup order for shooting at an apartment with children inside earlier this month while another group of children played basketball just 350 feet away, and Eustis Police say it is just one shooting in a string of violent encounters between two rival gangs that has lasted for more than a year.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Feb. 7, EPD responded to a drive-by shooting in the 1200 block of East Hazzard Avenue, and found a bullet hit a home and a tree, along with four shell casings in the roadway, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Police spoke to witnesses and found that two cars pulled up to the children playing basketball and asked where someone was by their nickname, “Cherry Lake.” “Cherry Lake” is a known gang member, affiliated with the “510 Gang.” Inside Lake is not naming “Cherry Lake” by his real name, because he has not been charged with a crime. The males then got back into one of the vehicles and left; another witness described the same vehicle driving by her apartment and firing shots.

The “4wayy” gang has been investigated for several shootings dating back to November 2020, according to Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri. Police believe there is a rivalry between “510 Gang” that is comprised of mostly juveniles who live in or grew up in Eustis, and “4wayy” that is comprised of mostly juveniles who live in or grew up in Mount Dora. Police are still investigating the motive behind the rivalry; they have received information that it started over stolen guns, a female, drugs, and trash talking, according to an EPD detective working the case.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Mount Dora Police Department and Tavares Police Department have all been working together, gathering intelligence and trading information, Capri told Inside Lake. Capri’s own officers have been working hard to talk to witnesses and gather evidence to make arrests.

“I am very proud of the men and women of Eustis Police Department and the work they have put in on these cases,” Capri said.

This rivalry began more than a year ago and there have been 15 to 20 shootings reported to law enforcement involving these two gangs in a little over a year, and police believe there are more that have been unreported, Capri said, and most were drive-by shootings where no one was injured. The home on Hazzard Avenue has been shot at, at least four times in the last few months, an EPD detective close to the investigation said. Police are still working to figure out exactly what started it, Capri said. Though it is believed to have begun earlier in November 2020, on Nov. 27, 2020, a woman, who was an innocent bystander, was shot in downtown Eustis following the city’s annual “Light Up Eustis” festivities. She was standing in the brick area near Wells Fargo Advisors and Sol De Mexico when she was hit by one of the three shots fired. This reporter was the only media on scene following that incident. Brycen Jacobe Williams, then 17, was arrested less than two months later for the shooting.

In this most recent shooting on Feb. 7, a tipster showed police a Snapchat story posted by Williams that showed EPD cars on the scene with the caption, “Ain’t Nomoee Who Dat, We Shoot Dat.”

Gang members from both sides have utilized social media to brag and get “street credit,” the detective told Inside Lake. Videos and photos were discovered on social media showing the car suspected in the Feb. 7 shooting near the shooting location on the same date. In those videos, a white Dodge Dart, the car suspected in the shooting, can be seen in the photos and videos, according to the affidavit. The photos and videos were recorded just six minutes before the shots were fired.

Eustis Police investigate a shooting at Sunset Island Park on Jan. 22. A 17-year-old boy was shot in what police believe was a random attack. Police are investigating multiple shootings that are due to a gang rivalry. PHOTO: Inside Lake

EPD, LCSO, MDPD and LCSO stepped up patrols in response to this shooting and the following day, Feb. 8, a white Dodge Dart was spotted speeding less than a half of a mile from the shooting scene on Hazzard Avenue around 10:45 p.m. And EPD officer attempted to pull the Dodge over and it fled several blocks. The car suddenly pulled over and at least one passenger bailed out of the car and fled on foot.

The driver, Joseph Antwon Baker, 21, of Tavares was taken into custody and searched. Police found a small bag of marijuana, his wallet, $20, a scale and a Vienna sausage, according to the arrest affidavit. Baker told EPD there were two people in his vehicle who fled from the scene. Baker said once EPD got behind the car, the front seat passenger, Artavious “Kutt” Williams, 16, put a gun to his head and said, “If you stop, I’m going to kill you.”

Editor’s note: Although Brycen Williams, who was arrested for the Light Up Eustis shooting, and Artavious Williams are both said to be gang members and have the same last name, they are not related according to EPD.

Baker was arrested for feeling and eluding, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on $7,000 bond.

Baker told police Robert “Swag” Sharp Jr. texted him on Feb. 7 to play basketball. He picked Sharp up, and they played at Carver Pak in Eustis and then went home. He denied any shots were fired from his car; however, Baker did identify Sharp from a photo on social media and confirmed Sharp was standing in front of Baker’s Dodge Dart in the photo.

On Feb. 9, in a second interview, Baker admitted he was driving and Williams aka “Kutt” was in the passenger seat while Sharp was in the back. Baker said Williams stood outside the window and fired shots at the apartment of Hazzard Avenue. Two other individuals were also in the backseat, according to Baker, but Inside Lake is not naming them because they have not been charged with a crime at this time.

Williams and Sharp have both been arrested for the Feb. 7 shooting, according to EPD. TPD picked up Sharp and it is unclear when Williams was picked up. They are facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm from a vehicle, improper exhibition of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a minor.

Police also believe the shooting at Sunset Island Park on Jan. 22 involves some “4wayy” members, but the shooting was random, Capri told Inside Lake. Thomas Saliba, 17, was shot in the face during a 3-year-old’s birthday party, but was not targeted, Capri said. It is believed that the individuals involved in that shooting just randomly decided to shoot up a park, he said. One person has been arrested in that case.

LCSO, EPD, MDPD and TPD are continuing to work together, and more arrests are forthcoming, Capri said.

Four Tavares Restaurants Busted Selling Alcohol To Minors

TAVARES, Florida—In an effort to deter a small uptick in minor juvenile crimes downtown, Tavares Police Department performed underage alcohol buys Friday and four of the eight establishments they tried to buy from sold alcohol to minors, according to TPD Lt. Sarah Coursey.

“We were informed there were some issues downtown, so we acted quickly to try to prevent further problems like fights, DUIs and disturbances,” Coursey told Inside Lake. “One of our officers stopped a minor walking downtown with a beer just a few days ago.”

Buster Tubbs, 110 South New Hampshire Avenue, Puddle Jumpers Lakeside Grill & Bar, 111 West Ruby Street; Tavares Dog House, 201 West Ruby Street and Tiki West Raw Bar and Grill all sold alcohol to minors, according to Coursey.

“The buyers showed their IDs at all of the establishments. Some served regardless and others didn’t bother checking,” Coursey said.

Hemingway’s Wine Beer and Cigar Bar, 126 West Ruby Street; Kalua Beach Bar, 181 South Joanna Avenue, O’Keefe’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 115 S. Rockingham Avenue and Ruby Street Grille, 221 East Ruby Street all denied the minors.

Employees who sold to the minors were given a misdemeanor citation that requires an appearance in court and TPD will be sending its findings to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency charged with issuing liquor licenses and regulating alcoholic beverage laws, Coursey said.

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