Mount Dora

Teenager Who Shot at Cops Transferred to Lake County Jail, Volusia Sheriff Says Missing Dad’s Body Found  

Editor’s Note: A YouTube link to dash cams and body cams released by LCSO is available at the bottom of the story. Due to its policies, YouTube has restricted the video to viewers aged 18 and up.

TAVARES, Florida—The teenager accused of shooting at Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Mount Dora Police officers Monday was transferred to the Lake County Jail Thursday—the same day his father’s body was found.

Jonny Ze Guiseppe Santiago, 18, is being held in LCJ on no bond on three charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, fleeing and eluding and discharging a firearm from a vehicle stemming from an incident in Lake County Monday.

On Sunday, Volusia Sheriff’s Office (VSO) began investigating after receiving a call from Santiago’s mother, who was in New York, shortly after 11 p.m. The woman said she was on the phone with her husband, Juan Santiago, 52, when she heard him arguing with Jonny. She heard a loud noise and the phone disconnected.

VSO responded to the home at 899 East Lehigh Drive, Deltona and found no one was home and the white Ford F-150 Jonny was known to drive was also missing. VSO deputies spotted the truck in nearby DeBary, but it fled, in addition to fleeing from Sanford Police after the truck left Volusia County.

VSO issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) for the truck Monday and LCSO Lt. John Herrell told Inside Lake LCSO received information the truck may be headed to Lake County.

LCSO utilized its helicopter, Eagle One, in the search and found the truck near the corner of U.S. Highway 441 and Eudora Road. Deputies attempted to pull him over around 4:45 p.m. and he fled south on U.S. Highway 441 to Limit Avenue and fired at pursuing deputies and Mount Dora Police officers on Donnelly Street, near downtown Mount Dora. The truck fled south on Donnelly Street before crashing into Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora, a synagogue located at 848 North Donnelly Street, where he opened fire again at deputies and officers. Two deputies and one MDPD officer returned fire, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said earlier this week.

Jonny Santiago PHOTO: Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Dash cam and body cam released Wednesday showed Santiago firing at law enforcement several blocks before he crashed and then firing multiple shots at them through his driver’s side window after he crashed. Two deputies and one MDPD officer fired back, striking Santiago multiple times. He crawled out of the truck and deputies immediately began rendering aid to the teenager.

Early Thursday afternoon, LCSO Sheriff Peyton Grinnell released video on the LCSO Facebook page because he felt several media organizations did not tell the whole story. This story is the first time Inside Lake published the videos and we chose to publish the videos in their entirety.

“When the video footage was aired on the different news stations, a few of the news stations, whether intentional or not, omitted or inaccurately narrated what was actually happening on the video. So, to make sure the citizens we proudly serve have the rest of the story, I’m providing you the same video released to the media outlets,” Grinnell said in the Facebook post.

“My deputies stayed in the fight with this armed individual to ensure he was taken off the street. The quick life-saving measures such as the application of tourniquets and pressure bandages applied by law enforcement officers after the suspect throws his gun out of the vehicle, may have helped save his life,” Grinnell said.

Late Thursday afternoon, VSO Sheriff Mike Chitwood announced the body of Juan Santiago was found in a lake in Orange County.

“A body that is believed to be missing father Juan Santiago has been located in Lake Avalon in Orange County. Our Major Case detectives are en route. Interesting note: Our suspect’s sister found the body while searching that lake,” Chitwood stated in a Facebook post.

He later said Jonny’s mother had an app that tracked Jonny’s location and Jonny’s sister found her father’s body wedged between some bushes in a remote location in Apopka.

It is unclear what additional charges Jonny Santiago is facing in Volusia County. “We’re not in a rush,” Chitwood said.

Body cam and dash cam released by LCSO. Due to its policies, YouTube has restricted the video to viewers aged 18 and up. This is beyond Inside Lake’s control; we appealed the decision and lost. Sensitive material, viewer discretion is advised.

Teenager who Shot at Lake County Law Enforcement a Person of Interest in Father’s Disappearance, Volusia Deputies Say

MOUNT DORA, Florida—The teenager who fled Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Mount Dora Police Officers before firing shots at them on Donnelly Street is a person of interest in the disappearance of his father, according to the Volusia Sheriff’s Office (VSO.)

VSO was searching for Johnny Santiago, 18, after receiving a call from Santiago’s mother, who was in New York, shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday. The woman said she was on the phone with her husband, Juan Santiago, 52, when she heard him arguing with Johnny. She heard a loud noise and the phone disconnected. She has not spoken to him since, VSO said.

VSO responded to the home at 899 East Lehigh Drive, Deltona and found no one was home and the white Ford F-150 Johnny was known to drive was also missing. VSO deputies spotted the truck in nearby DeBary, but it fled, in addition to fleeing from Sanford Police after the truck left Volusia County.

VSO issued nationwide and regional BOLOs (be on the lookout) for the truck; LCSO Lt. John Herrell told Inside Lake LCSO received information the truck may be headed to Lake County and LCSO utilized its helicopter, Eagle One, in the search.

“We were looking for that vehicle,” Herrell said.

Eagle One found the truck near the corner of U.S. Highway 441 and Eudora Road and deputies attempted to pull him over around 4:45 p.m. He fled south on U.S. Highway 441 to Limit Avenue and fired at pursuing deputies and Mount Dora Police officers. The truck fled south on Donnelly Street before crashing into Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora, a synagogue located at 848 North Donnelly Street, where he opened fire on deputies and officers. Two deputies and one MDPD officer returned fire, Herrell said.

Johnny Santiago then exited the vehicle and laid down, where deputies and officers rendered aid to him, Herrell said. He was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center and is expected to survive.

PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

The shooting in under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the two deputies are on administrative leave, both standard procedures in deputy-involved shootings.

Johnny Santiago is facing numerous charges in Lake County, including three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing and eluding and shooting from a vehicle. Other charges are possible, Herrell said. He has been booked into the Orange County Jail and is being held on no bond. His mugshot was not available at press time.

Juan Santiago is still missing, and VSO continues to investigate his disappearance.

Wanted Suspect Shot at least once after Opening Fire on Law Enforcement

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A 18-year-old suspect wanted by the Volusia Sheriff’s Office was shot at least once by law enforcement Monday after shooting at them, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect’s truck was spotted by Eagle One, LCSO’s helicopter, after LCSO received information the suspect may be in Lake County, LCSO Lt. John Herrell said.

“We were looking for that vehicle,” Herrell said.

According to a social media post by Volusia Sheriff’s Office, a white Ford F-150 related to a suspicious incident in Deltona fled from both Volusia County and Seminole County deputies Monday morning. The Deltona man is a suspect in a domestic violence incident, Herrell said.

Eagle One, spotted the truck near the corner of U.S. Highway 441 and Eudora Road and deputies attempted to pull him over around 4:45 p.m. He fled south on U.S. Highway 441 to Limit Avenue and fired at least one shot at pursuing deputies and Mount Dora Police officers. The truck fled south on Donnelly Street before crashing into Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora, a synagogue located at 848 North Donnelly Street, where he opened fire at law enforcement. Two deputies and one MDPD officer returned fire, Herrell said.

PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

The suspect then exited the vehicle and got on the ground, where deputies and officers rendered aid to him, Herrell said. Witnesses told Inside Lake they heard numerous gunshots.

The suspect, whose name is not being released, was shot at least once and airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center. He is expected to survive, Herrell said.

The incident closed several blocks Donnelly Street and LCSO and MDPD were on scene looking for shell casings along Donnelly Street near 20th Avenue.

The two deputies are on administrative leave, standard procedure in a deputy-involved shooting, Herrell said.

The suspect is facing numerous charges in Lake County, including three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officers, aggravated fleeing and eluding and shooting from a vehicle. Other charges are possible, Herrell said.

Team Effort in Operation Sneak-A-Peek Nets Largest Fentanyl Haul in County History

TAVARES, Florida—Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell has a message for those dealing drugs in Lake County…to be continued.

Announcing the largest fentanyl haul in Lake County history at a press conference Thursday, Grinnell spoke to members of the media about a 4-month operation that resulted in 27 people facing drug-related charges after detectives with multiple agencies targeted three high-level drug traffickers and their associates across the county.

Cliff “Sneak” Johnson, 40, Andrew “Smurf” Woodruff, 37, and Charles, “Cuz” Carter, 50, who have collectively been arrested 75 times for felonies, were the main targets of “Operation Sneak-A-Peek” Grinnell told reporters Thursday afternoon.

“Mr. Johnson goes by the street name, “Sneak,” and our detectives took a peek and what Mr. Sneak was up to; hence, the name of this operation,” Grinnell said.

Detectives from LCSO, Clermont Police Department, Eustis Police Department, Leesburg Police Department and Mount Dora Police Department, DEA, FBI, Homeland Security and the Fifth Circuit State Attorney’s Office investigated the trio and found that fentanyl was coming from Mexico into California and Texas and making its way to Lake County, either by shipping methods or transported by vehicle, Grinnell said.

“This was truly a team effort,” Grinnell said.

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Detectives traveled to Georgia and throughout Florida to crack the case, according to the sheriff.

Detectives recovered a large amount of drugs, including 3.1 pounds of fentanyl, 1.11 ounces of fentanyl pills, 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 2 pounds of cocaine, 1.2 ounces of crack cocaine, 5.7 ounces of heroin, 10 ounces of MDMA and 15 pounds of marijuana. Thirteen guns were recovered, three of which were stolen, in addition to $12,000 in cash, four vehicles and three pill presses. The drugs have a wholesale street value of nearly $300,000 Grinnell said.

Johnson, of Leesburg, is being held in the Sumter County Jail on no bond and is facing 23 charges, including trafficking, conspiracy to commit trafficking, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and possession of numerous different drugs; Woodruff, of Mount Dora, is being held in the Lake County Jail on no bond and is facing four charges, racketeering, conspiracy to commit trafficking in fentanyl  and methamphetamine and, unlawful use of a two-way communication device. Carter, of Leesburg, is charged with conspiracy to commit trafficking in fentanyl and cocaine, and conspiracy to commit racketeering. He is also being held in LCJ on no bond.

The operation also revealed the suspects were dealing Isotonitazene, commonly known as ISO, a synthetic opioid that can be 20 to 100 times more potent than fentanyl, Grinnell said.

Seventeen suspects have been arrested and cops are still looking for nine more.

Grinnell had a message for those he calls “pushers of poison.”

“Operations like these save lives and put the pushers of poison behind bars. So here in Lake County, I say, to be continued.”

State Attorney Bill Gladson said some of the charges carry minimum mandatory prison sentences of at least 15 years.

Several documents in each of the suspects’ cases have been sealed and many details of the undercover operation are not available. 

PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

2 Juveniles Arrested in Downtown Airsoft Shootings, Mount Dora Police Still Working to Identify Suspects in Eudora Road Incident

MOUNT DORA, Florida—Mount Dora Police Department has arrested two juveniles for shooting people downtown with airsoft guns Friday, according to the city’s spokesperson, Vershurn Ford.

The two juveniles were arrested for battery and their names are not being released; the airsoft gun used in the shooting has been recovered, according to Ford.

A second incident on Eudora Road Saturday is still unsolved, Ford said in a press release. In that incident, a pedestrian was walking down Eudora Road when he was struck in the leg and near one of his eyes, Ford said. Police released photos of vehicles used in both incidents and the occupants of the red vehicle have not been identified.

If you have information on the Eudora Road incident, call MDPD’s Criminal Investigations Unit at 352-735-7130. 

Mount Dora Police are working to identify the occupants of this vehicle, suspected in the airsoft shooting on Eudora Road Saturday.

Ray Bryant Jr., Community Leader and Volunteer, Passes Away Unexpectedly

UMATILLA, Florida—A well-known and well-loved community leader unexpectedly passed away last week.

Social media posts began flooding Facebook, just a few hours after Ray “Ray Ray” Bryant, 55, died Wednesday. Bryant, of Altoona, was the owner and sensei of Central Florida Karate in Umatilla for more than 30 years and later, Central Florida Karate 2 in Mount Dora, according to his obituary.

He impacted hundreds of children’s lives in the community through karate and founded Alee Academy in Eustis.

Katie Mansfield, of Eustis, who trained with Bryant for five years when she was a child, told Inside Lake she was devastated when she found out, “Sensei saved my life at such a young age. He brought me from the pits of hell and showed me how to keep my head on straight and protect myself,” she said. “I will forever be grateful for the life lessons he taught me. There are not enough words to express my gratitude and the countless memories I have inside his dojo. He will forever be missed.”

Katie Mansfield, right, trained with Ray Bryant Jr. for five years. PHOTO: Submitted

Bryant was a state, national and world kickboxing champion and was an ambassador and U.S. coach for the International Sport Kickboxing Association, a member of the Masonic Lodge and a member of the Lake County Airboat Club.

Bryant loved the outdoors and volunteered with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team since 2007, LCSO Sgt. Matt Farner told Inside Lake. Farner, who is the sergeant in the Agriculture and Marine Unit said Bryant was a critical component to the Search and Rescue Team and volunteered his time, equipment and gas to the rescue efforts.

”Ray was an asset and very valuable to the community,” Farner said. “He was our go-to guy and was always willing to donate his time.”  

Bryant and his father, Ray Bryant Sr., both volunteered before their passings, “They really were our main guys,” Farner said.

Bryant most recently helped in the search and rescue of Davidson Anjab, 39, who went missing during a canoe trip at Alexander Springs in April. Anjab was found safe after two days of searching.

“It (his passing) was shock to all of us,” Farner said. “He was a huge asset and a friend. We all loved the guy.”

Bryant is survived by his wife, Catherine “Mouse” Millner; three sons, Dalton, Dakota and Doron; his daughter, Madeline; his brother, George; his aunt, Jennie Louer; his nephew, Cody and his niece, Bella.

A celebration of life is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Bryant Compound, 45445 State Road 19, Altoona. Harden/Pauli Funeral Home in Eustis is handling the arrangements.

Man Released from Prison 3 Months Ago Arrested for Trafficking after Tossing Multiple Bags of Meth in Mount Dora Monday

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A Leesburg man released from prison less than three months ago is being held in the Lake County Jail on $25,000 bond after he tossed multiple bags of methamphetamine in a yard in front of Lake County Sheriff’s Office detectives, according to an arrest affidavit.

LCSO detectives requested a marked patrol unit pull over a tan Chevy Impala that was involved in an investigation in the area North Orange Street in Mount Dora around 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. When the marked deputy arrived in the area, the Impala was parked at a home and started moving a brief time later, the affidavit states.

PHOTO: Submitted

Multiple patrol units responded to the area of East Jackson Avenue and North Simpson Street and found the car parked in the side yard of a home on North Simpson Street and Daniel Lee Woods, 40, and Jarvis Demond Walker, 40, walking away from home; detectives spotted both men tossing multiple packages as they walked behind the home on North Simpson Street. Woods and Walker were taken into custody and LCSO found several packages containing a substance that field tested positive methamphetamine, in addition to a baggie containing 20 grams of marijuana and a bag of cocaine that weighed 9 grams, according to the affidavit.

One package contained 14 grams of methamphetamine and 10 baggies contained 1 gram each of methamphetamine, for a total of 24 grams. The threshold for trafficking is 14 grams and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Woods was arrested for trafficking in methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine and Walker was arrested for possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine. Walker, of Eustis, was released from LCJ on $4,000 bond.

Woods was released from prison March 15 after serving a little more than a year, according to Florida Department of Corrections online records. Woods was sentenced to 3 years and 7 months in prison and given 345 days credit for time served in LCJ when he pleaded no contest in 2020 to selling crack cocaine to a confidential informant in 2019.

Mount Dora Police Chief Resigns

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A local city that has been in turmoil for several years is without a police chief—again.

Inside Lake obtained a copy of the resignation letter late Wednesday afternoon. Brett Meade tendered the resignation to Mount Dora City Manager Patrick Comiskey Wednesday, it stated in part, “It is apparent that you and I have different viewpoints, which requires a change in leadership.”

Comiskey was named city manager in November 2021, after former City Manager Robin Hayes and the city “agreed to part ways” in April 2021.

Meade plans to utilize vacation time until his last official day, June 10, according to the letter.

Meade was named interim chief in July 2020 following the abrupt retirement of former chief Robert Bell. Meade was named chief in April 2021, following the departure of Hayes.

Since 2020, Mount Dora has lost numerous employees including the city manager, two police chiefs, a deputy police chief, a police captain, a public information officer, the city clerk, and a police communications manager due to retirement, resignations and terminations. 

Eustis Woman Accused of Stealing from her Leesburg Job and a Retail Store in Mount Dora During March Crime Spree

MOUNT DORA, Florida—A Eustis woman with a lengthy criminal history including numerous narcotics and theft charges dating back to 2009, was picked up on two warrants last week, one accusing her of stealing from her job in Leesburg and another accusing her of failing to pay for her items at a store’s self-checkout in Mount Dora.

Brenna Lee Harmon, 34, is accused of stealing nearly $450 during two server shifts at City Star Diner, 10322 U.S. Highway 441, Leesburg on March 12 and March 13, according to a probable cause affidavit. The owner of the diner told Leesburg Police Department Harmon failed to submit all her sales on March 12 at the end of her shift. The owner spoke with Harmon about the missing money by phone and she said she would return the money on her next shift.

Harmon came back to work the following day and instead of returning the stolen money, she took an additional $62.80, the affidavit states. She never returned to work following the second theft.

On March 14, Harmon and an unknown white male began ringing up merchandise at the self-checkout at Dollar General, 21850 U.S. Highway 441, Mount Dora. The pair rang up $334 worth of items and pretended to pay, before exiting the store. Harmon had a credit card in her hand, but never scanned or inserted it into the credit card machine to be processed, the affidavit states. Both warrants were issued in late March and Harmon was picked up at her Eustis home Tuesday. She was transported to the Lake County Jail, where she is being held on $6,000 bond. This is Harmon’s eighth arrest in Lake County since 2018, according to LCSO online booking records. 

Second Lake County Student Found with Loaded Gun at School in a Week

MOUNT DORA, Florida—For the second time in a week a Lake County Schools student has been found with a loaded gun on campus.

A Mount Dora Middle School guidance counselor received information that two students were seen vaping on the soccer field Friday. The guidance counselor asked for the school resource officer (SRO) to assist her, and they were able to identify the two students on video surveillance, according to an arrest affidavit.

After identifying the boys, the principal and the SRO pulled one of them out of his classroom to search him for the vape. The boy, 15, denied vaping on the field and said he was looking for his earphones. The teen was hesitant to have his backpack searched, the SRO noted in the affidavit.

Inside Lake is not naming the teen due to his age.

The teen emptied his pockets and prevented the principal from searching his backpack and reportedly said, “I don’t have anything in my backpack.” The SRO opened the backpack and found a loaded Taurus 9mm G2 PT111, according to the affidavit. The gun was not reported as stolen.

The teenager was arrested for possession of a firearm on school campus and turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

On May 13, a 16-year-old Leesburg High School student was also found with a loaded gun when his backpack was searched after a vaping allegation from a substitute teacher. 

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