News Cast 7/13

News Cast for July 13th:

A LaBelle man who was arrested last month on negligent manslaughter charges in the death of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer is now facing new charges. Hendry County Sheriff’s officials say 20 year old Eliceo Hernandez is being charged with a litany of offenses, the most serious being second degree murder with a firearm in the shooting death of 30 year old FWC officer Julian Keen Junior in LaBelle on June 14th. Major Crimes Unit officers arrested Hernandez following an investigation. Keen, known as a “hometown hero” in Labelle, was a source of inspiration to many in the community, including Jonathan Conyers, a corrections officer with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department.

Keen, who was off-duty at the time, was shot and killed by Hernandez while helping out during a hit and run incident near Apache Circle on Nobles Road in Labelle. Hernandez is also charged with attempted second degree murder-discharging a firearm, leaving the scene of an accident and possession of synthetic cannabis. It’s still under investigation. If you have information on the case, please call the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Unit.

At last week’s Okeechobee County Commissioners’ meeting, Tiffany Collins of the local health department discussed the status of the Coronavirus in the county. While good news included CARE funding for much needed outpatient services positions at the health department, the problem still remains the lack of free, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing sites. The other problem is the county’s test kits, which had been given to us from a commercial lab in Broward County, were taken back by those from that same lab. Commissioner Kelly Owens called it “unacceptable” and says while those test kits were the property of that Broward County lab, it was a “slap in the face” to the people of Okeechobee County.

Owens says attempts are now being made to not only have free testing sites here, but also to get state issued test kits that cannot be taken away.

Okeechobee County is now over the five century mark in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases for the Coronavirus in Okeechobee County is now at 527. Those who have tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

Most neighboring counties also experienced increases in their COVID-19 statistics. There are now 269,811 reported cases of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in the state; 266,119 of them are FL residents. The state’s death toll now stands at 4,242 with 18,271 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested for the Coronavirus at CVS Pharmacy in Okeechobee, the Okeechobee County Health Department, the emergency room at Raulerson Hospital or by contacting Florida Community Health Centers at (863) 763-7481. You must meet certain criteria before you can be tested and you need to make an appointment. If you’re not sure if you fit the criteria to be tested, please call the county health department and they’ll let you know for sure. These testing sites are available on weekends. Wal-Mart is no longer doing their drive-thru testing program.

The Okeechobee County COVID-19 information line remains open from 8am to 5pm now every Tuesday thru Saturday. This number, which also doubles as the phone number of the County Library is manned by live personnel and callers can ask about county updates on the Coronavirus and what is being done. The hotline will not address questions about the virus itself or medical questions. The County Library phone number/hotline related to county updates on the Coronavirus is (863) 763-3536. Any questions related to the virus itself, please call the Okeechobee Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121.

Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more.

If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

The Gulf Coast Humane Society was in Clewiston recently to discuss the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars. With a heat index in the triple digits the past few weeks, many pets are at risk for heatstroke or suffocation. On a warm day, the temperature in a car can exceed 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows partially open. Nicole Reid, News Director for WAFC, our sister station in Clewiston, spoke with Aimie McLaughlin, Gulf Coast Humane Society’s events coordinator. She says it’s not safe, even if you park in the shade or crack a window. Many states have laws that prohibit leaving an animal unattended in a car on a hot day, for risk of both theft and heat. If you must travel with your pets in the heat, get a checkup from the vet first, carry a gallon thermos of cold or frozen water, and be sure to exercise your pets during the coolest parts of the day. For tips on pet safety, please visit www.aspca.org or your local humane society.

A 31 year old Stuart man is dead following a vehicle accident a week ago Sunday afternoon in Palm Beach County. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say the man was driving a sport utility vehicle (SUV) north on Highway 95 just south of Gateway Boulevard just before 2:30 and was trailing a pickup truck. The man moved to another lane and then drove into the path of the truck before the SUV rotated counter-clockwise and was rear-ended by the pickup. The impact sent the SUV sliding and bouncing off the center barrier before overturning. The SUV driver was ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene by medics. One of the SUV driver’s passengers, a three year old boy was taken to an area hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The pickup truck driver, a 59 year old man from Jacksonville, was treated at the scene for minor injuries. It’s under investigation.

On the arrest report:

46 year old Rey Gomez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to re-register as a sex offender, driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest after a traffic stop. His bond is set at six thousand dollars.

44 year old Stephen Connan Kent of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

38 year old Robert Henry Thompson of Okeechobee was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. His bond is set at a thousand dollars.

26 year old Savannah Star Selph of Wauchula was arrested by police for reckless driving and driving on a suspended license for the second time following a traffic stop. Her bond has not been set.