News Cast 8/24

News Cast for August 24th:

Okeechobee County Sheriff’s detectives are investigating a terrorist threat that occurred Friday morning at Okeechobee High School that led to an arrest of a student. Investigators say a 16 year old male student was arrested for a post he made on social media. The post reportedly depicted a gun being held by someone inside a classroom with a time stamp of around 7:40, indicating that it was scheduled to happen during morning school hours. After investigations by School Resource Officers (SRO’s) the student responsible was found and taken into custody. Okeechobee County School Superintendent Ken Kenworthy says the photo had the word “Okeechobee” written on top of the photo and he had the ability to create this photo and post it through social media, in this case it was Snapchat. Kenworthy says before this student is hit with any discipline from the school board, some investigation into his background will take place and that will decide if he gets expelled, suspended or sent to the alternative school. Kenworthy says the student may end up in home-based placement.

Sheriff Noel Stephen praised the efforts of his SRO’s in the quick identification and apprehension of the student responsible. Stephen says the fact that someone would even attempt something like this is concerning and made him wonder why someone would do it.

The student was charged with Making Terrorist Threats, a third degree felony. No one was hurt in the incident and there were no damages reported.

Tropical Depression 13 is now called Tropical Storm Laura and it has formed east of the Caribbean and Okeechobee County Emergency Management officials are still monitoring it. While the county is not under any weather watches or warnings at this time and County Emergency Management officials say it’s unlikely there will be major impacts to the area, they are monitoring it closely. At last check with the National Hurricane Center Advisory, Tropical Storm Laura possibly could still impact the state south of Miami by sometime today and hit the panhandle sometime this week. Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal says it’s a good time for residents to have a storm supply kit ready. Smeykal says there should be enough food and water for each person and pets in your group, not to mention medication, flashlights and batteries to last for at least five days.

Go to www.ready.gov/kit for more information on preparing your storm supply kit. Continue to listen to WOKC for more information as it becomes available. Remember, we are approaching the most active and critical time of Hurricane Season as we get closer to September.

Okeechobee County is inching closer and closer to the twelve hundred mark in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. As of Friday morning, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health, the number of positive cases in Okeechobee County is at 1,183 since March, with 12 fatalities. 1,179 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from zero to 94 with the median age of the patients being 38. 120 county residents have been hospitalized. 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.

Also as of Friday morning, there are 593,286 reported positive cases of the Coronavirus in the state since March and 587,023 of them are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is now at 10,168 along with 35,997 hospitalized.

Okeechobee County Commissioners renewed the local state of emergency for the county during their COVID-19 status meeting on Thursday. The state of emergency went into effect on Friday.

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.

On the arrest report:

22 year old Elizabeth Zarate-Chavez of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on charges of grand theft. Her bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

31 year old Justin Brown Chism of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of a weapon and ammunition by a convicted felon. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

39 year old Brian Marcus Mills of Okeechobee was arrested for claiming false ownership of stolen items. His bond is set at five thousand dollars.

40 year old Robert Davis Rawls of Okeechobee was arrested by police for possession of methamphetamine. His bond is set at $25 hundred dollars.

24 year old Chantal Nicole Robinson of Fort Pierce was arrested on a St. Lucie County warrant for violating probation on past battery charges. She’s being held without bond.