A man’s body was recovered Thursday night after he apparently jumped off Memorial Bridge in Palatka. Gusts of wind, murky waters and a choppy St. Johns River hindered Palatka Police and Putnam County Sheriff’s Office deputies in what began as a rescue operation that turned into a recovery effort. “Credible witnesses” helped pinpoint where the individual jumped in, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Allison Waters-Merritt. The search began shortly after 6 p.m. as light was beginning to fade. Sonar eventually led searchers to the location of the body, which has been taken to the District 21 Medical Examiner’s Office in St. Augustine. The individual, who has not been identified, jumped off the south side of the bridge on the Palatka end. It’s an area where the bottom is covered by construction and bridge debris as well as old pilings.
St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputy has been fired by Sheriff David Shoar after an internal investigation. Video taken by a bystander and a state trooper’s dash camera are center in the case against Deputy Anthony DeLeo who is accused of beating an unarmed man during a traffic stop December 29. DeLeo also faces a criminal charge of aggravated battery filed by the sheriff. Christopher Butler was pulled over on Interstate 95 by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper for going 15 mph. The trooper used a Taser on Butler who was reportedly uncooperative and not responding to commands. The deputy who was at the scene then allegedly hit Butler 19 times with his baton and kicked him in the head twice. Two other deputies who were at the scene were put on administrative leave while charges are investigated. Butler remains in jail out several charges including two out-of-county warrants, resisting arrest and DUI.
A resurfacing improvement project on U.S. 1 from North Ponce de Leon Boulevard to Cross Ridge Drive is underway, says the Florida Department of Transportation. The $20 million project under the direction of Duval Asphalt Products includes resurfacing and new sidewalks and lighting on both sides of the roadway from Fairbanks Street to Big Oak Drive. Daytime and nighttime lane closures are scheduled. Lane closures at Nease High School are restricted to before and after school. The project is scheduled to be finished by late fall 2021.
Palatka attorney Charlie Douglas’ firm will be the St. Augustine Beach’s city attorney. St. Augustine Beach commissioners chose Douglas Law Firm at a special meeting Monday. Current attorney James Wilson is retiring and the commission had been seeking a replacement. An earlier choice fell through after a proposed change in the contract and the city went back out for bids. Charlie Douglas is managing partner for Douglas Law Firm, which also has offices in St. Augustine.
Azaleas are in bloom and on show this weekend as Palatka holds the 74th annual Florida Azalea Festival. Free music, an art show at the Tilghman House, vendors, kids zone, pet adoptions and a car show (Saturday) in downtown Palatka are part of the event. On Saturday a parade including Shriners from around the state will be held on Main Street, heading from 11th Street to the riverfront. Parade begins at 10 a.m.
The Azalea Pickleball Tournament will bring in a couple of hundred players Saturday and Sunday to the courts at Palatka High School.
St. James United Methodist Church turns out breakfast Saturday from 7 to 10 a.m. at the church fellowship hall, 400 Reid St. UMC Youth are holding an azalea sale at the festival.
If golf’s your thing, the GFWC Woman’s Club of Welaka holds their seventh annual Golf Tournament at The Oaks Golf Club in Fruitland on Saturday. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Crescent City High School Band.
In Flagler County Saturday take the plunge at Flagler Beach and take part in the sixth annual Flagler Beach Polar Plunge. Registration is at Veterans Park beginning at 9 a.m. The actual plunge is at 10:45 a.m. Funds help Special Olympics. Also Saturday at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast it’s the third annual Island Festival: Pirate Invasion. Take a trip to the Islands with music, food, cruise lines and Caribbean organizations.
In St. Augustine today and Saturday it’s Searle’s Raid. The Spanish called him a pirate, the English knew him as a privateer. Either way his raid helped the Spanish decide to build Castillo de San Marcos to protect the city. The re-enactment is Saturday down St. George Street. Also Saturday take the time to salute the Menorcans during the Menorcan Heritage Festival at the Llambias House from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food, live music and presentations commemorate the 243rd anniversary of the arrival of the Menorcan colonists to St. Augustine.