The Voice of the Gem City

News September 8, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
A traffic stop in Fruit Cove turned deadly Tuesday afternoon in a deputy-involved shooting. St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an exchange of gunfire shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Kingsland Court in northwest St. Johns County. According to Sheriff Rob Hardwick a man was killed inside a vehicle on a driveway. The man, whose identity was not released, did have a gun and did fire one shot, Hardwick said. The deputy, who was not identified, also fired once.
St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad was called to Palatka Tuesday after a mysterious package was found at a park at River and South 12th Street. Palatka Police Department said the package and a note were reportedly put on a park table by an unidentified white man. The package turned out to be a small safe. Contents of the note were not released. For more than five hours people detoured through south Palatka after police blocked off parts of 12th, Kirby and River streets. The package was found shortly before 11:30 a.m. and the area was declared safe around 5 p.m.

Enough fentanyl to kill 481,000 people was seized Tuesday in Palm Coast, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. A search warrant served for 17 Blasdell Court led to the seizure of 916 grams of fentanyl, 41.7 grams of Sulfamethoxazole and Trimethoprim, a prescription-only narcotic. Other drug paraphernalia was also seized. The home owner, identified as Brian Pirraglia, 39, said 510 grams of fentanyl found in a large plastic baggie was a gift from his neighbor. Pirraglia told deputies he does not allow narcotics to be sold in his home. Also arrested was a tenant Michael Connelly, 40. Both were arrested on various drug paraphernalia charges.

Fraud accusations involving a Bunnell tax service are under investigation by several departments including the Internal Revenue Service and the Flagler and Volusia Sheriff’s Offices. Files and computers were seized from Flagler Tax Service of Bunnell Friday. The investigation began began Aug. 25 when individuals reported they were defrauded by Robert “Bob” Newsholme of Flagler Tax Service. Allegations include grand theft, organized scheme to defraud and embezzlement, and cases under investigation total nearly $190,000 in missing funds. Newsholme is not a CPA as most of his clients believed, and he has a criminal history, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Newsholme on Aug. 24 shot himself in the stomach, according to authorities.

Wearing of masks in schools continues to be a divisive issue. The death of a Pedro Menendez High School junior, reportedly from COVID-19, had some parents pushing for a mask mandate at Tuesday’s school board workshop in St. Johns County. In Flagler County the medical director of the Florida Department of Health there told school board members at a Tuesday meeting he was recommending “universal mandatory masking.” Dr. Stephen Bickel said that was the global consensus of medical doctors worldwide as the way to help slow the spread of COVID. The school board heard him out but did not make any change to the current policy, which allows parents to make the decision. At Tuesday’s Putnam County School Board meeting, a number of people spoke on the masking issue. The district is urging people to mask and requiring it of students and personnel on buses.

Professional tennis player and former Flagler County resident Riley Opelka is out at the U.S. Open after his four-set loss to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris in New York. The fourth round play is the highest he’s made it at the Open in his couple of years of professional play.

St. Augustine’s newest hotel may look like one of its oldest. Renaissance St. Augustine Historic Downtown Hotel officially opened Tuesday at 6 West Castillo Drive. The uniquely designed 89-room hotel was designed to reflect the Victorian area and ease concerns about too many modern-style hotels being built. If you’re trying to figure out where it is, think, at least in part, the former location of Barnacle Bill’s. Owned by Vista Hospitality, it’s being managed by LBA Hospitality of Alabama. 

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