The Voice of the Gem City

News June 7, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

A sonar search of the St. Johns River was underway this morning around Memorial Bridge in Palatka as Putnam County Sheriff’s Office seeks the body of a man who reportedly jumped off the bridge earlier today. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Allison Waters Merritt said “numerous people saw the man jump into the St. Johns River this morning” and reported it. Law enforcement was quickly on the scene but the operation soon went from rescue to recovery. Waters Merritt said “It became clear there was nothing above the water for rescue, and a grid search using sonar is underway.” Starting with a small area the grid will extend if nothing is found. The Sheriff’s Dive Team was on standby to go in the water when needed.

Palatka Police Department continues with its quarterly zone meetings tonight. Designed to keep the public informed, the meeting is at 6 p.m. at Price-Martin Center on North 11th Street. The zone being discussed is from North Eighth Street to North 11th Street from Main Street to Dunham Street. That area has been the site of several drive-by shootings in recent weeks.

A strong thunderstorm hit parts of west central St. Johns County and northwest Putnam County Monday. Other areas saw the first rain in several weeks. At WPLK/WIYD in Palatka three-quarters of an inch of rain were recorded while our East Palatka weather reporter noted one-half inch of rain. Chance for rain and thunderstorms today is at 30 percent.

The man killed Sunday in St. Augustine after a confrontation with police and deputies has been identified as Jason Harold James, 47, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office which is investigating the shooting. James reportedly called 9-1-1 to say he was armed with a gun. When officers arrived at a house at Isabel Street and South Dixie Highway he was sitting on a porch pointing a gun at his head and chest. Officers talked to him for 30 plus minutes and he put the gun down, but then charged at them with a knife in each hand. Five law officers fired at him including St. Augustine Police Sgt. Jonathan Marston, officers Ryan Rado, Jonathon Brown and Enrique Ortega and Sheriff’s Deputy Evan Martin. None of the men has ever been involved in an officer-involved shooting before. As is policy all are on paid administrative leave. St. Johns Sheriff Rob Hardwick asked people to keep the officers and deceased’s family in their thoughts and prayers. “The … Sheriff’s Office recognizes the importance of mental health and the struggle of substance abuse. We encourage anyone who may be struggling or know of someone struggling to reach out for help,” he said.

Former University of Florida standout Tim Tebow is among former players making their first appearance on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot. Tebow, who played on St. Johns County football teams while in high school, led the University of Florida Gators to two national championship and won the 2007 Heisman Trophy.

A Palm Coast youth who turned 16 three weeks ago while in jail will be staying there after Circuit Judge Terence Perkins denied bond motions from both prosecution and defense. Damari Barnes is charged with manslaughter, a first degree felony, in the shooting death of Jamey Bennett, 19, at an outdoor party in February. Prosecution sought to have Barnes’ $500,000 bond revoked after he got in a fight in Duval County jail joining others in bullying and battering another inmate including forcing him to drink his own urine. Defense wanted the bond reduced to $100,000 and said his mother was willing to have him home. 

South Historic District residents had their chance to ask questions about a proposed development in the area at a private meeting with Colin Bingham, CEO of Community Development Coalition Corp, on Thursday. Bingham is one of several involved in a proposed multi-million dollar project on the former site of Wilson Cypress Company and Florida Furniture. The meeting last Thursday was at Azalea Brewing Co. and open only to residents of the neighborhood. The size of the development and plans including closing River Street and moving the current train station to the Southside area have brought numerous questions and protests from residents of Palatka and Putnam County. Bingham said at a city commission meeting he also would meet with the public although when has not been specified. American Legion Bert Hodge Post No. 45 has offered their lodge as a meeting location.

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