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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

You can also call one of our county news bureaus directly:

Hernando County: 352-754-6101

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On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

E-mail: local@tampabay.com

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  1. Pinellas construction licensing board investigator resigns after road-rage allegation

    Local Government

    PALM HARBOR –– An investigator with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board resigned Wednesday after being accused of threatening two people with a baseball bat during a road-rage incident on Tampa Road.

    Anthony DeBernardi pulled out his licensing board badge during the confrontation, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, even though he is not a sworn law enforcement officer. The board's investigators look into complaints against contractors....

    Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Investigator Anthony DeBernardi resigned Wednesday after he was accused of thertening two motorists with a baseball bat in a road-rage incident. He was not arrested or charged with any crime. The other people declined to press charges. [MARK PUENTE   |   Tampa Bay Times}
  2. Pinellas sheriff: Three Seminole Middle School students arrested for assaulting teacher, school employee

    Crime

    SEMINOLE — Three Seminole Middle School students were arrested April 21 on charges that they assaulted a teacher and a support employee in separate incidents caught on surveillance video.

    The incidents took place about 3 p.m. on April 18, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, when a 14-year-old student disrupted the class of teacher Jaclyn Rivera. The student was asked to leave the classroom and report to the school office....

  3. Retired Tampa police officer pleads guilty to theft of treasury check

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A retired lawman and husband of a disgraced Tampa police detective admitted Thursday that he cashed a U.S. Treasury check his wife had stolen from an evidence room.

    Thomas A. Hevel pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a single charge of theft of government property related to the disappearance of the $4,550 check.

    His plea agreement tied the theft to his wife, Jeanette Hevel, a former Tampa police sergeant who was convicted in 2013 of stealing several tax refund checks that were made payable to other people....

  4. Fire at Clearwater storage facility causes nearly $1 million in damage

    Fire

    CLEARWATER — A fire at a storage facility Wednesday night damaged 18 units and caused an estimated $1 million in damage, authorities said.

    Largo Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to the Public Storage facility at 14770 66th St. N around 10:38 p.m. after receiving a report of smoke. When crews arrived, they spotted the blaze and summoned more fire crews.

    "(The units) have a lot of combustibles in them — a lot packed tight," Largo Deputy Fire Chief David Mixson said. "It takes a while to get to all of the stuff."...

  5. Wimauma pastor charged with sexual battery of 17-year-old over six-year span

    Crime

    WIMAUMA — Detectives say a senior pastor at Beth-El Farmworker Ministry in Wimauma sexually battered a 17-year-old girl multiple times over the past six years, including on Monday.

    Walter Chuquimia, 59, was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual battery and was held without bond in the Hillsborough County Jail. He admitted to having sexual intercourse with the girl on three occasions, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said....

    Walter Chuquimia, 59, was arrested Monday after investigators said he sexually battered a 17-year-old multple times in the past 6 years. Chuquimia is a pastor at Beth-El Farmwork Ministry in Wimauma. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  6. As Dalvin Cook's stock falls, Bucs might trade down (w/live NFL draft blog)

    Bucs

    TAMPA — No player has been as linked to the Bucs in draft speculation as much as Florida State running back Dalvin Cook in recent months.

    There are plenty of reasons for that. His talent and production jump out on tape. At FSU he was a teammate of quarterback Jameis Winston, who will put his hand on the scale. The Bucs' refusal to commit to running back Doug Martin, who is suspended for the first three games of next season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. ...

    No player has been as linked to the Bucs in draft speculation as much as Florida State running back Dalvin Cook in recent months. [ANDRES LEIVA | Times]
  7. Will Zika return to Florida this summer? Yes, and it could be worse

    Health

    Wondering what's ahead for Zika?

    This coming summer will likely look like last summer, when 1,100 travel-related cases were reported statewide, and the virus spread in small pockets of South Florida.

    But there's a chance it could be worse.

    "We are preparing for local transmission and we are preparing for the worst-case scenario," said Dr. Beata Casanas, an infectious disease expert and associate professor at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine....

    A Miami-Dade County mosquito control worker sprays around a home in the Wynwood area of Miami in August. This summer could look a lot like last as far as the Zika virus is concerned.
  8. Water shortage regulations in effect in St. Petersburg starting May 8

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city is included in a Phase I water shortage declaration for the Tampa Bay area starting May 8. Residents should reduce any unnecessary water use. If the drought continues, more restrictive policies will be implemented.

    Reclaimed water users should water their lawns no more than three times per week and during the early morning or evening for maximum water savings....

  9. Afternoon update: Man dragged off flight settles with United; Trump takes aim at Democrats as Congress nears short-term spending bill; Hillsborough School District fires HR chief; Seminole Hard Rock Casino can add craps and roulette

    Here's what you may have missed, and what you need to know as you start winding down:

    MAN DRAGGED OFF FLIGHT SETTLES WITH UNITED, WHICH ADMITS MISTAKES

    A Kentucky doctor who was dragged off a United flight after he refused to give up his seat to crew members has reached a settlement with the airline for undisclosed amount. Dr. David Dao's legal team announced the settlement today in a brief statement. The agreement includes a provision that the amount will remain confidential. Ahead of the settlement announcement, United Airlines announced policy changes aimed at preventing similar incidents....

    United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz. A Kentucky doctor who was dragged off a United flight after he refused to give up his seat to crew members has reached a settlement with the airline for undisclosed amount. [AP photo]
  10. Communication still a weak spot for Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins

    Education

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins has integrity and treats others with respect. But not all his underlings share those traits. And on his watch, the district has not been good at communicating with the public.

    These are themes of Eakins' yearly performance reviews from his bosses on the School Board. They were released Tuesday, minutes after board members wrapped up a meeting where some harshly criticized the way the district communicated a new bell schedule to the public for more than 200 schools....

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins, shown at Mort Elementary School, has had a mostly good year but some on the School Board say he needs to improve on communication. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  11. St. Petersburg's Holocaust Museum marks 25th anniversary with multiple events

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Holocaust Museum is joining with Eckerd College to release a 25th Anniversary oral history series, "25 Survivors, 25 Stories … Celebrating 25 Years."

    Over the next 25 months, the series will feature a different Holocaust survivor on the 25th of each month. Survivors will help to further the understanding of the Holocaust, the effects of World War II on individuals, families and communities dispersed throughout the world, and its reverberations into current times....

    The Florida Holocaust Museum.
  12. District softball: Sickles 8, Steinbrenner 2

    Blog

    Sickles’ record did not suggest it was primed for a playoff run. The Gryphons were 13-12 entering the Class 8A, District 5 tournament and had lost seven of their final 10 games in the regular season.

    But the schedule yielded few easy nights. Sickles played every formidable opponent in the area it could find.

    The result may have produced some losses but also provided quality competition, something the Gryphons strived for to get ready for the games that really mattered....

  13. Seminole's Superior Uniform Group sees sales increase for first quarter

    Corporate

    Times Staff

    Sales are up for Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group's first quarter of 2017. The uniforms and accessories company announced $61 million in sales for the first quarter, up 5.2 percent from last year's $58 million first quarter sales. Net income also increased for the same periods from $2.4 million last year to $3.8 million. The sales figures were slightly lower than the company anticipated for the quarter....

  14. Rays' Alex Cobb is confident he will find his changeup … but when?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Alex Cobb remains confident that there will be a game, and in the not too distant future, when he has full command of and confidence in the nasty changeup that made him a top-notch starter before his May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery.

    But until then, his starts are going to a be a battle, a test of guts and determination to get through them.

    That was the case again in Wednesday's start against the Orioles as Cobb was hit early and often, allowing seven singles to the first 11 batters but still managed to claw his way through five innings in a game that was not complete at press time. Shortstop Tim Beckham homered his first two times up....

  15. Defensive shifts can be double-edged swords, just ask Rays

    The Heater

    The Rays have been up to their usual shifty business, frequently bunching three defenders on one side of the infield or another, certain their data-driven positioning takes away more than it gives.

    Through the first three weeks of play, the Rays have shifted more than any team in the majors (281), according to data provided to the Tampa Bay Times by Inside Edge.

    Correspondingly, they led the majors in both saving (17) and aiding (12) the most hits due to their shifted positioning, though it should be noted that shift stats can be subjective, starting with the definition of what constitutes a shift. ...

    Rays pitcher Alex Cobb, a groundball-heavy starter, tends to be most affected by infield shifts. "I can't change the way I pitch based off the defensive alignment. There are so many reasons why my pitch selection is what it is. It goes off who the hitter is, what type of hitter he is, the situation, the score of the game."