STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (EVENING EDITION): FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2017
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
PUTNAM TAKES AIM AT ARSON IN WILDFIRES
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday that more than 240 of the wildfires that have blazed across Florida this year were caused by arson. And with Gov. Rick Scott declaring a wildfire state of emergency this week, Putnam asked for help from Floridians to reduce the man-made blazes. "Wildland arsonists place lives, property and natural resources at risk, and we will not tolerate anyone who purposefully endangers Floridians and our first responders," Putnam said in a prepared statement. The Florida Forest Service has reported 1,494 fires in the state this year, consuming nearly 80,000 acres. The more than 240 fires stemming from arson represent a nearly 70 percent increase from a year ago, Putnam's office said. On Wednesday, a day after Scott issued his emergency order, the governor directed the Florida National Guard to provide a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for potential firefighting missions.
CONSTITUTION PANEL SETS GAINESVILLE, JACKSONVILLE HEARINGS
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has released details of plans to hold hearings later this month in Gainesville and Jacksonville. The commission, which will propose constitutional changes on the November 2018 ballot, has been holding public hearings across the state to gather comments. The Gainesville hearing will be at 5 p.m. April 26 at the University of Florida's Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The Jacksonville hearing will be at 11 a.m. April 27 at Florida State College at Jacksonville's Kent Campus auditorium.
RULING OVERTURNED IN TAMPA POLICE SHOOTING
A federal appeals court Friday overturned a ruling that had cleared the city of Tampa and a police officer in the shooting of a man who was suspected of being suicidal. The decision by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stemmed from a January 2014 incident in which police officer Timothy Bergman shot Jason Turk twice in the face as Turk sat in a car. Police had responded after receiving a 911 call that Turk, who had a gun in the car, might be suicidal. Turk and his wife sued the city and Bergman, alleging that police had violated Turk's constitutional rights by using excessive force. A lower-court judge ruled that Turk's rights had not been violated and granted summary judgment to the city and Bergman. But the appeals court overturned that ruling, saying in part that the record of the case "demonstrates massive disputes of material fact that preclude granting summary judgment." It sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. "Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the Turks, the evidence shows that jury issues exist as to whether Mr. Turk posed an immediate threat of serious bodily harm to the officers, which was required for Officer Bergman to use deadly force," said the decision by appeals-court judges Gerald Tjoflat, Frank Hull and Kathleen O'Malley. The Tampa Bay Times reported in 2014 that Turk's wife called 911 because of concerns he might be suicidal. The newspaper reported that Turk was a licensed real-estate broker and Navy veteran.
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