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Author: Dusty Ricketts

City schedules seminars dedicated to overdose treatment

“Part of the crowd was trying to tell her how to do it and the other part of the crowd was trying to steal the drugs from the guy that was overdosed,” he added.

The Narcan Administration Training seminar is scheduled for 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. March 30 at the Crestview Community Center. Each seminar is expected to last about 30 minutes and will include Okaloosa County EMS first responders teaching residents how to administer a dose of Narcan, a potentially lifesaving nasal spray medication that can revive someone who has overdosed on opioids.

After each training seminar, the Okaloosa County Health Department will distribute free doses of Narcan to those in attendance.

In addition to teaching people how to administer Narcan, EMS will also discuss some of the side effects that can come from its successful use.

“People think you just shoot it up somebody’s nose and everything’s OK,” Whitten said. “What they don’t know is that the individual could have a violent reaction. You just brought them down from a high where they want to be and they’re angry. My firemen have told me people have gotten violent with them.”

Other side effects can include vomiting or spitting up blood, which is what happened to the person at the Crestview church on Feb. 26 when there was the overdose.

“People aren’t prepared for that,” Whitten said. “You think, I’m going to save the guy’s life. There’s more to it than that.”

Since the incident at the church took place, Whitten has made two recommendations for all places that host sit-in feeding programs for the homeless and people in need.

The first is that every location that hosts a feeding event needs to have a full medical kit in the building, with gloves, masks and Narcan immediately available. Whitten has also recommended each location have at least two people who are able to provide care for someone overdosing, one to administer the Narcan and at least one person who can do crowd control.

Whitten has made educating the public and bringing continued awareness of the opioid epidemic a priority and is working with other communities and organizations to find solutions.

Crestview had 79 overdose calls last year.

Since 2019, there has been a 100% increase in overdose calls and a 150% increase in Narcan usage in Okaloosa County. Narcan is a potentially lifesaving nasal spray medication that can revive someone who has overdosed on opioids.

Nationwide, there were more than 100,000 overdose-related deaths last year, with over 7,800 of them coming from Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In January, the city hosted the first Overdose Summit, which was a partnership between Crestview and the nonprofit Opioid Project.

Mayor recognizes Crestview High School’s students of the month

At Monday’s City Council meeting, the city recognized the students of the month for January, February and March. Whitten said the city will continue to recognize the Crestview High School’s student of the month going forward.

The students recognized were Makenzie Lucari for January, Nevaeh Dortch for February and Trenton Locke for March. The school selects its student of the month based on students who exhibit characteristics of what it means to be an outstanding Bulldog, including leadership, perseverance, dedication and selflessness.

Crestview Mayor JB Whitten recognizes the Crestview High School student of the month for January, Makenzie Lucari.

The students are nominated by their teachers.

Whitten said Lucari was recognized for being self-motivated and being involved in different leadership initiatives within the school.

“Makenzie is deeply involved in ASL, American Sign Language, which is necessarily in today’s world,” he said. “It’s a great art and it’s recognized as a foreign language. You can get credit for that in college.”

Lucari thanked the school’s ASL club and the band for giving her different opportunities.

“They’ve all helped me a lot … and make me grow as a person individually,” Lucari said.

Nevaeh Dortch is presented the Bulldog Award for the month of February and is presented a city coin from Mayor JB Whitten at the recent City Council meeting.

Whitten said Dortch was recognized for being very involved with Crestview High School.

“Apparently, you are involved in everything going on at the school,” Whitten said to Dortch. “That’s what (her record) says, that you are totally involved in everything, every school initiative.”

Dortch was appreciative of the recognition.

“I just want to thank Crestview High School for the opportunities it’s given me. I’m currently president of Ethnic Club. I wanted to thank that club for being around and being able to be president,” Dortch said.

Whitten said Locke was recognized by the school for his dedication through challenges.

Trenton Locke shakes hands with Crestview Mayor JB Whitten after being recognized as the March student of the month at Crestview High School.

“You are known for your perseverance,” Whitten said. “No matter what it is, you undertake it, you beat it and you’ve been very successful in school.”

‘It won’t look pretty like this ever again’

“Here in the City of Crestview, our mission is to improve the quality of life by providing exceptional municipal services,” Bolduc said at the ribbon cutting. “We believe that training and making sure our staff is technically competent in everything they do is incredibly important in that process.

“… To the firefighters in Crestview, we are going to ensure you have the highest level of training possible so we can keep you safe, so you can keep us safe,” he added. “That’s what this training tower is all about.”

The facility was funded with more than $600,000 from the state as well as more than $900,000 from the half-cent sales tax that was passed a few years ago.

Captain Josh Vargason walks attendees at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the city’s new fire training tower through a training exercise designed to simulate a second-story rescue in a burning building.

“We sold this to the (state) legislators by the fact that this is a regional fire tower,” said Crestview Mayor JB Whitten. “It’s right here in Crestview, but it’s going to help out Dorcus, Laurel Hill, Baker, North Okaloosa, Holt. All of the fire departments are going to be able to use this and when they train together they’re going to be able to fight fires together properly.

“It was a great win for us to be able to come back with the money that we did from Tallahassee,” he added.

The fire control tower is designed to offer multiple training scenarios for the different departments that will be using it.

The building has multiple burn rooms to simulate fires. Being multiple stories, the building can be used to practice rappelling and window rescues and the building is designed to allow firefighters to practice cutting holes through the roof to put out flames or rescue people inside, among other scenarios.

Firefighter Geoff Beaty sets up the ladder to climb onto the second story of Crestview’s new fire training tower as part of a demonstration at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Crestview Fire Chief Anthony Holland said the tower will get used often by his firefighters and the different agencies. Before the ribbon cutting, he said his staff were coming to the facility three to four times a week for training.

“I’ve been keeping them on restriction because we were trying to keep it looking pristine for today,” Holland said. “After today, the gloves are off. It won’t look pretty like this ever again, but they’ll come out here just about every day.”

Life returning to normal post-COVID

It affected most ways of life. We all had to wear masks, something that some of us way overreacted on in my opinion.

At our house, things are mostly back to normal now. I get an additional shot once or twice a year to go along with my annual flu shot. We still get our groceries delivered quite a bit, now because we’re used to and enjoy the convenience rather than being worried about being in large crowds.

Other than going to a doctor’s office, I don’t remember the last time I even put a mask on.

I’ve been extremely lucky and have escaped the pandemic rather scot-free. During the height of the pandemic, I always wore a mask when I was out in public and three years later I still haven’t been diagnosed with it.

A large portion of my family members and friends have gotten the ‘rona at least once, but only a couple of them have had really bad cases. One friend just a year or two older than I am had to get put on a ventilator and had a stroke as a result of COVID. While they still have some lingering effects, they’ve mostly recovered.

As I said, I was lucky. Probably the biggest impact the pandemic had on me personally had to do with how I consume entertainment.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved going to the theater to watch movies.

That’s mainly because I grew up in just an amazing time for movies geared toward kids. I grew up going to the theater to see “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” (I was a little too young to see the original Star Wars in the theater), the Indiana Jones trilogy, “Ghostbusters,” “Gremlins” and “The Goonies.”

Those are amazing movies that are just as watchable today as they were 40-ish years ago.
I have been a subscriber to AMC’s Stubs membership for years, so I can see up to three movies a week in the theater without paying anything extra above the monthly fee.

Prior to the pandemic, on average, I would say I was going to the theater three or four times a month.

During the summer movie season, there have been many weeks where I get my three movies a week in.

Once the pandemic hit, movie theaters shut down for months and I was fine with that.

I love going to a theater on opening night and seeing a good movie with a pumped up crowd. I still get goosebumps thinking about the crowd go crazy when Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer Mjolnir or saying “Avengers assemble” for the first time in “Avengers Endgame” on opening night. It was the perfect reaction.

But everything with the pandemic was new then and I was fine not risking my life to see a movie, despite missing the experience.

Even after the theaters opened back up, I stayed away for the longest time. The first movie I saw in a theater post-COVID was the reboot of “Candyman” in August of 2021.

It was annoying wearing a mask at the theater, but as long as the movie was good it didn’t bother me too much. And soon that requirement went away.

I’m back to going to the movies quite a bit. “Scream 6” was another great entry in what has to be the most consistently great horror franchise ever and “John Wick: Chapter 4” was just bonkers brutality and fun.

How has COVID changed your life?

New businesses for Crestview Commons confirmed

In August of last year, Aldi, Ulta, Marshall’s, Five Below, Burlington’s Coat Factory, and Chili’s were confirmed to be coming to the Crestview Commons. They will be joined by a Chipotle and Planet Fitness, Leavins said.

The Benchmark Group, a real estate development firm based in New York State, is overseeing the building of the Commons, which started in late 2021.

“It will bring retail, service jobs,” Leavins said of the project back in August. “I imagine the stores will generate opportunities for work and for money to be spent here in town from people off the interstate.”

To help with traffic in the area, a new traffic light at the intersection of State Road 85 and Hospital Drive has already been installed, but remains covered at this time. Leavins said the light is currently scheduled to be activated in a flashing yellow mode on April 3 and will go fully operational on April 10.

The first businesses at Crestview Commons are now expected to open by early May.

“The dates for any business openings will be pushed back to correlate with the signal being fully operational and streets being completed and open,” Leavins said.

There are also plans for an east-west connector street north of the Commons on State Road 85.

The Crestview Commons is being developed on 22 acres and will feature one larger building with five tenants and three smaller outparcels.

Bill wouldn’t prevent fans from celebrating on field

Bill sponsor Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, said his proposal is intended to stop people from making money off disrupting sports or entertainment events.

“I think where we’ve seen social media, and where we’ve seen fans that want to engage in the activity that’s happening on the field, has gone a little too far,” said Simon, who was an All-American defensive tackle at Florida State University before playing eight years in the National Football League. “It’s putting players at risk. It’s putting that fan, quite honestly, at risk. And so, we have to make sure that we’re not incentivizing that behavior.”

Simon pointed to a 31-year-old South Florida man who, clad in a one-piece swimsuit advertising an adult website, ran across the field at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in the fourth quarter of the 2022 Super Bowl. The man later posted a video to Instagram bragging about his adventure, in which he was tackled by security and later charged with misdemeanor trespassing.

Under Simon’s proposal, the current fine of $1,000 would jump to $2,500. The bill also would take steps to recover any money that people make from entering areas restricted to players, coaches, officials and performers.

Simon said he also wanted to clear up “consternation” he’s heard from fans since filing the bill.

“This bill does not target fans that rush the field at the end of games,” Simon said.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, suggested adding required community service for “parental spasms at Little League games,” as “there are a few of them.”

Simon said he’d consider the suggestion, noting that “if a parent chooses to run out, I don’t know what kind of financial benefit they gain, other than embarrassing themselves and their children.”

Simon also agreed to consider a suggestion by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, that would hold players harmless if they defend themselves from people who go on the field.

A similar bill (HB 319) is ready to go to the full House.

It’s time to end time changes

Daylight-saving time was first implemented in the United States during World War I and World War II on temporary bases to save money on the production of military and civilian goods by taking advantage of the longer daylight hours. Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which standardized daylight-saving time around the country.

At the time of me writing this column, it’s been about a week since our clocks sprung forward for an hour and my body still hasn’t completely adapted to the change. Being tired at the end of the day isn’t unusual for me, but last week was brutal.

My wife and I went to dinner with some friends after work one night last week. I was ready for bed before the waitress had taken our orders.

The time change is an annoyance for my wife and I, but at least we understand what’s going on and can plan for it. It’s more difficult for our dogs. To them, mom and dad are just waking up earlier now.

To be honest, I had forgotten about the recent time change before it happened. When we woke up that Sunday morning, we initially thought the dogs had strangely let us sleep in for a change on the weekend.

The past week has been a big adjustment for them though. We’re used to getting up around 6:30 a.m. and going outside first thing so the dogs can do their business.

As far as they’re concerned, we’re now making them wake up an hour earlier. I swear, when I go to wake our Great Dane Poe up to go outside, he stares at me like a child asking for five more minutes.

What’s going to be just as bad is when time changes back in six months. Then the roles are going to be reversed. I’m going to be the one trying to get another hour of sleep and the dogs are going to be wide awake looking to go outside.

Who does that benefit?

Getting rid of the twice a year time change is something that has been discussed for as long as I can remember, and I wish Congress would finally do away with this old tradition.

I really hate how early it gets dark in the winter. It’s a little depressing leaving work at 5:30 p.m. and having it be pitch black already. So, I would absolutely prefer it if we could just stay on daylight-saving time all year long.

How do you feel about the time change and would prefer to stay on daylight-saving time or standard time if given the choice?

Hundreds attend reception honoring the 50th anniversary of POW homecoming

The numbers Merkel spoke of, 14,924, 497.5 and 41.5, all dealt with the amount of time the eight men spent in captivity, under some of the most brutal of conditions, as prisoners of war in Vietnam.
“What do these represent? Well, the 14,924 represents the total number of days these gentlemen were in POW status,” Merkel said. “The 497 ½ represents the number of months that they were held. And 41.5 is the number of years that they lost.
“I was struck by the fact that nearly everyone that I read about as a former POW elected to remain on active duty to continue their service to our country after they were released,” he added.
Following the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, 591 U.S. POWs were returned home as part of Operation Homecoming.
The eight local POWs who were honored in last week’s ceremony were the late Brig. Gen. (Retired) George “Bud” Day, who was held prisoner for five years and seven months; the late Col. (Retired) Richard Dutton, five years and five months; Col. (Retired) Keith Hall, six years and two months; Col. (Retired) Howard Hill, five years and three months; Col. (Retired) Ed Hubbard, six years and seven months; Col. (Retired) Ron Webb, five years and nine months; Lt. Col. (Retired) Dave Gray, six years and two months; and Kenneth Fraser, one year, two months.

Fort Walton Beach Mayor Dick Rynearson reads a proclamation honoring the local Vietnam War POWs during last week’s reception. He was joined on stage by Shalimar Town Commissioner Brian Taylor (from left), Niceville Mayor Dan Henkel, Shalimar Mayor Mark Franks and Crestview Mayor JB Whitten.

“I’m blessed to be one of the 591 prisoners that were released 50 years ago,” Gray said. “… I have to say even though we endured harsh and even sometimes brutal treatment and deprivations, that we grew emotionally and some intellectually, and became better people, and speaking for myself, it wasn’t anything that I did. It was my cellmates that did it.”
During his 2,233 days as a prisoner, Gray said he and the other POWs would try to find as much light as they could in the darkness. POWs would teach one another, have church services and sing “God Bless America,” which Hubbard led the crowd at the Eglin’s Air Force Armament Museum in a rendition of at the ceremony.
“As Americans, that’s part of our makeup,” Gray said. “We have the ability to laugh at things even under the most dire circumstances.”
“We trusted our government and we had faith,” added Hill. “Faith in our country, faith in God, faith in our fellow man, and we knew we were going home someday. We just didn’t know when. But we knew we we’re going to hang out as long as it took.”
The original plan for the reception was to hold it on March 4, the actual 50th anniversary Hubbard, Webb and Gray were released. However, Hubbard actually returned to Vietnam this month and was able to tour the cell he was first placed in, in what he called a powerful experience.
“I was there walking down the hall, walking into the cell where I spent my first 15 days,” Hubbard said.

Drone unit assists in capture of Crestview suspect

A deputy with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Street Crimes Unit (SCU) was driving south on Highway 85 near the Interstate 10 exit in Crestview when he noticed a silver Toyota stopped at the red light being driven by Mann, who was known to the SCU as being wanted for felony violation of probation for fleeing and eluding, possession of methamphetamine and other charges, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The SCU deputy attempted to pull Mann over, but the suspect fled south instead, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Joshua Mann

The vehicle pursuit lasted more than six miles and reached speeds of more than 100 mph, according to Mann’s arrest report. Deputies were able to successfully deploy spike strips on Mann’s vehicle, deflating the tires. The pursuit lasted more than 1 mile with the deflated tires.

According to the arrest report, Mann stopped his vehicle near the intersection of Highway 85 and State Road 293 and fled into the nearby woods on foot, despite deputies making verbal commands for him to stop.

Soon after, the Sheriff’s Office’s K9 and drone units arrived on scene. According to his arrest report, Mann was spotted by the drone unit running north through the woods near the intersection of Highway 85 and State Road 123.

Deputy Sheriff Michah Miller was able to make contact with Mann, who again attempted to flee, according to the arrest report. Miller was able to shoot Mann with a stun gun and arrest him.

Crestview teen arrested for attempted murder

During the course of the investigation, several witnesses were interviewed, and it was determined that Ja’Lonta Javia Durm was the alleged shooter. The Crestview Police Department concluded the incident stemmed from a verbal altercation that occurred in the apartment complex between a group of four or five individuals.

Durm reportedly shot at the vehicle as the victim quickly drove away from the complex.

According to Durm’s arrest report, the shooting took place during a custody exchange to celebrate a child’s birthday. An argument broke out during the custody exchange when one of the children warned his father that Durm had a gun and was “coming out the back.”

According to the report, Durm allegedly pointed the firearm at the victim and told them to leave or he would kill him. The victim got into the vehicle and heard Durm’s firearm go off multiple times, which caused them to leave the scene.

Initially, the people in the vehicle thought Durm had fired into the air until they arrived at another location and saw the bullet holes, according to the report.

During the investigation, Crestview police found three bullet holes in the victim’s vehicle, one in the passenger headlight, one in the passenger door near the mirror, and another near the top of the passenger door. A piece of debris that appeared to be part of a bullet was found inside the victim’s vehicle.

Investigators were able to locate Durm on March 13, when he was arrested and charged with attempted murder, shooting a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle, aggravated assault with a firearm, criminal mischief with more than $1,000 in damages and discharging a firearm in public or residential property.

Durm, 19, of Crestview, was transported to the Okaloosa County Jail without incident.