Police Investigation becomes Homicide Case

An early morning argument turned into a violent confrontation outside a residence at 837 Tarpon Avenue as one man stabbed and critically wounded another man during a dispute in the victim’s driveway.

Thomas Clyde Erdmann, 19 years of age, was taken to Baptist Nassau and is currently being treated at UF Health Jacksonville for multiple stab wounds.

Fernandina Beach Police and Fire Department personnel responded to the scene at approximately 3:25 A.M. this morning and located the victim inside the residence covered in blood and in great distress. Responding officers learned that the offender was known to the victim and officers provided identifying information to responding officers from our agency and the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office.

Subsequently, Nassau County deputies observed and stopped a vehicle attempting to leave the area and located a suspect inside the car. The suspect is currently in custody while this investigation continues.

Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are assisting with crime scene processing at several locations in the area.

UPDATE: The Fernandina Beach Police Department has learned that Thomas Erdmann has died after surgery at UF Health Jacksonville. Detectives have now formally charged Zachary M. Fila, 22 years of age, of Yulee, Florida with 1st Degree Murder in this case.
zachary-fila

Local Man Chases After Robbery Suspect

Local Man Chases After Robbery Suspect in Fernandina BeachFernandina Beach, FL – Vincente Perez reported that his wallet had been stolen from his person by an unknown male suspect while he and his wife were at the Green Turtle Tavern on Thursday night. Perez said that an individual approached him and asked for a light and that Perez offered the man his lighter. The suspect lit a cigarette and returned the lighter, but then stayed in close proximity to Perez and eventually bumped into him before quickly walking away.

Perez immediately realized that the suspect had taken his wallet after deliberately bumping into him. Mrs. Perez chased after the suspect screaming that he had stolen her husband’s wallet as the suspect was pedaling away on a beach cruiser type bicycle. Thaxton Rowe was leaving his job at the Florida House Inn and heard the commotion. Without regard for his own personal safety, Rowe chased after the suspect, confronted him, and was able to retrieve the stolen wallet. Upon relinquishing the wallet the suspect continued to flee the area. The wallet was returned to Perez.

The suspect was described as a black male in his 40’s or 50’s, approximately 5’7″ tall, wearing a white shirt, dark blue shorts with a light blue stripe, and a black hat. Perez stated the suspect was polite prior to the robbery. Police are hoping to locate the suspect and charge him with Robbery by Sudden Snatching, a felony crime.

Although the Police Department does not recommend taking proactive measures against potentially dangerous criminals, Mr. Rowe was commended by Police Chief Jim Hurley for his bravery and quick action which resulted in stolen property being quickly recovered and additional suspect information being developed for law enforcement use as this investigation continues. Anyone with information about this offense, or a similar offense that occurred recently in the same area of town, should call Detective Sergeant Tracey Hamilton at (904) 310-3215.

What’s the Word on Fireworks in Florida?

What's the Law on Fireworks in Fernandina, Amelia Island, or in Florida?Here is a press release from Fernandina Beach Chief of Police James Hurley

As the July 4th holiday approaches many folks have been expressing concern about the annual ritual of backyard (non-permitted) fireworks displays. Suffice to say, if you’re planning a holiday fireworks show, you might want to brush up on Florida’s current fireworks laws. The bottom line is that just because you see it in a store or at a roadside stand doesn’t mean that it is legal to purchase, possess or use!

What Fireworks Are Legal in Florida?
The only fireworks legal for use by consumers who don’t possess a special permit are those that fall into the category known as “sparklers.” This includes items more commonly known as sparklers, fountains, snakes and glow worms. If you’re not sure whether a particular firework is approved for consumer use, the Florida State Fire Marshall publishes a full list of legal sparklers each year.

Can I Buy Other Fireworks?
Well, you can buy other fireworks, but it is illegal to do so. Stores and roadside stands who sell these fireworks are exploiting a loophole that allows them to sell the fireworks for legal, approved uses. When you buy them for your backyard fireworks show, you are breaking the law. And yes, even Roman Candles are illegal in Florida.

What If I Sign a Waiver?
If you try to purchase fireworks (other than sparklers), many stores and roadside stands will often ask you to sign a waiver form. If you read this form carefully, you will notice that you’re stating that you intend to use the fireworks for an approved purchase, such as use on your farm or at your fish hatchery to scare off birds or animals. This lets the store off the hook. If you’re lying to them, that’s your problem, not theirs, in the eyes of the law. The wavier protects the store, not you.

But Everyone Else Is Doing It!
It’s true that lots of people set off illegal fireworks in Florida. Lots of people also speed, jaywalk and break any number of other laws. You will be gambling that you won’t be the person who gets caught.

What Can Happen If I Set Off Fireworks Illegally?
Most importantly, you may be seriously injured or you may injure an innocent bystander or child. In Florida, possession or use of illegal fireworks is classified as a misdemeanor. If you violate this law, you can be arrested. If you are found guilty you can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to a year in prison.

Because of the increasing number of complaints, the potential for serious injury, and the time and cost of cleaning up, the Fernandina Beach Police Department has been tasked with addressing this problem. Please do everyone a favor and limit your fireworks viewing to one of the permitted displays already being planned for the area.

What about Filling the Loophole?
In the next few months the City will consider how best to address this issue, either by City Ordinance or through a state legislative initiative, effectively eliminating the roadside sale of illegal fireworks loophole.

Fernandina Police Update Recent Homicide Case

johnell-richoThe Fernandina Beach Police Department is actively investigating the shooting death of a 67 year old man outside his residence at 1123 Gum Street. Johnell Richo was pronounced dead at the scene after witnesses heard gunshots at 6:38 AM and called police.

Investigators are now interviewing family members and witnesses and are trying to piece together a potential motive, as well as explore other possible scenarios. Detectives want to speak with anyone that might have information about this incident, or an incident that occurred at 3:00 AM yesterday morning in front of 909 S. 12th Street.

Update:
Police Arrest Armed Robbery Suspect, Consider Connection to Homicide

The Fernandina Beach Police Department has arrested an individual in connection with an armed robbery incident that occurred at 909 S. 12th Street at 3:00 AM yesterday morning.

John Patrick Wilson, 52 years of age, formerly of Fernandina Beach and recently of Knoxville, TN was charged with Attempted 2nd Degree Murder and Armed Robbery. Wilson and his wife claimed to be visiting with his mother and stepfather, Robbie and Johnell Richo, at 1123 Gum Street for the Shrimp Festival weekend. Johnell Richo, 67 years of age, was shot and killed early this morning outside his Gum Street home.

john-patrick-wilsonAccording to witnesses, Wilson approached two victims, Larry Javon Roberts and Jerrald Jevon Owens, as they sat on the porch at 909 S. 12th Street at 3:00 AM early Sunday morning. Wilson reportedly pointed a .22 Caliber rifle at the victims and demanded money, before firing at least one shot. Roberts struggled with Wilson for control of the rifle and two more shots were fired. Roberts was able to hold Wilson until law enforcement arrived. Wilson was transported to Baptist Nassau and then flown to UF Health in Jacksonville, believing that he had been shot in the head during the struggle.

Wilson refused to talk with law enforcement and was able to walk out of the hospital after being discharged just a couple of hours after being admitted. The wound to his head was not caused by a gunshot and was not life threatening or even considered very serious.

Investigators are continuing this investigation and still want to speak with anyone that might have information about these incidents.

Fernandina Beach Police Display Patience and Professionalism

Fernandina Beach Police Display Patience and ProfessionalismA 58 year old Fernandina resident who was despondent and threatening suicide held police at bay throughout the night and into the early afternoon.

Police responded to the residence at 224 North 2nd Street after the man’s girlfriend notified police he was holding a gun to his head threatening suicide. After his overt threat, he also posted intentions to take his life on Facebook.

Police took all precautions to protect area citizens by evacuating nearby residents, blocking traffic, and setting up a tight perimeter around the subject’s house. Police also assigned an officer to St. Michael’s Academy which was on a partial lock down throughout the incident.

The man was assured that police only wanted to aid him in obtaining medical assistance; however he refused to surrender even after speaking to his attorney, family members and friends. Rather than conducting a dangerous forced entry, police waited patiently and obtained a court order for a mental health evaluation.

After several hours of utilizing various methods of communications with the subject, he finally agreed to surrender and was taken into custody. He was then transported to a facility in Jacksonville for evaluation.

The Fernandina Beach Police Department and Nassau County Sheriff’s Office appreciates the public’s patience and cooperation during this incident.

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Police Searching for Witnesses in Sadler Road Death

Police Searching for Witnesses in Sadler Road DeathFernandina Beach police investigators are continuing to look into the death of William “Billy” Ragsdale, who died early Tuesday morning while walking in the 2300 block of Sadler Road.

Investigators have been examining video and critical information from witness statements to determine Ragsdale’s movements before the time of his death. Police are encouraging those with information concerning any unusual activity in the area between the hours of 1:00 AM and 2:45 AM on Tuesday morning to call the police department at 904-310-3203.

The working theory continues to focus on the likelihood that thirty-five year old William Ragsdale was struck while walking near the roadway.

Man Found Dead by early Morning Dog Walker

Man Found Dead by early Morning Dog Walker Fernandina Beach, FL – The Fernandina Beach Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement all responded to a report of a deceased person found by an early morning dog walker in the 2300 block of Sadler Road. The scene has now been examined by investigators and processed for forensic evidence, although no investigative conclusions have been reached and the case is pending additional procedural steps, to include an autopsy scheduled for tomorrow.

The working theory continues to focus on the likelihood that thirty-five year old William Ragsdale was struck while walking near the roadway, although it remains unclear if he was struck by a vehicle, struck by a vehicle mirror or something protruding from the vehicle, or if he simply fell and struck his head on the roadway or curb. Although his shoes were found tied and near the roadway, the victim apparently survived and was able to travel some fifty feet into a nearby parking lot. Foul play has not been ruled out at this time. Ragsdale had been reportedly drinking heavily and may have been walking home from an area bar at the time of this incident.

Investigators would like to hear from those that may have been in the company of William Ragsdale last night or those that may have pertinent information regarding this case. Ragsdale recently gave his local address as 2195 Drury Road in unincorporated Nassau County, although he has reportedly only been in Florida for about four months, having moved to Florida from Dover, DE. Next of kin have been notified of his death.