A jam-packed room of Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce members and their guests gave Deputy Joseph Anderson and strong round of applause as he was recognized as October Deputy of the Month by the chamber. The meeting was held at The Hut in Buckingham and will likely meet there again for its Nov. 26 meeting.
Anderson was selected for an award because of his involvement in apprehending a suspect who has been charged with the shooting of a 16-year-old girl who was walking home from her bus stop Sept. 26 in Lehigh Acres
Lt. Tim Short, who made the presentation at the chamber meeting, said deputies from Bravo district had responded to a report about the shooting. The person who called said that the victim was a teenage girl on 7th St. SW and the shooting occurred just before 3 p.m.
The caller said the victim had been shot in the calf of her leg.
"Sgt. Murphy arrived on the scene and provided first aid to the teenager until Lehigh EMS arrived," Short said. "The victim was able to provide a detailed description of the suspect which was broadcast over the air by Sgt. Murphy to responding units."
Deputy Joseph Anderson also responded and as he arrived, he saw a male walking in the area and Anderson stopped and talked with the potential witness and he told the deputy that he heard the shots and was walking toward the scene from where they came.
The witness provided Anderson a detailed description of a person that he said he saw leaving the area on a bicycle at around the same time as the victim.
"The witness also knew who this was and where he lived. Deputy Anderson had the witness show him where the suspect lived, thus making contact with the potential suspect. The witness was able to identify the suspect as the same person leaving the area at the time of the shooting," Short said.
While the event was unfolding, all Bravo Station deputies responded, along with aviation and K-9 units. Major Crimes Unit detectives quickly arrived on the scene and took over the investigation.
"It was pointed out that Deputy Anderson, having extensive patrol and investigative experience, kept presence of mind and used that experience during a chaotic call for service, to not only locate a witness, but identify and locate the suspect. It's important to note that due to his efforts, the weapon used in the shooting was also recovered," Short said.
The suspect was arrested and charged with several felony counts to include the shooting of the victim in this case who was simply walking home from a bus stop when the suspect is believed to have shot her with no apparent motive.
"For his outstanding police work, he was nominated for the chamber's Deputy Sheriff of the Month Award," Short said.
Accompanying him at the presentation were Capt. John Haberman, Short and Sgt. Craig Davis, a patrol officer.
Meanwhile, the chamber also honored Rubi Castro of Coldwell Banker Preferred Properties for its Employee of the Month award.
Inke Baker, the president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce, who conducted the meeting, said the chamber was proud to recognize Castro because of her devotion to her job.
Castro was hired in June and has been a ray of sunshine ever since, said Fred Elliott, owner of Coldwell Banker Preferred Properties, who made the presentation.
"She is considered a huge asset to Coldwell Banker Preferred Properties because she does the work of three people. Rubi always has a smile on her face and contributes to a very positive working environment. Her personality is awesome to be around and the management is so grateful that they found each other," Elliott said as he presented a citation award.
He said her work ethic and attitude is outstanding and will contribute to the success of Coldwell Banker Preferred Properties.
He told the group that he was sure she was surprised, having not been told of the award when brought to the chamber banquet.
Inke Baker said the chamber was proud to recognize her as the Employee of the Month.
Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-79) was guest speaker. Caldwell, of Lehigh Acres, is the first and only resident of Lehigh to have held statewide office in Tallahassee.
Caldwell represents an area stretching from Alva to Lehigh to North Fort Myers.
He spoke about the upcoming session of the Florida Legislature and said two of the main topics at the session will be water issues and budget issues. Caldwell is the senior leader of the Southwest Florida legislative delegation.
"The issue of water is something we will have to tackle and it o=includes flood control and the redesign and retrofitting of water flow from lake O," he said.
"We also have a revenue surplus of $800 million and the governor will be working for a tax cut for our citizens.
"I'd boil it down to the budget surplus and addressing our water issues," Caldwell said.
"Building a dike around Lake Okeechobee is going to be very expensive and we need a solution from the state. Had the water at the lake had not risen to 13 inches, we would not have had the problems of water flow that came down the Caloosahatchee. Road building must continue and the excise tax on gasoline may be risen. Because of cars getting better gas mileage, it has caused a drop in gasoline tax revue. There could be a raise in the excise gas on gasoline," Caldwell said.
As for incorporation of Lehigh Acres, he was asked to comment and said that he could not speak for the delegation but he noted that Estero is creating a city and citizens have to make that decision for themselves and then come to the delegation so it can be put on the ballot. The people of Estero, from what the newspapers reported, said it was overwhelmingly supporting incorporation so it will be on the ballot more than likely in 2014," he said.
"There is no reason to go against it. Not getting into the beginning of an incorporation movement in Lehigh Acres, Caldwell said if the people want it, they should contact his office and he would move it through the delegation, indicating that if the majority of people favor incorporation, then it would go on the ballot as a yes or no vote for incorporation.
While Lehigh is still in its infancy in seeking incorporation, there is not time enough for going to the legislators' delegation which meets in December to decide on bills to propose for the people of Southwest Florida.
A vote for incorporation of Lehigh, if enough people favor it, could come about in 2016 or 2018, but this was not mentioned by Caldwell. While talk of incorporation is underway in Lehigh, it is much too early to talk to legislators. A committee is being formed to start the ball rolling toward incorporation where Lehigh residents can rule themselves rather than having the county oversee all of its operations.
Later, after the meeting, Caldwell was asked by The Citizen if he though state legislators would consider a medically supported marijuana bill during the upcoming session. He said that there is such a movement underway by popular attorneys in the state with thousands of likely supporters, that the bill would probably pass in the legislature.
Medically cannabis has been found to help people with pain and other medical disorders and is legal in other areas of the country. But he said he had no real insight as how it is being considered by legislators before the session begins.
The popular delegate from Lehigh, said he was glad to meet with anyone who had any questions or issues that he could help with.
N. Nathan Stout, a member of the chamber, who had introduced Caldwell to the audience, said at the end of the meeting that he had helped to arrange a jazz ensemble presentation at the November meeting.