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In Florida, alligator-wrestling grannies, preteen bus drivers and pugalistic Easter Bunny make for another odd year

In Florida, alligator-wrestling grannies, preteen bus drivers and pugalistic Easter Bunny make for another odd year

Year after year Florida proves it is a weird state and 2006 was no different.
And that is beyond the headlines made by famous residents like Rush Limbaugh (arrested on a prescription drug charge) and O.J. Simpson (criticized for his supposedly hypothetical story of how he would have killed his ex-wife). The icon of the 2000 presidential recount _ Katherine Harris _ also got into unusual news: she left her U.S. House of Representatives seat only to see the election to replace her end up in a recount.
Weird is just part of Florida, and strange events seemingly happens every day in just about any part of the state: an elderly woman fighting off an alligator, a drug dealer making his pitch to uniformed officers, a state senator convicted of a felony and then filing a bill to restore felons' voting rights.
There was the Port St. Lucie man who was sentenced to 25 months in prison for selling a gorilla skull, among other things, on his Web site, deadzoo.com.
And it seems like in nowhere else but Florida could customs agents find a human skull, complete with skin and hair attached, in the suitcase of a woman returning home from Haiti. She told the agents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that it was to ward off evil spirits.
A bit further south at Miami International Airport, there was a different problem. A pirate radio station called Da Streetz was sending rap music into cockpit radios and a radio station directing broadcasts toward Cuba disrupted airport communication with Latin music, Christian programs and programming opposing Castro.
Then there was the man who bucked the popular trend of sneaking into Florida from Cuba. He stole a small plane from a Florida Keys airport and flew his son to the communist island, where they were detained and sent back to the United States.
Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Max Linn made an emergency landing in his small plane on a major highway near downtown Orlando, tying up traffic. It was the most publicity he had received to that point in the struggling campaign.
A 15-year-old boy stole a transit bus in Orlando and drove it about 12 miles (19 kilometers), picking up passengers, collecting fares, driving the speed limit and making all the right stops before police arrested him. He later told police that he drove the bus better than most of the bus drivers could.
Two St. Lucie County teenagers were charged with stealing a school bus and taking it for a 30-minute joyride before deputies shot out the back tires.
An off-duty Maitland police officer allegedly used his gun in a less constructive manner, shooting two men who refused to let him join a poker game. The buy in for the game was $100 (euro76) and the officer wanted in for $20 (euro15.20), which led to the disagreement.
Ini other incidents involving police, an Orange County sheriff's deputy was in uniform and sitting in his marked patrol car when a man walked up to him an asked if he wanted to buy some cocaine. The deputy said yes, the man pulled out a bag with cocaine. He was arrested.
Another man doubted whether the crack cocaine he bought was real, so he asked two uniformed Tampa police officers to verify. They did. It was. He was arrested.
Here is a reason to say no to drugs: Polk County deputies had to rescue a 45-year-old man who was naked and high on crack from the jaws of a roughly 12-foot (3.6-meter) alligator.
It was one of several strange encounters with gators.
A 74-year-old Punta Gorda woman did a better job of fighting off an alligator. She was bit on the ankle by a 5-foot alligator (1.5-meter), but she beat it back with a hose. "I just whacked him right in the snout with the nozzle," the woman said. "After that, he took off." She finished her gardening before seeking treatment for the wound.
Among other reptile encounters, a West Palm Beach couple let their 8-pound (3.6-kilogram) rat terrier off his leash only to have a neighbor's escaped 11-foot (3.3-meter) Burmese python attack and kill it.
A man driving in Naples with a pet snake wrapped around his neck crashed his car when the reptile began attacking him. He got out of his car, wrestled with the snake and then drove off, reports said.
Politicians also had their fair share of trouble.
Democratic State Sen. Gary Siplin did his best to run from his problems. After being arrested and charged with grand theft, a television reporter showed up at his office. Instead of a "no comment," Siplin ran out the back of the building and was caught on tape climbing over a fence to reach a getaway car. After his conviction on the felony charges, Siplin filed a bill to restore voting rights to felons.
Another state lawmaker was a crime victim. State Rep. Nancy Detert's bid for Congress hit a bump when her treasurer emptied the campaign account of $94,000 (euro71,434) and fled to South America.
In another disappearing act, illusionist David Copperfield used magic to prevent being robbed. He was walking to a tour bus with two assistants after a West Palm Beach show when four armed teenagers demanded valuables. The assistants turned over several hundred dollars. Copperfield had a wallet, passport and cell phone in his pockets, but when he turned them inside out, they vanished.
Two Escambia County middle school teachers faced felony charges after being accused of taking bribes from students to let them skip gym class. The amount per class? $1.
The Lee County school superintendent nearly started a trade war with Britain. He decided to keep a Fort Myers high school band from performing in a London parade, saying the terrorist threat was too dangerous. In response, parade officials released a statement warning British travelers about Fort Myers' crime and homicide rates, Lee County's record number of traffic deaths in 2005 and that the area is prone to "catastrophic hurricanes." The band eventually went to the United Kingdom.
And, in another salute to festivities _ the Easter Bunny was fired after he punched a Fort Myers mall customer who was upset that photo opportunities with the giant costumed rabbit were wrapping up 10 minutes early.


Updated : 2021-03-04 09:22 GMT+08:00