Corey Jones shooting: Rally for Transparency

Update

Organizer asks crowd to be patient for three more minutes and introduces Pastor Tommy Brown.

Rally ends with hand-holding and prayer.

Update

Corey Jones’ grandfather, Bishop Sylvester Banks Sr., is the family’s first speaker. He’s the bishop of Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach.

Update

Crowd breaks into chanting as family of Corey Jones prepares to address the crowd.

Update

Corey Jones Rally 2

Dave Aronberg address crowd at Rally for Transparency for Corey Jones

State Attorney Dave Aronberg addresses crowd. Flanked by his three chief assistants, he’s reading the press release he sent out a half-hour ago. Text is below.

He broke from the script briefly to describe his desire to deliver justice. He took no questions.

 

Update

LIVE on : State Attorney Dave Aronberg speaking publicly for first time about shooting

Introducing State Attorney Dave Aronberg, speaker asks crowd to videotape Aronberg’s speech. Also requests they be respectable. And judge whether he does what he says when he runs next year. “We need to hold him accountable.”

Update

Speaker: “The world is watching Palm Beach County.”

“What we do, echoes in forever.”

Update

Song breaks out. A team of four drummers start to play. Think synchronized drum circle. Corey Jones was a drummer.
Those on Periscope can watch State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s speech from the Rally for Accountability outside his office on Lulu Ramadan’s Periscope account.

Update from Post reporter Lulu Ramadan:

State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak at today’s rally, organizer Rae Whitley says.

This will be the first time State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak publicly about shooting.

 

Update from Lulu Ramadan:

Retired Judge Edward Rogers to State Attorney Dave Aronberg: “We don’t trust you Mr.Aronberg.”

 

Rally Photo 1

State Attorney Dave Aronberg near speakers at the Rally for Transparency for Corey Jones. Aronberg issued press release, below…

UPDATE

Matt Benzion, Boynton Beach attorney, speaks at rally about holding officers accountable. “These were not dangerous people.”

From Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan live on the scene at @luluramadan.

 

UPDATE

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, spokesman Mike Edmondson and all of Aronberg’s chief assistants just came outside.
About 250 people are at the rally.

 

Press release issued:

State Attorney Dave Aronberg emails out a press release on the Corey Jones case as the rally is proceeding. Here it is in its entirety: 

Update from State Attorney Aronberg on Investigation into the Death of Corey Jones

The tragic death of Corey Jones is currently being investigated by three independent agencies: The State Attorney’s Office, the Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The State Attorney’s Office has been in continued communication and cooperation with the other investigating agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).  Approximately an hour after the shooting, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department requested independent investigations and by design, this process intentionally removes the Palm Beach Gardens PD from receiving updates and information on the investigations.

Investigations such as these are confidential and it is vitally important to obtain all of the evidence during this initial phase.  These investigations can take months, depending on where the evidence leads.

Our office is committed to transparency and we have shared important information about this investigation with the family of Corey Jones and their attorneys.  We would like to provide the community with as much information as possible, but prosecutors are forbidden by state and national ethics rules to speak freely about ongoing investigations, such as this one.  We are only allowed to provide some basic uncontroverted facts, or else it may jeopardize the investigation and any potential future prosecution.

We take this investigation very seriously and as such, we cannot afford to rush, cut corners or appear to be partial.  Our responsibility is to seek justice, our loyalty is to the community, and our commitment is to the truth.

Here are some of the facts that we are ethically allowed to release:

  • Officer Raja was on duty in an unmarked van.
  • Officer Raja was not in uniform.
  • Six shots were fired from the officer’s gun and 6 casings were recovered.
  • Corey Jones was shot three times.
  • Corey Jones’s firearm (.380 caliber) was found on scene.  It was not fired.

We have spoken to Corey Jones’s family about these facts and have had ongoing discussions with community leaders to assure them of the independence, fairness and thoroughness of our investigation.

END PRESS RELEASE

UPDATE from rally:

Rally talk: So far, , Palm Beach Gardens, have all been citing “ongoing investigation.” But they can release a lot more. The big push is for records related to shooting. Speaker is reciting FL public records law.

Raul Alvarez, whose son, Aldo, was shot by a PBSO deputy in 2013. “I had to be here,” he said. From PB Post reporter Lawrence Mower’s Twitter feed.

 

UPDATE

Speaker Rae Whitley: “A broken down car is not punishable by death.”

UPDATE

Reporter Daphne Duret posts at her Twitter feed that noted local defense attorney Richard Lubin is representing Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who shot Jones on Oct. 18.

UPDATE: 12:44 p.m.

Rallygoers start with a prayer. Correction: Numbers are topping 100. Group holds hands and invokes Jesus.

Channel 5 reporting that State Attorney Dave Aronberg will adress the crowd.

Original post:

Downtown West Palm Beach streets have been closed off to accommodate the Rally for Transparency, called to put continued pressure on law enforcement officials to release information about what happened the night Corey Jones was shot and killed by a police officer in Palm Beach Gardens.

The rally is outside the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. The streets that are closed are portions of North Dixie Highway and Third Street.

Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan is tweeting live from the rally at @luluramadan.

 

 

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja

 

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31

 

Candle light vigil for victims of drug-overdose on Thursday

Sig2Hundreds of people are expected to attend the 9th Annual National Candle Light Vigil – sponsored by West Palm Beach-based Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education (NOPE) Task Force – on Thursday to honor the estimated 30,000 people who die every year from drug overdoses in the U.S.

According to data gathered as part of the Post’s ongoing series on the substance abuse industry, more than 200 people have died of drug overdoses this year in Palm Beach County.

Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will give the keynote address via video to discuss the importance of drug prevention and education. Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney, will speak about local efforts to fight drug abuse.

At the vigils in more than 55 cities in the U.S. participants will light candles, bow their heads in a moment of silence, and view a memorial wall with more than 300 photos, which represent some of the 100 people who die every day of drug overdoses.

The vigil begins at 7 pm at the Gosman Amphitheatre at the Kravis Center, located at 701 Okeechobee Blvd.

Corey Jones shooting probe focuses on second volley of shots

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja
Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31

Investigators looking into the death of Corey Jones are focusing on officer Nouman Raja’s decision to shoot the 31-year-old drummer while he was running away, The Palm Beach Post has learned.

Evidence indicates Jones may have dropped his weapon when the Palm Beach Gardens officer fired the fatal shot, according to interviews with Jones’ family, their lawyers and a source with knowledge of last week’s incident, which has captured national attention.

At its heart: Why was Jones’ gun found so far away from his body?

When Raja pulled up to the scene at about 3:15 a.m. Oct. 18, in plainclothes and an unmarked white van, Jones was on the phone with AT&T roadside assistance, his cellphone call log indicates. But Jones got out of the vehicle with his legally purchased gun, police and lawyer statements show.

> View a timeline of events in the Corey Jones shooting

That prompted Raja to fire multiple shots at Jones, police said. It’s unclear whether any of the rounds from the first volley of shots hit him, but it caused Jones to run away.

That’s when Raja fired a second set of shots.

> Corey Jones special section

In all, Raja fired six shots, three of which hit. When and where Jones was struck is crucial.

One of the bullets shattered his left arm. Jones was left-handed, so he likely would have been carrying the gun in that hand. That bullet could have forced him to drop it immediately.

Another bullet struck Jones’ right arm, near the shoulder. That wound wouldn’t have been fatal.

A third bullet struck Jones in his right torso, tearing his aorta, which carries blood from the heart. That bullet would have killed him — and, with his aorta shattered, likely forced him to drop immediately to the ground.

If he were still armed when the fatal shot struck, the gun would have been near his body. But it wasn’t. It was about halfway between Jones and his car, family lawyer Skinner Louis said — about 40 to 50 feet from his body. Louis was briefed on the investigation by the State Attorney’s Office.

Another critical question is where Raja was standing when he fired both volleys.

During his walk-through statement to investigators, he couldn’t clearly say where he was when he fired, according to Louis and one other source.

“Where Raja was placed is very important,” Louis said Tuesday, since it could indicate the angle at which he fired, revealing whether Jones had turned toward the officer.

Raja told investigators at the scene that he fired the second set of shots because he saw a “flickering sliver of a laser,” an unidentified source told WPBF-Channel 25 last week. So even if Jones had dropped his weapon as he fled, the officer may have believed Jones was still armed and continued to fear for his life, causing him to unleash the second volley of shots.

Jones’ death has triggered an extraordinary investigative effort for an officer-involved shooting in Palm Beach County, involving four agencies, including the FBI.

The State Attorney’s Office, for example, usually relies heavily on the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigation in shootings. But it has investigators going to extraordinary lengths to find witnesses, reaching out to everyone who stayed at a wing of the Doubletree Hotel near the shooting scene that night, The Post has learned.

The State Attorney’s Office and PBSO have refused to comment on details of the investigation.

On Tuesday, Raja met with police union lawyers while PBSO investigators removed evidence from his personal vehicle, according to WPTV NewsChannel 5.

The family’s focus on Tuesday, Louis said, was to get answers from AT&T, which Jones called six times to summon a tow truck to the Interstate 95 off-ramp at PGA Boulevard. The phone records show Jones made his final phone call at 3:10 a.m., five minutes before he was shot and killed. That call, which records show lasted 53 minutes, might have been recorded.

Louis was a high school friend of Jones’ and is now part of the family’s legal team, which includes Tallahassee-based civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.

AT&T officials on Monday confirmed to The Post that they are cooperating with law enforcement but declined to comment further.

Family attorneys also expected Tuesday to speak with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. They initially met with him last week, and prosecutors provided them details of the shooting. Based on that conversation, they believe Raja wasn’t using his department-issued weapon when he shot Jones.

A Rally for Transparency is scheduled outside the State Attorney’s Office at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Louis said the phone logs belie Raja’s account, and that Jones was laid-back, and calm even as he tried over and over again to reach a tow truck operator. He refused an offer of help from his brother, C.J., in a call that started at 2:52 a.m.

“He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t agitated. He just thought maybe he was calling the wrong number,” Louis said of Jones’ long wait to speak to someone from roadside assistance.

The family has many questions about the case, Louis said, but “Some questions may never be answered.”

Corey Jones family: Records show officer the aggressor

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.

Records of Corey Jones’ last calls prove a Palm Beach Gardens police officer was “likely the aggressor” in an encounter where the officer shot and killed him last week, his family’s attorneys said Tuesday.

The records, obtained exclusively by The Palm Beach Post Monday, show Jones had dialed AT&T’s roadside assistance line six times trying to get a tow truck to assist him with his broken-down vehicle in the early hours of Oct. 18.

The last call, at 3:10 a.m., was 53 minutes, which indicates the line was still open when Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja said he was forced to shoot Jones because Jones charged at him with a gun.

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.

Jones family attorney Skinner Louis says the records belie Raja’s account, and that Jones was laid-back, calm, and refused an offer from his brother, C.J., to pick him up from the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 95 at PGA Boulevard just before he was killed.

» RELATED: Complete coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

“He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t agitated. He just thought maybe he was calling the wrong number,” Louis said of Jones’ long wait to speak to someone from roadside assistance. “So his brother sent him another number to call.”

Louis says he and Jones’ family members believe that Jones, who was left-handed, likely had his phone to his ear when Raja parked an unmarked police van perpendicular to his car and got out.

Jones had purchased a gun three days earlier and had a license to carry it, Louis said, but he said Jones never fired it.

“At the time Raja parked… (Corey) probably put his phone down and reached for the gun with his left hand,” Louis said.

Louis was a high school friend of Jones’ and is now part of the family’s legal team, which includes famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. Louis said on Tuesday that the attorneys’ focus on Tuesday was to get answers from AT&T.

AT&T officials on Monday confirmed to The Post that they are cooperating with law enforcement on the case but declined to comment further.

The family attorneys also expected Tuesday to speak with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. They initially met with him last week, and prosecutors provided the family with details of the shooting. Based on that conversation, they believe Raja wasn’t using his department-issued weapon when he shot Jones.

Louis says the most important parts of the investigation at this point remains the sequence of shots Raja fired and where he was standing when he fired them.

Jones, he said, was struck by three bullets – including one that shattered his left elbow and fractured his arm.

“That would have separated him from his gun if he had it in his hand,” Louis said.

Prosecutors told the family last week that the gun was found in the grass between Jones’ body and his car, an 80- to 100-foot distance.

Exclusive: Corey Jones phone records show last call

By Daphne Duret and Lawrence Mower

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja

Corey Jones was on the phone with AT&T’s roadside assistance — and possibly recorded — when a Palm Beach Gardens officer confronted him on an Interstate 95 off-ramp last week, triggering the events that led to his death.

A copy of Jones’ phone records obtained by The Palm Beach Post show that at 3:10 a.m., Jones called #HELP, the phone company’s recorded line to request assistance.

Jones, 31, was shot and killed by officer Nouman Raja about five minutes later, according to police, but the phone records show the call lasted 53 minutes.

Since AT&T alerts callers that the line might be recorded, it could have captured audio of the moments before, during and after his death, making it a critical piece of evidence in a shooting in which no video recordings apparently exist.

It’s unclear, however, whether the line was recorded, or whether investigators have obtained any recordings. Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office spokesman Mike Edmondson on Monday declined to comment on whether the prosecutors’ office had obtained the phone records. Jones’ phone was, however, recovered at the scene and had not been returned to family members as of Monday.

An AT&T official said late Monday she could not comment.

Clarence Ellington, Jones’ best friend, said Jones’ family has seen the records and were meeting late Monday with the family’s legal team.

“The consensus is the same, and that’s that we’re angry,” Ellington said.

Jones used a cellphone belonging to his employer, the Delray Beach Housing Authority. Call logs for the government agency were provided to The Post under the state’s open records law.

The call to roadside assistance was one of many Jones made early that morning, after the drummer’s sport utility vehicle broke down while driving back from a gig in Jupiter.

The first indication of car trouble came at 1:35 a.m., when he called band mate Mathew Huntsberger for help.

Nine minutes later, he called *FHP, the Florida Highway Patrol’s main line. The records indicate that the call lasted four minutes, but an FHP spokesman wasn’t able to obtain the content of the call late Monday.

Starting at 2:09 a.m., Jones called the AT&T #HELP four times, spending about 36 minutes trying to get help.

Those calls were probably fruitless, however, since he called #HELP again, at 2:45 a.m., a call that the log says lasted 32 minutes, even though he dialed three other numbers after that call began.

The final call went to the help line at 3:10 a.m. and records show it wouldn’t have ended until 4:03 a.m., long after the 3:15 a.m. shooting.

It was the last call Jones would make.

Four agencies, including the FBI, are investigating what happened next.

Jones, a Delray Beach housing inspector with no history of violence, was sitting in his car on the off-ramp at PGA Boulevard when Raja pulled up and parked perpendicular to him, blocking multiple lanes of traffic.

Raja, who was on a burglary surveillance detail, had stopped for an abandoned vehicle, Palm Beach Gardens police said. He wasn’t in uniform and didn’t have his badge when he stepped out of an unmarked white Ford van, according to Jones’ family lawyers, who were briefed by State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Police said Raja spotted Jones’ gun and fired, killing him. Lawyers said Raja fired six times, including while Jones was running away. Jones’ body was found 80 to 100 feet away from his vehicle.

His gun, which he had bought legally and for which he had a concealed carry permit, was found an unspecified distance between his body and his vehicle.

The incident has captured national attention, the latest example of a young black man killed by police under questionable circumstances. Experts and the public have questioned Raja’s decision to confront Jones, who might not have known Raja was an officer.

The phone records provide some insight — and confusion — into Jones’ final hours.

He left his Jupiter gig and had just gotten on the highway when at 1:21 a.m. he called Manoucheka Sinmelus. She told The Post that Jones was on his way to pick her up from her home in Delray Beach. He didn’t mention car trouble. The call lasted about seven minutes. She has not spoken to authorities because they haven’t contacted her, she said.

The phone records have some discrepancies that aren’t easily explained, however.

Two phone calls seem to overlap with other calls. At 2:29 a.m., the logs show he spent 16 minutes with #HELP, but he called another phone number just eight minutes later.

Then, at 2:45 a.m., the logs show he spent 32 minutes on the line with #HELP, yet he called his brother just seven minutes later.

Edward J. Imwinkelried, an expert in scientific evidence and law professor at The University of California-Davis, said investigators should focus on the overlapping calls.

“If I was the investigator on the case, I would want to see how that is possible,” Imwinkelried said.

The most plausible explanation would be that Jones made the other calls while he was on hold with roadside assistance, Imwinkelried said. The first thing investigators would need to do, he said, is speak with everyone on Jones’ call log, including his brother, and obtain their phone records as well.

Then, he said, investigators would need to go to AT&T and have them explain the call log, and ask them if any recording of Jones’ calls exist.

Rage-fueled CPA turned sleepy condo complex into sober complex

ken_bailynson_cigarette_02

A year after an FBI raid, Ken Bailynson – a CPA known for explosive outbursts of rage – is continuing his efforts to take over Green Terrace, a shabby condo complex where Bailynson once housed more than 125 recovering addicts in the more than 30 units he owned and called Good Decisions Sober Living.

Bailynson has not been charged with a crime. A multi-agency task force headed by the FBI raided Good Decisions on Sept. 11, 2014 – confiscating files, computers and boxes of evidence from a unit Bailynson converted into an office and the complex’s clubhouse near the pool.

Since early 2014 the task force has been investigating allegations of insurance fraud, patient brokering and kickbacks in the county’s $1 billion substance abuse treatment industry.

Why Bailynson wants to take over Green Terrace, an 84-unit complex in West Palm Beach that was built in the 1970s, isn’t known. When asked about his plans on two occasions, Bailynson launched into profanity-laden verbal attacks on a reporter.

Residents recalled Bailynson was quiet when he began acquiring units in 2011. However, after he created Good Decisions and began moving recovering addicts into the community, he became loud and verbally aggressive. Some residents, worried that Bailynson’s outbursts would turn physically violent, began recording the outbursts on their cellphones.

Several of the remaining unit owners at Green Terrace are now suing Bailynson and the condo association, claiming money was misappropriated and that Bailynson stacked the board of directors with friends to whom he gave condos. The board also took out a $1.5 million loan from a company created by Bailynson. The loan carries a 24 percent interest rate and is secured by units owned by the association.

In September, Bailynson filed to foreclose on 10 units after the association failed to make it’s $30,000 monthly mortgage payment.

The Post published three stories on Sunday Oct. 25, 2015. Read them here:

http://projects.mypalmbeachpost.com/green-terrace/

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/profane-video-shows-sober-home-owner-ripping-into-/nn8LC/

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/residents-fight-big-loan-thousands-in-monthly-fees/nn8LP/

 

Palm Beach County commissioners are hats off — literally — to the Astros and Nationals

Baseball caps with the logos of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals were passed out to each of the seven Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday — a gesture of thanks for the county’s work on bringing the teams to West Palm Beach for spring training.BASEBALL BURIDCK MCKINLAY

But only one of the caps saw any action. In other words, six county commissioners wouldn’t put the caps where they’re meant to go — on their heads.

“I don’t want to mess up my hairdo,” commissioner Priscilla Taylor joked.

For a few seconds, commissioner Melissa McKinlay did try on a Nationals cap as the county commission meeting ended. But that didn’t last long.

Art Fuccillo of Nationals (far left) and Giles Kibbe of Astros (second from right) with Palm Beach County Commission
Art Fuccillo of Nationals (far left) and Giles Kibbe of Astros (second from right, front row) with Palm Beach County Commission

None of the commissioners wore the caps when they gathered a few minutes later with team officials for a group photo.

For the photo, County Mayor Shelley Vana held the caps in her hands.

At least one county commissioner publicly explained her refusal to wear the caps: Pittsburgh native Mary Lou Berger.

“If you think a Pittsburgh Pirates fan is going to put on of these hats, you are sadly mistaken,” Berger said to the teams.

Cigna won’t offer federal Florida health care plans, cites Palm Beach Post reports

151262785Citing “an exponential increase in fraudulent and abusive” substance abuse treatment practices – and in particular drug screening- Cigna Inc. won’t be offering Florida health plans on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace when it opens for business in the next few weeks.

The decision is temporary- it affects only 2016, and only  individual and family medical plans offered on the Florida public health insurance marketplace.

Plans offered off-exchange, Cigna-HealthSpring Medicare Advantage Plans and Cigna’s group health plans offered through employers and unions aren’t impacted.

In explaining the decision, Cigna spokesman Joseph Mondy cited Post articles detailing how fraudulent drug screening has reaped millions for South Florida labs, especially those affiliated with sober homes and treatment centers.  In one case found by The Post, pee-in-a-cup lab work cost more than $300,000- for a single client.

The sky-high charges have exploited addicts and alcoholics seeking help, gouged insurers and spurred an FBI investigation into the area’s billion-dollar addiction treatment industry.

Lab practices go beyond ballooning charges, however. Earlier this year, Cigna sued Sky Toxicology and two affiliated lab firms in federal court here, alleging a $20 million civil fraud revolving around urine testing.

According to the suit, Sky, a consortium of labs, offered doctors and drug treatment centers ownership interests in the companies. For their investment, said Cigna, providers were paid “kickbacks in the form of dividends” linked to how many urine tests they sent to Sky.

The suit did not specify how much money Sky paid to the doctors and centers. However, two sources close to the industry told The Post that $12,500 was one investment amount and that for the $12,500, providers sending urine to Sky could get anywhere from $24,000 quarterly to $50,000 monthly.

Settlement talks in the suit are expected to get underway later this month, according to court records.

 

Halloween hikes: the Creepy Critter Trail and the Living ‘Dead Forest’

The Historic Jupiter Indiantown Trail has a new name this month: The Creepy Critter Trail.

The Historic Jupiter Indiantown Trail has a new name this month: The Creepy Critter Trail.
The Historic Jupiter Indiantown Trail has a new name this month: The Creepy Critter Trail.

To celebrate Halloween, the 2.1-mile trail at the Cypress Creek Natural Area in Jupiter is decorated with temporary displays about “some of the creepier species found on this site,’’ according to a sign at the entrance.

Along the way are 10 signs, fastened to the split-rail fence, telling about critters that roam the area. Among them are old-school Halloween favorites — bats, owls, vultures and rats.

But there also some unusual ones such as Goatsuckers (night birds that prey upon insects), the Jagged Ambush Bug (a “predator” with “large raptorial front legs”) and the Two-toed Amphiuma (a snake-like a salamander).2222

And the Creepy Critter Trail in October wouldn’t be complete without the Halloween Pennant, a dragon-fly believed to have gotten its name from it orange yellow wings.

“I picked the ten creepy critters because I have seen them or evidence of them at the Cypress Creek Natural area,” said the man behind the Creepy Critter Trail — David Witmer, an environmental analyst with Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resources Management department.

“My favorite is the ambush bug. When I first saw one, I felt like a kid again. It is definitely one of the creepier things I have seen.”

The trail runs from the parking lot at 10035 Indiantown Road and runs west to Mack Dairy Road. The entrance to the parking lot is on the north side of Indiantown Road, opposite of the traffic light at Jupiter Farms Road.

There is no charge for access. bats

This is the first year  ERM has hosted a creepy critter trail. And it is currently only at Cypress Creek.

But Witmer has another Halloween-themed adventure planned for later this month — he’s calling it “the Hike of the Living ‘Dead Forest.”’

Witmer will lead the 2-mile hike along a restored wetland in the Loxahatchee Slough Natural area on Oct. 28.

“The area we will be visiting was a monoculture of melaleuca trees that has been restored to wetland habitat,” he said.

“The dead melaleuca snags now are great bird perches, so we always see a lot of wildlife in the area.”

The hike on Oct. 28 will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Sandhill Crane Access Park, 8175 PGA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. The parking lot is on the northeast corner of PGA and the C-18 canal.

There is no charge. Anyone interested can RSVP by calling ERM at 561 233-2400.

http://projects.mypalmbeachpost.com/halloween/

 

Palm Beach Gardens official recalls local fan skepticism when lowly Houston Astros first came knocking…

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane

Palm Beach Gardens city manager Ron Ferris remembers the reactions he heard from many area residents when they first heard the Houston Astros were considering moving their spring training operations to the city.

Palm Beach Gardens city manager Ron Ferris
Palm Beach Gardens city manager Ron Ferris

It was 2013 and the Astros were on their way to a third straight 100-loss season, hardly the most attractive draw of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams.

“They were like, ‘How come you got the Astros? Their record isn’t all that great,” Ferris recalled earlier this week.

“I told (Astros owner Jim) Crane, ‘A lot of people are criticizing us because of your team’s record.’

“He looked me in the eye and he said, ‘In three years, we’ll be competing for a championship.”’

Turns out Crane was slightly off in his prediction. It only took two years.

The Astros won the American League wild card game last night with a 3-0 win over the Yankees.

Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel -- shown here on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach in February -- threw six shutout innings last night at Yankee Stadium to help Houston win the American League Wild Card game.
Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel — shown here on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach in February — threw six shutout innings last night at Yankee Stadium to help Houston win the American League Wild Card game.

The Astros won’t be moving to Palm Beach Gardens — the city commission rejected that plan in January 2014, a move that eventually led to the Astros and Washington Nationals agreeing to move to a shared complex in West Palm Beach in 2017.

Ferris said he is glad the Astros are coming to Palm Beach County and he has the highest respect for Crane.

“Crane is an amazing individual,” Ferris said. “He has vision and energy.”

In February, Ferris was invited to attend Gov. Rick Scott’s annual baseball dinner at the end of Clematis Street in West Palm Beach to celebrate the city’s new spring training project..BAT

Ferris was praised for holding the initial negotiations that eventually led to the West Palm Beach deal. The teams surprised him with a gift — a Louisville Slugger bat engraved with his name.

“I was speechless,” Ferris recalled.

The Astros will open the divisional series against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.