Florida’s Freaky Fridays – Big Bears and Texted Tip-offs

On July 6, 2012 by Kevin Forde

Each week we like to take a look at some of the strange, silly and just plain stupid stories emanating from the Sunshine State.  In the past we’ve featured the homeless Robin Hood, the man who changed his name to a web address and the unfortunate soul whose first mobile phone number happened to be George Zimmerman’s old one. Maybe it’s all the sand, sunshine or excessive amount of anthropomorphic animal suits the state boasts but each week Florida continues to outdo itself with its tales of the unusual. Here’s what we’ve uncovered this week.

Who’s afraid of the big bad bears?

You know what you don’t see everyday? Heroic cheese. Oh, and living dinosaurs. You also rarely catch a glimpse of two bears fighting in one of your neighbour’s gardens. If you did, you would probably be a little unnerved, or maybe even terrified. Not so, if you’re Floridian Tammy Snell. The Sweetwater Oaks resident caught the two ursine intruders sharing a friendly claw fight and instead of getting on the phone to her estate agents, decided that filming them was the better option.

Apparently the two cuddly giants are regular trespassers in the area which is not something that unnerves, the perhaps nerveless, Snell.  She told the Sun Sentinel, clearly (completely unintentionally) echoing Winston Churchill’s we shall fight on the beaches speech : “We have bears in our front yards, we have bears in our garages. They don’t seem mean but we know they’re not pets either. It’s a part of living where we live.”

Cop quits after texted tip-off to criminal he was chasing

OK, this story is only really strange for its similarities to a Michael Mann thriller, or something involving James Caan as a hardened cop. It was a bright balmy summer’s evening – presumably, it is Florida after all – as the SWAT team suited up and started to close in on their chief target, a career criminal and suspected prostitution ring runner. Suddenly, the trail went cold, the news turned sour and the target had been missed. It seemed someone had tipped him off.

Like every good thriller the devil was in the twist. The person who tipped him off just happened to be one of the guys chasing him, officer Robert Edwards. The 30-year-old cop sent his friend of a couple of years around 30 messages over a three-hour period to help him evade the police. Well, until he surrendered the next day.

Of course, what any great thriller really needs is a double twist. The suspected prostitution ring runner’s name has yet to be revealed and for good reason too; it turns out he’s an informant for the FBI in an unrelated case.

The strange tale of the naked golfer

Golf can be a frustrating sport at the best of times. Sure, it’s great when you’re hitting the fairways in regulation, your chips are finding the greens and your putts the centre of the hole but what about when they’re not? Then it can be about as much fun as poking your eyes out with a spoon. One Floridian decided to make the game a bit more interesting and invented his own take on how it should be played. Instead of playing on an actual golf course, he decided a water-soaked road was best and instead of hitting a golf ball – they’re very small after all – he decided to test his wits against a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am.

The car had been abandoned by a pizza delivery woman after rising floodwaters in the Tampa area of Florida made driving a bit of a chore.  Then a completely naked 57 year-old local named  Larry Norman Hill stumbled upon the soaked car and decided to take a swing at it. As the Tampa Bay Times reports : “The side mirror was knocked off. The headlight ripped out. The roof caved in. The doors were opened, letting flood water inside.”

When picked up fully clothed and wielding a putter the next day – the car damaged had been done by a driver – Hill told police he thought there was a baby inside and was trying to save it. Presumably clothes would only have slowed down his rescue attempt.

Woman unable to pay red light ticket due to hindrance of being dead

OK, it being the first Friday of the month we decided to throw in a super bonus extra classic from Florida’s freaky past, just for you.

Cops probably hear a lot of excuses when it comes to people trying to dodge getting a ticket for running a red light: my wives pregnant,  I really need to pee, or, the perennial favourite, Antiques Roadshow is on and I really don’t want to miss it. One they probably don’t get all that often is that the offendant has been dead… for three months.  Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman told reporters her sister died on May 19 but still managed to pick up a red-light ticket in August.

In Florida though “the car gets the ticket, not the driver,” explained Michael McAllister of American Traffic Solutions (ATS) Inc, which has cameras all over South Florida. To which the reply surely follows, “well, let the car pay the fine then”, particularly if they’re a Transformer, they’ve no excuse.

It turns out it wasn’t even Ms Liberman’s sister’s car.  Her car tag had already been turned in to the state, and the registration was also cancelled. Oh, and the make of the car itself wasn’t even the same as her sister’s. Still, a fine’s a fine.