TSA employee jumps from hotel balcony at Orlando International Airport: An off-duty TSA employee died after jumping from a balcony at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the airport atrium Saturday morning. "A male in his 40s was found in critical condition and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased," the Orlando Police Department said on Twitter. "Preliminary information suggests an apparent suicide." Hundreds of airport guests fled the atrium when the man jumped at around 9:30 a.m. near the security checkpoint for gates 70 through 129, according to witnesses and OPD. TSA's secure area was cleared after a crowd of panicked, unscreened guests rushed past security. The incident at Florida's busiest airport triggered a ground-stop for arriving flights and delayed some departures by up to two hours.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer files for re-election: Buddy Dyer wants another go at being Orlando mayor, a position he's held since 2003. Dyer filed for re-election last week, saying in a statement, "I am proud of what we have accomplished, but I know there is more work to be done. I am more optimistic today about Orlando's future than I have ever been." Dyer's opponents so far include Aretha Simons, Jentri Casaberry and Shantele Bennett.
Former Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel finally apologizes for blackface photos: A little more than a week after the Tallahassee Democrat published photos of him in blackface, former Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel has finally apologized. Ertel, 49, resigned Jan. 24 after photos from a 2005 Halloween party – taken about eight months after Ertel was appointed Seminole County Supervisor of Elections – surfaced. The photos show Ertel in blackface wearing a T-shirt with "Katrina Victim" written on it. The photos were taken weeks after Hurricane Katrina killed hundreds. In a Facebook post, Ertel wrote, "I'm a better man than I was fourteen years ago. Yet over the past week I have been rightfully apologizing for something I did Halloween night, 2005. For those who have not received a personal apology yet – I'm sorry."
Fuddruckers sues developer over plans for Orlando's former Artegon mall: Owners of the Fuddruckers location on International Drive are suing their landlord over Dezer Development's plan to convert the former Artegon Marketplace shopping mall into an auto museum and tourist attraction. The mall and its former owners, Lightstone Group, attracted lawsuits when Lightstone abruptly threw out most tenants in January 2017. According to the new claims in the lawsuit, the Fuddruckers location will suffer harm or loss of business by any rezoning, attempts to force it out of the space or "any demolition/destruction of the Common Areas of Artegon Marketplace Orlando for any purpose inconsistent with a retail mall/shopping center use" or by any signage that implies the location is not in business. Dezer's general manager in Orlando, Michael Rich, told Orlando Weekly in December that he plans to open early 2019 as a limited auto dealership – which he said is allowed as a light retail use there. Dezer also filed plans with city officials last week to raise new apartment buildings on existing parking lots around the closed mall.
UCF student arrested after police discover fully automatic AR-15 in his car on campus: A University of Central Florida student was arrested Tuesday after police discovered he had illegally modified an AR-15 into a fully automatic rifle and was keeping it in his car on campus. The UCF Police Department said it received anonymous tips that engineering student Max Bennett Chambers, 19, was in possession of an illegally modified weapon that violated state law and university policy. In Chambers' vehicle, officers found a black AR-15 that had been modified into a fully automatic rifle and three "drop-in auto sears," which are "parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger," according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Chambers was charged with possession of a machine gun and a bump-fire stock.