The Most 'Florida' Things That Happened in 2016
People like to poke fun at Florida -- and specifically the mythical, whimsical character known as Florida Man -- as doing things that the rest of the country might deem slightly out of the ordinary. Oh, but that was before 2016, when we elected a part-time Florida man president. And now, our weird little foibles can become the norm. That said, some residents still did some exceptionally weird stuff this year. We conferred with Craig Pittman, author of Oh Florida!: How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, and together, we found the most bizarre Florida news stories of 2016.
You’re never too old for a bris... or at least so goes the logic of Jamie Foltz’s father. The Miami 20-year old became upset when his father planned to have Foltz’s foreskin cut off. So he barged into his father’s room late one night and stabbed him in the neck. The father survived. So did the foreskin.
Jamie Gilt firmly believed her son should be taught to shoot anyone he saw as a threat. At least that’s what she says on her blog, Jamie Gilt for Gun Sense. So one could reason her son, aged four years, saw her as an imminent danger when he grabbed a semi-automatic .45 off the floor of her truck and shot her through the driver’s side seat. Either that, or he is indeed the human embodiment of Stewie Griffin.
Your parents are professional waterskiers. You're a six-month-old child. In Florida, the only logical thing to do at this point is strap your tiny little feet into a pair of skis and prepare to get towed 686ft across a lake. And that's exactly what six-month-old Zyla did when she set the unofficial world record (an "official" world record here might be seen as, well, irresponsible) by traveling across a man-made lake in Winter Haven. Hence, making the cliché “walking before you can crawl” seem a little tame.
The question really isn’t why 37-year-old Michael Blevins didn’t think he’d been shot when he, ya know, HEARD a gunshot as he was cleaning his .22, then fell face-first into a glass coffee table. Any self-respecting Floridian hopped up on generic meds could have that happen. The real question is why it took him three days to change the black shirt he was wearing at the time, at which point he realized he’d been shot.
Getting rid of house guests who’ve overstayed their welcome is tricky in any state. In Florida, we don’t do it so subtly. A Bay County man told his girlfriend that, after she asked noisy party guests to leave three times, she was to open fire on their legs. So she did, hitting one guest. Also her boyfriend.
When you unjustifiably shoot 50,000 volts into a lady you’re trying to impress, there’s only one solution: bake her a cake! At least it is if you’re former Escambia County Sheriff's deputy Michael Wohlers, who stopped in to visit one Stephanie Byron at her place of work. In an attempt to flirt, he stole her iced tea and refused to give it back. And when she approached him to get it, he tased her in the neck. Realizing this might not be the way to a woman’s heart, he then baked her a cake reading “Sorry I tased you” and texted her a picture of it. Byron has not dropped her lawsuit or received the cake.
In what is easily the worst Adam Sandler impression in history, 59-year-old Sor Angel Velez assaulted a mother swan near Lake Eola, Orlando after she got a little agitated when he came too close to her babies. A mere few feet from Velez stood three off-duty Orlando Police officers, including one running for Orange County sheriff. Velez gave no reason for the assault, and was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Using alligators as legal tender actually doesn’t seem like a bad idea in Florida, so maybe 23-year-old Joshua James of Jupiter is a precocious boy ahead of his time. In October, James received his order at a Loxahatchee Wendy’s drive-thru, then instead of his debit card or cash, tossed a 3ft alligator in the window as payment. James was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and unlawful possession of an alligator, and banned from all Wendy’s everywhere (which may be the worst punishment of all). The gator was released into a canal and will undoubtedly be seen next in a swimming pool near you.
Look close enough on Craigslist Tallahassee, and you might find the M4D section under casual encounters. That is, if George Wilkinson has his way. The 21-year-old was arrested last April for posting ads looking for sex with dogs. “Let’s go to your place and let’s have fun and get mounted by your dog,” his ad read, saying he preferred labs, Great Danes, and German Shepherds. When authorities arrived, he claimed it was a joke... but he has since been ordered to stay away from animals of any kind.
Though the Tampa Bay area is famous for having dudes stuff objects in their underwear so they APPEAR to be packing pythons, Travis Treder of St. Petersburg figured he’d do Magic Mike one better. He walked into the Animal House Pet Center, reached into a python cage, and stuffed the snake into his trousers in an attempt to steal it. Employees caught him on surveillance cameras and blocked the exit before he could walk out. If only a creative judge would sentence him to six months of python hunting in the Everglades.
Sharpies apparently work better than ski masks, as Pasco County police are still on the lookout for a man who robbed a Holiday Gas Station using a drawn-on beard as a disguise. In other news, it looks like Wooly Willy is off the hook for this one.
Tough times in Wookiee Planet C, as Chewbacca has resorted to robbing vending machines in Largo to keep up maintenance on the Millennium Falcon. That might be what people assumed had Darren Pickrem, 56, not strolled into a Largo office building without the head of his Chewbacca costume on before robbing a vending machine he used to service. Building employees recognized him immediately on surveillance videos, and the former employee of Florida Fresh Vending was arrested and released on $2,000 bond.
Poor Thomas Jennings. One minute you’re sitting in your living room, doing whatever it is people do in Clearwater. And the next you’re being summoned to watch a deranged 19-year-old stuff a rag in your gas tank and blow your car up. Such was the fate for Jennings’ Honda Civic in September when Carmen Chamblee attacked the wrong car and set Jennings’ ablaze. She was charged with second degree arson. No word on if Jennings’ insurance paid out.
Not that somehow running yourself over with your own truck isn’t dumb enough to be totally Florida-worthy, but do it leaving a strip club? You, sir, might be Florida Man of the Year. William Edwards, 28, was leaving Dancers Royale in Orlando when he fell out of his own pickup truck, ran himself over, and allowed the truck to cross a highway and crash into a nearby apartment complex. He was arrested days later and charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
Thomas Jennings isn’t a pervert. He’s just a misunderstood Florida pioneer in sex toys. The 56-year-old was so proud of the remote-control electrodes he’d attached to his penis to “stimulate” its muscles, he felt he should share it with his neighbors in a Boynton Beach gated community. So he did. Jennings drove around naked, asking people to take a look inside and perhaps try it out for themselves. One man didn’t take so kindly to the invite, called police, and Jennings was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition, exposure of sexual organs, and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.
In North Florida, the rules of God are clearly more important than the rules of the road. That’s why a 28-year-old Fort Walton Beach woman thought closing her eyes to get closer to the almighty was a perfectly reasonable thing to do when operating a 4,000lb motor vehicle. Unfortunately, the aforementioned eye-closing caused her to miss a stop sign and run directly into the side of a house in Mary Esther. She was charged with reckless driving.
A Pensacola man mistook his Dodge Challenger for a DeLorean this past December when he maxed out his flux capacitor and crashed into the side of a strip mall. When pulled from the wreckage of his car (and the former tax accounting firm he crashed into), the man claimed he was trying to time travel. Nobody was injured.
Breaking: The man has still has not been identified, possibly because he came from the future and didn’t need ID.
Anyone who’s spent their Sunday morning waiting in line at Tremont Towing has fantasized about getting one over on the tow truck drivers. One way to do it, apparently, is driving the Flintstones' car. The foot-powered, dual wheeled vehicle was a Fantasy Fest prop that sat dormant on Emma St in Key West, unable to be towed by local authorities. The car had belonged to a local children’s charity, and when the director skipped town she donated it to a local man who kept it in front of his house until he moved. Nobody claimed the car, but when it was red-tagged and destined for the dump, the Key West Woman’s Club stepped in and finally relocated the vehicle.
School police outside Delray Beach’s Atlantic High School stopped 18-year-old Volvique Louis-Jean Jr. for reckless driving in January. When asked for his license, Louis-Jean Jr. interpreted this situation as his big break and instead handed officers a copy of his new mixtape. You know, in case one of them was moonlighting as a record company executive... or something. Sadly for the teenager, none were. Upon receiving this news, he immediately fled the scene, was ultimately arrested, and later charged with fleeing and eluding, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, and trespassing on school grounds.
In a clear demonstration of the power of Florida's educational system, a Deltona high school painted the asphalt in front of it with the word School spelled as “Scohol.” Two times. Mississippi, watch out, we’re comin' for ya!
Tracy Rosner, of Coral Reef Elementary School in Miami, was denied a position at the institution that involved teaching Spanish for an hour a day. The reason? She did not, in fact, speak Spanish. She sued, citing that non-Spanish speakers are a minority in Miami-Dade County, and as such, deserve minority status. Her case is still pending.
Though Floridians are known the world over for our affection of energy-boosting substances (Cuban coffee! We’re talking about Cuban coffee!) one Florida man took it a little too far. An unnamed man in Gainesville was diagnosed with hepatitis after consuming five Monster Energy drinks a day for several weeks. His liver shut down after excessive consumption of niacin (each can contains double the daily allowance) and he has since sworn off all energy drinks in a bafflingly logical response to the situation.
Don’t bring that weak shit around Herbert Hayden. The 81-year-old takes no mess on the shuffleboard court and he’s not afraid to lay the smackdown if anyone gets outta line. After a dispute on the notoriously hardcore courts of the Pinellas Park Senior Center, Hayden slapped fellow senior James Sutton with his shuffleboard cue, resulting in some scratches to Sutton’s face. Hayden was charged with misdemeanor battery.
In a protest against what he referred to as “Christian privilege,” David Suhor, co-founder of the Satanic Temple of Pensacola, began the local City Council meeting with an invocation from his church. While other church groups protested, and took to the podium immediately after the invocation, the black-robe-clad Suhor performed the prayer as planned. Bizarrely enough, the rest of the meeting was otherwise quite peaceful.
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist who has sadly never been referred to as Florida Man. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.