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Northwest Florida Daily News (Newspaper) - March 13, 1995, Fort Walton Beach, Florida WEATHER TODAY Partly cloudy. High 70-75; low mid-SOs. Southeast wind 10-15 mph/2A. SPORTS INSIDE INDEX Teams ready to twirl in the Big Dance PAGE ID Game lets actors play out fantasies PAGE 1B Editorials. 7A Local News........ IB 3C 7A 4B 38 6A Public Record.... 28 2C Scrabblegrams.. 4C 4A Sports................. 1D 1C TV Schedule 7A r 4 sections, 24 pages Fort WaHon Baach, Ra. Copyright® 1995 The Daily News MONDAY, MARCH 13, 1995 "m-y NORTHWEST FLORIDA Daily News 50<i Fake Wells Fargo guard cons thousands from Wal-Mart By LEE FORST Daily News Staff Wiiter DESTIN - A man Who authorities say appeared to be familiar with collection procedures posed as a Wells Fargo security guard Sunday afternoon and made off with thousands of dollars in cash and checks from the Wal-Mart store on U.S. Highway 98. "They did not suspect anything unusual until another Wells Fargo guy showed up at 5 p.m.," Okaloosa County Sheriffs Department spokesman Rick Hord said of the scam pulled on employees. By then, the impostor had a two-hour head start. Lawmen were soon searching for a middle-aged white man wearing dark clothes with red patches on the shirt sleeves and a bullet-proof vest. He also sported a radio on his shoulder, a bolstered pistol and a two-handled satchel. Hord said the uniformed man entered the Wal-Mart about 3 p.m., walked to the back office, collected the receipts and left. The only people who apparently got a good look at him were employees in the office, Hord added. "He got a good portion of their receipts, several thousand dollars," Hord said. The con artist apparently was familiar with collection procedures because employees were not suspicious at the time. Wells Fargo varies its collection times and changes its pickup routes as security measure, Hord said. Employees became alarmed when the legitimate Wells Fargo guard showed up to make the collection. A telephone call to the Wells Fargo Armored Service Corp. office in Pensacola revealed the first man was an impostor, Hord said. No one answered the phone at the Wells Fargo office Sunday night. Wal-Mart manager Ernie Marchisin knew few details Sunday night. He did not work that day and had not spoken to lawmen about the incident. "I wasn't there. I don't know," he said. The store only began using Wells Fargo six weeks ago, Marchisin said. Hord said no one noticed how the man made his escape after he left the store. Lawmen were hoping witnesses would come forward with a description of a vehicle. The clean-shaven man was described as in his 50s, 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and sandy blond or salt-and-pepper hair. Safety officers look for respect ■ The small Mary Esther department focuses mainly on enforcing traffic laws and city ordinances. By MIKE FUHRMAN Daily Nows Staff Writer Mary ESTHER - Sometimes a shiny badge, sleek squad car and 9 mm handgun aren't enough. And the swirling, blue strobe lights don't always convince speeding motorists that the four white-shirts who patrol this small city are full-time law enforcement officers, either. "Every now and then you will still get somebody who will say, 'Are you a security guard?'" muses Jeff Ar-rowood, chief of the 6-year-old Mary Esther Public Safety Office. A $125 ticket or a trip to the Courthouse Annex in the back of one of the department's four cruisers usually erases any doubt that this city's officers are state-certified lawmen with full arrest powers. Officers arrested 27 people on weapons and Dally News/TRACEY STEELE Mary Esther Police Officer Gary Wills explains a speeding ticket to a motorist on Hollywood Boulevard Saturday afternoon. Wills works street patrol for the Public Safety Department. drug charges, some of which were felonies, in January and February. Though the city's officers, four full-time and one part-time, are fully certified, their focus is enforcing traffic laws and city ordinances, leaving criminal investigations to the Okaloosa County Sheriffs Department. Among their regular duties are routine patrols of the Santa Rosa Mall and checking on businesses throughout the night to ensure they are secure. "We're here to supplement the law enforcement that's already here," says Arrowood, who left the sheriifs office in 1989 to become the city's first officer. During the past 14 months, officers penned 3,232 tickets, according to the department's statistics. Fines and forfeitures generated more than $83,000 for the city's coffers in 1994. The department's current budget, which provides for a fifth full-time officer and a new car, relies on more than $60,000 in taxes. "Contrary to popular belief, we don't want to write tickets," the chief says after he slaps a speeding Geo Metro driver with a $57 citation while patrolling Hollywood Boulevard Thursday afternoon. "We're not out here to raise money," Arrowood says. "We don't try to take a Gestapo or hard-nose attitude, but we try to protect the people who live here and the people who visit Maiy Esther." Not everyone in Mary Esther thinks the city needs its own law enforcement department. City Councilman Mark Mills has consistently opposed plans to expand the department, arguing that city residents never wanted it. Voters shot down a referendum in the mid-1980s that would have created a police department, he said. The city's officers. Mills said, are less than fully accessible, have a history of being rude and have done nothing for public safety. "We do not have professional type police," he said. "We have goons - a bunch of kids with pistols." Traffic along U.S. 98 has not been slowed by the department's presence, the councilman said, citing the cars that regularly zoom past him as evi- Please see 0FFICERS/3A 'Granny' still wins ■ Nicevilie's ageless political force celebrates another birthday at her church. By LEE FORST CMlyNevn Staff WrHar NICEVILUS ~ Members of the FInt Pentecostal Church call eadi other "brother" «0 "sister." So it tables a whUi for visitors recog- Sister Sdie as the sante "Qhinny** eiypne recosiuzes. But JeMt9 AUna Edge by aiw ottwr name is stUl as popular as ever. And at ^ years young, she igaia h«id « plMe of honor at horbirtha^ eel«br«ttoa After all, it's not everyone who can get on the bom to Gov. Lawton ChUes to set him straight, "She gets on the phone and talkl to Chilti. t^V' ^ Kenne^ B«lier. tlie#uivh's pastor and • Man iMtb a few coiuwetions hlrostK said n«ar tfa« doi« of th^ churdi service. ««Sistor Edge hM made fo im- oh a lot of Uves, and I. lhank Qod she's had an impact on my lite." Storm floods West ■ Californians brace for more rain from the most widespread storm the state has seen. SAN FliANCISCO (ap) - Floods washed out all roads into the Monterey Peninsula on Sunday as waterlogged California struggled to recover from storms that battered two-thirds of the state. At least 12 people have died in five days of flooding, and crews were trying to get to one of four cars that drove into a rain-swollen creek when an Interstate 5 bridge collapsed in central California. Sunday was rain-free for most of California. The National Weather Service said showers were expected again today, but not the downpours of last week. President Clinton declared 39 counties disaster areas. The declaration, prompted by an appeal by Gov. Pete Wilson, allows residents and businesses from Humboldt to San Diego counties to apply for federal aid. In Monterey County, thousands of people left their homes overnight as the Salinas and Pajaro rivers inundated some of the nation's richest farmlands, the site of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." The flooding cut off the communities around Monterey, about 100 miles south of San Francisco. From the Oregon state line down to Mexico, rain, wind and snow wreaked havoc across 40 of California's 58 counties. "It's the most widespread geographic storm in California in this century," said James Bailey of the* Flood Operations Center in Sacramento. * Pain, suffering worthy $250,000 if bills passi ■ The House of Representatives is working to overhaul the civil justice system and curb frivolous lawsuits. WASHINGTON (AP) - If the House of Representatives has its way, people like the Florida man whose doctor mistakenly amputated the wrong foot would get no more than $250,000 for their pain and suffering. And if House-passed legislation had been in effect in 1989, Exxon would face $861 million in punitive damages instead of the $5 billion it was ordered to pay for fouling Alaska's southern coast. Three bills approved by the House last week would overhaul the civil justice system and curb what corporate lobbyists contend are frivolous lawsuits that hobble American business. Trial lawyers and consumers' groups say the measures would squelch valid lawsuits and leave many Americans without compensation for their it\juries. A miyor fight looms in the Senate. Most awards for punitive damages and medical malpractice pain and suffering are less than $250,000. Thus, legal experts say the limits in the House bills would affect a relatively small number of cases involving serious harm. ;*. But the House proposals would»^ make the legal system more pre4 dictable by reining in the "ocC casional runaway verdict," says^ University of Virginia law profesé-sor Kenneth Abraham. > The major provisions would: > ■ Pre-empt state laws by limiting punitive damages in virtually aU; state and federal lawsuits $250,000 or three times the vicC; tim's economic damage, which-Z ever is greater. Punitive damages^ aim to punish and deter harmfuK conduct. >; ■ Limit awards for non-economi(C, damage, such as pain and suffer>i ing, caused by medical malpracr>. tice to $250,000 nationwide. Ther^; still would be no limit on ecoC nomic damages, such as medical-bills and lost wages. ■ Make it harder for consumer^;; to win product liability lawsuits iiC< state and federal courts by giving^' businesses several new defenses. >: ■ Encourage out-of-court settlev ments in many federal lawsuits bjC* requiring parties to pay at least part of the other side's legal fees if they refused a settlement and gut less through a trial. ■ Make it harder for people to , win securities fraud lawsuits and ; require losing parties who filed • frivolous claims to pay the win- 2 Please see BILLS/3A
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