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Published January 8, 2007


Driver, 22, killed after hitting electricity pole

TAMPA - The first full weekend in the new year kept police and fire officials busy across Hillsborough County.

A traffic crash in North Tampa took the life of a 22-year-old driver early Sunday, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Nicholas Bellido-Mendoza was westbound on Fletcher Avenue in a 2004 Chevrolet just before 3:30 a.m., sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. He tried to pass another car near Florida Avenue and lost control.

His vehicle hit a Tampa Electric pole, striking the driver's side. A passenger, Arturo Cortez, 22, of Wesley Chapel, suffered minor injuries and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital.

Carter said the driver was not wearing a seat belt. The crash interrupted power to the signals at the intersection for several hours and also shut off electricity to several nearby businesses.


Dog alerts owner after his house catches fire

A Tampa man was saved Saturday morning by his insistent dog, he said.

John Michel, 43, was asleep at home, 8629 May Circle, when his 8-year-old Australian shepherd mix, Banchee, tugged at his arm. The dog wouldn't stop until Michel woke up on the living room couch.

He quickly saw that his home was on fire and escaped.

Hillsborough fire officials said the blaze started in a back bedroom. Michel said firefighters told him it might have been the result of a ceiling fan that locked up. An unemployed grocery store baker, Michel said he was repairing his house because he planned to sell it so he can move home to Indiana.

He made it out safely with Banchee and the dog's parents, Ginger and Shadow.

"He's my buddy," Michel said of Banchee.


Young man shot near a convenience store

In east Tampa, a shooting death Friday night kept detectives busy.

Tampa police said just after 7 p.m., a young man between ages 17 and 20 was shot outside a convenience store at N 30th Street and E Osborne Avenue.

A bullet was fired into a car, detectives said, but the victim was found outside the vehicle.

Police released no new information Sunday about the shooting.


Tennessee man dies after police use Taser

FORT PIERCE - A 45-year-old Tennessee man died after police used a Taser to subdue him while trying to restrain him in the back of a patrol car.

Officers noticed that Douglas John Ilten, a music supply store owner from Nashville, was not breathing after they hit him with two Taser shots Saturday, acting Fort Pierce police Chief Sean Baldwin said. The officers tried CPR, but Ilten was pronounced dead shortly after at a hospital.

Police said Ilten was acting erratically and hurling musical instruments out of a rental truck at a gas station Saturday. Ilten struggled with Officer Hall Solomon, who handcuffed him and put him in the back of a patrol car.

Solomon and Officer Scott Ceckanowicz decided to put on leg restraints to search Ilten before taking him to jail. Ilten's struggles intensified, so Ceckanowicz used his Taser, Baldwin said.

Ilten's wife, Ann, said her husband was on his way to Fort Lauderdale to deliver musical equipment to a cruise ship.

"I'm angry," Ann Ilten said. "I don't understand why (police) had any reason to approach him in the first place."

Both officers are on administrative leave while authorities investigate the death.


[Last modified January 8, 2007, 00:08:13]

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