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Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
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Jackson: Video proves punks can’t puncture ‘Fort Kiefer’

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LAND O’ LAKES In a posting certain to win countless new followers, Wendy Hevia’s Vine feed — Twitter’s short-burst video site — shows three shrouded punks jerking across the screen, a trio of grainy ghosts escaped from a Benny Hill-Meets-Breaking Bad mashup.

Up and down the sidewalk they scuttle in an endless 6-second loop, their abundant, pathetic punkiness piercing the low light while Hevia and a colleague, Candace Allaire, provide the throaty voice-over.

“Whadda y’all wanna do tonight?”

“Knock off a jewelry store.”

They’re chuckling about it now. “We have to have fun with it,” Hevia says, “to sort of take the edge off.” Knock off a jewelry store, indeed.

But Sunday morning the story at Wendy and David Hevia’s Kiefer Village Jewels in Land O’ Lakes was entirely different, and weirdly sinister, when staff opening the shop discovered the showroom beneath a fine dusting of white powder and a jagged gash the size of a basketball in one set of window blinds.

Now the security company’s call that awoke the store manager a little after 2 a.m. over a shock alarm began to make sense. At the time, Jeff Booth immediately fired up his remote access to the 16 surveillance cameras that watch the place inside and out with unblinking eyes. The manager settled in, ready for mischief.

After 45 minutes of unsuspicious activity, Booth concluded — not for the first time — something benign triggered the sensors. “Our system is super sensitive,” says David Hevia, and he likes it that way, despite the occasional inconvenience.

For instance? Their cellphones are linked to the security system, which is linked to three nearby towers. Whenever one of the towers goes off line, “We get a call.”

But here was the white powder, there were the ruined blinds, and, once they began looking around, everywhere there were tiny pockmarks. A ham-steak-sized concentration was splayed across the sliding wooden door on the back of the showcase nearest the window, but accompanying gouges stretched to the far side of the store.

As for the window itself, although it remained essentially intact and secure, it bore the crinkled evidence of violent blows administered, as the hard drive connected to the camera array revealed, at about 2:02 a.m. by five blasts from the long-barreled shotgun carried by one of the chuckleheads mocked in Wendy Hevia’s Vine post.

Outside cameras recorded the threesome skulking around the sides and rear of the building beginning about 2 a.m., what deputies and experienced perps alike call “shift change.”

Finally, one of the three peels off to crouch in the shrubs at the store’s northeast corner, eyeing traffic on State Road 54. Shotgun punk retreats across the sidewalk, setting up in the parking lot, flanked by the last member of the group, carrying a dark-metal handgun.

The image from the outside camera erupts with five bursts of fire and smoke. Inside, the blinds buck and splinter, the window coughing the telltale white powder: PVB. Otherwise, nothing. Outside, handgun punk fruitlessly punches the window, then all of them flee, leaving behind five spent shells.

“That’s why we call it ‘Fort Kiefer,’” David Hevia says. Sunday’s assault marked the third since the shop opened in 2006 — one cut into the roof, the others tested the windows — to no avail. The roof is metal and reinforced concrete. The windows, DuPont Buticite, are two sheets of heat-strengthened glass bound to a layer of something called polyvinyl butyral, designed to keep shards from flying.

“I was pretty impressed when I saw it come off the truck,” says Bill Teuschler, an adjuster for the glass-supply company. “Five shotgun blasts and it didn’t even open up a hole big enough for them to get their grubby little hands through. That’s tough.”

Still, the Hevias can’t imagine what the would-be burglars were thinking. Every piece of jewelry is locked up in massive safes designed to withstand expert acetylene torch work for an hour.

But because the interior bristles with laser beams and infrared and heat sensors, “even if you could get inside, the most you’ve got is about five minutes,” Wendy Hevia says, “because that’s how quickly deputies respond.”

Still, you almost have to admire the enormous hubris required to attempt a smash-and-grab stunt like the punks starring, even now, on Vine. “After (the bombings in) Boston,” says David Hevia, “people have to know: You’re basically being filmed at all times.”

Another lesson of Boston: It’s probably only a matter of time before our punks are recognized, and ratted out. And won’t that make a movie.

Now, an entirely unrelated, utterly breathtaking subject:

Paula O’Neil, Pasco County’s clerk of court and comptroller, reports she has breast cancer. And also this: “I’m going to fight it like a girl. And I’m going to win.”

A suspicious lump was detected early this month in a mammogram, the cancer confirmed in subsequent tests. Sounding more annoyed than surprised — her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same age, 56 — she says she’s scheduled for surgery at Moffitt Cancer Center in June and anticipates beginning chemotherapy a month or so later.

She expects her time off work to be minimal.

“I wanted to be open about this,” says O’Neil, who told her staff Thursday morning. Moreover, she says, “I’m not going to die. I’m going to survive this.”

She takes inspiration from the countless survivors she’s come to know among members of her staff, and as chairwoman of the Pasco chapter of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

“This is not about being brave,” says O’Neil. “And it’s not something I would have chosen. But it’s one year of inconvenience, and we’re going to get through it.”

Since she’s the one who’s going to endure the heavy lifting, O’Neil is generous — characteristically so — to include us in the effort. But if Madame Clerk says we’re going to get through it, we’re hardly in a position to argue the point.


email: tjackson@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1851

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/TomJacksonTribune

Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

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