Mall shootings on the rise?

Mall People used to view malls as safe places -- large public venues protected from the dangers of street crime.

I wonder if South Florida's recent mall shootings will make people reconsider that notion.

Today's Herald includes stories about an attempted murder-suicide at the Aventura Mall that left the shooter dead and a woman badly injured, and about a still-unsolved double murder at the Boca Raton Town Center.

The facts of the Aventura and Boca Raton cases seem different -- police believe the Aventura shooter knew his victim, but the Boca shootings appear to be more random -- but the terror of mall violence is present in both, just as it was at a recent Omaha mall shooting that left nine people dead.

After the Omaha shooting in December, CNN ran a piece about how violence crimes in malls are disrupting retail sales.

But what do shoppers think? Can we make malls safer? Should we? Weigh in with your comments.

Miami-Dade K-9 cops honored

Big ups to three Miami-Dade Police officers and a sergeant who have won a national Top Cops award for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Sgt. Eric Mendez and Officers Edwin Gonzalez, Brad Burke and Richard Hansen were working in the department's K-9 unit on Nov. 12 when they safely freed a woman and her grandchildren from a gunman who was holding them hostage. The kidnapper was arrested without incident.

The Miami-Dade officers were the only ones in Florida to win this year's award; officers from 10 other states also were recognized for their service. Here's a full list from the National Association of Police Organizations.

"It's a big honor for the department," said Det. Mario Rachid, a spokesman.

The four are scheduled to talk with reporters about the award and the November crime at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Thief breaks into house, leaves loot

This crook needs to go back to thief school:

An intruder pried open a back door of a house in the 10100 block of Northwest Sixth Avenue on April 16.

Left in the burglar's wake: $100 in damage to the door, along with a hammer and machete.

Taken: nothing.

Thanks to Jeff Kleinman, the Herald's copy chief, for this gem.

Late-night journey turns rocky

080424_boat_stuck_jetty_miami_beach Rule No. 1 if you're taking out the company boat without permission: Avoid the rocks.

Apparently, a late-night thrill-seeker missed the memo.

The result: A 40-foot yacht that wrecked on a jetty -- and it was still stranded there 12 hours after the accident.

The Coast Guard and Sea Tow were called out to Government Cut about 2 a.m. Thursday, where six late-night yachters had missed a turn, and plowed into the rocks.

No one was injured -- except for the boat, according to Sea Tow Capt. Brian Hawthorne.

Hawthorne was sleeping when the radio he keeps by his bed sounded a distress call. He jumped into his boat, made the 10-minute trip south and found the stranded boaters.

Apparently the night voyage's ringleader worked for a North Miami company -- and hadn't asked his boss for permission to take a spin.

No one was charged in the accident, according to the Coast Guard. Sea Tow planned to have the boat removed by the end of the day.

Thanks to WSVN-7 for the picture.

Passover fire arson?

Police are now handling a fire at a Miami Beach synagogue as a possible arson.

An overnight blaze gutted the Chabad Shul and it appears someone ripped apart scrolls called torahs and prayer shawls called talises.

At the scene, we noticed a police crime-scene investigator examining a wrought-iron fence in the back of the synagogue. About a three-foot chunk was missing, but the broken pieces of fence were nearby. The CSI dusted them for fingerprints and also swabbed them with some sort of Q-tips for lab analysis.

Here's the story from our website, with video to be posted shortly, including interviews with Rabbi Zev Katz, Fire Chief Javier Otero and congregants. 

Lawbreaker Triathlon

Call this one Miami driver's version of a triathlon.

He sped. He ran. He swam.

All to get away from trooper - who clocked him going 122 m.p.h. in a 55 zone.

Maybe they were REALLY nice pants

Pants I'm still scratching my head at this caper chronicled by Herald guerrilla photographer Tim Chapman.

Some dude shot another dude in Miami on Wednesday (which is an almost everyday occurrence), and then the victim's friends took his pants and ran away (not an everyday occurrence)!

Paramedics found the man bleeding in the street in his undies and a shirt. Police are trying to figure out why the guy's buddies ran off with his pantalones.

Off to court

Miamidade_courthouse01a I'm covering Miami-Dade courts this week and next while our beat reporter, Susannah Nesmith, fills in on the Metro editing desk.

Expect light blogging from me for the next several days, but I'm sure my fearless colleagues Adam and Jen will keep you saturated with crime news.

Meanwhile, here are a few South Florida court-related blogs to check out in my absence: JAABlog and the Justice Building Blog.

O.J. over the years

I personally don't care for the O.J. Simpson stories nowadays that mention how he's "looking much heavier than in his playing days" or "paunchier and slower-moving." Happens to most everyone, right? It's not the point of the stories, so why point it out? Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

But, without passing any judgment, check out these O.J. mugshots from over the years, posted in The Smoking Gun's substantial mugshot collection:

Ojmug94First, after his June 1994 arrest in Los Angeles. O.J. was charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. A jury acquitted him in October 1995.

Second, after his September 2007 arrest in Las Vegas. O.J. and several other men Oj2008mug1were charged with armed robbery and other felonies after taking collectibles from two sports-memorabilia collectors. Their trial is set to begin in April (see last graf).

Third, in January 2008 before a bail-revocation hearing in Las Vegas. A judge increased O.J.'s bond because of a profanity-laced message on hisOj07 bondsman's voicemail that violated a court order.

In the Vegas case, a judge today denied a request from defense attorneys to postpone the trial. It begins April 7.

Owner defends her store, but shot in the process

   Two robbers walked into her store Tuesday evening, but the store owner wasn't about to
let them leave with her cash.

   She pulled her gun from the register.

   Unfortunately, one of the robbers fired first. 

   The owner of the store, at 10192 NW Seventh Ave., was grazed in the shoulder. Not a life-threatening injury, Miami-Dade police say.

   The robbers fled -- without any of the intended loot.

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