HBPD releases fatal accident details

HOLMES BEACH – On Saturday morning, the Holmes Beach Police Department released the following probable cause affidavit submitted by Detective Brian Hall.

“On 02/10/2021 at around 1900 hours, a vehicle vs. pedestrian crash occurred in the 2700 block of Gulf Drive on Holmes Beach in Manatee County. The pedestrian and victim, Ms. Madelyn Dakin, was crossing Gulf Drive in the 2700 block walking westbound and was not in a designated crosswalk area. A vehicle, determined to be a 2006 Chevy Trailblazer, was traveling south on Gulf Drive and struck the victim, projecting her approximately 30 feet Southwest onto the grassy area beside the roadway. The vehicle information was provided by a license plate reader located directly above the incident location. The victim sustained a severe laceration to the abdomen with various other injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene by EMS at 1911 hours,” the probable cause affidavit said.

“Multiple witnesses stopped and advised that a thin built, blonde female, approximately in her 20’s, was observed beside the victim and frantically shaking her, asking other witnesses for help. This subject was later identified as Ms. Cierra Shannon who is the defendant in this case. One witness advised that the defendant made multiple statements that she needed to leave because she was in a hurry or she needed to pick up her mother before eventually getting back in her vehicle and leaving the scene. Two witnesses were interviewed and photo packs were completed and administered. Both witnesses confirmed Ms. Shannon in the line-up provided. The Medical Examiner’s report determined that the victim’s manner of death as ‘Accident’ and the cause of death as ‘Transecting Laceration of Aorta due to blunt impact to the torso,’” according to the probable cause affidavit.

“Multiple locations were checked for the defendant to include the address listed on her driver’s license. Officers spoke with the defendant’s mother at the given address, but the defendant and the involved vehicle were not located at this time. The involved vehicle is registered to the defendant’s mother but she was not able to advise its location at this time. The morning of the following day (02/11/2021), units were contacted by an attorney advising to represent the defendant. The location of the vehicle was provided at this time and located at 4535 119th St W where consistent damage was observed on the front passenger’s side headlight and quarter panel area with various dried blood spots that was at a seemingly consistent height of the victim’s injuries. The defendant advised the attorney that she would turn herself in at Bradenton Police Dept. She arrived at Bradenton Police Department and was arrested, and paperwork was completed,” according to the probable cause affidavit.

The vehicle was located in the trap yard at the FISH Preserve in Cortez.

On Friday, Shannon, 27, was released on a $15,000 bond. She faces a first-degree felony charge of “Leaving scene of crash with death.”

According to Florida Statute 316.027 (2)(c), Crash involving death or personal injuries: “The driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property which results in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and shall remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. A person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, and shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years. A person who willfully commits such a violation while driving under the influence as set forth in s. 316.193(1) shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years.”

According to a press release issued by the Holmes Beach Police Department on Thursday, the victim, Madelyn Dakin, 83, is survived by her husband Gerald. The couple lived in Brighton, Michigan.

“Madelyn and her husband of 67 years, Gerald, have vacationed in Holmes Beach for many years,” the press release said.

County commissioner assisting families displaced by fire

BRADENTON – District 3 Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge is raising funds for 16 families recently displaced by an apartment building fire.

The fire occurred at the Aaron Lake apartment complex in west Bradenton on Saturday, Nov. 6. The 16 apartments damaged in the fire were all located in the same large, connected building. The apartment complex is located at 4325 40th Street West, near the Bowlero bowling alley on Cortez Road.

Van Ostenbridge, whose commission district includes west Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and the north end of Longboat Key, witnessed the fire first-hand. Moved by what he saw, he then started a GoFundMe online fundraiser that as of late Friday morning had raised $16,835 to assist the displaced families.

Thursday morning, Van Ostenbridge held a press conference in front of the burned out apartment building to discuss the fire and the fundraising efforts.

County commissioner assisting families displaced by fire
Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge is assisting 16 displaced families. Photo by Joe Hendricks

“I was actually on a ride-along with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and we responded to this fire, so I can attest to some of the horrible things that were experienced that night by these families, as well as the bravery we saw from a father (who rescued his children) and our first responders that night,” he said.

He noted Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue, the Bradenton Fire Department, West Manatee Fire Rescue, Southern Manatee Fire Rescue and Manatee County EMS responded to the four-alarm fire.

According to Van Ostenbridge, four injured children were airlifted from nearby G.T. Bray Park and flown to Tampa General Hospital.

“There were three helicopters at one time landing on the soccer fields there,” he said.

“Thanks to the heroics of our first responders, that father, and the grace of God, no one died. Six people were transported to trauma centers, but in the end, everyone survived,” he said.

He noted one pet was lost, but many others were saved.  

County commissioner assisting families displaced by fire
The Nov. 6 fire destroyed this apartment building in the Aaron Lake complex. Photo by Joe Hendricks

“The cause of the fire was a dryer vent. This building appears to be a total loss,” he said of the structure behind him.

Van Ostenbridge said the American Red Cross (Southwest Florida Chapter), on the night of the fire, provided each displaced family with a $900 debit card to help meet their most immediate needs.

“Which is greatly appreciated, but we all know with a family $900 doesn’t take you very far, especially when you have no place to go. So, I started this GoFundMe. We raised $12,500 so far (as of that morning) and this weekend is going to be the final push to raise money for the families. On Monday, I want to start distributing the money to the families in time for Thanksgiving. They have medical bills, they’ve been displaced from their home and virtually all of their possessions have been lost,” he said.

“I thank the community. Some people I called and asked to contribute money, but the vast majority of over 100 contributors either contributed anonymously or were names I did not recognize. We’re hoping to make one last push to help these families before the Thanksgiving holiday,” Van Ostenbridge said.

“I’m going to shut down the GoFundMe on Monday (Nov. 22) because I feel it’s important to get these folks some cash relief before the holiday. Any donations we can get over the weekend are very much appreciated. I’m hoping to hit $16,000 for 16 families and give them each a $1,000 cash infusion as they head into the holidays,” he said.

The assistance efforts extend beyond the online fundraiser.

“We have had members of the community reach out. Bayside Church, The Bridge Church and several churches have reached out to ask what they can do. I had the county assign a social worker to this case to try and help these families and coordinate the relief efforts. And we’ve had over 100 members of our community that have donated financially,” he said.

Van Ostenbridge said the Salvation Army is also providing assistance and Tidewell Hospice is providing counseling for those who need it. He advises folks to contact the Red Cross or the Bayside Church to see what else can be done to assist the displaced families. The Red Cross office in Sarasota can be reached at 941-379-9300. Bayside Church’s West Bradenton campus can be reached at 941-755-8600.

Lasting impact

“People think of west Bradenton and the Islands as these very affluent communities, but the truth is the meat and potatoes of west Bradenton are working families and blue collar families. A lot of these folks are paycheck-to-paycheck working families. The apartment complex gave them their deposit back and their last month’s rent and they sort of got patted on the behind and sent on their way. These people have to go on with their lives and they’re still very much in a bad way. We all know it’s a very difficult housing market and you can’t just walk up to an apartment complex and expect to move in in a few days. This may have to float these folks until they’re able to move into an apartment,” Van Ostenbridge said.

He said affordable housing was the topic of lengthy discussion at the previous night’s county commission meeting. He also said the large influx of people moving into Manatee County has placed additional pressure on an already tight housing market.

County commissioner assisting families displaced by fire
The fire left families displaced and belongings destroyed. Photo by Joe Hendricks

Van Ostenbridge was asked what he saw and felt the night of the fire.

“When I arrived there was about 30 feet of fire coming out of the second story of this building. Cedar Hammock fire department was just pulling up on the scene. There were people shouting there were still people and children and pets inside the burning building. Cedar Hammock fire department reacted heroically and immediately went straight into what was an inferno at the time. They immediately began evacuating people in a systematic and calm way and they went straight into the danger and literally saved lives,” he said.

“It was a chaotic scene when we arrived, however, as the first responders showed up things calmed very quickly. I was terrified that people were going perish in the fire. I then watched firemen running into the buildings and I was terrified that something would happen to them while they were in the fire. It was certainly emotional to see a fireman giving CPR to an infant. It was certainly emotional to see people screaming that children were in burning buildings,” he said.

Van Ostenbridge said he accompanied the sheriff’s deputies who helped evacuate the occupants of the neighboring buildings that were not on fire.

“That was the extent of my participation. Even those folks who did not suffer fire damage to their apartments, they spent a cold night sitting in a parking lot,” he said.

County commissioner assisting families displaced by fire
The fire swept through the entire apartment building. Photo by Joe Hendricks

“It’s important to recognize the heroics of our first responders, but this press conference is also to remind people that there is an aftermath for these families and the days and weeks that follow don’t necessarily get easier for them. They’ve been displaced from their home, they’ve lost all their possessions and to a certain extent they have to start over. We’re fortunate that every life was saved, but there is an impact to your life when your displaced from your home leading into the holidays,” Van Ostenbridge said.

Van Ostenbridge also share some video footage he shot the night of the fire.

Additional info on the Preserve AMI campaign

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The version of this story recently published by another publication omitted the section at the end about the Preserve AMI campaign. The omitted information is presented in the stand-alone story below. The entire story that includes the omitted information can be read here: Beachfront homeowners launch Preserve AMI campaign.

UPDATE: Saturday, July 24:
On Tuesday, July 20 FDEP issued a final order in favor of Fedora Campbell’s request to develop her vacant beachfront lot at 105 Elm Avenue in Anna Maria. Campbell’s property is located seaward of and in front of the beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue owned by Wendy and Robert Jordan. FDEP’s final order was issued after this story was written and originally published. A follow-up story about the FDEP final order is being written.

ANNA MARIA – The Preserve AMI campaign is being carried out by Patrick Coyne on behalf of Wendy and Richard Jordan – the owners of a beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue in Anna Maria.

Coyne, a longtime friend of the Jordans, lives in North Carolina, where he owns and operates Coyne & Co. – a firm that offers “innovative brand building” across multiple media platforms. Coyne also serves as the Preserve AMI spokesperson.

To date, the campaign has included the PreserveAMI.com website, full page newspaper ads and an online petition signed by more than 960 people.

The Preserve AMI website contains a video in which land surveyor Jeff Hostetler explains the dispute as it pertains to the coastal construction control line and how the Jordan’s home that was built according to the Coastal Construction Control Line as it existed in 2012.  

One recent full-page newspaper ad included a headline that referenced Murphy and said, “Tell Mayor Dan to do the right thing.” Another recent full-page ad included a different headline that said, “Tell our local officials to do the right thing.”

On Wednesday, July 14, this author conducted an hour-long phone interview with Coyne, who at the time was on or near Anna Maria Island. Coyne acknowledged that doesn’t live on Anna Maria Island, is not real familiar with the Island and has never met Murphy or attended an Anna Maria City Commission meeting.

When interviewed at that time, Coyne did not yet appear to have a clear understanding as to the distinction between the city of Anna Maria and Anna Maria Island as a whole. Coyne could not clearly articulate whether the print ads that referenced “local officials” pertained to local officials in Anna Maria only, or to local officials in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach as well. Nor was Coyne able to clearly articulate any specific actions the Preserve AMI campaign seeks from Murphy and other local officials regarding the FDEP permitting dispute.

When asked why one full-page newspaper ad addressed “local officials” and the other addressed “Mayor Dan,” Coyne said the differing headlines were part of his campaign strategy.

In reference to interim FDEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton, additional Preserve AMI signs and website materials say, “Tell Florida’s DEP Secretary to do the right thing.” 

The Preserve AMI campaign has included signs placed at and near the Jordans’ beachfront home. A visit to that area on the morning of Thursday, July 15, revealed a Preserve AMI sign placed in the dune on the 103 Elm Avenue property, a similar sign attached to the Jordans’ balcony and another free-standing sign placed on private property at 104 Elm Ave, alongside the beach access path. All three signs carried the “Tell Mayor Dan to do the right thing” message.  

Fedora Campbell seeks to develop her vacant lot at 105 Elm Avenue, which is located seaward of the Wendy and Robert Jordans’ beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue. Photo: Joe Hendricks

When contacted that day, Code Enforcement Manager Debbie Haynes said the signs were legally placed on private property. Haynes noted the Jordans were previously cited and fined $250 for a campaign related sign on their property that exceeded the size allowed by the city’s sign ordinance.

On Friday, July 16, Coyne shared an email that stated Preserve AMI was putting a pause on its print advertising campaign until a private meeting between Murphy and the Jordans could be scheduled. As of Friday, July 23, that in-person meeting had not yet been scheduled because the Jordans were unavailable to meet in person and Murphy declined conducting that meeting remotely via Zoom teleconferencing software.   

When contacted, Murphy has declined commenting publicly about these matters.

Beachfront homeowners launch Preserve AMI campaign

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The version of this story recently published by another publication omitted the section at the end about the Preserve AMI campaign. That information is contained toward the end of this version of the story, as originally submitted for publication.   

UPDATE: Saturday, July 24:
On Tuesday, July 20 FDEP issued a final order in favor of Fedora Campbell’s ability to develop her vacant beachfront lot at 105 Elm Avenue in Anna Maria. Campbell’s property is located seaward of and in front of the Jordans’ beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue. FDEP’s final order was issued after this story was written and originally published. A follow-up story about the FDEP final order is being written.


ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria homeowners Wendy and Robert Jordan recently launched the Preserve AMI campaign, in part to protect their mostly unobstructed view of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Preserve AMI campaign also addresses wider reaching concerns about the potential impacts of a pending Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permitting ruling. The Jordans and some of their supporters fear the anticipated ruling could establish a precedent regarding construction seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL), which in turn could impact beach dune systems, sea turtles and other wildlife.

The Jordans own and operate the North Carolina-based Jordan Lumber & Supply company and several other timber-related businesses. In April, they purchased the beachfront home at 107 Elm Avenue for $4 million through their North Carolina-registered WAJ Rustic Vacations LLC.

According to the city of Anna Maria clerk’s office, the home was previously registered as a vacation rental, but that’s no longer the case since the change in ownership.

Prior to the Jordans’ purchase, some neighboring property owners had already filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing in opposition to a 2020 FDEP permitting decision regarding the vacant lot at 105 Elm Avenue. Owned by Fedora Campbell, that property is one of two undeveloped lots located between the Jordans’ home and the Gulf.

The Jordans also recently purchased from Steven Decker the vacant lot at 103 Elm Avenue which is seaward of both the 105 and 107 Elm Avenue properties. The purchase of the 103 Elm Avenue property resulted in Campbell’s property now being located in between two properties owned by the Jordans.  

On Feb. 13, 2020, an application was submitted to FDEP on Campbell’s behalf seeking to construct a single-family residence on her property. On June 25, 2020, FDEP provided Campbell and her associates with a notice to proceed and a permit for construction or other activities. The FDEP notice stated those whose substantial interests may be affected by the department’s action could petition for a formal administrative hearing.

On Aug. 3, 2020, attorney David Levin filed a petition for formal administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). Levin filed that document on behalf of petitioners David Morris and Ling Liu (owners of 108 Elm Ave), DAR Real Estate Enterprises LLC (owners of 109 Sycamore Ave) and Richard Theidel (owner of 100 Sycamore Avenue).

“On or about June 25, 2020, petitioners became aware that permit number ME-1341 had been issued to a neighbor authorizing the construction of a new single-family residence at 105 Elm Avenue,” according to the petition for hearing document that named Campbell and FDEP as respondents.

“The structure authorized by FDEP’s CCCL (Coastal Construction Control Line) permit will substantially advance seaward the established line of existing construction. By way of example, immediately adjacent and to the east of Campbell’s proposed residential structure is a single-family residential structure at 107 Elm Avenue. Said residence was authorized by FDEP permit number ME-919 to be constructed to the existing line of construction. According to the CCCL plan submitted with Campbell’s application, the residence at 107 Elm Avenue, and hence the established line of existing construction, is 270 feet and 249 feet seaward of the CCCL, north and south respectively. Petitioners specifically allege that as presently designed and authorized by Permit No. ME-1341, Campbell’s proposed structures do not comply with the applicable requirements and are not eligible for a CCCL permit. Petitioners seek a final order revoking Permit No. ME-1341,” according to the petition for hearing.  

Recommended order

In response to the petitioners’ request, administrative law judge Francine Ffolkes presided over a  DOAH hearing that occurred during a six-day period this past February.

According to the DOAH website, Ffolkes was assigned to DOAH’s environmental and specialization districts in 2017. Before that, she served as deputy general counsel in charge of FDEP’s litigation section. 

On June 7, Ffolkes issued her recommended order regarding the FDEP permit issued for 105 Elm Avenue.

“Based on the foregoing findings of fact and conclusions of law, it is hereby recommended that DEP enter a final order granting respondent Campbell’s application for a CCCL permit to construct a single-family residence and associated structures seaward of the CCCL,” Ffolkes stated her written recommended order.

On June 29, Wendy Jordan sent a lengthy email to Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and all five city commissioners in which she stated, “We learned before closing that our property was

involved in litigation between several contiguous waterfront neighbors. We gladly joined the fight. We first offered the lot owner $2 million for her lot. She asked for $2 million and we met to set the closing and then she turned it down.” 

Regarding Ffolkes’ recommended order, Jordan’s email noted petitioners had 15 days to respond to what she referred to as “the unbelievable ruling.”

Jordan’s email also said, “For those who immediately say, ‘You are only worried about your view,’ of course I am worried about my view. We paid for a view and it is in jeopardy of change that will ruin the wildlife.”

When contacted on Thursday, July 15, an assistant in Ffolkes’ office who wished to remain anonymous said FDEP can follow, modify or discard the judge’s recommended order, and she wasn’t aware of a final order being issued.

On Friday, July 16, The Sun received an email response from FDEP Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta that said, “The department will issue a final order in this case on or before July 22.”    

City permits also needed

If permitted by FDEP, the development of 105 Elm would also require building permits issued by the city of Anna Maria.

On July 6, Anna Maria Building Official Luke Curtis sent an email to Murphy regarding that property.

Curtis’ email referenced a determination of buildable area report for 105 Elm the Environmental, Consulting & Technology (ECT) firm provided the city in February 2018, before the current dispute ensued.

His email noted the ECT report said, “This buildable area determination should only be considered a preliminary determination to ensure consistency with the city’s zoning regulations, but the extent of development on this lot will ultimately be decided by FDEP.”

Curtis’ email noted the ECT report said, “The parcel was previously situated much closer to the Gulf of Mexico relative to its current position. The significant transition in the beach profile is due to beach renourishment projects that were initiated in 2002 in an effort to remediate major erosion along the shoreline. FDEP will need to evaluate whether the lot would be considered primary dunes which are subject to more restrictions.”

Curtis’ email states the buildable area determinations provided by ECT – and a separate report provided by the ECO consulting group in 2017 – both confirm 105 Elm is a buildable lot per city code.

Elm Avenue currently ends near the Jordans’ driveway and does not provide direct access to 105 Elm Ave.

Elm Avenue ends near the Jordans’ driveway and does not currently provide direct access to 105 Elm. Photo: Joe Hendricks

“Prior to any building permit being accepted by the building department, a development permit, along with a site plan – including but not limited to access to the property, sewer, water and electric utilities – will need to be considered and approved by city commission,” Curtis noted in his email.

Preserve AMI campaign

The Preserve AMI campaign is being carried out by Patrick Coyne, a longtime friend of the Jordans. Coyne lives in North Carolina, where he owns and operates Coyne & Co., a firm that offers “innovative brand building” across multiple media platforms. Coyne also serves as the Preserve AMI spokesperson.

To date, the campaign has included the PreserveAMI.com website, full page newspaper ads and an online petition that as of Sunday had been signed by more than 840 people.

The Preserve AMI website contains a video in which land surveyor Jeff Hostetler explains the dispute as it pertains to the coastal construction control line and how the Jordan’s home that was built according to the CCCL line as it existed in 2012.  

One full-page newspaper ad included a headline that referenced Murphy and said, “Tell Mayor Dan to do the right thing.” Another full-page ad included a different headline that said, “Tell our local officials to do the right thing.”

On Wednesday, July 14, The Sun conducted an hour-long phone interview with Coyne, who at the time was on or near Anna Maria Island. Coyne acknowledged that doesn’t live on Anna Maria Island, is not real familiar with the Island and has never met Murphy or attended an Anna Maria City Commission meeting.

When interviewed, Coyne did not yet have a clear understanding as to the distinction between the city of Anna Maria and Anna Maria Island as a whole. Coyne could not clearly articulate whether the print ads that referenced “local officials” pertained to local officials in Anna Maria only, or to local officials in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach as well. Nor was Coyne able to clearly articulate any specific actions the Preserve AMI campaign seeks from Murphy and other local officials regarding the FDEP permitting dispute.

When asked why one full-page newspaper ad addressed “local officials” and the other addressed “Mayor Dan,” Coyne said the differing headlines were part of his campaign strategy.

In reference to interim FDEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton, additional Preserve AMI signs and website materials say, “Tell Florida’s DEP Secretary to do the right thing.” 

The Preserve AMI campaign has included signs placed at and near the Jordans’ beachfront home. A visit to that area on the morning of Thursday, July 15, revealed a Preserve AMI sign placed in the dune on the 103 Elm Avenue property, a similar sign attached to the Jordans’ balcony and another free-standing sign placed on private property at 104 Elm Ave, alongside the beach access path. All three signs carried the “Tell Mayor Dan to do the right thing” message.  

On the morning of Thursday, July 15, this sign was standing in the beach dune area seaward of the Jordans’ home. Photo: Joe Hendricks

When contacted that day, Code Enforcement Manager Debbie Haynes said the signs were legally placed on private property. Haynes noted the Jordans were previously cited and fined $250 for a campaign related sign on their property that exceeded the size allowed by the city’s sign ordinance.

On Friday, July 16, Coyne shared an email that stated Preserve AMI was putting a pause on its print advertising campaign until a private meeting between Murphy and the Jordans could be scheduled. As of Friday, July 23, that in-person meeting had not yet been scheduled because the Jordans were unavailable to meet in person and Murphy declined conducting that meeting remotely via Zoom teleconferencing software.   

When contacted, Murphy has declined commenting publicly about these matters.

Island Grill employee and deceased owner subjects of criminal investigations

Author’s Note: This report is solely the work of this author and is not affiliated with any other publication or news organization on Anna Maria Island. The author takes no joy in reporting these events but feels a journalistic responsibility to do so. Sympathies and condolences are extended to all those impacted by these tragic and horrific events.

HOLMES BEACH – The now-deceased owner of the Island Grill restaurant in Holmes Beach and an employee of that restaurant were both recently investigated by the Bradenton Police department.

The Island Grill is located at 5910 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach. According to multiple sources, Owen Hagan was an employee at the Island Grill restaurant owned and operated by Scott St. Blanc.

Owen Hagan arrest

On June 28, Owen Hagan was arrested on 26 alleged counts of possession of content depicting sexual conduct of a child, in violation of Florida Statute 827.071 (5)(a).

Island Grill employee and deceased owner subjects of criminal investigations
Owen Hagan remained incarcerated at the Manatee County Jail as of Saturday morning. Photo: Manatee County Sheriff’s Office

According to the affidavit in support of arrest for Hagan, “The charges are enhanced because the images or video met at least one of the following criteria; and the content of least one image contains one or more of the following:

1. “A child who is younger than the age of 5;

2. Sadomasochistic abuse involving a child;

3. Sexual battery involving a child;

4. Sexual bestiality involving a child;

5. Any movie involving a child, regardless of length and regardless of whether the movie contains sound.”

Obtained as a public record from the Manatee County Clerk of the Court website, the redacted affidavit can be viewed here. Be warned: the details are sexually graphic and very disturbing. (You will need a PDF reader to view the documents contained in this story)

On Wednesday, July 7, attorney Allanah Louise McClintock entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Hagan. As of Saturday, July 10, Hagan was still incarcerated at the Manatee County Jail. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 23.

According to Manatee County court records, Hagan was previously convicted of driving under the influence and an arrest warrant was recently issued for his violation of probation.

Scott St. Blanc suicide

Island Grill owner Scott St. Blanc was found dead on Friday, July 2.

Island Grill owner Scott. St. Blanc was discovered dead on Friday, July 2.
Photo: LinkedIn

According to the incident/investigation report obtained from the Bradenton Police Department, “On today’s date, 07/02/2021, I was dispatched to a reported suicide at the Perico Preserve located at 11700 Manatee Ave. W. Upon my arrival I located a white male later identified as Mr. Scott St. Blanc who appeared to have hung himself. There was no signs of trauma and it does not appear to be suspicious. Mr. St Blanc tied a teal and white rope around his neck to commit the act. The rope was secured to a roof beam to a pavilion where he was located. The detectives will handle the next of kin notification as they are already working a case with Mr. St. Blanc.”

The redacted incident/investigation report can be viewed here.

St. Blanc criminal investigation

According to another redacted incident/investigation report obtained from the Bradenton Police Department, the aforementioned case involving Scott St. Blanc pertained to a criminal investigation initiated in February.

Dated Feb. 8, that report references “lewd and lascivious” as a suspected criminal offense. The heavily redacted Feb. 8 report also references an “upload” of some sort and notes: “At this time this is an ongoing investigation.”

The Feb. 8 report can be viewed here.

According to one of St. Blanc’s neighbors, a SWAT team visited St. Blanc’s residence the day before his suspected suicide. When contacted, neither the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office nor the Bradenton Police Department provided any details regarding a SWAT team visit when asked if such a visit occurred. St. Blanc was not arrested as a result of that visit.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office website, St. Blanc has never been arrested in Manatee County. According to the Manatee County Clerk of the Court website, St. Blanc was never the subject of a civil or criminal legal matter in Manatee County.

St. Blanc’s neighbor was also among those who confirmed that Hagan was an employee of the Island Grill. The court documents and redacted police reports obtained thus far by The Sunshine Gazette do not reference any known or suspected criminal connections between Hagan and St. Blanc. At this time it is not known if the two investigations are intertwined or related.

On Saturday morning, a bouquet of flowers, a Scott St. Blanc obituary and a note regarding inquiries was found at the front door of the Island Grill.

Island Grill employee and deceased owner subjects of criminal investigations
A bouquet of flowers and an obituary were found at the front door of the Island Grill on Saturday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

A memorial service for Scott St. Blanc and a post-service gathering will be held on Friday, July 16.

Island Grill employee and deceased owner subjects of criminal investigations
This obituary is one of two documents taped to the front door of the Island Grill.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – An early Wednesday morning tour of Anna Maria Island revealed Hurricane Elsa’s impact was minimal in the three Island cities.

The storm that passed through Anna Maria Island Tuesday afternoon and evening and into Wednesday morning produced localized flooding but no reports of significant property damage, one reported fallen tree and no reported downed power lines or power outages on the Island.

According to Wunderground.com – an affiliate of The Weather Channel – the highest wind gust recorded at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport weather station during Elsa was 54 mph at 10:53 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Wednesday morning, Anna Maria resident Doug Copeland said he and his wife’s rain gauge indicated 2.8 inches of rain fell during Elsa at their home near the Rod & Reel Pier.

Bradenton Beach

According to Bradenton Beach Public Works Director Tom Woodard and Lt. John Cosby from the Bradenton Beach Police Department, at approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday morning an unoccupied sailboat on the Cortez side of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) broke free of its mooring and began drifting toward the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
Officer Eric Hill and members of the Bradenton Beach Public Works Department secured this sailboat that broke loose on the Cortez side of the ICW. Photo: Bradenton Beach Police Department | Submitted

“We were able to go out and get it and get it tied up and secured. They got it under control and out of the way before it caused any problems,” Cosby said, noting that Officer Eric Hill piloted the police boat stationed on the police boat lift adjacent to the pier.

Cosby and Woodard said the pier and the floating dock sustained no damage during the storm. Cosby said it may take a few days to have the sailboat removed.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The sailboat that broke loose Tuesday morning remained tied to the Bridge Street Pier Wednesday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

A 7 a.m. visit to the pier Wednesday morning revealed the sailboat was still secured to the dolphin pilings at east end of the floating day dock and none of the 15 or so liveaboard vessels anchored south of the pier had broken free or sunk during the storm. The one sunken vessel currently in the area sank long before Tuesday’s storm.

“Everybody did what they needed to do,” Cosby said of those liveaboard boaters.

According to Cosby, Officer Hill contacted many of them via cell phone on Monday and reminded them to secure their vessels with double anchors before the storm arrived.

“It appears everybody did it, because I don’t see any issues,” Cosby said.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The liveaboard boaters south of the Bridge Street Pier weathered Elsa’s waves and winds. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Cosby and Woodard said they weren’t aware of any property damage or serious flooding issues elsewhere in the city. A tour of the city indicated some localized street and yard flooding, but less than can often be seen during other heavy rain events.

“I don’t believe we had any calls for service or any type of distress calls,” Cosby said.

Cosby said some of the Gulf-side beach areas “took a pretty good hit” in terms of beach erosion.

“That was expected. No big surprise there,” Cosby said of the erosion.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The sailboat that broke loose Tuesday morning remained tied to the Bridge Street Pier Wednesday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Holmes Beach

A pass through Holmes Beach at 7:30 Wednesday morning revealed standing water covering the edge of Marina Drive, near city hall and the Island Branch Library, but the travel lanes were not completely submerged. Standing water was also covering portions of some of the adjacent side streets.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The flooding along Marina Drive in Holmes Beach was limited to the edge of the road by the time the sun came up. Photo: Joe Hendricks

When contacted later in the day, Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said that city fared well during the storm.

“I was out all day and night until 5:30 this morning. We had some flooding by city hall around 3 to 4 a.m. After the rain stopped, the water subsided pretty quickly. We had minor overnight flooding and one tree down in the parking lot of Martinique North. We dodged the bullet,” Tokajer said.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
Standing water covered this portion of 63rd Street in Holmes Beach Wednesday morning. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Anna Maria

At approximately 8 a.m., Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Public Works Manager Dean Jones were touring the city and accessing the storm damage.

“So far, we’re looking pretty good. We’ve got some local street flooding in the areas that would normally flood – and it’s not saltwater flooding, it’s rainwater flooding. There’s no trees down. All of our major roads are clear, but there’s some outlying areas and backstreets where we’ve got some issues with flooding. Some of that we’ll be able to pump out and some we won’t,” Murphy said.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
This Anna Maria homeowner’s yard experienced Elsa-related flooding. Photo: Joe Hendricks

A tour around Anna Maria indicated North Bay Boulevard, near the Bean Point beach access, was among the most flooded areas.

The visit to the beach in front of the Sandbar restaurant revealed significant beach erosion may have occurred.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The beach in front of the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria appeared to have suffered beach erosion during the storm. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The new Anna Maria City Pier came through the storm unscathed and residents and visitors were going about their business as usual as the sun appeared and the new day got underway, with some intermittent sun showers throughout the day.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
The new Anna Maria City Pier sustained no storm damage. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The city’s “Reimagining Pine Avenue” public information meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon was cancelled and rescheduled at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 12.

Cortez Beach

A mid-morning trip to Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach revealed several people walking along the beach and few surfers in the water. Red flags were flying on the lifeguard tower and a member of the Manatee County Beach Patrol called a group of young men back to shore who had walked out to the end of one of the groins being battered by the high surf.

Elsa takes it easy on Anna Maria Island
Due to high surf, these young men were asked to vacate a beach groin at Cortez Beach. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Anna Maria declares local state of emergency for Hurricane Elsa

ANNA MARIA – Due to the approach of Hurricane Elsa, the Anna Maria City Commission declared a preemptive local state of emergency Friday afternoon.

As of 5 a.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center predicted hurricane force winds could arrive in the Tampa Bay area as early as Monday.

The local declaration of emergency was enacted via emergency resolution R 21-771, a resolution that provides Mayor Dan Murphy with additional storm-related powers for the next seven days.

In effect now, the resolution allows the mayor to enact curfews, suspend alcohol sales, close roads, close certain areas of the city and spend up to $10,000 without additional city commission authorization while responding to the storm and any storm-related public safety and/or cleanup efforts.

During Friday afternoon’s emergency commission meeting, Murphy told the attending commission members that he would first consult with each commissioner by phone before making any final decisions regarding the city’s storm preparations and response efforts.

During the meeting, Murphy noted the city experienced power outages and downed power lines during Hurricane Irma in 2017, which resulted in the entrance to the city being temporarily manned and controlled by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

Murphy said those efforts were complicated when the cities of Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach allowed residents and visitors back on the Island before the city of Anna Maria was prepared to do so.

Murphy said he will be meeting with the Public Works and Code Enforcement departments on Sunday to further evaluate the approaching storm.

Murphy and Public Works Manager Dean Jones said Public Works personnel will be on duty Monday despite Monday being a federal holiday and a day off for city employees. Jones said the city is aptly prepared for a storm of this scale and has the chain saws, tools, fuel and other equipment needed to clear the roads of fallen trees and storm debris if need be.

Sgt. Brett Getman said the Anna Maria Unit of the Sheriff’s Office will also be monitoring the approaching storm. “We’ll be prepared,” Getman said.

Murphy said the city already has a debris removal company, Jet Hauling, under contract and ready to roll if needed. The city has a new generator on order for city hall but it has not yet arrived.

Murphy said any evacuation orders would be issued by the county. Murphy said he’s in contact with county officials but the city is leading its own storm preparation and response efforts.

“This is our city. We need to make it safe. We need to make decisions for our city. That is the purpose of this resolution,” Murphy said.

Free sandbags are available at the northwest end of Bayfront Park, near the North Bay Boulevard/North Shore Drive intersection. Those seeking sandbags need to bring their own shovels and it’s a good idea to bring another person to hold the sandbags while they are being filled.

Free sandbags are available at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Murphy said Friday’s emergency declaration has no impact on the AMI Privateer’s parade taking place Saturday morning. The parade will begin in Bradenton Beach, pass through Holmes Beach and end at City Pier Park in Anna Maria.

For updates and additional information visit, www.cityofannamaria.com.

Baugh reaches settlement with Barfield; deposition transcript released

BRADENTON – Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh has reached a settlement agreement with paralegal Michael Barfield regarding the Public Records Act lawsuit Barfield filed in December.

On June 19, Baugh signed a settlement agreement that required her to pay Barfield $4,319. When contacted on Thursday, July 1, Barfield said he received a check from Baugh the previous day and he now considers the case to be “a done deal at this point.”

Barfield’s civil lawsuit originally named County Commissioner James Satcher as the lone defendant, and Baugh and Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge were later named as co-defendants.

The Sunshine Gazette also obtained a transcript of the under oath deposition paralegal Barfield conducted of Baugh on May 14. Tallahassee based attorney George Levesque provided legal representation to Baugh during the deposition and throughout this legal process.

Baugh Barfield Settlement
Paralegal Michael Barfield has received a $4,319 settlement payment from Vanessa Baugh. Photo: Joe Hendricks

On page 31 of the deposition transcript, Barfield begins questioning Baugh about a county resolution Baugh presented to the newly reconfigured county commission on Nov. 19. The resolution was presented with no advance notice to the public or the commission as a whole. The resolution pertained to meeting protocols and what commission actions could be taken at a particular type of county meeting. The resolution was adopted that day by 4-3 vote, but was later rescinded by a unanimous commission vote.

During her deposition, Baugh admitted under oath that she did not author the resolution. She also admitted that she previously claimed she did write the resolution. When Barfield asked Baugh who wrote the resolution, Baugh declined to answer that question based on the advice her attorney.

In late April, Satcher and Van Ostenbridge agreed to collectively pay Barfield $6,000 to settle their roles in the case from which they were then dismissed.

In May, the Manatee County Commission voted 7-0 in favor of county taxpayers reimbursing Satcher and Van Ostenbridge approximately $56,000 to cover the legal fees and settlement costs they incurred as defendants in the case.

When the county commission reconvenes later this month after its annual summer break, Baugh will have the opportunity, if she so chooses, to seek county reimbursement for the legal fees and settlement costs she incurred in this matter.

Barfield deposed Van Ostenbridge under oath in March, but The Sunshine Gazette has not obtained the transcript of that deposition.

(Vanessa Baugh’s deposition transcript and her settlement agreement can be obtained by clicking on the color-highlighted words contained in the story)

DeSantis, Florida regulators sued for mismanaging Piney Point

ST. PETERSBURG — Conservation groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday, June 24, against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the acting secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, HRK Holdings, LLC and the Manatee County Port Authority for the release of hundreds of tons of hazardous pollutants into Tampa Bay and groundwater.

The lawsuit was announced in an email distributed by Suncoast Waterkeeper founder and Vice Chair Justin Bloom.

Here is a link to the lawsuit complaint: https://secureservercdn.net/104.238.68.196/7gj.0d1.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Piney-Point-Lawsuit-Complaint-6-24-21.pdf

Lawsuit press release

The following press released was issued on Wednesday:

The toxic releases endanger the public, marine ecosystems and protected species, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida.

The lawsuit comes after Florida regulators authorized the discharge of up to 480 million gallons of wastewater from the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack into Tampa Bay following years of regulatory failures and mismanagement. The Piney Point gypstack is a mountain of toxic waste, topped by an impoundment of hundreds of millions of gallons of process wastewater, stormwater and tons of dredged spoil from Port Manatee.

“The Piney Point disaster is Exhibit A in a long list of Florida’s failures to protect our water and wildlife from the harms of phosphogypsum,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even as state officials scramble to clean up Piney Point, they have drafted a permit to authorize a 230-acre expansion of the sinkhole-prone New Wales gypstack that leaked 215 million gallons of wastewater into the Floridan aquifer.”

“Piney Point was and still is a ticking timebomb,” said Justin Bloom, Suncoast Waterkeeper founder and board member. “Rather than closing it when they had the chance, FDEP allowed the site to become even more dangerous, knowing full well the risk of collapse and catastrophic contamination.

Now Manatee County is seeking to inject the hundreds of millions of gallons of remaining hazardous wastewater into our groundwater. We’re not confident in our regulators’ ability to manage this mess and this legal action is necessary to protect our communities and waterways from further harm.”

According to the lawsuit, Piney Point is an ongoing threat to public health and the environment due to:

1. The discharge of 215 million gallons of toxic wastewater into Tampa Bay, which is now experiencing harmful algae blooms and fish kills;

2. The threat of catastrophic failure of its impoundments and/or stack system;

3. The site’s failing liners;

4. Violations of groundwater-quality standards and evidence that dangerous levels of pollution have migrated into the aquifer; and

5. The choice of an unproven and high-risk wastewater disposal method called deep-well injection to store hazardous waste at Piney Point.

“Recent events at the abandoned Piney Point phosphate plant clearly demonstrate that not enough is being done to safeguard the public or the environment from the devastating impacts that the phosphate industry is having on Florida,” said Glenn Compton, chairman of ManaSota-88, Inc. “Piney Point represents the true legacy the phosphate industry will leave behind. There is no economically feasible or environmentally sound way to close an abandoned gyp stack. This legacy includes the perpetual spending of taxpayer monies and risks to the public’s health and the environment.”

Piney Point was a problematic phosphate fertilizer plant that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection turned into a disposal site for dredge material. After the owner went bankrupt and abandoned the property, the department owned and operated Piney Point from 2001 to 2004. The agency oversaw the installation of inadequate liners and approved the use of the site for dredged material storage, despite knowing the Piney Point gypstacks were at risk of failure due to foundation settling and other problems.

Florida regulators ignored the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ advice to reject the dredge proposal because of the gypstacks’ structural uncertainties, the hazardous and toxic material in the stacks, and documented past slope stability and piping issues.

“Lawsuits like this shouldn’t be necessary, especially in Florida where so much of the state’s economy and residents’ quality of life are dependent on healthy water quality,” said Annie Beaman, co-executive director of Our Children’s Earth Foundation. “State and local regulators have failed the public for decades and continue to mismanage the waste generated by the phosphate industry. We resort to federal court oversight when decisions by the political branches of government endanger the public. Enforcing basic environmental standards with citizen suits is the best option we have to ensure a healthier future for Tampa Bay, its communities and its wildlife.”

The 215 million gallons of wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay continue to spread throughout the estuary and into Sarasota Bay, transporting tons of nitrogen and other pollutants into waterways and communities. Many of those areas are already struggling to manage excessive pollution that has reduced water quality and fueled the growth of toxic algae blooms that kill seagrasses and other marine life.

Hillsborough County recently issued a public health advisory because of a red tide bloom near Piney Point; fish kills associated with red tide have been reported in recent weeks in Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties. Manatee County is suffering from an unprecedented algae bloom that is believed to be fueled in part by the nutrients dumped into the bay from Piney Point.

The fertilizer industry creates more than 30 million tons of phosphogypsum in Florida each year. Phosphogypsum is radioactive and can contain uranium, thorium and radium, which decay into carcinogenic radon. In addition to these radioactive carcinogens, phosphogypsum and process water can contain heavy toxic metals like antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluoride, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, sulfur, thallium and zinc. This waste is stored in mountainous piles called gypstacks that are hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall. Florida has 1 billion tons of radioactive phosphogypsum in 25 stacks, including the Piney Point gypstack and the New Wales gypstack.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has drafted a permit approving a 230-acre expansion of the New Wales gypstack. The stacks are perched precariously atop the Floridan aquifer, which supplies drinking water to 10 million people. Both active and inactive gypstacks have impoundments of process wastewater sitting atop the mountain of waste.

The groups involved in the lawsuit – the Center for Biological Diversity, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Suncoast Waterkeeper, ManaSota-88 and Our Children’s Earth Foundation – are represented by the Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt, P.C.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show

ANNA MARIA – Bad Company and former Free drummer Simon Kirke brought his multitude of musical talents, humor and storytelling skills to The Center of Anna Maria Friday evening.

Kirke began and ended Friday’s outdoor concert playing the drums in his signature rock solid, snare drum-cracking style. He sang all the lead vocals and throughout the evening he also played acoustic guitar, ukulele and piano.

The Empty Pockets, an excellent Chicago-based Americana/rock band in their own right, served as Kirke’s backing band after playing a short set of their own songs before Kirke joined them on stage.

17-year old lead guitarist and lead vocalist Johnny Jensen opened Friday’s show in Anna Maria, Florida.

Kirke’s works

Kirke’s set began with the Bad Company hit “Movin’ On,” which set the tone for the enjoyable and engaging performance to come.

Next was the title track from Kirke’s latest solo album “All Because of You,” which he recorded in 2016 with The Empty Pockets. Featuring acoustic guitars, a catchy melody and an upbeat, bouncy tempo, “All Because of You” is one of many songs Kirke wrote for and about his wife, Maria Figueredo, for his third solo album.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Simon Kirke is an accomplished acoustic guitarist. Photo: Joe Hendricks

After a tip of the cap to his health-challenged Bad Company bandmate Mick Ralphs,” Kirke led the band through another Bad Company hit, “Ready for Love” – a song Ralphs originally wrote and recorded as a member of Mott the Hoople.

Kirke and the band then dug deep into the Free catalog (Kirke and Bad Company lead singer Paul Rogers’ previous band) and played “Love You So” – a poignant song co-written by Kirke and Rogers about saying goodbye and watching time slip away.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Josh Solomon and Nate Bellon did double duty during Friday’s concert.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

After sharing a story about his friendship with Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, and becoming a member of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Kirke introduced a song he said was inspired by Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” as well as his own personal journey from rock star excess to sobriety. After performing the semi-serious parody, “50 Ways to Love Your Liver,” Kirke joked, “It’s the most expensive song I ever wrote.”

Kirke then introduced his bandmates for the evening: Josh Solomon on electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and backing vocals, Erika Brett (Solomon’s wife) on keyboards and backing vocals, Nate Bellon on bass and backing vocals and Adam Balasco on drums, percussion and electric guitar.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Adam Balasco played percussion while Simon Kirke played the drums.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

Before they played “Weep No More,” from Bad Company’s “Straight Shooter” album, Kirke said the song he wrote was heavily influenced by Aretha Franklin’s “Mary, Don’t You Weep.” 

“I loved it and I completely stole it,” he said of Franklin’s song.

Inspired by an audience member who more than once shouted out a request to play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” Kirke told an impromptu story about three of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band members joining Bad Company on stage uninvited during a show in London. They then took lead singer Paul Rogers out on the town for an adventure that ended with a short stay in a London jail and a call to Kirke to bail them out.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Simon Kirke plays piano too. Photo: Joe Hendricks

While sitting at the piano, Kirke introduced the piano-driven song Bad Company song “Silver, Blue & Gold” as a song he wished that band played more often.  

Kirke remained at the piano for one of the unexpected highlights of the evening: the song “Melting on Madison,” and the story Kirke told about a real-life encounter in New York City that inspired him to write it for his “All Because of You” album.

“I’m out on Madison Avenue trying to get a cab. It’s about 11 at night and it’s pouring rain. In front of me is this couple, and they’re obviously mad for each other. They’re getting drenched and she breaks from him and goes, ‘Oh darling, I want to melt into you.’ I’m thinking she must really love this guy. So, I went home and I wrote this song,” Kirke said, before performing the beautifully romantic, jazz-tinged song.

Kirke also told a story about a late night/early morning ride he took in Los Angeles as a passenger in a 2,000 horsepower funny car driven by Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. The short-lived joyride resulted in Bonham getting pulled over before he got the car out of first gear, but “Bonzo” avoided any further legal troubles when he handed the officer four tickets to an upcoming Led Zeppelin concert at the L.A. Forum,  

When introducing the song “Maria,” Kirke said, “This song is written for my wife.”

Before starting “Maria,” Kirke noted that he previously wrote a Bad Company song called “Anna.” This promoted him to say, “How about that? Anna, Maria,” in reference to his location that evening.

When performing the song “Maria,” accompanied by Solomon on keyboards, Kirke sang the following opening lyrics: “She walks in beauty through the night, with the moon and the stars around her, When she smiles at me, my heart takes flight and I bless the day that I found her…”

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Josh Solomon played keyboards while Simon Kirke strummed and sang “Maria.”
Photo: Joe Hendricks

Kirke told another story about the time he met Bob Marley and watched Bob Marley and The Wailers rehearse in a smoke-filled room in Kingston, Jamacia.

Kirke’s Bob Marley story led to a reggae-infused version of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love,” on which Kirke joyously strumming a ukulele – as he did on the studio version he recorded with The Empty Pockets for his “All Because of You” album.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Simon Kirke played the ukulele on his reggae-infused version of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love.” Photo: Joe Hendricks

Kirke’s last story of the night was about a party he attended at George Harrison’s mansion and the magical boat ride Harrison gave him on the underground lake below his mansion.

Kirke then returned to the drums to finish the show with three of Bad Company’s biggest hits, beginning with “Shooting Star” – a cautionary tale of a rock star who died with “a bottle of whiskey, sleeping tablets by his head.”

When “Shooting Star” ended, Kirke said, “Before we do this last song, thank you for turning out. It’s been lovely. Here’s a song that me and Paul wrote with a joint and a pint of lager. It took 10 minutes and it put all my kids through college, and me through rehab.”

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Simon Kirke closed his show with Free’s “All Right Now.” Photo: Joe Hendricks

Kirke and the band then launched into Bad Company’s namesake song “Bad Company,” which led many folks to jump to their feet and gleefully make their way toward the front of the stage.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
The Center crowd came to its feet as the concert neared its conclusion.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

Rather than leave the stage and return for an encore, Kirke said, “We can make a show of going off, but we want to do one more song.” He then counted off Free’s “All Right Now,” which features the signature snare drum beat Kirke devised in 1970 when Free recorded what would become that band’s biggest hit.

Sarasota residents Joe and Kara Collins attended Friday’s show and afterward Joe Collins proudly displayed a drumstick Simon Kirke tossed into the crowd.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Sarasota residents Joe and Kara Collins attended the Simon Kirke concert.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

“I absolutely loved the show. This was my fourth time seeing Simon and it was wonderful to see a living legend again. I really enjoyed all the wonderful stories he told about John Bonham, Bob Marley and The Beatles,” Joe Collins said.

When contacted Monday, Josh Solomon said, “Playing the hits of Bad Company and Free with Simon on the drums – as our first show back after a global pandemic – was pretty damn epic.”  

When contacted Monday, Kirke said, “Overall, I loved  the show. The audience was great. Even the hecklers were nice – raucous, but well-meaning. I loved Anna Maria Island. Great vibe. Like a time warp. Beautiful little houses. I can see why people like this place. And the staff at the venue were so nice. All in all, it was a beautiful evening.”

The only flaw in Friday’s show was the PA system occasionally cutting out at times, which was beyond the band’s control.

Pockets far from empty

During their four-song warmup set in which Solomon and Brett shared lead vocal duties, The Empty Pockets played an unreleased song called “Outside Spectrum,” and “Wolfpack,” from their 2019 release, “Tanglewoods” – the latter of which featured Brett’s soaring vocals.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Erika Brett’s soaring and soulful vocals are integral part of The Empty Pockets’ sound. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The band then invited percussionist Gerardo Velez to join them on stage. When introducing Velez, references were made to a famous photograph featuring Velez playing percussion at the Woodstock music festival with guitarist Jimi Hendrix in 1969.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
This 1969 photo of Jimi Hendricks and percussionist Gerardo Velez was mentioned during The Empty Pockets’ set. Photo: Submitted | Facebook

Velez has also performed with and/or recorded with Elton John, David Bowie, the popular jazz group Spyro Gyra and others.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Percussionist Gerardo Velez joined The Empty Pockets onstage. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Velez joined The Empty Pockets for “The Bubble,”  a song from their “Voices” CD. Velez enthusiastically and flamboyantly rocked a white tambourine and also played the compact conga drums Balasco would later play during Kirke’s show. The Empty Pockets set also included “Fill It Up,” from their “Tanglewoods” CD.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Percussionist Gerardo Velez still plays with incredible passion. Photo: Joe Hendricks

On Saturday, June 19th, The Empty Pockets will perform “Tanglewoods” in its entirety during one-time-only livestream event.

Up and coming

The evening started on a high note with an impressive set from 17-year-old blue/rock/jazz guitarist Johnny Jensen, who’s still a high school student in his hometown of Captiva Island, Florida. 

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Seventeen year old Johnny Jensen opened Friday’s show. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Filling out Jensen’s smooth but rocking sound were acoustic guitarist Dave Dust and percussionist Darrell Nutt, who masterfully played a Meinl Percussion Slap-Top Cajon, an electric bass drum and at times a hand-held shaker.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Percussionist Darrell Nutt and acoustic guitarist Dave Dust accompanied lead vocalist and lead guitarist Johnny Jensen. Photo: Joe Hendricks

Jensen’s set featured a few of his own compositions and cover songs that included his fantastic vocals and guitar work on his rendition of Bill Withers’ funky hit song, “Use Me.”

After his set ended, Jensen said that was his first visit to Anna Maria Island: “I thought it went very well. The crowd was great. I love playing here because where I’m from, Captiva Island, is very similar. I love the Island vibes and I’ll come to future shows here.”

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
These Bradenton residents enjoyed Friday’s show and the outdoor setting.
Photo: Joe Hendricks

Jensen named jazz guitarists Joe Pass and George Benson as musical influences and Michael Jackson and Queen’s Freddy Mercury as vocal influences.

Jensen said he hopes to do some touring later this year, but he also has another obligation to fulfill.

“I still have to finish school,” he said of his upcoming senior year.

Simon Kirke in good company at Anna Maria show
Concert attendees sat in chalk-marked pods at the outdoor show. Photo: Joe Hendricks

The Bradenton Gulf Islands Concert Series continues at The Center with former Journey singer Steve Augeri on Thursday, June 17, and with The Grass Roots and special guest Donny Iris on Friday, July 2.

The Sunshine Gazette’s concert preview interview with Simon Kirke can be accessed here.

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria

ANNA MARIA – Bad Company and former Free drummer Simon Kirke will be headlining a concert at The Center of Anna Maria in Anna Maria, Florida, on Friday, June 11.

Friday’s show is part of the Bradenton Gulf Islands Concert Series. Sold in pods of two to six seats, tickets are $60-$75 and available online at iTickets. Tickets can also be ordered by phone at 1-800-965-9324. Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chairs to this outdoor show. The Sandbar restaurant will provide the cash bar.

The Empty Pockets, from Chicago, Illinois, will serve as Kirke’s backing band for Friday’s show. Up and coming blues/rock guitarist Johnny Jensen, from Captiva, Florida, will open the outdoor show. Taking place rain or shine, the doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Simon says…

On Friday, June 4, The Sunshine Gazette conducted a 30-minute telephone interview with Kirke. When asked what the people of Anna Maria can expect to see at a Simon Kirke show, he said, “I’m going to be singing, playing guitar and piano and I’ll be playing drums on quite a few songs. I’ve got a great band called The Empty Pockets. Their manager is the same manager I have, David Spero.”

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria
Simon Kirke plays guitar and piano in addition to drumming and singing. Photo: OfficialSimonKirke.com

“When I wanted to put together a band to do my last solo album, I wanted to play with a band and not just get a couple session guys or play everything myself. David said you should listen to these guys. He sent me some songs of theirs and they sounded like seasoned professionals. I thought they were guys from my generation because they’re so good, but David said they were all in their twenties and thirties. I flew out to Chicago to meet them. They were so nice. We clicked immediately and we knocked out the album in about four days.”

The Empty Pockets feature Josh Solomon on vocals and guitar, his wife, Erika Brett on vocals and keyboards, Nate Bellon on bass and vocals and Adam Balasco on drums and vocals.

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria
Josh Solomon and Erika Brett share lead vocal duties for The Empty Pockets. Photo: TheEmptyPockets.com

“The Empty Pockets will do four or five songs and then I’ll come on and do my thing. Adam’s a very good drummer. He also plays guitar and percussion when I’m playing drums. They’re a very versatile bunch and they all sing very well, so there will be some nice harmonies. I’ll be doing my songs, a couple Free songs and some Bad Company songs. There should be something for everyone,” Kirke said.

Friday’s show will include songs from Kirke’s latest solo album, “All Because of You.”

“I wrote most of the songs after I met my wife, Maria, a few years ago. Most of the songs are written for her and that’s why I called it ‘All Because of You.’ We recorded it in Chicago a few years ago and I’m very proud of it. I couldn’t have done it without The Empty Pockets. Hats off to them. They’re real good. They’re old heads on young shoulders and I’m very proud and happy to be working with them,” Kirke said.

“All Because of You” features the song “Maria” and the title track, “All Because of You.”

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria
Simon Kirke released his third solo album, “All Because of You,” in 2017 Photo: OfficialSimonKirke.com

Friday’s show will be the first post-pandemic gigs for Kirke and for the
Empty Pockets. Later this year, The Empty Pockets will be touring as Al Stewart’s backing band. Kirke said he doesn’t currently have a tour
booked. 

“We are looking at other shows now that the country is opening up a little more. There’s talk about doing some shows in the Midwest opening for another band. I love touring and I love performing, but it’s still a little dicey out there. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’m certainly looking forward to performing, whether it’s in a local club, a theater or an arena. Hopefully, there will be more shows later this year. And I think Bad Company will be going out next year,” Kirke said. 

Kirke was asked if he’s ever been to Anna Maria Island before.

“No, but I just love the sound of it,” he said, noting Maria will not be joining him on this trip because she’s staying behind in New York to look after her father.

Kirke and his wife live in Montauk, New York.

“I love Montauk. I love living out there. I’ve got a studio in the house and I’ve managed to do a lot of things this past year. I recorded an album with a band called Lonerider, from England, with a great singer, Steve Overland, and a great guitar player, Steve Morris. They’re both wonderful.

“I did an album a couple years ago with them as well. The album we recorded last year has not been released yet. The album we did a couple years ago is called ‘Attitude.’ If you like Bad Company, Boston and bands like that you’ll love Lonerider. They’re an amazing band,” Kirke said.

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria
Simon Kirke is also a member of the band Lonerider. Photo: Submitted

The “Attitude” album includes the songs “Yesterday Heroes” and “Rhythm of Life.”

Talking drums

Before forming Bad Company in 1973 with guitarist Mick Ralphs and bassist Boz Burrell, Kirke and Bad Company lead singer Paul Rogers were members of the band Free from 1968 to 1973.

Released in 1970, Free’s biggest hit was “All Right Now.”

Bad Company’s numerous hits include “Bad Company,” “Feel Like Making Love,” “Movin’ On,” “Silver Blue & Gold,” “Shooting Star,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Ready for Love,” many of which will be performed Friday night. 

Kirke was asked how he would describe his style of drumming.

“Simple, solid and tasteful,” he said.

Kirke said two of his early drumming influences were Ringo Starr, from The Beatles, and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones.

“Of course it was Ringo and Charlie. I loved Charlie. Charlie Watts still has one of the greatest backbeats in the history of drumming. His backbeat is just phenomenal. I was also very influenced by Al Jackson Jr., from Booker T. & the M.G.’s.,” Kirke said.

Kirke also enjoyed the drumming of Roger Hawkins, who was part of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio group of studio musicians that played on hundreds of famous songs and records.

“Roger was a very big influence. He just passed away and I was very sorry to see that. I did an online recording session with David Hood (the Muscle Shoals bassist, and father of Drive-By Truckers singer/songwriter/guitarist Patterson Hood). I knew Roger wasn’t doing very well and I emailed David and told him how much I loved Roger’s playing,” Kirke said.

The Band’s Levon Helm was another drummer who influenced Kirke.

“The great thing about Levon was that he was a very intelligent drummer because he played other instruments. He played, guitar, piano and mandolin – as did Al Jackson, which I only found that out recently. Al played bass and piano as well. I think that gave them a better knowledge of applying drums to whatever song they were playing on. I play other instruments as well and I’d like to think that’s what I do too. Drums are my number one instrument, but I’ve always played guitar, piano and bass,” Kirke said.

Kirke was friends with Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. 

“Bonzo was a very good friend of mine and even after all this time I think of him quite a lot. We’re pretty much the same age. He was born June and I was born in July of 1949. When Bad Company teamed up with Zeppelin on their Swan Song record label we became firm friends pretty quickly. I actually played with them on stage in Munich, Germany. We did ‘Whole Lotta Love’ together, which went on for about 20 minutes. He was quite something to play along with. I loved his drumming and his son, Jason, is an amazing drummer too,” Kirke said.

Kirke mentioned the odd time signatures featured in Led Zeppelin songs such as “Black Dog” and “The Ocean” and several others: “People say Zeppelin was a straight ahead rock and roll band. They were not. Some of those songs are bloody hard to play.” 

Kirke plays DW drums these days, but he’ll be using Balasco’s drum set during Friday’s show.

Kirke typically plays a four-piece drumkit that includes a bass drum, a snare drum, one rack tom and one floor tom.

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria

Simon Kirke has played every Bad Company concert ever performed.
Photo: Joe SchaefferPhotography/BadCompany.com

“Since I was a teenager, I’ve always played a simple kit, because when I was growing up it was Ringo and Charlie and they only ever played a four-piece kit. Bonzo also played a smaller kit. I flirted with a couple different kits when Ginger Baker (from Cream) came out with the double bass drums but that just wasn’t for me. Through the years, I might have added a rack tom or an extra floor tom, but I’m just happy playing four drums. That’s my style,” Kirke said.

“Neil Peart (from Rush) was such a good drummer. He could have played a four-piece kit, but his style called for the multi-drum kit that he was known and loved for. The same with Terry Bozzio. I think Terry has the biggest kit in the world. And Alex Van Halen had all those bass drums and toms. It’s ‘horses for courses’ and it just wasn’t me,” Kirke said. 

Kirke is the only drummer Bad Company has ever had.

“I played every show that Bad Company’s ever done,” he said.

When discussing some of his favorite Free and Bad Company albums, Kirke said, “My favorite Free album was the second album, called ‘Free.’ We’d been together over a year and were really coming to a peak as a band, and Paul Rogers and Andy Fraser were writing such wonderful songs. I was just a great album from beginning to end, and the album cover was wonderful,” Kirke said.

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria

Straight Shooter is Simon Kirke’s favorite Bad Company album. Photo: Wikipedia

“For Bad Company, maybe the second album, Straight Shooter, because there were such amazing songs on there: ‘Shooting Star,’ ‘Feel Like Making Love,’ ‘Good Lovin’ Gone Bad’ and ‘Weep No More,’ a song that I wrote. I have a lot of affection for that.” Kirke said.

Kirke was asked about the running snare drum pattern he plays during the during the breakdown section of “All Right Now,” from Free’s breakthrough third album, “Fire and Water.”

All Right Now” was kind of in two parts. You had that four on the hi-hat with the pushed bass drum, and then once Andy Fraser started the bass solo instead of fours I played eights, because the fours didn’t run properly with that bass line and that groove. I came up with this running pattern on the snare to give it some life, to push it along. And then back to the fours on the hi-hats for the final verse and choruses. People ask me if I spent a long time thinking of that part. No, I just did it on the spot, and thank goodness it worked,” Kirke said.

Kirke also discussed the electronic drum fill featured in the song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” from 1979’s “Desolation Angels” album. That signature drum fill was one of the early uses of the electronic Syndrums and other electronic drums that became so popular in the 1980s.  

“That wasn’t me. That was Paul Rogers, who’s a pretty drummer himself. I did the drum part, but Paul overdubbed that drum fill. We’d just gotten them. Syndrums delivered them to the studio and my drum tech had set them up. We were just mucking around on them and Paul said it would sound good if we had them on the track. So I said go for it, and I think he did it in one take. We took the Syndrums out on tour and I played them, but they were a bloody nightmare to play. I think after about three days we threw them in the river,” Kirke said.

Regarding his role as a vocalist in Bad Company, Kirke said, “With Bad Company, I was always a back-up singer because we had one of the greatest singers ever in Paul Rogers. Me, and Mick and Boz could all sing, but nowhere near as good as Paul.”

Brian Howe era

Bad Company temporarily disbanded after the release of “Rough Diamonds” in 1982 and did not tour again with Paul Rogers until the summer of 1999 – with a comeback tour that kicked off at Ruth Eckerd Hall, in Clearwater, Florida.

After Rogers’ initial departure, Bad Company regrouped and beginning in 1986 the band released four studio albums and one live album featuring former Ted Nugent singer Brian Howe on lead vocals.

With Howe on lead vocals, Bad Company’s hit songs included “Walk Through Fire,” “If You Need Somebody,” “Holy Water” and “No Smoke Without a Fire.”

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria

“Holy Water” featured Brian Howe on lead vocals.
Photo: Wikipedia

When discussing the Brian Howe era, Kirke said, “It was a departure from what a lot of people remember Bad Company for. I guess Bad Company had two distinctive parts – the original lineup and then the Brian Howe era. Brian passed away last year and I sent my condolences. We didn’t see eye to eye, and I think most people know that, but he was a hard worker. He was a good singer, but he wasn’t Paul Rogers. Ultimately, we drifted apart and he left the band, but we had a string of hits and lot of the younger fans remember the Brian Howe era more than they remember the Paul Rogers era. That was 30 years ago and people who are now in their forties grew up with that version of Bad Company, so I take my hat off to him. I was sorry to hear of his passing at a relatively young age.”

The promotional setlist provided for Friday’s concert does not include any songs from the Brian Howe era.

After Howe’s departure, Bad Company released two lesser known albums featuring Robert Hart on lead vocals.

Staying power

Kirke was asked to share his thoughts on why classic rock has had such staying power and remains so popular with the younger generations.

“There was a golden decade from 1964 to 1974 when modern music just took off. There were so many incredible bands that started in that era. Classic rock has amazing musicians. I’m not knocking today’s groups – there’s still some amazing singers, guitarists and drummers out there – but computers have really taken over. I have a four-track recorder in my home and I can record a song and put it out on YouTube in the next five minutes,” he said.

Bad Company’s Simon Kirke bringing his talents to Anna Maria

Simon Kirke and Paul Rogers plan to tour as Bad Company in 2022.
Photo: Joe Schaeffer Photography/BadCompany.com

“Back in my day, we didn’t have that ability to record stuff and put it out on social media. Back in those days it had to be done right. You had tape. You didn’t have Pro Tools if you wanted to do a punch in or an overdub. You had to take more time to do things. The standard of musicianship and inventiveness was a bit higher back in those days,” Kirke said, noting that many modern day musicians mention the legendary classic rock bands as their musical influences.

Citing a famous Keith Richard’s quote, Kirke said, “We’re just passing on what we know to the next generation, and they will pass it on to their next generation. I’ve had a ball. I’ve had a great run. I love playing music and I’ll play music until I die. And hopefully you’ll see some of that on June 11.”

Regarding a future Bad Company tour with Paul Rogers, Kirke said, “We were going to go out with Rod Stewart last year but that was scuffled by COVID. We are definitely going out next year.”