TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Did you hear about the giant Lego man that washed up on Siesta Key beach? What about the man who walked into a bar, ordered a beer and disappeared for 30 minutes to rob a bank, only to return and finish his drink? Or how about the puzzling story of the baby grand piano that showed up on a sandbar near Miami?
That’s Florida, where weird is an everyday event.
Over the past year, a 92-year-old woman fired four shots at a neighbor who refused to kiss her, a Delray Beach man cut off a piece of a dead whale that washed ashore — planning to eat it — and an 8-year-old girl gave her teacher some marijuana and said: “This is some of my mom’s weed.”
The piano was a mystery for about a month. On Jan. 1, 2011, the charred instrument showed up on a Biscayne Bay sandbar, a couple hundred yards from shore. A 16-year-old student eventually admitted he put it there as part of an art project. A day after it was removed, someone set up a table with two chairs, place settings and a bottle of wine.
It’s still not clear how the 100-pound, 8-foot-tall Lego man washed ashore. The local tourism bureau hoped to use Lego man to promote the area, but the man who found it has placed a claim on it. He can keep it if the owner doesn’t collect it before early next year. As for the bar-bank robber, he was arrested at his watering hole, not too long after the holdup.
Author Tim Dorsey, whose novels include Florida strangeness both real and fantasy, said the state is an odd place because of its diverse, highly transient population.
“There’s pockets of strangeness all over the country, but here it’s a baseline lifestyle. There, it’s the aberration. There, it’s the tail end of the bell curve. Here, it’s the peak of the bell curve,” Dorsey said.
It’s probably why Lego man received more media attention than the $1.25 million worth of cocaine that washed up on a beach south of Port Canaveral in September and the $2.2 million in cocaine that washed up on a Fort Pierce beach the next month. There are a lot of odd drug stories in Florida.
Like the Boynton Beach Police Department’s 2010 “Officer of the Year” who was accused of selling drugs in 2011. Or the marijuana found growing on the property of Oak Hill’s 84-year-old mayor.
There were also several younger Floridians that contributed to this year’s odd news.
In Palm Beach County, an elementary school teacher opened an end-of-the-year gift from an 8-year-old student’s grandmother — and found toiletries and a loaded handgun. A Tampawoman upset with her 15-year-old son’s bad grades forced him to stand on a street corner with a sign that read: “Honk if I need an education.”
A 15-year-old Florida Keys girl who is a big fan of the “Twilight” books and movies was afraid that her mother would get upset by the bite marks her boyfriend gave her after they acted out her vampire fantasy. She made up a story about being attacked; doubtful investigators got her to tell the truth.
Deputies arrested an 18-month-old’s father after they found the man passed out in his mobile home while the toddler was in the yard picking up beer cans and drinking from them.
Pasco County deputies said a woman walked into a bank with a 3-year-old boy and robbed it. A homeless man held up a Tampabank, fled on a city bus and handed out stolen cash to passengers. Police say a man robbed a Gainesville credit union then began throwing money from his car as he fled on Interstate 75.
And while he didn’t rob it, an unhappy Palm Coast bank customer left quite a deposit. He urinated in a drive-through bank tube and drove off.
Animals always account for a fair share of odd news. At the Miami airport, a Brazilian trying to get through security was caught with several baby pythons and tortoise hatchlings in his underwear. A woman found a 7-foot alligator in her bathroom, and a man stored his dead cougar in a freezer.
Wildlife officers arrested two men with sacks containing about 260 alligator hatchlings near Lake Apopka. A 10-foot gator attacked an Alachua County sheriff’s cruiser, damaging the front bumper as the office waited for a trapper.
A Jupiter condominium association is requiring residents to pay for DNA testing for their dogs so they can track down who doesn’t pick up their pooches’ poop. Offending poop is mailed to Tennessee where a company seeks a match.
A dog ate $1,000 in cash a St. Augustine couple left on a table.
Among creatures found in Florida pools were an alligator, a python, a bear and a retired racehorse.
A Fort Pierce woman came to her husband’s rescue when a cow attacked him, ramming the animal several times with a pickup truck and then picking up a pistol and shooting it in the face.
In an unusual crime stories, two managers of a Lake City Domino’s Pizza were charged with burning down a rival Papa John’s as a way to increase business. Two deaf men using sign language were stabbed at a Hallandale Beach bar when another costumer thought they were flashing gang signs.
Police in St. Petersburg said two would-be carjackers forced a couple out of their car at gunpoint, but then ran away after they couldn’t figure out how to drive a stick shift.
A North Naples man who was pulled over for a traffic violation called 911 and reported a shooting nearby to get out of a ticket. He still got a ticket and was also charged with making a false 911 call.
A Lake County jail inmate discovered a glitch in the phone system that reimbursed him twice for calls that didn’t connect, so he made a lot of them and hung up. He earned more than $1,250, which he used to post bond. Later that day he was charged with grand theft.
Investigators found a piece of severed finger inside a glove near a house that had been set on fire and used it to track down the arsonist.
In other odd fiery news, a man in Fort Lauderdale injured himself when he was smoking a cigarette while using an oxygen machine and the unit exploded. A Fort Walton Beach man set his house on fire while smoking a cigarette and cleaning his foot with rubbing alcohol. A Boynton Beach man splashed rubbing alcohol on his roommate’s boxer shorts and set them on fire because he was late with the rent. In similar fashion, but perhaps for a different reason, a Marion County woman was charged with setting her boyfriend’s genital area on fire.
A Flagler County woman who bought what she thought was a novelty cigarette lighter called authorities when it turned out to be a real, though not live, grenade. Police in Greenacres evacuated a neighborhood when a woman digging in her yard uncovered a World War II-era grenade and a Jacksonville man found a World War II-era bazooka round while tearing down a shed
A celebrity boxing promoter sued Jose Canseco when the former baseball star sent his identical twin Ozzie to the bout instead.
A Pensacola Toyota dealer lost a $7.5 million lawsuit filed by an Iranian-born competitor. The lawsuit said the dealer told customers that his competitor was funneling money to terrorists and called his business “Taliban Toyota.”
A South Florida man accidentally threw out his wife’s engagement ring then went to the dump the next day and sifted through a 9-ton pile of trash. He found it.
Not that romance always flourished in Florida. A Broward County woman was arrested after holding a steak knife to her husband’s throat and demanding he sign divorce papers.
A Gainesville woman was arrested after her ex-boyfriend accused her of throwing an urn with his mother’s ashes through a window and an Orange County man lay down in front of a car to try to stop his girlfriend from leaving after a fight. But the driver didn’t see him and he was run over. Panama City police say a man crashed through a Waffle House while trying to run over his wife, a waitress at the restaurant.
Deputies said a Walmart employee in Naples pepper sprayed a coworker and then bit the tip off her finger after hearing a rumor that the victim was sleeping with the attacker’s husband.
And in just plain odd news, an Ocala ice cream shop got rid of its costumed mascot — a waving vanilla cone — because passers-by kept mistaking him for a hooded Ku Klux Klansman.
Also, a woman with two uteruses gave birth to twins in Clearwater— one from each.
And speaking of uteruses, a Democratic lawmaker accused the House speaker of admonishing him for saying the word during floor debate, a charge Speaker Dean Cannon denied. Still Democratic lawmakers and others around the Capitol began wearing pink buttons that simply said “UTERUS.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
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