News Bites: Top Stories from Around the Region

In a piece published by Modern Cities and WJCT, the former’s Ennis Davis writes that the Moncrief neighborhood will at long last lose its food desert status. A grocery store is in the beginning phases of development for the southeast corner of Moncrief Road and Myrtle Avenue. Davis further reports that the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation (CDC) is developing the property.

CDC is also trucking along on the North Point Center Phase II, which Davis says is intended to “economically anchor the District of Soul ….” He writes that the plans underscore problems with local government’s efforts to promote and preserve black history, however, by subjecting these areas to outdated, urban sprawl-based land-use and zoning policies “that largely ignore the uniqueness of Jacksonville’s older unprotected neighborhoods.” He says such isn’t a problem in Riverside and Springfield, which benefit from influence in City Hall. Davis concludes, “In spite of the site design challenges, the 23,800-square-foot project will include a 16,783-square-foot grocery store, eliminating the area’s status as a food desert.”


Dangerous rip currents and holiday crowds combined in two deadly incidents on Mother’s Day. Multiple news outlets reported that 18-year-old Jaylen Lott died after being pulled from the waters of St. Augustine Beach. Lott, First Coast News reports, a senior and football player at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, went missing while swimming with friends. St. Johns County Fire Rescue found him some time after 5 p.m. on May 13 and transported him to Flagler Hospital, in critical condition. A spokesperson for the school district informed media on Monday morning that Lott had died.

Tragedy struck two families in a single incident at St. Simons Island on Sunday, when a woman and toddler struggled to return to shore, multiple outlets report. Good Samaritans rushed to help; one went under and did not resurface. Thirty-four-year-old Aleisha Rankin, the Jesup resident who was pulled from the sea with the child, later died at Southeast Georgia Health System-Brunswick Campus; the child was reportedly in stable condition.

Sadly, a coalition of rescue workers searched throughout the night before eventually locating Gregory Grant, 39, a Brunswick resident had who dived in to help Rankin and the child, in the early morning hours of May 14. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Retired pastor William Henry Randall, 73, was arrested by Clay County Sheriff’s Office on May 4 for sexual battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 18. Clay Today reports that the alleged victim told police that the sexual encounters began over a decade ago, when she provided cleaning and lawn services at St. Simon Baptist Church, where he was then the pastor, and continued until 2015, when she reported him for “molesting and raping her since 2007.” Randall reportedly denied the allegations in an October 2015 interview with authorities; he was subsequently questioned in September 2017. CT states that Randall has been released on bond.



A federal grand jury has indicted the seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares accused of breaking into Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in early April. According to Tribune & Georgian, the anti-nuke activists are locally charged with felonious interference with government property and possession of tools for the commission of a crime, as well as misdemeanor criminal trespass, for allegedly breaking into the base, spray-painting buildings and lettering, removing lettering from a sign and hammering on a display. They also reportedly brought along baby bottles containing their own blood.

The seven (whom authorities note did not threaten people or risk weaponry), part of the larger Plowshares movement, a non-violent group that protests by breaking into nuclear weaponry sites, have been held without bond since their April 5 arrest. The federal indictment, T&G reports, charges the seven, whose ages range from 55 to 78, with conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval installation, depredation of government property and trespassing. In a May 4 statement, the Plowshares expressed its confidence that they would be acquitted of all charges, T&G adds, and attorney William Quigley, a Loyola University law professor, said that they “acted in accordance with the 1996 declaration of the International Court of Justice that any threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal.”