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Brace yourself South Florida; ‘Wheels Up, Guns Down’ road mayhem is coming, and officers are ready




South Florida Sun Sentinel

Jan 12, 2022 5:30 PM

Monday won’t be all picnics and parades. While many workers across the region have a day off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, law enforcement officers will be out in full force.

For reasons that still are not that clear, on MLK Day, South Florida roads, even the interstate, morph into a into giant free-for-all. It’s a daredevil’s playground with hundreds of people on dirt bikes and ATVs, whizzing down the roads recklessly, sometimes by the hundreds, darting around motorists .

They pop wheelies and some even stand on the vehicles that are meant for off-roading. It’s unlawful to take such vehicles on public roads.

Over the years the pack has been known to careen down sidewalks, clog roadways, drive at break-neck speeds, even intentionally veer the wrong way on roads. Called Wheels Up, Guns Down, this is not a sanctioned event like Spring Break, officials say, but a way for reckless, unlawful motorists to get attention on social media.

An ATV rider does a wheelie while riding in Miami Lakes in 2018. The group caught the attention of The Broward Sheriff’s Office in Hallendale Beach, but moved southwest, joining other riders and heading into Miami-Dade County. In recent years, ATVs and motorcycles have swarmed the streets as part of the “Wheels Up, Guns Down” movement. Amy Beth Bennett, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Some of the packs of bikers have become so organized they even have stage-hands on motorcycles filming the dangerous stunts and posting the footage to social media.

“[They] do so with total disregard for public safety and that is where I draw the line in the sand,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said on Wednesday. “One of our core responsibilities is to protect the community and we won’t stand ideally by.”

Fines for those riding unlawfully on public roads will be steep — more than $1,100, said Major Robert Chandler of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Chandler said every trooper from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach counties will be working Monday to try to deter the reckless behavior and track down those who are participating.

“We will outnumber you,” Chandler said, promising there will not be any warnings.

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Undercover officers also will be working. Troopers and other law enforcement agencies won’t just be on the ground; there will be plenty of law enforcement officers in helicopters using surveillance equipment.

A portion of a larger group of motorcycle riders pulls in front of cars at a stoplight in Miami Lakes in 2018. The group caught the attention of the Broward Sheriff's Office in Hallandale Beach, but moved southwest, joining others and dipping into Miami Dade County.

A portion of a larger group of motorcycle riders pulls in front of cars at a stoplight in Miami Lakes in 2018. The group caught the attention of the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Hallandale Beach, but moved southwest, joining others and dipping into Miami Dade County. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“There will be so many aircraft in the air that there is no way these motor-bikers can get away from law enforcement,” Chandler said. “At some point we are going to be in a position where we can safely make an arrest and take the bikes.”

Chandler said there are a couple of proposals currently filed in Tallahassee that, if approved by the Legislature, could change the state’s road-racing statute allowing for criminal penalties and not just traffic citations and fines. If the statute is toughened, law enforcement could impound the dirt bikes and ATVs as well.

Chandler and Tony encouraged regular motorists to pull off to the side of the road if they encounter a group on dirt bikes and ATVs this weekend and Monday.

“You may not see us but we are there, monitoring, tracking, taking individuals into custody safely without exposing any of you to more harm,” Tony said.

Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or

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US draws down Ukraine embassy presence as war fears mount




WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department on Sunday ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The department told the dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

The move came amid rising tensions about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border that were not eased during talks Friday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.

State Department officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of U.S. support for Ukraine, the officials said.

In a statement, the State Department noted recent reports that Russia was planning significant military action against Ukraine. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO countries of escalating tensions around Ukraine with disinformation.

The State Department added: “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Miami-bound Crystal Symphony changes course, docks in Bimini after US judge orders seizure




MIAMI (AP) — A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over millions of dollars in unpaid fuel.

Cruise trackers show Crystal Symphony currently docked in the Bahamian island of Bimini.

Passengers were taken by ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

“We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!” passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook.

It was unclear how many passengers were aboard, with one news outlet reporting 300 and another, 700. According to the company website, the vessel can carry up to 848 passengers.

The ship was scheduled to arrive in Miami on Saturday. But a federal judge in Miami issued an arrest warrant for the ship Thursday, a maritime practice where a U.S. Marshal goes aboard a vessel and takes charge of it once it enters U.S. waters.

Passengers and entertainers said on social media they were surprised to find out about the legal case. One guest posted a letter on Facebook from Crystal Cruises Management that said the change in itinerary was due to “non-technical operational issues.”

The lawsuit was filed in a Miami federal court by Peninsula Petroleum Far East against the ship under a maritime procedure that allows actions against vessels for unpaid debts. The complaint says Crystal Symphony was chartered or managed by Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises, which are both sued for breach of contract for allegedly owing $4.6 million in fuel.

Crystal Cruises announced earlier this week that it was suspending operations through late April. Besides Crystal Symphony, it has two other ships currently cruising, which end their voyages on Jan. 30 in Aruba and on Feb. 4 in Argentina.

“Suspending operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward,” the company said in a statement earlier this week.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Federal Government’s N95 Masks Distribution Starts Monday




MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Starting Monday, courtesy of the federal government, you’ll be able to get your hands on an N95 mask for free.

The Biden administration announced a week ago that 400 million masks were being shipped to pharmacies and community health centers nationwide.

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Americans can get up to three N95s free of charge. However, only adult-sized N95s are expected be available when the distribution begins.

The expectation is that most pharmacies that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccines will participate in the mask distribution.

In Florida, this would mean:

  • CVS Health
  • Walgreens
  • Publix
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Fresco y Más
  • Harveys Supermarket
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club
  • Costco
  • Kroger

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CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald was able to confirm Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket pharmacies are participating. Walgreens and CVS told the Miami Herald they plan to have free N95s in the coming weeks.

As for a participating community health center, the Health Resources and Services Administration has created an online locator tool.

The Florida Association of Community Health Centers also has it’s own locator website.

Kenneth Ray swears by the N95 masks after working in the mechanical insulation field and being exposed to asbestos and other toxins.

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“Whatever we can do to control the spread, it’s good for everyone,” he said. Team

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