101 year old veteran calls Clay County his new home

101 year old veteran calls Clay County his new home

FLEMING ISLAND – A person can experience a lot in a lifetime, but one Clay County resident has more than a century worth of stories to share.

Ned Broyles, who turned 101 on May 20, is calling Fleming Island home after a lifetime of travel and adventure.

As if living through 14 U.S. presidents, 10 decades, and two world wars wasn’t enough, Broyles saw combat in both World War Two and the Korean War. He was also part of the second World War’s most famous battles.

Broyles served 28 years in the military, primarily as a Navy aviator, but he did note some National Guard experience as well. He received his “aviation wings” in 1938. Broyles described himself as the oldest living Navy aviator.

“I was in Guadalcanal at the beginning of the war and the last battle of Okinawa at the end of the war,” Broyles said. “I made the landing at Iwo Jima, I was an air controller and I directed planes from our aircraft carriers to our enemy targets, I told them where to bomb.”

Broyles has a two-part speech about his wartime experience posted on YouTube.

In addition to the war effort in the Pacific, Broyles was part of a search team for the famous pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared during a flight in 1937.

Broyles also recalls memories of hiding in foxholes to avoid enemy fire and landing planes in dangerous situations.

While Broyles appeared uncomfortable going into detail about the atrocities he saw during the war, he did note the significance of what his fellow servicemen were doing in the Pacific.

“It was an awful battle, people think Iwo Jima was bad because we lost a third of our troops,” Broyles said. “There were 200,000 people killed in Okinawa, that was Japanese, Okinawans and Marines.”

As the Memorial Day celebrations come to close, the things that Ned Broyles experienced are an example of why that treasured day of remembrance exists.

Following his military service, Broyles’ life took a much different direction. He used his college education to enter the banking industry, something he didn’t even expect.

“I walked into Crocker National Bank in San Francisco and I asked for the operations officer,” Broyles said. “We talked for about 10 minutes, and he asked me what I was here for, he thought I was a customer, I said no, I’m here for a job.”

After a review by the bank owners, he was offered a job and they sent him to the University of Washington to learn more about the industry, because in his own words, he “didn’t know a G—damn thing about banking.”

Upon finishing school, he became an investment & trust manager for the next 15 years.

Throughout the rest of his post-retirement years, Broyles lived with his wife of 70 years in California. They had three sons together. She passed away several years ago, at age 96

“The best thing I ever did was marry my pretty bride,” Broyles said.

About six months ago, Broyles who was living alone in California, decided to migrate to Florida to be closer to his son Tony Broyles in Fleming Island.

Residing in the Allegro Retirement Community on U.S. Highway 17. Broyles’ life is much quieter life these days. He plays bridge in his free time, still has a valid Florida driver’s license, and became a registered Clay County voter.

No stranger to doing things he never imagined, Broyles, at 101, uses an iPad, an iPhone and reads books daily.

He even stays up to date on current issues. “If I had my way, college education would be free for every kid in the United States, no college loans,” Broyles said.

He also went on to praise President Barrack Obama for visiting Hiroshima last week.

“Our country is 240 years old, that means he’s been around for 40 percent of our countries existence,” said Tony Broyles. “He was also a major contributor to our nation’s freedoms, he was part of the generation that was there at the calling to go to war and fight for what America believes in.”

While Broyles is living out his golden years surrounded by family and enjoying Clay County, there is still one more thing he like to do.

“I’d like to go to the moon,” Ned Broyles said.


Club Christopher’s Lawsuit

Club Christopher’s Lawsuit

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The former owners of an Orange Park night club and the Clay County Board of County Commissioners are preparing to head to court five years after restrictive ordinances were passed that effectively shut them down for business.

The owners of Club Christopher’s want to move forward with the suit, while the BCC’s hired attorneys have filed papers asking the court to rule without a hearing. However, a hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8.

For several years, Wells Road in Orange Park was home to vibrant clubs and nightlife. That all changed several years ago when a county ordinance effectively banned clubs form operating on the strip.

The 2011 ordinance prohibited the sale of alcohol in facilities larger than 4,750 square feet after 11 p.m. on Wells Road. The ordinance had an immediate impact on Club Christopher’s, Club Chameleon and Crazy Horse Saloon.

That ordinance alone, was enough to slow down business at each club on Wells Road, but the final nail in the club’s coffin came from the second ordinance, that dealt with zoning. It prohibited the construction and operation of nightclubs on a 1.9-mile stretch of Wells Road, known as the “Wells Road Corridor.”

Various clubs on Wells Road were effected, such as the Crazy Horse, but the establishment at the center of the controversy since the beginning has been Club Christopher’s of Orange Park.

For years Club Christopher’s had been a favored hangout for many young adults in Clay County and Duval County’s Westside, but the County suggests that the club was nothing more than incubator for crime.

“Crime and illicit activity in the area of the Wells Road Corridor has been increasing over the past several years, requiring the deployment of a greatly disproportionate amount the [sheriff’s] Office’s man power and resources to combat at tremendous public expense,” states a request for summary judgment filed on behalf of the BCC.

The ordinance was developed as a response to citizen complaints and rising crime on Wells Road.

Violence at Club Christopher’s became a normality. Between 2005 and 2010 there were several shootings along the Wells Road corridor. The Clay County Sherriff’s Office also reported an influx of crimes such as DUI arrests, traffic citations, robberies and assaults between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

In 2011, a 32-year-old man was shot twice outside of the club following a scuffle in the parking lot. He survived and the suspects were charged with attempted murder and possession of a controlled substance.

Incidents like that are the reason that Clay County approved the ordinances.

Club Christopher’s, among others, closed on Wells Road in 2011, much to the dismay of club owners Christopher White and Phredco Inc. Feeling particularly wronged by Clay County, White decided to file a suit against the county in Federal Court in May 2011.

White’s suit was ultimately unsuccessful. He alleged that the 14th amendment of procedural due process, substantive due process and equal protection were violated when Clay County issued the ordinances.

In that case, Clay County filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which is a judgment entered by a court for one party and against another party summarily, or without a full trial. Such a judgment may be issued on the merits of an entire case, or on discrete issues in that case.

A U.S. District Court granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and determined that the ordinances did not violate any laws. The federal court also ruled that Clay County clearly described a “conceivably rational basis’’ between the ordinances and a legitimate government interest.

In addition to that, the ordinance was not enforced during the federal proceeding.

White’s next move is playing out now, by taking the Clay County Government to county court where he is suing for a total of $996,000 in damages.

“The facts of this cause of action would show that at the time my client acquired the property, the zoning classification and requirements for the use of the property designated it as a commercial location which included uses as a nightclub and the sale of alcoholic beverages,” White’s attorney Christopher W. Wickersham Jr. said in a statement to county government officials. “My client spent money in remodeling the structure and acquiring a 4COP license to operate a night club, which was permitted use, at this location.”

The property went into foreclosure in November 2013 “The Clay County Quota License owned by my client was valued between $75,000 and $80,000 prior to May of 2011,” Wickersham states in court documents. “The value of the license after the adoption and notice of enforcement of the ordinance decreased approximately 50%, which resulted in a $40,000 loss to my client.”

White’s suit against the county claims the ordinance essentially caused him to lose a large sum of the money he put into Club Christopher’s, a fact that Clay County has vehemently denied since 2011. It is also why Clay County is asking the court to approve its Motion for Summary Judgment hoping for a swift end to this case, just as with the federal case.

According to the county’s motion, White had not made a payment on the property since November 2011, three months prior to when the ordinances were enforced. Attorneys for the county also claim the ordinances should not have impacted White’s club as harshly as he claimed.

One of Clay County’s contends that the establishment could have succeeded and that White did not try hard enough to save his business. They cited the success of a golf store that currently occupies the former Club Christopher’s facility as a way of citing how the location had commercial viability.

Attorneys for White and the BCC did not return phone calls by deadline.


Traffic stop leads to officer-involved shooting

Traffic stop leads to officer-involved shooting

Kenneth Detwyler Jr.IMG_1177

MIDDLEBURG – A Clay County Sherriff’s Office Lieutenant was involved in a shooting just before midnight on Sunday, the first officer-involved shooting in Clay County since 2012.

CCSO Lt. Shawn Gordon shot Timothy Van Griffin, 33, of Jacksonville during a traffic stop near the intersection of Primrose Avenue and Alligator Boulevard in Middleburg.

According to Sherriff Rick Beseler, who held a news media briefing May 31, Gordon attempted to conduct a traffic stop of Griffin’s pickup truck. At some point during the stop, Griffin put his vehicle into reverse and began backing into Gordon’s direction. In order to avoid being pinned between his patrol car and the truck door, Gordon climb onto the back of Griffin’s vehicle and fired an unknown amount of shots at Griffin who was still behind the wheel. The vehicle continued in reverse until it hit Gordon’s police cruiser.

Griffin was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where he remains. He is listed in critical condition and is stabilized. Lt. Gordon was not injured in the incident.

It is still unknown if Griffin was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Gordon, who’s been with the CCSO for 18 years, has no prior disciplinary record, internal investigations, or other shootings associated with him.

Griffin has an extensive criminal record in Clay County dating back to 2003. In January 2013, he was arrested under similar circumstances, when he attempted to flee Clay County deputies. In that case, Griffin was apprehended and charged with grand theft auto, resisting an officer without violence, driving on a suspended license and possession of cocaine.

“I believe that we are very fortunate at this point, that we are not planning the funeral for a deputy that could have been killed in this incident,” Beseler said. “I think it reinforces the fact that the public needs to know, that in order to avoid being shot by a police officer, simply comply with that officer’s order, if that happened in this case we believe that no shooting would have occurred.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is handling the investigation of the shooting, which is standard protocol for the CCSO. The state’s investigation is expected to take four to five weeks to complete. When that investigation is complete, the CCSO will begin its own criminal investigation of Griffin and conduct an interview with Gordon concerning the incident. Gordon has not issued a statement in relation to the incident and does not have to. He likely wouldn’t make that decision until he confers with his legal counsel.

Gordon, who’s been on administrative leave since the shooting, is expected to return to work next week. He is also expected to return to his regular patrol duties.

The incident was not captured on dash camera or surveillance footage. In recent officer-involved shootings, police body cameras have been able to provide a glimpse into the tense moments of a shooting, however that technology is not utilized at CCSO.

“I have never seen a body worn camera that could accurately depict what the five senses a human being has when they’re in a situation like that, I think in many cases, body-worn cameras cause more questions than they give answers,” Beseler said. “I’m not a big believer in body cameras.”

This most recent incident is also noteworthy, for being in close proximity of where Detective David White was slain during an officer-involved shooting in 2012.

“I don’t want to say that Alligator Boulevard is a bad area in Clay County, it’s no worse than many other rural areas,” Beseler said. “Not many street lights and not a lot of people.”

White was killed in an exchange of gunfire with Ted Tilley, a known methamphetamine cook who was killed in the drug raid at the Alligator Boulevard home. On November 24, 2014, Fourth Circuit Court Judge Don Lester sentenced Ryan Christopher Wilder to two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of Tilley and White.

Further questions regarding the Griffin shooting, Gordon’s actions, and the initial traffic stop, are expected to be answered once the FDLE’s investigation is complete.