Tyrone Laster, 43, of Lakeland.

JURY VERDICT: Lakeland man guilty of attempted murder

When law enforcement found Chauncey Rollins, he was lying in a pool of his own blood.

He’d been shot in the back of the head and was mumbling incoherently. There was a spent shell casing on the ground next to him.

A Lakeland Police officer crouched down next to Rollins and asked who shot him: “Tye. Tye shot me.”

Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter addresses the jury during opening statements Tuesday, showing them how Laster pointed the gun at Rollins. Laster faces a minimum of 25 years in prison to a maximum of life in prison.

A jury found 43-year-old Tyrone Laster guilty Wednesday of attempted second-degree murder. Jurors also found that during the commission of the offense Laster was in actual possession of a firearm, and he discharged the firearm, resulting in great bodily harm to Chauncey Rollins.

Laster faces a minimum of 25 years in prison but could be sentenced up to life in prison. He will be sentenced on May 5.
Rollins was in a coma for two months. As a result of his injuries, Rollins lost the use of his arms and legs and is confined to a wheelchair.

The bullet is still lodged in his head. Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter questioned Rollins in court Tuesday, asking him about his relationship with Laster prior to the shooting.

“I considered him a friend,” Rollins said. “Before all of this happened, we were friends.”

The two were known to deal drugs from a drug house Laster ran, where Rollins would frequently deliver the drugs and return the profits to the house. Rollins was late bringing the latest payment to Laster because he was $20 short on the agreed price, so the two planned to meet at the drug house the evening of June 10, 2015, to square up.

Rollins received a few angry phone calls from Laster earlier in the day, where Laster threatened him. Rollins told jurors he didn’t take the threats seriously because the two were good friends.

But when Rollins arrived at the house, Laster was angry. They talked for a few minutes, and Rollins said he wasn’t afraid until Laster left the room and returned with a gun, pointing it at him.

Tyrone Laster, 43, of Lakeland.

“You don’t think I’ll shoot you?” Laster asked Rollins, placing the gun on the back of his head.

“I didn’t do anything violent toward him,” Rollins told jurors on Tuesday. “I didn’t think he would shoot. I thought he was going to calm down, and the next thing I know I was shot.”

Laster took the stand to testify Wednesday, contradicting his previous statements to law enforcement.

He originally told detectives he wasn’t at the drug house the night of the shooting. Then Laster testified in court that he was at the house, claiming that the gun misfired in an “accidental” shooting.

Laster also said he didn’t intend to hurt Rollins because he was a “true friend.”

“But you weren’t there when law enforcement showed up, were you?” Nutter asked Laster. “You just leave him to die, don’t you?”

“I hoped he wouldn’t die,” Laster said.

During closing statements Wednesday afternoon, Nutter reminded the jurors that Laster could have put the gun away or unloaded it.

“However, that’s not what he does, is it? He makes the conscious decision to pull the trigger,” Nutter said. “You don’t shoot someone in the head if you don’t intend to kill them.”

John Goepferich, 61, of Lake Wales.

JURY VERDICT: Lake Wales man convicted of attempting to murder police officers

John Goepferich lured Lake Wales Police Officers to his house and intended to kill them.

Upon their arrival, Goepferich immediately began shooting at them – unloading more than 25 rounds in a 30-minute shootout that would injure two officers.

Assistant State Attorney Amy Smith holds up the gun Goepferich used to shoot at Lake Wales Police Officers. Jurors deliberated for about seven hours Friday before finding him guilty of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.

After about seven hours of deliberation Friday, jurors found Goepferich guilty of six counts of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, attempted manslaughter with a firearm, attempted death of a police dog and misuse of 911.

It started with a fake 911 call Goepferich placed about 5:45 p.m. on March 5, 2015.

Assistant State Attorney Amy Smith told jurors Goepferich told dispatch he’d heard shots fired when he had not.

When the 911 call was played in court, the operator asked Goepferich questions to better assess the situation. He replied with, “I think you just need to send the police.”

Officers John Schwarze and Matthew Rhoden heard three gunshots when they arrived, and Schwarze noticed that one of the windows was broken. That was when Schwarze saw Goepferich peer through the window, point a gun at him and fire three rounds.

Schwarze immediately called in an active shooter and requested backup while taking cover behind an oak tree. Goepferich exited his house and walked toward the tree, continuing to fire rounds.

Schwarze was struck by one of the bullets, but his duty belt stopped it.

Officer Benjamin Metz arrived and crouched near a hedgeline at the north end of the property. Schwarze saw Goepferich move toward the hedge and fire at Metz.

Metz heard Goepferich’s bullets whistling through the bushes toward him when he felt one strike his neck.

John Goepferich, 61, of Lake Wales.

In court Friday, Metz told the jury that four words began echoing in his head: “I’m going to die.”

Metz fired three rounds at Goepferich before safely retreating to his vehicle. The bullet hit him just above his vest and traveled through his neck, exiting his back.

Goepferich was eventually taken down by Schwarze, and he was immediately transported to the hospital to be treated.

The defense claimed that the reason Goepferich shot at the officers is because he’d lost all hope and wanted to commit suicide by cop.

Smith rebutted this by stating that Goepferich could have simply walked out of the house brandishing a weapon.

“But that’s not what happened,” she said during closing statements, adding that Goepferich shot at officers from the cover of his home. “He intended to kill any officer that responded to his call that day.”

“When a man points a gun at another man, pulls the trigger and shoots, his intent is to kill,” Smith said.

Before the jury began deliberating, Smith also reminded them of the officers’ testimonies: “They didn’t know if they were going to live or die that day. They had to stand there for 25 minutes and think, ‘Is this going to be the last day I protect and serve … the last day that I live … the last day I get to see my family?’”

“People live in pain and in sadness, but that is not a justification for the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer,” Smith said.

Man gets 10 years for striking, killing bicyclist

SENTENCING UPDATE: Man gets 10 years for striking, killing bicyclist

Byers Levy was riding his bicycle around Lake Hollingsworth on a Sunday afternoon when Ronald Akins – who had been drinking – veered across the double yellow line and into the bike lane, striking and killing Levy.

Ronald Akins, left, asks the bailiff how long 125 months equals after his sentencing hearing Jan. 27. Akins pled guilty to DUI manslaughter.

Akins, 78, pled guilty to DUI manslaughter on Jan. 13 and tried to convince Judge Durden at sentencing Friday that he was sorry for the death of 59-year-old Levy and that his plea was a reflection of that. Durden said he didn’t find a plea indicative of true remorse; he sentenced Akins to 10 years and five months in prison and almost five years of probation.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter asked Durden to sentence Akins to 15 years, adding that Levy paid the ultimate price for Akins’ decision to drink and drive, so Akins should “suffer the most harsh penalty allowed under the law.”

Levy’s family echoed Nutter’s request.

“A life sentence has been imposed on this man (Levy) that will last longer than any sentence you impose on this man (Akins). It’s unforgivable,” said Spencer Phelps, Levy’s younger brother, who struggled to stay composed while addressing Akins. “I hope the enormity of the wrong you’ve done to others settles over you every day, as it does to those who love Byers.”

Akins’ family asked the judge to use discretion because of his failing health, and his attorney referenced his multiple ailments from an affidavit his doctor provided. But Nutter also submitted an affidavit stating the Department of Corrections is capable and equipped to handle any and all of Akins’ health issues.

Ronald Akins, right, stands before Judge Durden during his sentencing hearing Jan. 27.

Durden said that Akins’ decision to not take the case to trial showed some responsibility, but it was not sufficient to outweigh the law.

After his sentencing, Akins told the judge he feels remorse for everything that happened, especially when he’s near Lake Hollingsworth and sees people on their bikes. He also expressed his concern about who would take care of his wife when he’s in jail.

Durden reminded him that the lives of many people have been greatly affected by his decision to drink and drive, including Akins’ own family.

“That’s a consequence of virtually every case where there’s a victim,” Durden said.

Broxterman convicted of faking PhD

JURY VERDICT: Broxterman convicted of faking PhD

After about an hour of deliberation, David Broxterman, 57, was found guilty of scheme to defraud by a jury on Jan. 19.

David Broxterman, 57, of Lakeland.

Broxterman, of Lakeland, lied about having a PhD in organizational management from the University of South Florida when he applied for a job as a professor at Polk State College in 2008. He was selected for the position and was paid $258,760 by Polk State for classes he taught from 2009 to 2014.

He claimed he worked with an engineering professor at USF in order to obtain his PhD, adding that he paid $5,000 to cover the cost of the PhD program. Broxterman also said he worked with the same professor to defend his dissertation.

But Assistant State Attorney Michael Hrdlicka rebutted that, saying there was no receipt for the PhD program and they cannot confirm it with the professor who sat on Broxterman’s dissertation panel because he died. Broxterman could not remember the names of the other professors on the panel.

When investigators from the State Attorney’s Office requested a copy of Broxterman’s dissertation, he said it used to be in his office but has gone “missing.”

On Broxterman’s diploma, Hrdlicka said, the word “board” is spelled “baord.” It also lists the President of USF as “Judy C. Genshaft” – her correct middle initial is “L.”

Broxterman faces up to 30 years in prison. He will be sentenced by Judge Yancey March 16.