Here are some of the top stories from the past week from NBC 6 News:
Judge Blocks Enforcement of Florida ‘Anti-Riot' Law Championed by DeSantis
Florida's new “anti-riot” law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as a way to quell violent protests is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
The 90-page decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee found the recently-enacted law “vague and overbroad” and amounted to an assault on First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly as well as the Constitution's due process protections.
People engaged in peaceful protest or innocently in the same area when a demonstration turned violent could face criminal charges and stiff penalties under the law, the judge said.
“If this court does not enjoin the statute’s enforcement, the lawless actions of a few rogue individuals could effectively criminalize the protected speech of hundreds, if not thousands, of law-abiding Floridians,” Walker wrote.
“It unfortunately takes only a handful of bad actors to transform a peaceful protest into a violent public disturbance,” the judge added.
Woman Says She Was Defrauded After Losing Home in Surfside Condo Collapse
Three people are in jail accused of stealing thousands of dollars in an elaborate fraud scheme from at least seven victims of the Surfside condo collapse in June.
While investigators have not named the victims, Stella Koniezpolski says she was one of them.
Stella says she was on vacation at the time of the collapse and returned to Surfside to learn she had lost everything.
“Two weeks I was crying day and night with what happened with my apartment. Then I got a little bit better. Then all of a sudden, this,” she said.
She says thieves had stolen her identity and began spending thousands of dollars on her credit card.
She told NBC 6 they even changed her listed address.
Bookkeeper Accused of Stealing Over $390,000 From Pompano Beach Church
A bookkeeper who spent years stealing from a Pompano Beach church, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from donations and bank accounts, has been arrested on a grand theft charge, authorities said.
Abraham Velazquez-Velazquez, 36, was arrested Thursday on the first-degree grand theft charge, according to a Broward Sheriff's Office arrest report.
The report alleges that from 2014 to 2019, when Velazquez-Velazquez worked as treasurer and bookkeeper for Centro Cristiano Restauracion Divina church on West Copans Road, he stole at least $391,889.45 of the church's funds.
Velazquez-Velazquez had been the sole person in charge of depositing the church's weekly offerings, paying its bills and completing financial statements during the time that the money was stolen, the report said.
Motive for Florida Family's Massacre May Never Be Known
Investigators say that when they captured Marine veteran Bryan Riley outside the Lakeland home where he allegedly killed a couple, their 3-month-old son and the boy's grandmother, he told them, “You know why I did this.”
But they say they don't and, in fact, may never know why Riley launched an attack against a family he had no known connection with, except that he may have been mentally ill. Riley's girlfriend told investigators that he had been saying he could communicate directly with God.
“The big question that all of us has is, ‘Why?’” local prosecutor Brian Haas said after Sunday's slayings. “We will not know today or maybe ever.”
Riley, 33, is being held without bond after Sunday's massacre on four counts of first-degree murder. During his first court appearance Monday, he said he intended to hire a lawyer but a public defender was appointed to represent him until he does.
Riley, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, surrendered Sunday morning after a furious gun battle with authorities. A deputy then rushed into the home and rescued an 11-year-old girl who had been shot repeatedly. She was in stable condition on Tuesday morning, the sheriff’s office said. A family statement said she has already undergone four surgeries to repair 10 wounds, but is alert, reading, writing and generally in good spirits.
Extreme Heat, Days of Rain May Have Led to Biscayne Bay Fish Kill
Officials say a combination of extreme heat and days of rain may have led to a fish kill in Biscayne Bay.
The fish kill was reported on the east side of Biscayne Bay closest to the North Beach area, Miami Beach officials said Monday.
Early evidence showed the cause was a combination of extreme heat and numerous days of rain, which reduces oxygen levels in waterways, officials said.
Miami Beach is working with the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management to determine the exact cause and remedy.
"This incident is another reminder that the health of our beloved Bay is in jeopardy, which is why Miami-Dade County is committed to taking all possible action to turn around the crisis facing our waters," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement. "We are working to aggressively accelerate investments in replacing or repairing critical water infrastructure and septic to sewer conversion."
Alligator Freed After It Was Stuck in Storm Drain in Westchester Neighborhood
An alligator was freed Monday after it was stuck in a storm drain for days in a Westchester neighborhood.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded to the 1700 block of SW 102nd Court. The alligator, which crews estimate is about 8 feet long, had been stuck in the drain since at least Friday.
Javier Alvarez and Louis Fernandez found themselves nearly face to face with the gator — they were playing catch when the ball landed on the storm drain, and they noticed the gator through the grate.
A tow truck and a Miami-Dade Water and Sewer truck were at the scene to try to help safely remove the gator.
Crews flushed water into the drain to try to push the gator back into a small nearby pond.
Hours later, the efforts proved successful — the gator was back in its natural habitat.