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Best News Stories of 2011

A man jumps from the Sunshine Skyway…and survives. A new governor enters and a columnist leaves. And a Sarasota school remember being there when a President learned about the 9/11 attacks.

Here are what WUSF’s news team chose as our top stories of 2011, in no particular order.

1. More police officers killed

It was another rough year for police in our region. In December, Lakeland police Officer Arnulfo Crispin, was shot and killed in the line of duty.

In January, fugitive Hydra Lacy Junior, cornered in an attic, shot and killed Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz. Then just a month later, according to police, a teenager shot and killed Officer David Crawford.

WUSF reporter Steve Newborn went to cover the first slayings…and was surprised when some people in the mostly African-American crowd heckled the police officers who arrived at the scene.

Of course, there’s a history there – including the 1996 shooting death of 18-year-old TyRon Lewis by the police.

We went to Bethel Community Baptist church in St. Petersburg to talk about the relationship between police and the black community with state Sen. Darryl Rouson and St. Petersburg resident Lisa Wheeler-Brown.

2. Deaths at Assisted Living Facilities

An investigation by the Miami Herald and public radio station WLRN revealed dozens of questionable deaths in assisted living facilities statewide.

And one case in particular, that of Aurora Noves who drowned at age 85, exposes both the failings of some faciltieis, and the failings of state oversight.

3. Governor Scott’s First Year

The lack of regulation at Assisted Living Facilities was just one of the issues we discussed with Governor Rick Scott earlier this year. After declining interviews with many media outlets, Scott reversed course this summer amid record-low approval ratings.

Scott sat down with WUSF News Director Scott Finn to discuss state employee morale, the coarsening of political discourse, and the proper balance between protecting our seniors and cutting budgets for agencies that regulate assisted living facilities.

4. St. Petersburg Times Columnist Howard Troxler Leaves Florida

Shortly after Governor Scott and the Legislature succeeded in passing most of their conservative agenda, long-time St. Petersburg Times columnist Howard Troxler announced he was leaving Florida. Not retiring. Not taking another job. Just…leaving.

WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien tried to find out why. Troxler is a symbol of the anger among some Floridians that’s led to Gov. Scott’s low approval ratings.

5. Surviving a Jump From the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is an iconic symbol of the Tampa Bay region. It’s also unfortunately an attractive place for people who want to end their lives.

But not everyone who jumps, dies. Hanns Jones survived, and became the subject of a radio documentary by Lakeland native Rich Halten called “Splash.” Here’s an excerpt.

6. The Pet Goat: Witness to 9/11 History

We end our look back on 2011 with a story that looks back on ANOTHER day ten years earlier.

On Sept. 11, 2001, WUSF’s Steve Newborn went to cover President Bush at an elementary school in Sarasota. They had no idea they’d become witnesses to history.

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Tuesday at 6:30 PM | Sunday at 7:30 AM on WUSF 89.7

Monday at 10:00 PM on WSMR 89.1

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