Dumb Criminals: Florida Edition
Florida Man has so arrived he now has his own Top 10 list.
A new Analysis of the Florida Man list explores “the tropes and behaviors of the World’s Worst Superhero.” The survey, released Thursday, was compiled by the folks at the Miami-based Injury Claim Coach, which pitches itself as a group of people who provide educational tools for people seeking guidance on personal injury claims and the settlement process.
But they, like so many of us, love Florida Man stories so they assembled a team to decide the most Florida Man stories of all. They did this by analyzing the @_FloridaMan Twitter account, which has amassed more than 426,000 followers since joining the social media platform in January 2013.
There’s also a @_Flor1daWoman, with 70,000 followers that formed a few months after her counterpart. Sometimes they share the same oddball Sunshine State stories.
The Top 10 list, “a veritable treasure trove of Florida greatness,” finds Florida Man Joshua James at the top. Regular readers, or followers of the Florida Man Twitter feed, may recall James as the 23-year-old Jupiter man who threw a live, 3-foot alligator through the drive-through window of a Wendy’s in Loxahatchee in October 2015.
What makes a Florida Man story
To arrive at that, well, classic, the Injury Claim Coach first defined what makes for a Florida Man story.
“Almost anyone in the know could anecdotally tell you what makes a Florida Man article achieve peak Florida-ness – it usually has a laugh-out-loud headline, involves petty (although occasionally serious) crime, and often includes tropes that are more prominent in Florida than elsewhere (such as its heavy population of alligators or the fact that almost one-third of adult Floridians own a gun [according to Politifact] and about one-tenth of them are convicted felons [according to NPR).”
In addition, “Florida Man articles (and the actual Florida men they describe) often involve intoxicants” the group said.
Then the group agreed on what makes Florida Man a Florida man. He, or increasingly she, is “the world’s worst superhero,” they said.
“As the world’s worst superhero, Florida Man is not just a person in Florida. Florida Man also doesn’t do dark and overly morbid things. His misadventures and shenanigans are of a more lighthearted variety. ... the reason so many of these stories come out of Florida stems from the general idea that Florida is just full of weirdos.”
In 2013, The New Yorker explained why the state birthed Florida Man and Florida Woman: “There’s heat, warmth, and a proximity to water that brings together the reckless young with the arthritic elderly, the wellsprings of vigor and possibility alongside those whose fountains are drying up.”
We can’t complain. Sure beats Time magazine’s infamous “Paradise Lost” cover story of Nov. 23, 1981, when South Florida was awash in drug-related crimes and murders.
The F.L.O.R.I.D.A. methodology
Finally, Injury Claim Coach’s team created the F.L.O.R.I.D.A. man Scoring System to “quantify the Florida Man-ness of any news article appearing on the web” tapping commonalities nearly every Florida Man story has to have: Firearms (or other weapons), Locations, Objects, Reasons for Arrest, Injuries, Drugs and alcohol, and Animals.
And without further ado, the winners. (“Losers” just sounds like piling on.)
Florida Man Top 10
1. The aforementioned Joshua James and the gator through the Wendy’s drive-through. This one had all the elements: an Everglades creature (in this case, the illegal possession of the alligator), his mug shot appearance, a pickup truck, a fast food restaurant and an unusual crime.
2. The Deerfield Beach reptile store owner, Benjamin Herman Siegel, 40, who threw a bearded dragon lizard in the air, swung it around, and slapped his employees with the poor critter, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. It was like “something out of ‘Game of Thrones,’” a former Miami Herald columnist wrote of the January 2015 crime.
3. The Florida Man who said he didn’t remember going to a Honda of Ocala and taking two large screen television sets, putting them in a SUV on the showroom floor, driving through the dealership’s double glass doors, crashing into another vehicle or abandoning the SUV at the entrance of a subdivision. That’s what Marion County deputies said Vantice L. Beshears, 46, did in November 2015.
4. Whoever tied a 12-foot alligator to a tree with a parachute cord behind an apartment complex on the Hillsborough River and feeding it cats in October 2013. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission didn’t find their Florida Man at that time for the gruesome animal cruelty.
5. The Florida Man who bit off his girlfriend’s thumb during a late-night run to Taco Bell. Miami New Times reported that Ricardo Davis and his unnamed girlfriend got into an argument on the way to the fast food restaurant in Palm Bay when the incident occurred in January 2013.
6. A naked Florida man who danced in a fire while holding a knife, chanting in an unknown language. According to Cape Coral police, the man, John Hennessey, 27, dropped the knife and then swung a wooden stick at officers after burning himself in the fire on the front yard of a home on the afternoon of June 2018. Police surmised he might have been “on psychedelic mushrooms.”
7. Death metal musician’s home, festooned with flamethrowers,weapons and ammo, erupted in heavy metal fire. But that’s not why Cannibal Corpse guitarist Patrick O’Brien was arrested in December 2018. Police said the 53-year-old musician forced his way into a neighbor’s house while his burned, pushed one of the occupants to the ground, and then lunged at deputies with a knife. O’Brien’s bandmates told Rolling Stone a week later that he was “getting the help he needed.” The band is touring with a replacement guitarist.
8. Florida Man is released from jail on an auto theft charge. He immediately breaks into another car in the jail’s parking lot and is caught because a deputy was sitting behind the wheel, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office said. Klaid Karpuzi, 41, of New Port Richey was marched back into the correctional facility and booked on a second attempted auto theft charge in November 2018.
9. Florida teen gets turned on in a Tampa Bay Walmart. Hey, we don’t find anything remotely sexy about Walmart but it takes all kinds. But this one enters the Florida Man Top 10 because of the details. Brooksville police said Sean Johnson, 19, came to the store’s loss prevention staffer’s attention in October 2014 because he plucked a stuffed horse toy off a shelf and then took it to the bedding department where they say he masturbated using the toy. After he finished, he put the stuffed animal, covered in his DNA, on the bed and then back on the shelf.
10. Florida Man fires muskets at cars on the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys. He was dressed in a pirate’s costume at the time in July 2015, Monroe County deputies said. They also said Jaime Spering wasn’t using real ammo — rather, it was black powder rounds (he played a costumed pirate as part of his profession at the time).
Honorable mention? The group didn’t think of this one but we’ve got to suggest an honorable mention: 24-year-old Dominick Breedlove shoplifted from a Kohl’s Spring Hill store in Central Florida’s Brooksville in December, Hernando County Sheriff’s Department deputies said. Big deal? He had just left a job interview at that same store moments before.
Florida Woman gets her turn
Florida Woman has every right to feel slighted as Florida Man dominates the Injury Claim group’s Top 10 list.
So we’d like to nominate Shanetta Yvette Wilson, the Dania Beach woman who was arrested and charged with assault at a Dollar General Store in November 2018.
According to a Broward Sheriff’s Office complaint affidavit, Wilson, 37, was in the checkout line at the Dollar General store when the customer standing next to her got into a verbal dispute with her “in reference to the defendant farting loudly,” according to the report. Deputies say Wilson allegedly pulled a small “lock back knife” from her purse, “opened the knife and told the victim she was going to ‘gut’ him.”