If you’re a fan of bizarre stories and hair-raising headlines, then you’ve probably noticed that a disproportionate number of these unusual incidents seem to occur in the Persistent Vegetative State of Florida. Maybe it’s the warm weather or perhaps the abundance of cold beer, but Florida has something of a reputation. Indeed, residents of the Sunshine State will barely raise an eyebrow when reading headlines like: “Local Man Throws Iguanas At Disney Employees” or “Florida Man Attempts To Steal Assault Rifle By Hiding It Down Pants”.
Headlines regarding the ubiquitous “Florida Man” have become infamous around the world. He’s a relatable character, even though his schemes and misadventures are so grandiose. We’ve all been him at one time or another; lurching drunkenly from one stupid decision to the next. Writer Patrick George described him best as "clearly insane and unstoppable."
As George explains: "He feels no pain, has no ethics, and is capable of feats far beyond that of normal American man. It almost sounds like Florida Man is a superhero - just a really terrible one." Because he’s brought us so much joy, we thought we'd look over some of the best Florida Man headlines of 2017.1. "Florida man steals Publix sausage, jumps off bridge to avoid arrest"
David Randall Bertram, a 41-year-old from Fort Walton Beach, was detained by police officers after he allegedly stole 10 dollars of sausage from a Publix store. As he was being escorted to the police van, he managed to escape and made a bid for freedom. He ran through the town, pursued by law enforcement, before leaping off the Brooks Bridge to evade capture, falling 10 feet to the ground below. He was later caught and formally charged.2. "Florida man tried to burn down store because owner didn’t have his favourite kind of juice"
Richard Lloyd was arrested by local law enforcement in Port St. Lucie, after he attempted to burn down a convenience store when it didn't sell his favourite kind of OJ. Lloyd claimed that he had been motivated to conspire to commit arson in order to “run the Arabs out of the country” after he got into a verbal dispute regarding the orange juice stocked in the shop. Lloyd failed to grasp that the vendor in question was neither Muslim nor Arab and then attempted to burn down the shop by setting a dumpster alight nearby.3. "Lawyer’s pants erupt in flames during Miami arson trial"
Back in March, attorney Stephen Gutierrez’s trousers spontaneously combusted in court just before he was due to address the jury during a trial. What made the story extra-ironic was the fact that the trial was a case of whether or not the defendant’s car had spontaneously caught fire. After he ran out of the courthouse and managed to roll on the ground to put out the blaze, Gutierrez insisted that the incident was not a stunt, and blamed a faulty e-cigarette in his pocket for the conflagration.4. "Inmate Caught Smuggling Antidepressants in Anus"
Joshua Fletcher, aged 34, was convicted in February on charges of contraband after it was discovered that he had attempted to smuggle a shocking 54 antidepressant pills into the Jacksonville county jail. However, what made the story noteworthy was that Fletcher had hidden the meds in his anus. Fletcher was required to enter the jail in order to plead guilty for parole violation on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. It was then that jailers noticed that dirty pills appeared to be dropping out of his back end in a trail around the jail. Fletcher was arrested, and jailers were given the ignominious job of collecting the drugs and counting them for evidence.5. "Florida man claims his dog accidentally shot his sleeping girlfriend"
This must be the dumbest excuse ever thought of. Jacksonville native Brian Murphy had the audacity to claim that his dog Diesel shot his girlfriend in the leg with a firearm in February. Murphy alleged that he’d brought the dog into his dark bedroom after a late night walk, when he heard a bang and saw a flash of bright light. He told the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that he suspected that Diesel had set the gun off when he jumped onto the nightstand. Murphy’s neighbour Dianna Fey later stated: “Bogus. A dog can’t fire a gun. That’s crazy.”6. "Florida McDonald’s customers attack employee over broken ice cream machine"
Three customers at a McDonald’s in Daytona beach attacked a staff member because they learned that the ice-cream machine had been disabled for routine maintenance. The three female customers, two of whom were teenagers, pulled the hair of and violently beat a McDonald’s employee after they spotted another customer eating ice cream. The trio have still not been apprehended.7. "Florida Golfer Fights Off Alligator with Putter"
Florida golfer Tony Aarts had teed off on the fourth hole of a golf course when a hungry gator emerged from the nearby marshland, grabbed his ankle in its jaws and attempted to drag him screaming into the water. Luckily Aarts was still holding his trusty putter at the time of the attack, and used it to viciously fend off the ravenous reptile. “I remember having a club in my hand, and as soon as he had me in the water up to my waist, I started hitting him over the head,” Aarts said later, “He was looking at me with his big eyes, and I kept hitting him. And I’m thinking I’m getting deeper and deeper, and I thought 'you’re not gonna get me'.”8. "Florida man caught trying to steal $7 billion, blames Jesus"
John Haskew, an unemployed man living in Lakeland, might be the first man to claim that he had a divine right to commit fraud, after he stole more than $7 billion through banking wire transfers. According to court documents: "[Haskew stated] that Jesus Christ created wealth for everyone. Using this scheme, Haskew believed that he could obtain the wealth that Jesus Christ created for him and that belonged to him."9. "Florida Man Tries to Hide From Police in Trash Can While Dressed as Spongebob Squarepants"
A housebreaker, dressed in "Spongebob clothing”, fled police after allegedly breaking into a woman’s home with predatory designs upon the sleeping resident. The woman in question called the cops, only for them to find that the predator had hidden in a large bin in order to evade capture. The felon in question was later identified as Steven Charles Kirkland: a sex offender with a history of molestation charges.10. "Mop-wearing Florida man looking for eggs 'terrified entire family'"
James Dizney Fields, another resident of Port St. Lucie, was arrested back in January on the charge of disturbing the peace, after he allegedly frightened his neighbour’s entire family by breaking into their house and asking them if they had any eggs spare, all while wearing a crude mask fashioned from what looked like the head of a mop. Fields, who's deaf, was questioned by police and explained that he omitted the act “because I was born a comedian … and I liked to tease people … I was short of an egg and needed eggs to make a cake.”
Here’s hoping that the ubiquitous Florida man will continue to make us laugh, flinch and cringe in the future. I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of him, and in these crazy times, we need crazy people more than ever.