Jeff Lytle: Held up twice ... store clerk the victim of thugs, policy

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“Well, once again the compassion and sympathy of Collier County show their true colors.

“On Thursday night (Sept. 24) I was robbed at gunpoint at Del’s 24-Hour Store the end of Bayshore Drive. The robbers pointed a gun to my head and then punched me in the face, and used my car as a getaway car.”

The e-mail from Donna Stumbo, the night clerk who has worked there 27 years, goes on:

“The Collier County Sheriff’s Office took my car and impounded it as evidence. Understandable. But then when I went to pick up my car the next day — it was being held at Economy Body Shop — they stated I had to have $240 or I will be charged at the rate of $40 more a day until I could come up with the money to get my car back.”

Getting angry yet?

“You would think after all of this and being a victim of such a crime, Collier County or Economy Body Shop would have just a little compassion and let me have my car back without taking my whole week’s pay” and not treat me “as if I was the one who robbed the store.”

“I broke down crying because I did not have the money,” she writes. “Thank God I wasn’t shot and in the hospital. Who knows how much it would have been then.”

“Thanks, Collier County and Economy Body Shop, for your compassion,” Stumbo went on. “You should be in the loan shark business ... .”

Del Ackerman, the huge-hearted owner/operator of Del’s, wound up coming to the rescue and paying the $242.

“Please mention his generosity as he has always been the most generous man in town,” Stumbo said.

“I’m feeling OK, I guess, considering the situation.”

The Sheriff’s Office considered the situation too — after I called to see what was going on. It immediately hand-delivered a refund check to Ackerman and later called back to thank me.

Officials blamed a communication breakdown between the office and the firm whose turn it was to tow Stumbo’s car and secure it until detectives could go through it in daylight. This, officials said, is standard operating procedure for such cases.

Revictimizing crime victims, officials said, is not.

Nobody felt worse than the tow company, said Economy Body Shop’s Kim Ralston, likening it to a hospital charging the sick.

But, she says, the firm did provide a service and followed directions — and discounted the tab as much as possible.

Stumbo was struggling with all that happened, e-mailing: “I’m just not up to talking to too many people yet!”

Ackerman was, and said he is happier than ever with service of the Sheriff’s Office, which caught and arrested three suspects. Having lost a daughter to illness two years ago, Ackerman added, he remains thrilled and grateful that Stumbo is alive and well.

Would the rest of us be so gracious?

* * *

Collier County is more serious than ever about catching and fining motorists who run red lights. We have cameras installed to be there when real live law-enforcement officers can’t.

That is why Andy Kraft of Golden Gate, whose car was hit by another that both the driver and an investigating deputy acknowledge went through a red light, wonders why that driver was not ticketed.

The answer, according to Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, goes back to the very justification to have those cameras up there.

Confused yet?

The official report from Kraft’s accident in August on Golden Gate Parkway says the other driver came speeding up to the red light and hit the brakes, which were bad, and kept on going.

The aggravating part for Kraft from the accident report: “The driver of Vehicle 1 is at fault for driving too fast for conditions (and) failure to maintain equipment/improper equipment. No citations.”

Kraft is incredulous when told what Rambosk has to say — that full-fledged running red light citations can be issued only by law-enforcement officers who actually witness the violation as it happens. Officials at other local, independent law-enforcement agencies concur. That is why these red-light-camera “tickets” are something less than a real ticket.

Kraft, who wonders how any other arrests are made minus eyewitness officers, and even journalists in our newsroom could swear that they have heard of accidents where red-light runners have been cited after the fact. But neither Kraft nor anyone else so far can produce any actual examples or the paperwork.

Can you?

Meanwhile, Rambosk says Kraft is welcome to come and talk to him about the rest of the accident report and its exercise of the officer’s discretion.

* * *

Friendly reminder: “One on One with Jeff Lytle” now is on Comcast Channel 14, not 8, and it’s on at 7 p.m. Wednesday too.

Today’s noon guest: Lee County Commission Chairman Ray Judah.

Jeff Lytle is editorial page editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is Call him at 263-4773. Check his blog at

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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