Venus Williams wipes away tears at Wimbledon over fatal crash

Venus Williams shook her head and wiped away tears at a news conference at Wimbledon Monday when asked about a fatal crash police said was her fault.

RELATED: Venus Williams in Palm Beach Gardens crash resulting in man’s death

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 03: Venus Williams of the United States plays a backhand during the Ladies Singles first round match against Elise Mertens of Belgium on day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 3, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Williams was on hand to field questions about her 6-4 win over Elise Mertens in the opening round at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships in London, when a reporter asked about the crash.

“There really are no words to describe, like, how devastating…” Williams trailed off. “I’m completely speechless.”

RELATED: Venus Williams crash: What caused ‘other traffic’ at intersection?

She shook her head and wiped away tears before leaving the media room, the video posted by ESPN shows.

Palm Beach Gardens police say Williams, 37, was at-fault in the crash at the intersection of Northlake Boulevard and BallenIsles Drive on the afternoon of June 9. Williams told police she was leaving the Steeplechase community and crossing Northlake to go to BallenIsles, where she has a home, when traffic forced her to stop and block a lane.

Linda Barson, then 67, was driving west on Northlake Boulevard and told police she proceeded through a green light. She said Williams cut in front of her, and she was unable to avoid crashing into Williams’ 2010 Toyota Sequoia, according to the crash report.

Barson’s husband Jerome suffered head injuries and was rushed to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he died on June 22.

Firefighters and police respond to a June 9, 2017, crash involving tennis star Venus Williams at Northlake Boulevard and BallenIsles Drive in Palm Beach Gardens. Linda and Jerome Barson, who were in a Hyundai Accent, were involved in the crash. Jerome Barson died two weeks later. Photo Provided By Barson Family

Williams, who was uninjured, and the Barsons were all wearing seat belts, according to police. The news of the crash emerged on the gossip website TMZ last week.

This is Williams’ 20th Wimbledon. Her next match is Wednesday against Wang Qiang.

How to help Gardens cops bring holiday joy to families in need

The Joy Drive put more than 5,000 gifts in the hands of more than 1,000 children in need in and around Palm Beach Gardens. Photo courtesy of Officer Ellen Lovejoy
The Joy Drive put more than 5,000 gifts in the hands of more than 1,000 children in need in and around Palm Beach Gardens. File photo courtesy of Officer Ellen Lovejoy

Giving back has become a part of the holiday tradition for many Palm Beach Gardens police officers, but they need your help to make it possible.

The holiday Joy Drive, which provides toys and even basic needs for families in need, is in full swing through Dec. 19. People who want to support the effort can drop off new, unwrapped toys, clothing and gift cards at any of the locations listed at the bottom of this blog.

People who would rather make a financial contribution can send a check to the Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation with “Joy Drive” written in the notes section.

Volunteers can also help by wrapping the thousands of donated gifts during wrapping hours Monday through Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Palm Beach Gardens Emergency Operations Center, 10500 N. Military Trail.

Email joydrive@pbgpf.org or contact Detective Jen Brashear at 561-799-4510. Visit the website at www.pbgpf.org/joydrive.

Gift suggestions provided by the Joy Drive:

Girl Gift Suggestions    

Bicycles

Dolls

Blow Dryers

Wallets

Purses

Curling Irons

Nail Polish

Headphones

Sunglasses

Board Games

Manicure sets

Jewelry making kits

Diaries

Backpacks

Boy Gift Suggestions

Bicycles

Trucks

Soccer Balls

Basketballs

Footballs

Wallets

Backpacks

Watches

Headphones

Sunglasses

Skateboards

Walkie Talkies

Remote controlled cars

Hot Wheels

 

Drop-off locations:

Police Headquarters

10500 N Military Trail (561-799-4488)

Any PBG Fire Station

Between 8AM  (561-799-4300)

Burns Road Community Center

4400 Burns Road (561-630-1100)

Riverside Youth Enrichment Center

10170 Riverside Dr. (561-630-1130)

Gardens City Hall

10500 N Military Tr. (561-799-4100)

Velocity Credit Union

2801 PGA Blvd. (561-775-2525)

The West Agency

5602 PGA Blvd. (561-622-5200)

Peterson and Young Goldsmiths

10929 N Military Trl. (561-624-4490)

Learning Express

10941 N Military Trl.  (561-799-2869)

AmWINS Access Insurance Services

7108 Fairway Dr. Ste 200 (561-847-8505)

St. Marks Church

3395 Burns Rd. (561-622-0956)

Eisenhower Elementary School

2926 Lone Pine Rd (561-366-6000)

Gardens Elementary

10060 Riverside Drive (561-366-6500)

Allamanda Elementary

10300 Allamanda Dr (561-803-7200)

Timber Trace Elementary

5200 117th Ct N. (561-366-6200)

State crime report released: How to avoid becoming a Gardens stat

Sgt. Todd Grossman of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department in November 2014 demonstrates ATACRAIDS, which stands for Automated Tactical Analysis of Crime, and provides officers with up-to-the-minute crime information about crime and traffic accidents that have been reported in the community.   (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Sgt. Todd Grossman of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department in November 2014 demonstrates ATACRAIDS, which stands for Automated Tactical Analysis of Crime, and provides officers with up-to-the-minute crime information about crime and traffic accidents that have been reported in the community. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Violent crimes like murders and shootings are rare in Palm Beach Gardens, and when they do happen, the victim and the suspect usually know each other, Police Chief Stephen Stepp said.

Officers are trained to handle those situations. If they don’t make an arrest in a domestic violence case, they have to document the reason why they chose not to do so, Stepp said. They’re educated about resources they can provide to the victims, whether the violence is between spouses, siblings or a parent and child.

“We take it very seriously,” he said.

Palm Beach Gardens had one murder in the first six months of 2016 after no murders in the first six months of 2015. In April, police said David Arthur killed his wife, Kathleen Dunleavy, and set their duplex off Northlake Boulevard on fire. There were no prior calls for domestic issues or abuse at the home, according to police.

Robberies were down from 11 to nine in the first half of the year, while burglaries were down from 104 to 87. The most common crime, larceny, hovered around 573.

Police saw cash drawers of small businesses getting stolen in the first half of the year, Stepp said. Residential burglaries, however, were down from 78 to 53.

There were 29 car thefts in the first half of 2016, the same number as the first six months of 2015.

People make it easy for potential thieves when they leave their cars unlocked with the keys and/or garage door openers inside, becoming complacent because they think they feel safe in their neighborhood, Stepp said. Even cars stolen under those conditions get recorded in the stats.

Valuables left out in the open also help attract criminals.

Throughout South Florida, however, there’s been an increase in auto theft, sometimes targeting different types of luxury vehicles, Assistant Chief Clint Shannon said. Some of the stolen vehicles are smuggled out of the country in shipping containers, some are stripped for parts and others are used to commit other crimes.

Retail theft makes up about half of the crime in the city, Stepp said. Police are good at catching shoplifters, and those cases are still recorded in the crime stats. Holiday shoppers will see more of a police presence around the mall and other retail centers.

“We try to be proactive in our policing and have high visibility out there,” Stepp said.

Palm Beach Gardens had six more larceny cases in the first half of 2016 than Jupiter, even though Gardens has the regional mall and a plethora of other shopping centers.

Most departments are seeing an increase in opium-derivative drugs as a result of the crackdown on pill mills. People looking for money for drugs are responsible for some of the property crimes, Stepp said.

Gardens police keep up with the intelligence and work with the Drug Enforcement Agency, he said.

“Our officers are keenly aware of what’s going on on the street. When we can make an arrest, we do,” Stepp said.

Prevention tips from Palm Beach Gardens Chief Stephen Stepp’s letter to the public: 

  • Lock your vehicle doors every time, even for quick stops or at home.
  • Never leave valuable items of any kind inside your vehicle. Hiding them doesn’t work.
  • If you must keep valuables in your car, leave them in the trunk.
  • Cell phone and iPod power cords, GPS holders and other key sets are neon signs for thieves.
  • Park in well-lit areas, stay alert and call in suspicious activity to the non-emergency number: 561-799-4445.

Palm Beach Gardens police see dream fulfilled with tactical center

Palm Beach Gardens broke ground on a new police tactical training facility at the City Hall complex Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. The $3 million center is expected to be complete by fall. (Sarah Peters/The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach Gardens broke ground on a new police tactical training facility at the City Hall complex Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. The $3 million center is expected to be complete by fall. (Sarah Peters/The Palm Beach Post)

A new, $3 million tactical training center intended to make life safer for Palm Beach Gardens police and residents is expected to be complete by fall.

Police Chief Stephen Stepp said it’s been a dream for them for many years to have the highest level of training. The center will provide that.

“This means the world to us,” he said, thanking city officials for their support.

About 15 uniformed officers and dozens of other people attended a ground-breaking Thursday afternoon for the center, which will be next to police headquarters and City Hall.

Officers have been using the Martin Correctional Institution’s facility 45 minutes away. Palm Beach Gardens police complete at least 96 hours of in-house training each year, far more than the state requirement of 40 hours every four years, Stepp said.

The city hopes to partner with other agencies to train together at the roughly 9,000 square foot center, he said. They’ll practice skills such as dealing with resistance, less-lethal tactics and arrest techniques. A driving simulator can prepare police for pursuits and driving in dangerous conditions, Stepp said.

Plans for the training center preceded the fatal shooting of Corey Jones in October by plainclothes officer Nouman Raja. The 31-year-old part-time drummer from Boynton Beach whose car had broken down after a night gig had pulled over on the Interstate 95 PGA exit ramp. He was armed but did not fire his gun.

The city has since fired Raja, who was about halfway through a probationary period after his hiring in April.

Stepp said the training center has been in the works for about two years.

“We’re always trying to find better ways and better equipment to serve our community and keep our officers safe,” he said. “Continuous improvement is one of our mottos.”

City Council awarded two contracts for the center, totaling $2.6 million, in August. West Palm Beach-based Sisca Construction Services is building it. Action Target, a Utah company, will manufacture and install targets, along with sound-proof and bullet-proof materials.

At the end of the groundbreaking, those in attendance received challenge coins that have “Palm Beach Gardens Police Department” and the seal engraved on one side and an eagle on the other. Challenge coins were traditionally used by the military to prove membership and enhance morale.

Palm Beach Gardens gave these challenge coins to attendees at a groundbreaking for a new police tactical training facility Thursday. The olive branch symbolizes extending peace and help, while the arrows symbolize danger in the line of duty.
Palm Beach Gardens gave these challenge coins to attendees at a groundbreaking for a new police tactical training facility Thursday. The olive branch symbolizes extending peace and help, while the arrows symbolize danger in the line of duty.

The eagle represents freedom and strength, Stepp said. Its head is turned toward the talon holding an olive branch to remind police to extend peace and help others whenever possible. A quiver of arrows in the eagle’s other talon are a reminder of the dangers they face, Stepp said.

A shield represents the Amercian flag, and the three stars on it stand for the department’s core values: respect, accountability and professionalism, he said.

‘Joy Drive’ puts 5,000 gifts in hands of kids in need

The Joy Drive put more than 5,000 gifts in the hands of more than 1,000 children in need in and around Palm Beach Gardens. Photo courtesy of Officer Ellen Lovejoy
The Joy Drive put more than 5,000 gifts in the hands of more than 1,000 children in need in and around Palm Beach Gardens. Photo courtesy of Officer Ellen Lovejoy

The toys are in and so is the tally.

This year’s “Joy Drive,” sponsored by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation, provided more than 1,000 children in need with more than 5,000 wrapped gifts. Each gift was wrapped by volunteers from community groups, teachers, students and Palm Beach Gardens staff. The recipients picked up their gifts Friday and Saturday.

The drive has become a tradition after more than 15 years, benefiting thousands of families in and around Palm Beach Gardens, according to a news release. Principals, guidance counselors, community groups, Palm Beach Gardens police and firefighters helped identify children whose families might be in need.