To kick off 2023, we wanted to share the Top 5 most-read stories in Oakland Park.

Oakland Park Commuter Train Station Still In Preliminary Stages

By John McDonald

Although still of significant interest to developers, there was not much movement in the Oakland Park train station storyline in 2022.

Here’s where we last left off: The Florida Department of Transportation favored Oakland Park over Wilton Manors in a study on commuter rail service. FDOT cited Oakland Park’s pedestrian connectivity and facilities, station visibility, street layout, on-street and public parking and planned development as convincing factors. Designs were presented showing a station on 12th Avenue between 36th and 38th Streets, south of the Funky Buddha Brewery.

That was August of 2021.

Fast forward to present day and not much has changed although Brightline, the privately-funded, high-speed passenger train, travels through Wilton Manors and Oakland Park in between stops in downtown Fort Lauderdale and its newly opened station in Boca Raton.

The proposed Oakland Park station is for commuter rail service traveling north and south on the FEC railway corridor, east of I-95 and the Tri-Rail tracks. Currently, the county’s focus appears to be on the southern end of the corridor from Aventura in Miami-Dade County to stations in Hollywood, FLL airport and Broward Health Medical Center.

Cold Case Solved After 12 Years

By John Hayden

With enough time, even the most vicious crimes eventually fall out of the headlines and become another folder in a drawer jam-packed with cold case files, unlikely to ever be solved. But sometimes, with fresh eyes and a little luck, a case gets solved and justice gets served.

Aaron Dobbins was arrested in September and charged with premeditated murder for the 2010 killing of Chad McMurray. The cold case became red hot when DNA under McMurray’s fingernails was matched to that of Dobbins.

In 2010, friends discovered McMurray dead in his Oakland Park home. His truck was missing and eventually found abandoned in Lauderhill. The crime may have been driven by jealousy and sex work. Dobbins was working as an adult entertainer under the names Trace Hunter and Trace Michaels. According to police records, a fellow adult worker, John Navarro, had met McMurray several times and likely introduced him to Dobbins.

Dobbins is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, and remains in the Broward County Jail without bond.

Circle House Coffee in Oakland Park is Leasing Building to New Sandwich Shop

By Christiana Lilly

Circle House Coffee in Oakland Park (or was it Wilton Manors? We’re still not sure and readers were very upset about this) opened with much ado in October 2021, offering a drive-through option from a local coffee shop in town.

Unfortunately, the business owned by former NFL player Steven Tulloch has since been leased to Charleys Cheesesteaks, which will be opening its doors in March, Circle House Coffee’s PR firm shared.

The building at 119 W. Oakland Park Blvd. was La Molienda Latin Restaurant before Tulloch’s company purchased the building in 2020.

Fans of Circle House Coffee need not worry, though, as the original location in Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village is still going strong, drive-through included.

Drivers Continue to Ignore Brightline Warning Signals

By Christiana Lilly

Brightline made waves in 2022 with the opening of its Aventura and Boca Raton train stations, but also for its ongoing vehicle-versus-train incidents.

While we don’t know exactly how many incidents occurred in 2022 — Brightline did not respond to multiple requests for the number of crashes involving its trains — we did report on many of them in the Wilton Manors and Oakland Park area.

In March 2022, a man survived a collision with the train at an Oakland Park crossing — a witness said that the gates were down when the man managed to run out of his car. Another vehicle was involved in a crash when a truck carrying a trailer was on the tracks in Wilton Manors when the arms were down; the driver also got away unscathed.

It appears that for the most part, drivers have been trying to beat the train — which moves at around 79 miles per hour — rather than wait. In response to the rash of collisions, in June Brightline partnered with the Broward Sheriff’s Office to launch Operation Crossing Guard. The initiative cracked down on drivers and pedestrians who ignored the warning signs of an arriving train and tried to cross the tracks.

“Despite the high publicity of these tragic events, it has not resulted in any deterrent of the careless behavior going on at the railroad crossings,” said BSO Col. Steve Robson during a press conference. “In almost all cases, people are ignoring and circumventing the warning lights, sounds, safety signs, and crossing gates … the odds of beating the train are not in your favor, and the results are just tragic.”

More than 500 tickets were given in a two-week period. Unfortunately, a woman died four days after Operation Crossing Guard began when she crossed the tracks and collided with a Brightline train.

State Attorney’s Office Handling Teen Who Brought Gun to Oakland Park School

By Christiana Lilly

Almost a year ago, a 16-year-old student brought a fully loaded gun to his Oakland Park high school — but because he is a minor, we can’t know the outcome of the case.

A representative from the Broward Sheriff’s Office said that the case is being handled by the State Attorney’s Office. When SFGN reached out to their media team, they said that they do not comment on cases involving minors.

However, SFGN managed to retrieve the arrest report and learned more details about the case.

Fernando Vanancia-Garcia, now 17, was arrested Jan. 19, 2022 at Northeast High School after the vice principal found that he had a fully loaded gun in his backpack. The vice principal had called Vanancia-Garcia into his office to discuss his grades when he said he smelled marijuana. After searching the student’s backpack, he found a Smith & Wesson with 15 live rounds inside.

His confession was blacked out from the arrest report, but according to the original news release by BSO, Vanancia-Garcia told investigators he “had no intentions of using the firearm on school grounds and that it was for protection on his walk home from school.”

He was charged with possession of a firearm on school property — since it’s a felony, his name was not redacted from the police report.

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