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Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer

Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and founder of the narrative journalism website Gangrey.com.

Montgomery grew up in Oklahoma and studied journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2006.

In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called "For Their Own Good," about abuse at Florida's oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.

Email: bmontgomery@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Gangrey

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  1. Doug Hughes finally sends his letters to Congress, minus the gyrocopter

    Public Safety

    RIVERVIEW — Doug Hughes, the former mail carrier who landed his gyrocopter at the U.S. Capitol building to protest big money in politics, finally achieved Wednesday what he set out to do two years ago.

    At the post office in Riverview where he worked for 12 years, he mailed 535 letters to 535 members of Congress demanding that they take a stand against the influence of big donations in political campaigns....

    Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter sits on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on April 15, 2015. He landed the lightweight craft there to promote campaign finance reform. [Getty Images]
  2. Tampa Bay Times investigation: Why Cops Shoot

    Blog

    The Tampa Bay Times asked all of Florida’s nearly 400 law enforcement agencies for reports generated when an officer fired a gun and someone was injured or killed from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2014. Almost 160 agencies said they had at least one police shooting. The others, mostly small agencies with few officers, said they did not have any police shootings during those six years....

    Pasco County deputies faced a suspected bank robber during a standoff in 2010.
  3. Meet Aramis Ayala: the Florida State attorney everyone is talking about

    Blog

    When Aramis Ayala began campaigning for state attorney in this Central Florida district last year, so few people knew her that she handed out cards informing voters how to pronounce her name.

    While she'd worked for eight years as a public defender and nearly two years in the Orlando state attorney's office, she was a political novice seeking public office for the first time. She worried about name recognition in a race against her boss, who had swept into office in 2012 thanks in part to his high-profile role in the infamous Casey Anthony trial. The Michigan native didn't even live in Orange or Osceola counties; she promised to move into the district....

    Aramis Ayala
  4. Aramis Ayala: the Florida state attorney who refuses to pursue the death penalty

    Public Safety

    ORLANDO — When Aramis Ayala began campaigning for state attorney in this Central Florida district last year, so few people knew her that she handed out cards informing voters how to pronounce her name.

    While she'd worked for eight years as a public defender and nearly two years in the Orlando state attorney's office, she was a political novice seeking public office for the first time. She worried about name recognition in a race against her boss, who had swept into office in 2012 thanks in part to his high-profile role in the infamous Casey Anthony trial. The Michigan native didn't even live in Orange or Osceola counties; she promised to move into the district....

    Incumbent Jeff Ashton was defeated by Ayala in the primary.
  5. National Hurricane Center rolls out new look for 'cone of uncertainty'

    Hurricanes

    As storm forecasters have grown more certain over the years about the potential path a hurricane will take, the popular "cone of uncertainty" used in models has grown smaller. But widespread misunderstanding of the cone has prompted forecasters to try to improve the tool.

    This year the National Hurricane Center will use a modified tool with an even sleeker tracking cone and an advancement they hope will help people not directly in a storm's path better understand the potential danger they face....

    Newsart graphic:
  6. What kind of person leaves a child in a hot car to die?

    Accidents

    Last year, it happened in Fresno, Calif., to a grandmother so distraught she could not tell responding police officers a single thing, couldn't form words. It also happened in Salisbury, N.C., to a mother who left her daughter in a black Chevrolet outside a medical center, where she worked. It happened again near Dallas, Texas, to 2-year-old Boi Lei Sang, whose parents were at bible study at Rehoboth Praise Assembly when they noticed on a hot day that only four of their five children were inside the church....

    A deputy closes the door of a Chevrolet Equinox SUV at the Oak Park Plaza strip mall parking lot on W Lumsden Road in Brandon on Tuesday. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Fiorella Vanessa Silva-Tello, 21, left the child locked inside the vehicle at 9 a.m. when she went to work at BFF Kidz Child Care Center. It wasn't until five hours later at 2:30 p.m. that she realized she had left Jacob Manchego inside the locked vehicle. He was unresponsive when she found him. First-ad was administered until paramedics arrived, but the boy was later pronounced dead at Brandon Regional Hospital [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  7. Review: Mullen's 'Darktown' a compelling history-based crime novel

    Books

    Thomas Mullen's latest novel, Darktown, was snatched up by Jamie Foxx's production company to be made into a television series before it even hit shelves last fall. Just a few pages in and one can see why.

    The captivating murder mystery and police procedural is precisely right for this time, when it would do good for many Americans to learn something about the complexity of race relations and policing in the post-World War II South. This suspenseful novel penetrates that historical void in American policing that's easily forgotten but was the foundation for what has come to be known as modern community policing....

    Darktown is inspired by the real-life story of the first black police officers hired, due to political pressure, by the Atlanta Police Department.
  8. Epilogue: Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, 'the funniest guy in the room', died while on a run

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — When young Jamie Gaar began courting the woman who would become his wife, he tried to impress her by making oatmeal pancakes for her birthday.

    "They were awful," she said recently.

    He tried again, but made brownies this time.

    "I don't know how you mess up brownies," she said. "But he did."

    Alas, as the lovestruck are inclined to do, he kept trying. He devoured cooking videos on YouTube. He consumed columns from Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times. He asked chefs he bumped into why certain spices work well together on the palate while others clash....

    An improv comic and culinary wizard, Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, 32, was equally comfortable entertaining onstage as he was at home entertaining with his wife of eight years. He died Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017.
  9. Closing of Ringling Bros. circus brings back 146 years of memories

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    You've heard, of course. The curtain has come down on The Greatest Show on Earth. Barring unexpected salvation, Sunday's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show will be the last here. In May, after 146 years, it all comes to a stop.

    The news has given way to nostalgia.

    "I was 6 months old my first time," said Richard Knight Sr., 35, sitting outside Amalie Arena earlier this week, waiting on the show. "I've seen the pictures, me smiling. Dad was rarely around. My mom always told me, 'You were happiest at the circus.' "...

    Camels are viewed by attendees of the "animal open house" before the Ringling Bros And Barnum & Bailey Circus at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The circus has announced it will be shutting down in 2017 after more than a hundred years in operation.
  10. Seminole Heights hipsters wake up to a sign of the times … and they revolt

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The prankster went to work under the cover of darkness, sometime after last call. When the sun came up one recent Saturday morning and the tattooed denizens of Old Seminole Heights began to trickle into the Independent Bar and Cafe, they noticed the sign on the opposite side of Florida Avenue, planted near the edge of a recently cleared construction site.

    "COMING SOON!" it taunted. "WORLD OF BEER."...

    This photo was circulated earlier this month after a mystery prankster erected a fake World of Beer sign on Florida Avenue.
  11. Ruskin man who landed gyrocopter on Capitol lawn is free from prison

    Human Interest

    RUSKIN — Doug Hughes, the former mailman who landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last year to protest government corruption, returned home on Wednesday, his 62nd birthday, after serving three months of a four-month prison sentence at Federal Detention Center Miami....

  12. Boys' remains from troubled Dozier school to be buried in Tallahassee, memorial to be erected on school grounds

    Human Interest

    MARIANNA — The bones came up from the red earth of Jackson County, from a forgotten corner of the campus of Florida's oldest reform school. Putting them back into the ground, deciding how and where the remains of boys who died in state custody should spend eternity, proved hard.

    After a tense, emotional, five-hour meeting of a task force charged with making that decision, the nine-member board voted to recommend that the legislature rebury the boys somewhere in Tallahassee and erect some sort of monument at the reform school, acknowledging the school's history....

     The cemetery at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys is seen at the end of exhumation work on Dec. 20, 2013, in Marianna, Fla. Researchers from the University of South Florida removed 55 sets of remains from the cemetery. [Photo courtesy of Dr. Erin Kimmerle, University of South Florida]
  13. Review: 'One in a Billion' a gripping true story of scientists' race to save a little boy

    Books

    Imagine you have a 4-year-old boy with bright blue eyes and a high-pitched voice, a boy who won't remove his Batman mask and loves Bagel Bites so much he cuddles with a bag of them at night. Now imagine that the boy has an illness that has stymied his growth and causes him scream-session pain, an illness that creates fistulas, or tiny holes, in his intestine, causing stool to drain into his abdomen and leak out unnatural holes in the surface of his skin....

    One in a Billion: The Story of Nic Volker and the Dawn of Genomic Medicine is a gripping and true story of humanity, science and the fight for survival.
  14. Deputy improperly fired concussion round at Army veteran in Pasco County Jail (w/video)

    Public Safety

    On the evening of Aug. 5, an Army veteran with a history of mental illness was in the throes of an episode inside his solitary cell in the J wing of the Pasco County jail. Matthew Trevino, 29 at the time, had stripped off his clothes and was combative and mouthing off to a handful of detention deputies trying to conduct a routine search for contraband in his cell.

    A video of the incident, filmed by a detention deputy at the jail, showed Pasco County sheriff's deputies trying to get Trevino to "cuff up" — to extend his hands through the food slot in the metal door so they could handcuff him and execute the search. Trevino instead grabbed his genitals and mumbled incoherently through a small window in the locked door....

    A video screen grab shows a detention officer shooting at inmate Matthew Trevino through a jail cell food slot last August.
  15. Gyrocopter pilot reports to Miami prison to do time for protest in Washington (w/video)

    Human Interest

    TAMPA – He'll miss Father's Day and the Fourth of July. He'll miss those once-in-a-while mornings when his wife brings him Folgers in bed. He'll miss his daughter, and the newspaper, and 120 days of freedom.

    For his brash act of telling the United States government that it has been corrupted by the influence of big money in elections, albeit by landing his gyrocopter on the green grass in front of the U.S. Capitol building, Doug Hughes turned himself in Tuesday to the Federal Detention Center in Miami, where he'll serve four months of hard time....

    A bomb squad technician walks past the gyrocopter that Hughes landed in front of the U.S. Capitol on April 15, 2015.