PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Downtown Fort Myers begins clean-up while North Fort Myers man warns looters

Mike Walcher
This is the message in one trailer park in North Fort Myers. Nick Imbriaco said he spray-painted this message to looters because he wants to protect belongings in vacant and abandoned homes, as well as protect his family while he stays in his home.

The message is clear: You loot, we shoot. That's what Nick Imbriaco is spray-painting on wrecked trailers in a park he calls home in North Fort Myers.

He says he has handguns and rifles, and is willing to shoot anyone found taking items from homes.

"We've just got to do whatever we can to protect our families, our stuff," he said.

Imbriaco said he already has chased away one man who gone onto a boat that washed onto the north bank of the Caloosahatchee River, right next to the trailer park. Imbriaco said he has seen other people hanging around the area, and vans driving slowly through the area, especially after dark.

He said he won't hesitate to shoot a looter.

"If I have to protect my family I am going to fire," he said. "I am going to shoot them to die."

Across the Caloosahatchee in downtown Fort Myers, the tone is more friendly.

People are starting to clear out the water-logged items in buildings. Much of downtown went under water during the hurricane. People are piling up debris curbside for pick-up later.

Emily Axe lives near downtown and volunteered to help clean out debris at Ford's Garage.

"It's a very emotional time, stressful, but it's also a time of strength," Axe said.

First Street Restaurant and Bar has re-opened with nearly a full menu, and cash only for payment, according to manager Trish Bawlewczyk.

She said it's a good sign for all of downtown.

"Oh of course we are going to rebuild," she said. "We are strong. It's going to come back as good as new."

Emily Axe agreed.

"I think that is what is beautiful in all this chaos and mess," Axe said. "We know this can be a wonderful place. We want to get Fort Myers and Lee County back to what it can be."

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.

Forty-one-year veteran of television news in markets around the country, including more than 18 years as an anchor and reporter at WINK-TV in southwest Florida.