Fresno Police are investigating the murder of an apartment complex security guard with an unusual weapon. Coroners say the guys who killed 59-year-old Albert Rodriguez beat him to death with a tree branch.
Rodriguez was well known as a security guard at the Summerset Village complex on Weldon near Fresno in Central Fresno, but he didn’t wear a uniform, so the killers may not have known who they were attacking.
Rodriguez’s reserved parking spot was empty Friday and there are few signs of the struggle that killed him, just a few leftover pieces of police crime scene tape. But impressions from the beating are burned into the memory of some neighbors.
“I heard something like beating on something, like a wood being hit on something and I was sure they were just doing construction,” said eyewitness Lydia Joachin.
Police say Rodriguez was walking around the complex when he ran into trouble.
“About 30 minutes before we got called out, Rodriguez called his manager to say he was going to contact a group of youths who were causing trouble,” said Lt. Tony Bennink of the Fresno Police Department.
Police don’t know how many suspects there were, but they beat Rodriguez with whatever they found on the scene. By the time police arrived, the suspects had scattered and officers checked the apartment for clues.
“They came into my apartment to see if nobody was hidden here,” said Joachin. “They were doing that to all the apartments right here.”
Neighbors say they’re scared now because of what happened and because the man they leaned on for their safety is gone.
“He was a really good worker,” said Joachin. “He really looked out for the people he was protecting.”
Rodriguez leaves behind a wife and two kids, according to police. He was the 39th homicide victim in Fresno this year, two more than at this time last year.
Paul Hotaling, 35, faces two felony counts of sexual conduct with a minor after Thursday’s arrest. The alleged victim is a 17-year-old female, according to police. Hotaling made his initial appearance in Lake Havasu Consolidated Court Friday and he is currently being held on a $50,000 bond, according to court officials. His preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Nov. 27.
Hotaling worked last year as a substitute teacher for Lake Havasu Charter School, at 1055 Empire Drive, and started this year as a part-time seventh- and eighth-grade health teacher, said Principal Patricia Hauchrog.
“Ideally we are here to protect the students,” Hauchrog said. “(We will be) up front and honest. Students have got to come first.”
Hauchrog said school staff decided to notify police of the allegations, but she declined to provide further information.
Hauchrog said the school conducted the state-mandated criminal background check and fingerprinting upon hiring Hotaling. She said she learned of the investigation Thursday and it came to her as a surprise. She said Hotaling has “been a good teacher (and) well-received by the majority of the students.”
School staff was expected to meet Friday afternoon and Hauchrog said the staff would be in communication with the students and parents regarding the investigation. She said Hotaling will be placed on paid administrative leave, but she wasn’t sure for how long.
“We are here for the students and let the investigation do what they need to do,” Hauchrog said. “That’s how the legal system works.”
Police state that the “investigation revealed the possibility of additional victims of a similar crime involving Hotaling,” according to a police press release.
After hearing that, Hauchrog said she is concerned that there could be other victims and “concern for what affects this is going to have on them.”
“This is a real ‘take the wind out of your sails’ kind of deal,” she said.
Repeated messages left with the Lake Havasu Police Department seeking more details on the case was not returned Friday.
Police ask anyone with information regarding additional victims to contact Detective Cindy Slack at 928-855-1171.
A West Side security guard appeared in Bond Court today facing charges alleging he planted fake bombs near the headquarters of the Boeing Co. and One Prudential Plaza and possessed drugs when he was arrested.
Roosevelt Billups is suspected of planting hoax bombs outside 100 N. Riverside Plaza — which is the Boeing headquarters — and One Prudential Plaza, a police source said. Billups, 42, was ordered held in lieu of $80,000 bond in a Cook County Bond Court hearing before Judge Laura M. Sullivan today.
Chicago police foot patrol officers arrested Billups in the 100 block of North State Street about 5 p.m. Wednesday, police said.
Someone who saw Billups in the area called police after recognizing him as a suspect in three incidents involving fake bombs, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Gabrielle Lesniak.
Billups, of the 100 block of North Francisco Avenue, faces three charges of felony disorderly conduct in connection with false bomb threats, one charge of felony possession of a controlled substance, and a misdemeanor charge of drug paraphernalia possession, according to police.
Police previously had issued a community alert regarding suspicious packages resembling explosive devices being planted on three occasions near prominent downtown buildings. The person calling police recognized Billups as the person wanted in connection with those incidents, according to a police news release.
News Affairs officers said they could not say when the community alert was issued or when the fake bombs were planted. They also refused to confirm where the crimes took place.
Billups has been convicted in the past of six felony charges, including at least one prior incident involving calling in a false bomb threat, prosecutors said today. He is due in court again Dec. 8 in Branch 42 of Cook County Criminal Court.
Authorities are searching for three suspects after an armored-truck guard was shot and robbed while making a delivery at a southwest Houston check-cashing store Saturday morning, FBI officials said.
A Loomis armored truck arrived around 11 a.m. to make a delivery at a check-cashing store in the 5900 block of South Gessner, FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said.
One of the guards was attempting to enter the store with the cash delivery when gunfire erupted outside the business, Dunlap said. After being hit at least once, the guard dropped the money, which was taken by one man armed with a pistol and another who had a rifle, Dunlap said.
The gunmen fled the scene in what witnesses described as a silver four-door sedan, possibly a Chevy Malibu, which was driven by a third man.
Paramedics took the guard to Ben Taub General Hospital, where he is in stable condition. The crime took place close to the lunch hour and several people were outside the shopping center.
“It was amazing no one else was hurt,“ Dunlap said.
“They didn’t even attempt to rob this individual without violence,“ she said. “They shot first.“
Investigators are also trying to determine if the robbery is connected to other crimes, including a similar robbery and shooting of another armored-truck guard in the summer. Anyone with information about the latest case is urged to call the FBI at 713-693-5000 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS
Police in Pooler have arrested a local teacher and youth minister on allegations he molested a 13-year-old boy six years ago.
Mark Kit Lucas, 47, was booked Friday into the Chatham County jail on a felony charge of aggravated sexual battery in an assault reported to police earlier this month.
Lucas stands accused of engaging in a sexual act with the youth at Lucas’ Pooler residence, according to a police report.
In recent months, the boy, now 19, revealed details of the assault to friends and a relative, police documents show.
Authorities were subsequently informed.
“After a preliminary investigation, we determined that there was enough to warrant an arrest, and we anticipate further charges in the immediate future,” Pooler police Maj. Mark Revenew said, declining to elaborate. “It would be inappropriate to comment because it is an active investigation.”
Lucas teaches at Savannah High School, according to police. A MySpace page in Lucas’ name likewise lists Savannah High as his workplace.
Karla Redditte, spokeswoman for Savannah-Chatham public schools, would only confirm that Lucas works for school system.
“He is an employee, and he’s been employed about a year and a half,” Redditte said.
At Woodlawn Baptist Church in Garden City, Lucas was recognized in 2004 for going beyond his duties as youth and education director, according to Savannah Morning News archives.
The MySpace page indicates Lucas was an organist and youth minister at the church.
On the Woodlawn Baptist Church Web site, Lucas is listed as having been recognized in 2006 for 25 years of service as an organist. The church’s Web site lists him becoming a part-time youth minister in 1997.
Two phone calls to the Rev. Gary Johnson of Woodlawn Baptist were not returned Monday.
Lucas remained held without bond Monday at the county jail, said Lt. Tommy Tillman, spokesman for the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department.
Joshua Gearhart, 27, an auxiliary police officer with the Whitehall Police Department, was spotted near Leona Lane and Ohio 725 about 6 a.m. Sunday by sheriff’s deputies after witnesses reported a woman in the road, Maj. Scott Landis said.
Deputies found the woman covered in mud and grass clippings and soaking wet at a Shell Gas Station at Ohio 741 and Ohio 725, Landis said.
The woman said Gearhart, a former Columbus police officer, drove from there and the two went out Saturday night, Landis said. At some point, Gearhart requested she “do something for him,” and made threats that he would harm her if she didn’t, Landis said.
An argument ensued and the woman grabbed the keys from Gearhart’s truck and fled on foot, Landis said. Gearhart caught up with her, tried to drag her back to his truck and the two wrestled in a ditch full of water, Landis said.
Gearhart allegedly tried to drown the woman in the ditch, but failed, Sheriff Phil Plummer said. The woman is physically OK, Plummer said.
County prosecutors today approved a felony abduction charge against Gearhart, which allowed deputies to get a warrant that will keep him in jail, Landis said.
Gearhart was fired from the Columbus Police Department last fall after an internal investigation, the Columbus Dispatch reported at the time.
As a Columbus officer Gearhart was involved in the fatal shooting of a man who pointed a gun at officers, the newspaper reported.
He now serves as a part-time officer with the Whitehall Police Department, investigators said
Anderson, a Florida resident, said the Taser shock led to major surgery on his knee from the injury. He filed a lawsuit Friday in Davidson County Circuit Court against the owners of Fuel and Eagle Eye Security, alleging that they fired the Taser at him without provocation and left him unable to work as a commercial truck driver.
A number for Eagle Eye Security was temporarily disconnected. A message left at Fuel nightclub was not returned Monday afternoon.
Buford Tune, who teaches firearm and Taser safety courses, said Taser safety makes up about four hours of the coursework for a security guard license.
“They are becoming more popular, but a lot of (the security companies) are not carrying them because of the cost,” said Tune, who said he could not speak about the lawsuit itself. “Security officers have to make a quick judgment in a crowd and, to me, the Taser is one of the most logical tools that could be used.”
Fight broke out at club
According to the lawsuit, a fight broke out in the nightclub in November 2008 while Anderson and a friend were inside, and everyone was ordered out of the club. Anderson said he realized he left some belongings inside and talked to several people to get back everything but the phone.
When he approached the security officers at the front of the club to ask about the phone, their Tasers were already drawn and they used one on him, according to the suit. When he panicked, got up and attempted to run away, the lawsuit alleged, he was struck in the back with another Taser shot and fell on his knee.
He underwent major knee surgery and was fired from his job since he was unable to drive, Anderson said in the suit.
Anderson’s attorney, Hugh Garrett, did not return a call seeking comment.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office arrested Justin Mikels Friday.
Knoxville Schools’ superintendent Randy Flack says Mikels has been on paid leave since early October when the school received a report of inappropriate conduct with a student. Flack would not say what the conduct was or the student’s age.
He did say the district is considering more serious punishment