Flowood MS June 19 2011 Like the fictional character Andy Taylor, who patrolled the town of Mayberry on television during the 1960s, Freddie Funches doesn’t carry a gun.
“I don’t own one, I don’t want one around me,” says Funches, 58, who serves as the lone security guard for NewSouth NeuroSpine in Flowood. “A guy asked me the other day ‘why don’t you carry a pistol?’ I asked him ‘why do I need one?’
“People come here who need help. They don’t come to cause problems. And most of the time if you’ve got a gun on you, people feel inferior to you. I don’t want people thinking like that. And another thing about a gun … if you pull that trigger, you don’t just cause someone to lose their life. Yours goes away, too.”
This is Funches’ 35th year working in security. He has the gift of gab. He stands 5-foot-11 and weighs a stone-solid 250 pounds. He loves people. And he loves his job.
“It’ll be 6:15, and he’ll be saying, ‘I’ve got to hurry up. It’s getting late,’ ” laughs his wife of the past eight years, Cathy, the homeless coordinator for the city of Jackson. “He doesn’t have to be at work until 7 and it only takes about 15 minutes to get there.”
It is his job, he says, to make people who come to the spine center in pain feel a little better, if only for a few seconds.
Funches knows about pain. In 1994, his 19-year-old son, Carlos, was gunned down on the campus of Callaway High School. Six years later, Funches’ 22-year-old son, Keith, died in an automobile accident.
It was a living hell getting through both losses, he says.
“But I believe in God when he says never hold on to something that you can’t let go of. And I had to believe in something or I would’ve gone insane,” he says. “I’m grateful to have had them for 19 and 22 years when others don’t have their children for that long. I have to look at the bright side rather than the dim side.”
OK, working as a security guard at a spine center isn’t the most dangerous job in the law enforcement world. But anytime humans and physical pain are involved, situations can arise.
And understand this: When NewSouth NeuroSpine opened three years ago, it was the doctors who wanted to lure Funches away from Methodist Rehabilitation Center, where they had worked with Funches many of his 18 years there.
It took more than a year, but they finally snagged him in March 2009.
“I know the doctors, I know their families,” Funches says. “I’ve watched their children grow up.”
“Freddie does so much,” says Frank York, CEO of NewSouth, “whether it’s counseling a patient who has gotten upset, being able to calm them down and get them where they need to be. Freddie would do anything to protect our 90 to 100 employees. We know that. There is just a real sense of trust there with the doctors.
“They know they could call on Freddie in any situation, and he would handle it discreetly and respectfully toward the patients. And at least two to three times a week, there will be a situation come up where we’re saying ‘thank God for Freddie Funches.’ “
Funches was a four-sport athlete at Murrah High School but decided to drop out prior to his senior year, in 1973.
“I was going to be 19, which made me ineligible for sports,” he says. “It’s not the right way to look at things, I know that now. But at the time, sports was everything to me.”
Plus, something else was eating at him: “My daddy died of a stroke when I was a year old, so my mama (Eliza) had to raise six kids on her home, cleaning houses around Jackson and later working out at (Mississippi State Hospital).
“I was the fifth youngest of the six, and it had gotten to a point where I was tired of seeing her have to do everything herself. Against her wishes, I wanted to get a job and help. At the time, that seemed more important than education. I told her I could go back at some point and get my GED.”
His work ethic was established by watching his mom.
“She made us understand that life doesn’t owe you anything,” he says. “If you want something you have to go work for it.”
At age 9, Funches used to sing and dance on the corner of Lamar and Fortification streets. Adults from the neighborhood walking past would often toss him a nickel or dime.
About that same time, he sold vegetables door to door. “A man grew all kinds of stuff – tomatoes, okra, you name it – and would give us a dime for every basket we sold,” he says.
When he quit school, Funches took a job as a bricklayer. Then he ran into Jimmy Smith, the father of the former Jackson State and NFL star receiver by the same name.
“Mr. Smith was a juvenile officer and into mentoring youth, keeping them off the streets,” Funches says. “He saw me and said, ‘I’m starting a softball team. You look like you could play a little ball.’ So I went and played on his team. But he also got me jobs at the Schlitz Beer distributorship and at the RC Cola plant.”
His next job, Funches says, “was me walking into destiny.” Smith helped him land a position as a jailer at the Hinds County Detention Center. Funches went through training at the Jackson police academy. Except for a six-month excursion to Chicago, he worked at the detention center from 1979 to 1990.
“It was a tough, tiresome job, but I saw myself in a lot of the youngsters who were in there,” says Funches, who was divorced in 2001 and has two grown daughters and three stepchildren. “They just didn’t have the mama and the guidance I had.”
Funches lost his mother to cancer in 1981.
“The doctors told her it wasn’t that bad, that she would live a long, productive life. But I just think Mama was tired. She had raised her kids. She had done what she felt like was her rightful duty.”
A year later, Funches honored his mother’s wishes and earned his GED.
Funches started at Methodist in the kitchen, making sandwiches. When a job opened in security, he quickly applied.
He was working two jobs at the time – 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Methodist and and 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. at County Market grocery.
“Sleeping wasn’t really on my mind,” he says. “I was just trying to survive. And I don’t use that term loosely. When you’re trying to get where you want to be, you have to put a little extra into it.”
His life took a turn for the better when Methodist offered him a promotion at its outpatient clinic in Flowood. He was able to quit his job at County Market.
Today, he has a position he wouldn’t swap with anyone.
“When you work with people who appreciate you, it makes you want to go the extra mile for them,” he says. “I’d probably do it for free. But the fact that I get paid for it is just the icing on the cake.”
That’s what he wants today’s youth to understand – chase dreams, rendezvous with destiny.
“When I was a kid, we used to shoot marbles, make kites out of newspaper and sticks. We were taught by my mama to always treat people the way we wanted to be treated,” he says. “Today, kids stay in the house and feel like the world owes them whatever they want. What they have to understand is, the world is a big place. Whatever you want, you can have it if you’re willing to put the work in. It will happen. Just stay strong and do the right thing.
“Look at me. People make more money than me, but I guarantee you they don’t feel any more fulfilled than I do. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
NEW ORLEANS LA June 19 2011 — Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested a local man who they said tried to run into a local club with a rifle because of bad service.
Sheriff Daniel Edwards said deputies saw 23-year-old Pedro Varnado hastily enter a night club with an assault rifle and point the rifle’s muzzle at the crowd of people inside. A bouncer tackled the man to the ground, but deputies said Varnado became aggressively violent and refused to cooperate with the officers.
Deputies said Varnado continued to behave violently even after he was detained, kicking and banging his head against the patrol unit.
Edwards said investigators learned that Varnado was unhappy with a club employee. Detectives said Varnado left the bar after threatening the employee but returned later with an assault rifle.
Deputies said Varnado was charged with aggravated assault, three counts of resisting arrest and possession of a firearm at an alcoholic beverage outlet.
Nashville TN June 19 2011 Madeline is a pretty blond teenager who picks scraps from Nashville garbage cans for food.
She and three of her high school friends sleep in parks, under bridges and in abandoned buildings, many of which crawl with drug-addicted homeless people who are decades their senior.
They stink. They don’t shower or shave. Picking ticks off each other is a daily, sometimes hourly, ritual.
The Tucson, Ariz., natives walk the highways, ride the rails and call themselves “travel kids.” Advocates call them runaways or throwaways, teens who either left home on their own or were kicked out by their parents. They are part of a growing subculture of teens so elusive it’s difficult for national and social service agencies to help them.
While more than 1,800 Tennessee teens called the National Runaway Switchboard last year, Tennessee shelters have room for just 40. Homeless shelters either are too dangerous for them to brave alone or cater to mothers and younger children.
Each year in the U.S., an estimated 1.6 million to 2.8 million youth are homeless. It’s a growing number because of the down economy — parents working two low-wage jobs, losing homes, abusing alcohol or drugs to deal with the stress.
“Teenagers on the streets is a silent crisis that needs attention,” said Maureen Blaha, executive director of the National Runaway Switchboard. “Kids who run from home don’t want to talk about it. They do their best to blend in and often migrate to larger cities. Parents don’t like to talk about it because to have a child run away from home is embarrassing.”
Many younger than 18 avoid shelters, soup kitchens and social services — all potential paths back to homes they’ve escaped or been kicked out of.
Others leave to escape bullying at school, said Tammy Roth, director of crisis services at Nashville’s Oasis Center, a nonprofit organization that helps young people in crisis. The problem is more inescapable than ever because of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, she said.
And Nashville tends to lure downtrodden teens with promises of a better life, said Debbie Miller, executive director of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Office of Well-Being.
“Nashville ends up with more than its fair share of runaways who find themselves on the street,” Miller said. “It’s at the intersection of two major interstates and has that Music City tag, so teens think there will be more opportunities for them here.”
Older teens fall through the cracks
Roth runs the nonprofit Oasis Center’s 12-bed emergency shelter. It is the only shelter for homeless teenagers in Middle Tennessee, she said.
“Most of the kids we deal with are brought here by their parents,” Roth said. “They just say, ‘I give up. I’m done.’ ”
The “throwaways” who call the National Runaway Switchboard have increased by 21 percent since 2009, 48 percent over the past three years and 68 percent from 2000.
Teens stay at the shelter for two weeks and receive counseling and schooling. The shelter has a 96 percent success rate of avoiding foster care by placing the teen back home with parents or with another family member willing to care for him. The center also has an outreach team dedicated to finding homeless teens and getting them the help they need.
“There are just not a lot of advocates for older teens,” Roth said. “The systems that are out there are not really working in their favor. There are so many kids that are falling through the cracks.”
Younger teens find themselves on the streets, too.
The number of Nashville public school students classified as homeless increased from 465 in 2005 to 2,049 this year. School districts in Rutherford and Wilson counties also had significant increases.
But 75 percent of Metro’s homeless student population are middle school age or younger, said Catherine Knowles, the district’s homeless education program supervisor. Children that age are most likely to have slots available with their parents in homeless shelters.
Most homeless shelters and social services are geared toward either adults or families with young children. Miller said some older boys want to stay there, too, but can’t because they’ve hit puberty.
“They can’t stay with mom at a homeless shelter,” Miller said. “But they’re too young to fend for themselves at the men’s shelter.
“So, a mother has to ask herself: What’s worse, leaving him at the men’s shelter where he might get raped or beaten, or leave him in a car with a Happy Meal, tell him not to leave the car and come back for him in the morning?”
The women’s shelter at the Nashville Rescue Mission recently added nine rooms in which boys 11-17 can stay with their mothers and younger siblings. The women’s mission alone can take 224 people and has been running at or near capacity most nights — especially in the summer.
“We’re filling up because more people get evicted in the summer,” said Mary Crutcher, director of guest women’s ministry at the shelter. “From June to September, more landlords evict people. In the winter, they have more of a conscience.”
Families often don’t find the shelter until they’re in crisis.
“We are their last resort,” Crutcher said. “When you come to the mission, you’ve exhausted all means. You’ve already stayed in cars, stayed with family and motels and friends. When you’ve come to the mission, you’re at your end. We’re the last hope.”
Bullied boy dreams of starting new
For the past nine months, Jeremy Brusseau, 12, has lived in one of the nine rooms for teens and their families with his mother, Rebecca, and 9-year-old brother, Joseph.
The family is not guaranteed the room every night, so they must pack up their few belongings and keep them in Rebecca Brusseau’s car. When school was in session, she would drop off Jeremy at school every day in the crowded car. Many times he’d be wearing the same outfit as the day before.
The other kids caught on quickly.
“Kids are mean,” Jeremy said.
Brusseau, who lost her job as a caregiver for the mentally ill and was evicted from the family’s apartment, is trying to get Social Security money from the boys’ father, who died a few months ago, and then buy a house for her and her sons.
She said the shelter teaches her children compassion. But shelter life also adds to Jeremy’s stresses. He lets the kids at school pick on him because he doesn’t want to get beaten up. There are enough of those threats from the other shelter kids. He dreams of moving to Florida or California and starting new, somewhere where the other kids won’t know he’s homeless.
‘A very different kind of kid’
The self-proclaimed “travel kids” — Madeline, Zoe, Brian and Rune — share his resistance to the label of homelessness.
“There are times when I’ve broken down crying because someone is so mean to me,” said Zoe, kicked out of her home at 16. “People try to convert me to their religion. They tell me I’m going to hell. I’m just a very different kind of kid. I’m just stubborn, and I don’t like to be told what to do.”
Through mutual friends, Zoe and Madeline met up in Tucson with Brian and Rune, who both left a halfway house for drug-rehabilitated teens. Three months ago, the four decided to run.
The night before she left, Madeline’s mother organized an hours-long intervention.
“She is so worried about me, just so so worried,” Madeline said. “I just had to tell her I can’t live off her any more. I’ve been waiting on something my whole life. I was just so sick of sitting on Facebook for hours. So sick of watching TV for hours.”
All she has is a backpack, filled with a sleeping bag and a picture of her and her dad when she was 4.
The four share two cellphones. Madeline’s mom texts every day.
“She thinks I’m going to die,” Madeline said. “My parents were really, really overprotective. They controlled my every move. My mom is one of those people who all she ever wanted to do with her life was be a mom. She was good at it. But I just do better on my own.”
Mila, a cute but flea-ridden pit bull mix, travels with the foursome for protection and companionship. Homeless people are more likely to get money from strangers if they are accompanied by a dog, Roth said.
The group’s main source of income is from “spanging,” or begging for spare change. But they also “busk,” which is the street term for playing the guitar for money.
An afternoon for the ‘travel kids’
On a hot, sunny day in Nashville, they sat under the shade of a tree next to a downtown gas station.
In two hours, four homeless men approached the group. One asked if they were old enough to drink beer. They weren’t, the teens replied. Another dropped off a few pieces of bread. He was met with an encouraged round of “Thanks, dude” and “Thanks, man,” followed by a discussion of the collective generosity and hospitality in the South.
A mentally ill man stood near them, holding a dead bird and picking apart its wings. The teens ignored him the best they could.
The gas station manager came outside and nicely told the group to stay off his property. He apologized and told them they could move behind a nearby fence and no one would bother them.
Again, a round of “Thanks, dude,” “No problem, man.”
“People are genuinely nice, you just have to give them a chance,” Zoe said. “My parents were good parents. My stepdad was difficult, but mainly I just do better with less structure.”
Seeking help through hotlines or social services is the last thing on her mind.
And so the advocates for this niche homeless population are tasked with somehow finding these kids who try their best to evade them and letting them know the streets are no place for them. But Blaha often finds call-takers on the national hotline have nowhere to send teens when they do call for help.
“We’re not always able to refer kids to safety and resources,” Blaha said. “Sometimes, there is just nothing there, so we have to be creative and call churches and other groups. We, as adults, know better than they do. These teens say they’re not in crisis. But we know they’re not safe.
“We need more beds for these teens. We need better mental health services and rehabilitation services. Fixing the problem has to begin with better attention brought to this group.”
The Tucson travel kids filled up water bottles at the gas station. Zoe bandaged her badly injured feet.
They took cardboard from a garbage can and wrote “Louisville.” And then they perched themselves amid busy interstate traffic with their thumbs in the air.
Huntsville, AL June 19 2011 – Huntsville police have arrested a man on third degree burglary charges after finding stolen items in his car.
Around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning security officers at West Mastin Lake Elementary reported to police that two people were seen walking the halls of the school.
Huntsville police said officers responded and a K-9 united searched the school, but they didn’t find anyone. A short time later, though, investigators said they found a vehicle nearby with school property inside. Police said the vehicle was registered to 20-year-old Deante Hatchett, and when they went to his home, he admitted to driving the vehicle.
Hatchett was arrested and booked into the Madison County Metro Jail. His bond is set at $5,000.
SCRANTON PA June 19 2011 – A current Scranton patrolman faces charges including official oppression after an alleged incident Sunday, June 12, at The V Spot, 906 Providence Rd., Scranton.
Mark Miller, 32, of Prospect Ave., faces one count each of terroristic threats, official oppression, disorderly conduct and harassment, and two counts of simple assault in charges filed June 16.
According to an affidavit:
The Lackawanna County District Attorney’s office received a report written by Scranton Sgt. Timothy Charles about the physical altercation at the V Spot on June 14.
Miller, along with Brian Gannon and Christopher Kahanic, attempted to enter the bar while carrying alcohol, according to security guard Matthew Sobieski. Miller and Gannon said that they were “Scranton cops,” and Gannon allegedly showed him a fake badge as he is not employed by the department.
Miller allegedly told Sobieski that he was going to “punch him in the face” when he was asked to show his police badge a second time. He then began fighting with Robert Ruddy, an off-duty security guard for the bar, and Michelle Smolskis. Miller allegedly punched the two and was “stepping on their chests.”
Lackawanna County Detective John Munley interviewed Sobieski after reviewing the report. He told Munley that when the men refused to leave after they approached the door carrying alcohol, he warned them that he would call police.
“Oh yeah, (expletive), I’m a Scranton cop,” Miller allegedly replied.
Miller also allegedly told Sobieski that “if anything happens to him, he will ‘(expletive) Mr. Sobieski up,’” according to the affidavit.
“I will make your life a living hell. I will pull you over every time I could. I will arrest you and put you in jail for the rest of your life,” Miller allegedly continued. “I will kill you.”
Sobieski told the detective that “he was in fear for his life at this time.”
Surveillance footage showed Miller showing his badge in an attempt to enter the bar and striking Smolskis and Ruddy.
Miller offered no comment as he left his arraignment on Thursday afternoon. He was released on $5,000 unsecured bail.
Gannon, 27, is charged with one count each of simple assault, impersonating a public official, disorderly conduct and harassment. He was arraigned June 17 and released on $5,000 unsecured bail.
Kahanic, 26, was arraigned June 17 on disorderly conduct and harassment charges and released on his own recognizance.
Preliminary hearings for the men are set for June 22.
Scranton Police Chief Dan Duffy said Miller is currently on unpaid administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Louisville KY June 19 2011 Metro Police have identified the off-duty police officer who was in an accident that killed a passenger of another vehicle Friday afternoon as Sgt. John Lewis, a 20-year veteran.
Lewis has been placed on paid administrative leave and the police public integrity unit and traffic unit are investigating the crash, which is routine in these situations, said police spokesman Dwight Mitchell.
Mitchell said Lewis has been a Louisville police officer since 1990.
Lewis was driving an unmarked police van in the 7800 block of Smyrna Parkway with two of his children inside, according to police. The van crossed into an oncoming traffic lane about 3:30 p.m., colliding with a Ford Taurus.
A passenger in the Ford, Don Braden, 76, died shortly after being taken to University Hospital, authorities said. Lewis, his children and the driver of the Ford suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
New Orleans LA June 19 2011 Police arrested a man in his 50s Friday for juvenille pornography as well as indecent behavior with juveniles at Tulane University’s day camp.
Tulane Campus Police told detectives that counselors at the children’s camp saw a stranger in the locker room Thursday video taping children with his cell phone, said the New Orleans Police Department.
William Lovejoy, 54, returned the next day and was detained by Tulane Police, then arrested by NOPD’s special victims unit, said NOPD spokesman Officer Garry Flot.
Flot said Lovejoy’s cell phone captured several children inside the locker room nude, changing into their swim gear. Lovejoy was a member of Tulane’s Gym since 2005, Flot said.
Police have asked that anyone with information about the crime call Crimestoppers at 822-1111 or toll-free at 1-877-903-7867. Anyone with information leading to an arrest and indictment could receive a cash reward of up to $2,500 without having to give a name or testify to receive the reward. Citizens can also submit an anonymous tip online at www.crimestoppersgno.org.
The Marshall County Coroner’s Office identified the woman as Tara Whitacre, 32.
Hunstville Hospital for Women and Children said Hailee Day, 4, died from injuries suffered in the crash. Gavin Whitacre, 7, was injured in the crash. He has been in and out of surgery since the crash and is stable but critical condition.
Video from the scene showed the cockpit and passenger areas were basically disintegrated when the plane hit the ground. The wings and tail of the plane seemed to be the only parts that survived. Investigators said the plane had just stopped at a Guntersville airport to refuel. They said shortly after takeoff, the plane seemed to have problems and clipped some trees and power lines before crashing.
Authorities have not confirmed the identities of the male victims until has been contacted. Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson confirms the man had a Xenia driver’s license and practices law in both Ohio and Tennessee. The plan was registered in Nashville. Chief Peterson said Whitacre was his law clerk.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergin said the aircraft registration was N1803T. The aircraft was a fixed wing single-engine Piper PA-28-140, according to the FAA Registry. The plane was manufactured in 1971 and registered to Aviation Unlimited Inc. of Nashville, Tenn, our partners at the Dayton Daily News reported.
“It does appear to be a family. What the exact relationships are going to be we do not know. We’ve been able to find very little information on them at this point but it was a male and female adults that are deceased. There was a male and female child on board, both less than 10 years old. Those are the two people being treated at the hospital at this time,” Chief Peterson told CBS affiliate, WHNT in Huntsville, AL.
The two children on board, a young boy and girl who’s ages have not been determined, are being hospitalized. News Center 7 has learned the boy spent much of Saturday evening in and out of surgery while the young girl’s condition is very fragile.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Security Board are both investigating the crash.
Columbus GA June 19 2011 Four men accused of having a gun and fleeing from Peachtree Mall security Saturday evening face charges of disorderly conduct, reports state.
Marquaris D. Word, 18; Keon D. Coleman, 18, and Dustin Fortson, 20, all of Phenix City; and Demetrius Rashad Smith, 21, of Columbus each face two counts of disorderly conduct, police said.
According to reports, the four men were inside the Manchester Expressway mall around 7 p.m. Mall security spotted Fortson holding his waistband and saw what appeared to be the outline of a gun.
Security approached the men, who allegedly ran to the parking lot and into a car. They then sped off to the back of the mall and into a restricted corridor, where security later found a gun, police said.
Reports state the men went from the restricted area to the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. When they returned to mall property, their car was stopped and they were arrested.
FAIRFILED NJ June 19 2011– A police officer probing the theft of several vehicles from a northern New Jersey auto dealership was injured early Sunday when a stolen pickup truck crashed into his cruiser.
Fairfield officer Alex Cifelli was being treated at Morristown Medical Center for undisclosed injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening but may require surgery.
Cifelli was among the officers who responded to the Route 46 lot around 4 a.m. after a security guard there reported several people were trying to steal vehicles.
The pickup soon careened through a locked gate and struck Cifelli’s marked vehicle. The driver then tried to flee on foot but was captured.
Five people … including a juvenile … face numerous charges, including burglary and conspiracy. The pickup’s driver also was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer.
Portland OR June 19 2011 A 29-year-old Northeast Portland man is sitting in Multnomah County Jail today after a tussle with local nightclub security guards lead to the discovery of a gun.
Portland police said Justin Allen Greene allegedly got rowdy after he was denied entry into Slow Bar at 533 SE Grand Ave., late Saturday night because of visible signs of intoxication. He got into a scuffle with bar security and while he was being detained, a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum fell out of his waistband, dropped to the floor but did not go off.
Greene has been charged with possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly conduct and two counts of harassment. He is being held on $13,500 bail and also had an existing warrant for his arrest in Washington.