RICHARDSON, Texas July 9 2012 (AP) - A crane collapse in suburban Dallas has killed two construction workers.
It happened in Richardson, on the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas. The university says the crane was being disassembled at the time.
A witness in a nearby campus library told reporters the accident sounded like a loud crash of metal from the sky. He also heard screams.
The weather may have been a factor. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service says a band of thunderstorms moving through the area brought wind gusts in excess of 40 miles an hour.
The crane was being used to construct a large classroom building scheduled to be completed next year.
The Times-News reports Ricky Garcia began working for PSI Environmental Systems in Twin Falls in 2005. He left to take another job in 2007, and filed a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission contending that company officials passed him over for raises and told him that Hispanic workers would never be promoted. In February 2009, the commission found PSI had discriminated against Garcia, and late last month a federal jury agreed.
Garcia says he feels relieved and happy after the verdict. PSI district manager Josh Brown said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit and that his company had decided not to discuss the case.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports (http://bit.ly/OGyt1A) that Michael Kenneth Lyons of Waterloo was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of violating a court order not to contact the 18-year-old student. His wife reported that he called the student.
Police arrested Lyons in November after finding him and the student kissing in a car.
He pleaded guilty in May to sexual exploitation by a school employee and was sentenced to five years in prison. That was suspended to 30 days in jail as long as he abided by certain conditions — including one not to contact the student until May 2017.
He is being held at the Black Hawk County Jail without bond.
Wichita KS July 9 2012 Authorities say a Wichita woman stripped nude in a police car and kicked out a window.
It happened Friday night when police responded to report that a 35-year-old was exposing herself to residents at an apartment complex.
Police Sgt. Scott Brunow says the woman was partially clothed when officers arrived. She was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car, where she managed to undress herself.
Police say she then kicked out a side rear window.
The woman was arrested on suspicion of public nudity and criminal damage to property. Brunow says there is “no indication” whether the woman was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Trainer Ron Stuart said he had been trying for years to get the wider security industry to recognise fitness levels for security guards.
His experience in the industry included 15 years working in regional management for a major security company and more than 20 years of training unemployed people to be security guards.
His courses included a fitness element, but industry training organisation Etito dropped a fitness requirement from its updated level 2 National Certificate in Security without consulting others in the industry, he said.
“A security guard is responsible for protecting property or possessions and preventing incidents or accidents – to be capable of doing this they need a personal level of fitness.”
From last year, all bouncers, security guards and crowd controllers needed to have a licence or certificate of approval to operate.
At present, it is optional for security guards to complete a relevant qualification, but the Government has indicated training requirements will be needed in the future.
Stuart said the current national certificate was a good start for those looking to have a career in the security industry, but it did not address whether someone had the physical ability to do the job.
Fitness was important for security guards, and knowing a guard’s fitness level could determine the type of work they were capable of, he said.
“I often have a chuckle at rugby matches … the guards can have trouble standing for the game let alone stop a pitch runner.”
Michael Frampton, Etito strategy and corporate relations manager, said the security industry felt fitness was important, but it should be up to the employer to decide whether a guard was appropriate for the job at hand.
“A qualification is awarded at a point in time and once they’re awarded they cannot be taken away from an individual, so a qualification awarded … five years ago may not be a good indication of somebody’s personal fitness today.”
Changes to the national certificate were implemented late last year after an 18-month consultation period with a “nationally representative” group of the security industry, he said.
“We are comfortable we have accurately reviewed the view of these stakeholders.”
It’s an attractive option. In Buffalo alone, cops have hit their heads on file drawers and fallen from chairs on their way to full pay for no work.
Injured-on-duty income is not taxed, so idled police net a 30 to 40 percent raise to stay home.
And if injured officers also draw Social Security Disability Income, their employers can’t touch it.
Injured on duty doesn’t necessarily mean injured by tackling a mugger, wrestling with a drunk or stopping a bullet. Police can reach the injured roll after walking into a wall at the station house or picking up reams of copy paper – perils faced by everyday bureaucrats.
Buffalo cops have been there in droves. Just a year ago, more than 14 percent of the force was deemed unable to work while collecting full pay. Most police departments find figures north of 10 percent cause for alarm.
With salaries and benefits, those stay-at-home police were costing Buffalo taxpayers more than $200,000 a week.
“In my opinion, anybody legitimately hurt on this job deserves everything we can do for them. … It’s a very dangerous job, and they put their lives on the line every day,” said Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who has cut the injured roll roughly in half from a year ago.
“I use that word, ‘legitimately,’ ” Derenda continued, “because the other ones deserve something different.”
Derenda didn’t mention retired Lt. Patrick S. O’Mara. But judging by what’s happening with O’Mara these days – a federal grand jury indicted him – he might be among the “other ones.”
O’Mara apparently worsened a bad shoulder when he picked up two reams of copy paper in March 2005. He had been back to work, on light duty, for less than a year after suffering a back strain. With the copy paper mishap, he landed on the injured list again and remained there until his retirement in March of this year – $626,000 later.
Over those years, O’Mara resisted light-duty work at Police Headquarters, even though his own words seemed to indicate he could be active. Here’s how O’Mara summed up his condition when he arrived at a local spa for his required regular therapeutic massages:
July 29, 2008: “Low back a little sore [yard work].”
Sept. 9, 2008: “Feeling good today – low back a little sore – went to state fair, lots of walking and driving.”
Nov. 18, 2008: “Low back a mess – lifted an A/C with poor body mechanics.”
March 3, 2009: “Not [too] bad – just the usual – spent the week in Las Vegas.”
December 2009: “Doing holiday decorations”; “lots of shoveling …”
The FBI obtained these statements during its investigation and revealed these details in a criminal complaint against O’Mara after Derenda and Mayor Byron W. Brown turned to the FBI and federal prosecutors for help in proving fraud by injured employees. O’Mara has pleaded not guilty.
When FBI agents told O’Mara they knew that despite his refusal to work desk duty, he’d been reporting to work as a church organist, he responded that he saw no incentive to return even at light duty.
For one thing, desk duty was demeaning, he said, according to the FBI.
Further, he took home more money when he didn’t have to pay taxes on his disability income.
City Hall has wrestled with its injured-on-duty rolls before. The Police Department list especially has swelled and receded as a string of mayors tested strategies for returning injured cops and firefighters to active duty.
“Some days in the city, 100 or 120 policemen are sick or injured on duty,” then-Mayor James D. Griffin lamented in 1993, almost 20 years ago. His idled cops created a huge cost. Replacements were brought in on overtime to fill mandated shifts. Meanwhile, the city covered the medical bills of injured police and paid their full and untaxed salary.
Mayor Anthony M. Masiello’s team decided that its centralized personnel department would monitor injured-on-duty cases with beefier enforcement.
Mayor Brown, in his second term, returned that oversight duty to his police and fire commissioners, because they are closer to the rank and file and know their departmental cultures better. Brown also denied injured cops certain job benefits, but he ran into resistance from the police union and the courts.
Meanwhile, Brown and Derenda sought help from federal authorities because, among other reasons, the FBI has more resources for surveillance and a Buffalo cop is less likely to recognize an FBI agent, as opposed to a Buffalo internal affairs investigator.
Judging by the way Buffalo’s injured-on-duty cops pop up in the oddest places, people might think their numbers are booming.
Injured Officer Martin Motley was spotted emerging from killer Timothy V. Jorden’s Hamburg home June 13.
Alex Benitez in 2011 was suspected of stealing from his Clarence gym. (The case was dismissed and sealed.)
When the city in 2010 hired a private security firm to work at city pools, officials learned it was run by sidelined Officer Levino Johnson.
Shrinking the rolls
But Brown’s Police Department has made a dent in the injured rolls. A year ago, in July 2011, police brass counted 116 officers unable to work and seven more on light duty, monitoring crime cameras at twice the pay of a civilian employee.
One week ago, when the city opened the books on a new fiscal year, 45 cops were on full injured-on-duty status and 22 were on light duty, Derenda said.
Those are snapshots in time, and the figures can change from week to week during a year. City Hall was unable to provide the total number of work days lost to injuries over the last two years, which is another measure of a city’s injured-on-duty problem. Still, police officials say, it’s indisputable that they have made progress.
During one pay period in 2011, June 9 to June 23, the department lost 8,343 working hours to injuries.
From June 11 to June 25 of this year, the loss was half that.
“We’ve seen nothing but a downward trend,” Derenda said.
The city retains its own doctor to review the medical records of each injured officer and to conduct an independent medical exam or arrange tests and treatment immediately, not weeks or months later. The Police Department assigned Deputy Commissioner Byron Lockwood and Lt. Dawn Kent, a registered nurse, to monitor cases. Today, the department will often challenge officers’ assertions that they cannot work or will steer them into a disability retirement.
It is akin to the strategy applied in the late 1990s, when Lt. Robert Calabrese rode herd on the enforcement effort. Calabrese and an outside medical group brought the number of long-term cases – those lasting a year or more – down to 25 from 60. Calabrese agrees that the police and fire commissioners, not City Hall’s human resources staff, should handle injured-on-duty cases.
“Obviously, there has been an improvement,” he said recently.
Turning to arbitration
This time, City Hall also has the ability to place an officer’s injury claims before an arbitrator. That’s been done in other cities for years, but Buffalo’s Police Benevolent Association only this year agreed to arbitration for injury cases. An arbitrator hears the sometimes-conflicting medical opinions and determines an officer’s fitness for light duty.
PBA President James Panus said it’s part of a collaboration in which the city became committed to quicker examination of an injury. Officers in past years waited months for the city to allow the tests required for full diagnosis, and that sometimes complicated their recovery.
“I think it’s in everybody’s interests, especially the PBA’s best interests, to get our members treated properly so they can come back to work with their brother and sister officers,” Panus said. “It saves the city money. It saves the taxpayers money. It’s a lot of money to train police and retain them. You want them back to work. But if you don’t approve and/or get them the treatment, their doctor is not going to release them to come back to work.”
More hearings are coming. The city’s doctor for its police and firefighter cases – David Hughes of Great Lakes Physician Services – has determined that 23 of the 45 officers out with injuries can return to work in some capacity, Derenda said. All 23 have requested hearings, the commissioner added.
“Our medical records are being ignored,” said one officer with a back injury, who asked to remain unidentified because he lacked the department’s approval to talk about the matter. He said Hughes does not fully consider the extent of injuries and how it can be difficult to even watch crime cameras for eight-hour shifts.
The doctor’s primary interest, the officer said, is to get cops back to work.
“Clearly, it’s to get people healthy and back to work,” Hughes told The Buffalo News. “There has been some resistance, certainly. But overall, I believe that people realize that it’s a good process, and we are finding that people are getting care quicker, and better care than they had been getting in the past, and that has resulted in a significant decrease in the number of people out injured on duty.”
Hughes said he assesses what the injured employees can do physically. It’s up to the employer to decide what to do with the worker.
As for the 23 who want to challenge his finding that they are able to work in some capacity, he said, those people say they are 100 percent disabled. But if they can go about their daily activities, they are not 100 percent disabled, he said.
Hughes also determined that idled Officer Robert Quintana was able to work light duty. But it was surveillance work, not medical findings, that led to the federal indictment of Quintana, also a former City Council member, with mail fraud, just as occurred with O’Mara.
The FBI implied in its criminal complaint that Quintana’s doctor, Raul Vazquez of Urban Family Practice in Buffalo, was just going through the motions as Vazquez upheld Quintana’s stand that he was physically unfit for duty.
“Dr. Vazquez’s progress notes are often two to three pages long, contain several headings with very brief notes afterward, do not provide much specificity about what happened during the actual visit, and give the impression that they are simply templates that Dr. Vazquez makes minor adjustments to from visit to visit,” an agent wrote.
“For example,” the complaint continued, “the majority of the reports submitted by Dr. Vazquez contained the same sentence which appears to have the identical typographical errors and spacing irregularities in it.”
The FBI noted that Vazquez reported that Quintana had “back herniated disc disease.”
But another doctor interpreting an MRI taken just months after Quintana fell down stairs while on the job in March 2005 indicated his discs were normal.
Vazquez, who is active in improving the medical care available on Buffalo’s West Side, said he could not comment about the FBI’s statements because of federal laws guarding the privacy of patient information. But an attorney for Vazquez, John Elmore, called Vazquez an honest physician.
“FBI agents aren’t medical doctors,” Elmore said, “and Dr. Vazquez is.”
After an examination by Hughes, Quintana was ordered to light duty, triggering a hearing. But by then, an FBI agent and internal affairs officers had already seen Quintana stocking coolers, chipping ice, clearing tables, carrying boxes of food and serving drinks at the Niagara Cafe on Niagara Street. While unable to work as a police officer, he had been working at the restaurant.
Quintana collected more than $500,000 in injured-on-duty pay over the years.
Similarly, dozens of officers on injured-on-duty status can be considered long-term cases. Two-thirds of the officers who in June were either unable to work or worked on light duty had cases that stretched back more than a year. The longest went back eight, nine and 10½ years.
For nearly all of the cops, it was not their first time on the injured list. An exception: Patricia Parete, the officer left paralyzed from the neck down after she was shot while making an arrest in December 2006. City records indicate she had never before been on the injured roll.
30% of cases in Buffalo
Barbara Van Epps is deputy director of the state Conference of Mayors, which in 2010 conducted a study that suggested ways to limit the cost of injured police and firefighters. The researchers estimated that about 30 percent of all the injured police in the 61 cities outside of New York City could be found in Buffalo.
“Some of these people are collecting these payments for years and years,” Van Epps said. “A lot of the municipalities we represent are very personnel-driven. Seventy-five percent of their budgets is personnel. While we are in a period of time where we are doing everything that we can to reduce property taxes … this area of disability benefits for uniformed employees is just spiraling out of control.”
By contrast, state government treats its own police differently. Injured-on-duty state troopers are limited to two years of stay-home status.
For a few years, roughly from 1999 to 2003, government employers drew a line between officers injured in “non-performance” duties and those hurt during periods of “heightened risk.” Cops who slipped on ice while walking through the parking lot were steered into workers’ compensation rather than injured-on-duty status. But a state Court of Appeals decision in December 2003 changed all that.
In a case brought by injured employees against three government employers, the judges determined that the section of General Municipal Law that has given injured cops full pay since 1961, and then full pay to corrections officers and other types of law enforcement officials since the 1980s and ’90s, allowed no distinction between so-called performance injuries and simple on-the-job accidents.
As the state’s highest court saw it, the officer who hurt himself picking up copy paper should be treated the same as one with a gunshot wound.
And in one of those quirks of state law, an officer with the gunshot wound will receive less of a disability pension, should that time come, than the officer who slipped on ice.
That’s because an officer with an accidental injury receives 75 percent of his final average pay, while an officer injured during the heightened risk of police work (like a high-speed chase or tackling a mugger) receives 50 of final average salary.
PRINCESS ANNE MD July 9 2012– A Somerset County man committed suicide following an evening police chase that hospitalized a Maryland State Police trooper.
Police said 45-year-old Alvin Darris Melvin of Princess Anne shot himself to death at the end of the brief pursuit, which began at 8:30 p.m. Friday. His body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy.
MSP spokesman Greg Shipley said the reason why Melvin killed himself remains under investigation.
“There’s not a clear motive as to why he took those actions,” Shipley said. “Everything happened very quickly and it wasn’t an extended pursuit. It all occurred in close proximity in a short period of time.”
The chase began when a trooper was patrolling on West Post Office Road in Princess Anne and spotted a 1998 Ford, driven by Melvin, with a passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt. It was at that point the trooper attempted to pull the car over, but Melvin allegedly refused to stop and was speeding away.
After going through Princess Anne, the chase continued onto northbound Route 13 with an additional trooper and two Princess Anne police officers joining in the pursuit. The second trooper vehicle, driven by Trooper First Class D. Tebbins, took the lead in the chase of Melvin and pulled into the adjacent lane to force him to pull over.
It was at that point that Melvin allegedly rammed Tebbins’ car, forcing the trooper’s vehicle into the median, striking several trees before overturning and catching fire. One of the Princess Anne officers ended their pursuit to help Tebbins and his K-9 officer escape from the car.
Police said Melvin lost control of his car and crashed into the ditch on the shoulder of Route 13, south of Loretto Road.
The first trooper and the remaining Princess Anne officer requested that both Melvin and the passenger exit the car. The passenger, a 16-year-old juvenile, heeded the officer’s request, but Melvin did not, police said.
As officers continued to order Melvin to get out of the car, they heard a gunshot coming from the vehicle and noticed Melvin was not moving. Police approached the car and found Melvin with a gunshot wound to the head and a .40 caliber pistol in his lap.
Emergency crews were called to the location and Melvin was pronounced dead at the scene. Tebbins was taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released. The K-9 was taken to an emergency veterinarian and was treated and released.
Police said the Ford was registered to Melvin’s wife and a full search of the car will be conducted once a warrant is obtained. The gun found on Melvin was not reported stolen.
According to online court records, Melvin was scheduled to appear in Wicomico County Circuit Court next month on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol stemming from an April 29 traffic stop.
CAYCE, SC July 9 2012 - Seven hundred and twenty-six iPod touch media devices and 49 Hewlett-Packard laptop computers were among the items stolen from several freight trailers at the Amazon distribution center in Cayce, according to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.
Officials say 20-year-old Todd Anthony Cofield, Jr. turned himself in to the sheriff’s department on arrest warrants charging him with two counts of grand larceny involving items worth more than $10,000.
According to arrest warrants, Cofield, a former Amazon employee, stole the iPods and laptops from two freight trailers he was entrusted to unload at the distribution center. The warrants go on to say that Cofield never unloaded trailers, but submitted false documents to the company claiming that he had unloaded them.
Both cases were reported to the sheriff’s department and warrants were issued for Cofield’s arrest.
In all, deputies say the stolen items totaled up to be worth around $160,000.
Cofield was eventually released from Lexington County Detention Center after posting a $50,000 bail.
SPRINGFIELD TN July 9 2012 — A group of young men stand on a street corner, across from the Bransford Youth Center, near a house suspected of being a gang hangout.
“Look to your left. That’s how it all starts,” says Springfield Alderman James Hubbard. “They start hanging on the corner. Usually by 13, they’re schooled by the returning ex-convicts.”
“Those boys right there? Eventually, they’re killing each other.”
If Springfield, a town of about 16,000 people 30 miles north of Nashville and 15 minutes from the Kentucky border, sounds like an unlikely place for gangs, it shouldn’t. In the past two months alone, three suspected gang members were arrested in the armed holdup of the Commerce Union Bank on South Main Street, a 26-year-old man was shot in the chest at the Stop One Market down the same street, and Rashaud Singletary, 20, was found dead with a bullet wound to the back of his head behind a home on J.L. Patterson Boulevard near the youth center.
Gang-related crimes statewide rose by nearly 25 percent in 2011, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. They have more than doubled since 2005, the first year gang crimes saw a significant spike. But the real story isn’t necessarily in places like Nashville or Memphis.
While larger cities unveil gang task forces, sweeping federal racketeering investigations and large-scale drug raids, the state’s small towns are becoming incubators of gang violence. Since 2005, cities with fewer than 50,000 residents saw gang crime more than triple.
“By and large, the average citizen, I don’t think, sees or knows what’s really going on. There’s a lot of people that are just in denial or unaware. If it doesn’t impact them directly, they wouldn’t know about it,” said Springfield police Chief David Thompson, who became chief here five months ago after working as an assistant city manager and police chief in Atlantic Beach, Fla. “We’ve reached a space now where you can’t ignore what’s happening.”
Police lack resources
Rural towns often have small and sometimes ill-equipped police departments, which can make the communities vulnerable and attractive to young criminals trying to dodge larger cities with more sophisticated gang units. Also, gangs find rural areas to be full of eager, new drug customers and devoid of competition from other gangs. For a while, at least.
The FBI’s annual National Gang Threat Assessment in 2011 was blunt in its appraisal of gangs’ interest in these untapped areas.
“Gang members are migrating from urban areas to suburban and rural communities to recruit new members, expand their drug distribution territories, form new alliances, and collaborate with rival gangs and criminal organizations for profit and influence,” the report said.
In Tennessee, gang incidents across the state rose about 110 percent from 2005 through 2011, according to the TBI. But remove the larger cities like Nashville and Memphis — areas often far more associated with gang violence — and the picture is far more troubling.
From 2005 to 2011, cities with fewer than 50,000 residents saw gang crimes rise 232 percent.
“Gangs gravitate to where business is good, typically illegal drugs, illegal weapons and prostitution,” said Kristin Helm, spokeswoman for the TBI. “Being in more rural areas, sometimes their criminal activity is less detectable from law enforcement and they aren’t competing with a different illegal gang across the street for business.”
Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen, whose department has grappled with gangs in recent years, said that big-city successes can become small-town problems.
“When Nashville cracks down on them, you know where they end up? They end up in Lebanon,” he said. “They were pushing people out of their public housing and into our public housing. We know that as a fact.”
Just identifying the problem can be difficult for small communities. Gang incidents probably are under-reported, authorities acknowledge. Before this year, for example, Springfield had reported to the TBI only two gang incidents from 2001 through 2011. Those same records show that 53 of 95 Tennessee counties reported zero gang incidents in 2011.
When Thompson came on as chief earlier this year, he said people in the community told him Springfield didn’t have a gang problem. “But the more I looked around, the more I was seeing things,” the chief said.
A week after being told gangs weren’t an issue there, his department responded to five shootings. At one crime scene, investigators found a burning bandana in the road — a not-too-subtle warning left by one gang to its rivals. One of Thompson’s officers, charged with doing a survey of gang graffiti in the neighborhood, returned to the department with 300 photos in a single day.
“How can you ignore or how can you not recognize the gang activity here?” he asked.
Ordeal in Columbia
Sometimes something terrible has to happen to get the community’s attention.
In Columbia, it happened in April 2009. It was a beautiful Sunday, right after church, when a bullet flew through Relland Stovall’s window and struck him in the head, killing him.
He had nothing to do with gangs — he was a school janitor, well known in the community for helping out senior citizens on his block. His death underscored the random ripple effect of gang violence. Far from being a target, Stovall was killed by a stray bullet from a Crips gang member meant for a rival.
Columbia City Manager Paul Boyer said that Stovall’s death was the city’s defining moment in its battle with gangs. He recalled leaving Stovall’s memorial service and feeling the resolve of a city that had been pushed too far.
“When we walked out of church that night, I knew we had the citizens,” he said. “That was a put-down-your-foot day. They’ve had enough.”
Today, the city has a vigorous neighborhood watch system with residents like Sherley Jones, a retired military man who once used his shotgun to chase a gang member from his front yard.
“He pulled a pistol out on me,” Jones said. “I came back outside with my shotgun and pistol and said, ‘Mine is bigger than yours, let’s see what happens.’ ”
Jones helped rally community support. Today, he sees police officers walking the beat, talking with residents and asking if they have any problems. Because of that, he says, the gang problem has improved. In 2010, there were 111 gang incidents in Columbia, and one year later there were just 26.
“What success we have, I don’t think we could have obtained by ourselves,” Boyer said. “The community, they just said, ‘No, we need your help, and we’re gonna help and we’re not putting up with it anymore.’ ”
Hubbard, one of six Springfield city aldermen, said his city as a whole has not demonstrated the same will to drive out gang activity.
He spread the blame evenly among elected officials, the affluent and the black community, who Hubbard says should be taking the lead.
“It would be eradicated faster if the black community could just give money, time and talent,” said Hubbard, who is black. “But, there’s hesitancy born of complacency, ignorance of the facts and some just don’t care.”
Lack of economic opportunities, unemployment and poverty also may play a part. According to the 2010 census, almost a quarter of the city’s population is under the poverty level. Nearly 20 percent are in the food stamp program.
“The drugs, the gangs, the poverty — all of those things come together,” said Chief Thompson. “It creates their own status system, their own family, if you will. There’s status involved in it, there’s protection involved in it, there’s a strong social bond.”
The police chief said any solution will require effort and sacrifice from the entire community on a variety of societal problems.
“It’s not just a crime issue, it’s a social issue,” he said. “It requires more than just putting people in jail for gang activity.”
Today, the city is home to multiple gangs, including the Bloods and Crips.
Latino gangs like MS-13 also have taken hold in Springfield. Another Latino gang known as Sur-13, or the Surenos, claims allegiance to the Mexican Mafia and left its mark on a wall across from the West 11th Avenue home Jesse R. Farmer has lived in for more than 50 years.
He didn’t much mind the graffiti, or “tag” as police call it. But as he tried to keep cool on his porch with friends on a recent afternoon, he admitted that some youth in Springfield frighten him.
“I hate it. You kids need to be in school,” said Farmer, 86. “But you can’t say nothing. They’ll pull out a big, old pistol. They’re liable to. They’re dangerous. It’s a shame.”
His friend James Petties, 75, agreed. He’s lived in the city for about 40 years, across town from Farmer, near the Carden Heights public housing development. He said he routinely sees gang members in the area and doesn’t always feel safe in his own home.
“You sit out on the porch and you see all this happening,” Petties said. “You don’t know if a bullet is gonna go off. You see something like that and you go in the house.”
The two lament the state of their city.
“This has been happening a long time,” Petties said.
“I’ve seen a guy come through here shooting,” Farmer replied, pointing down his street. “He could have killed anybody.”
Petties shook his head.
“They don’t care who they hurt. You know what they say: ‘The devil is busy.’ ”
‘Son’s been shot’
On May 6, the devil got started early.
It was just after midnight when Jan Singletary Pettis was awakened by the panicked call.
“Your son’s been shot. Rashaud’s been shot,” the voice on the line told her. “I jump out of bed, praying, ‘Please, Lord, let him be OK. Please, let him be OK.’ ”
She rushed to a home on John L. Patterson Boulevard where her son was being loaded into an ambulance. Blood poured from the gunshot wound in the back of his head.
Police are vague as to what exactly happened there that night, saying only that it started as a fight. Chief Thompson said there was “gang influence” involved, but declined to say what gang, who the gang members were or what the dispute was about. Police have arrested and charged a 19-year-old man with the shooting. Pettis waited for a day at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with friends and family. As she sits on her porch describing that day, she stares calmly off into the distance.
“After a day, they ran several tests on him. They declared him clinically dead,” she said, the grief returning to her face. “It’s hard to deal with. It’s not something that’s going to pass in a year’s time. He’s my only child — my only baby.”
She knows her son wasn’t perfect, but she denies he was in a gang. He had been out of prison for only five weeks and five days after serving time for a shooting he was involved in. His death may have been retribution.
But the pain has been unbearable. She misses his million-dollar smile, the way he tried to act smooth around the ladies, his strength, his kind heart and his silly sense of humor. And she decided that she didn’t want others to feel the same pain she does.
“I hurt bad. Who would’ve thought my baby — my baby — would only be here 20 years?” she said. “We’ve got to stop this violence.”
Just six days after Pettis’ son was murdered in Springfield, she took to the streets with dozens of others. They started out at South Main Street and Central Avenue and marched through some of Springfield’s roughest areas and right by the home on John L. Patterson Boulevard where Singletary was killed.
As they marched, they chanted, “We want peace!”
A week later, residents gathered at First Baptist Church to discuss crime in the community.
Hubbard said the neighborhood’s response, albeit a small one, encouraged him.
“It gives me a sign of hope,” Hubbard said. “I have recharged my efforts.”
A month later, Michelle Talavera, 28, was shot dead 75 miles south of Springfield on a street in Columbia.
Deborah Flores never thought a gang-related shooting would take her daughter. The family moved to Middle Tennessee 13 years ago to escape the gangs in Dallas.
On June 24, about 2 a.m., Talavera was shot on Woodland Street, outside a nightclub near Eighth Street. Police have released few details about her death and wouldn’t say whether she was targeted. But Chief Joseph Bishop said there was evidence of gang involvement.
Talavera leaves behind four children, Omar, 5; Jazmine, 7; Juan, 8; and Ramon, 10.
Flores wants to be strong for her grandchildren, but it hasn’t been easy. Especially with little Omar. She recalled the torture of telling him that his mother had died.
“You mean my mommy’s an angel?” he responded.
Around 9 a.m. on Saturday, three men armed with pistols entered a gameroom on Airline Dr. near I-45, according to investigators.
They allegedly tried to get into the club’s office but couldn’t, so they took off running.
On the way out, a security guard who works at another gameroom nearby saw the men and tried to stop them.
“I kept saying, get the lights, get the lights! Call the cops! Call the cops! You know, then he come out and they started shooting at each other. And he was right out in the open. The other guy was hiding behind a truck. He’s lucky he didn’t get shot,” said witness Ron White.
Officers say the guard hit one of the men, shooting him in the leg. The suspect was taken to the hospital but the other two men are still on the run.
The suspects did not manage to get any money.
UNION COUNTY, N.C. July 9 2012
A triple homicide in a quiet Union County neighborhood has neighbors and family members searching for answers, even as investigators say they don’t know how the three people died.
Agents from the State Bureau of Investigation are assisting with forensic analysis inside the house on Landsford Road near Marshville on Sunday morning. Agents said they will use special forensic technology to try and locate new pieces of evidence.
The house belonged to Ronnie Overcash, one of the victims. Neighbors said he lived there with his girlfriend, Crystal Hicks. Hicks’ body was found in a wooded area behind Overcash’s home.
The body of 61-year-old Jerry Marsh was also inside the house. Friends and neighbors said Marsh lived next door to Overcash, and he employed Overcash to work for him on a nearby chicken farm.
“Jerry is a super person,” said Larry Teeter, Marsh’s friend. “He was happy-go-lucky, always cheerful. I’d see him down at the restaurants, he always had a smile.”
Detectives are not saying how the three died. The bodies of Overcash and Marsh remained inside the house for nearly 12 hours as agents processed the scene for evidence.
“This is still an active crime scene at this time,” said Deputy Sheriff Ben Bailey.
The victims’ family members spent Saturday afternoon near the house, waiting for any updates from investigators.
Police also interviewed a man who was spotted driving Jerry Marsh’s truck. Deputies said he is not a suspect in the deaths. But they did not shed light on how the man got the truck or release his identity.
Neighbors who live near Union County’s triple death investigation called it startling. When asked, some described their neighborhood as quiet.
“It raised the hair on my arms because this is a peaceful area,” said Wanda Jenkins.
She lives next door to the house on Landsford Road near Marshville, where Union County deputies said the bodies of three people were found. A statement issued by the sheriff’s office said the bodies of two men and a woman were found at the residence shortly after 8 a.m. by a neighbor.
An investigation involving three deaths is rare in the county and even more rare in the low-crime area around Marshville, deputies said.
Larry Teeter said he heard about the investigation and came to the crime scene Saturday afternoon to watch.
“It’s been peaceful out here ever since I lived here,” he said.
Due to the extreme heat, the Red Cross has been assisting investigators all afternoon by providing water and snacks.
Anyone with any information concerning the deaths is asked to contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 704-283-3789, or Union CountyCrime Stoppers at 704-283-5600.
Lancaster County SC July 9 2012 A mother shot in front of her three children. A former major league baseball played gunned down during an argument. An 87-year-old woman stabbed to death by her great-grandson after she refused to give him money. Two convicted felons who gunned each other down during a drug deal.
Authorities said they are less than half of the toll from a deadly six months in Lancaster County, which has seen 11 people killed by others in the first six months of 2012, more than all the homicides in 2010 and 2011 combined. The county is four times smaller than the state’s largest counties, but is on pace to have a homicide rate closer to South Carolina’s major cities.
The Lancaster County sheriff blames drugs and repeat offenders, while officials in the city of Lancaster blame the bad economy. But for the people who live in the neighborhoods not far from the stabbings and the shootings, all those factors can take the blame and none of them look to get better any time soon.
Kenny Dawkins lives just blocks from Lancaster’s revitalized downtown, but the only work he has found in the past few years are odd jobs. He moved to Lancaster 25 years ago, falling in love with the bustling, beautiful mill town. But the mills left and the unemployment rate shot up. The county’s rate is routinely higher than the state rate, and was at 11.9 percent in May. In October, authorities said they rounded up 15 gang members, and in March, a drug sting ended in 79 arrests. Dawkins, 45, said the crime and lack of opportunities is dragging his neighborhood down.
“Back then, you could keep your doors and windows open and nothing happened. Nobody was looking to rob you because they could find work if they wanted to,” said Dawkins , who sat on his stoop drinking from a small liquor bottle he said kept him from doing anything stupid out of frustration. “But that changed real quick. Now you have to have bars on your windows and you still better have a .12-gauge ready by the door.”
Dawkins’ neighborhood is a stark contrast to much of the rest of the county of 77,000 people, with its expensive neighborhoods catering to people from bordering Charlotte, N.C., to the north and the nice houses on the other side of town with “We Are Lancaster!” signs. The signs are left over from earlier this year, when some residents banded together after a national news outlet angered the town by saying it represented the decline of America.
Most of the homicides this year have been in or near Lancaster’s grittier neighborhoods. The two convicted felons shot each other in a neighborhood of homes built in the 1950s, where one house is for sale for $27,500. The mother was killed in her decades-old trailer in a run-down park a short distance from the boundary of the Lancaster Country Club. Deputies said she was robbed. Investigators said former major league outfielder Danny Clyburn Jr. was killed by a man with a record of assaults and drug arrests going back to 1992. The great-grandmother who investigators said was stabbed by her great-grandson lived in a neighborhood of small homes built just after World War II.
Lancaster County had five homicides in 2010 and five more in 2011. The 2012 rate of 2.9 homicides per 10,000 people would far outpace places considered more dangerous, like Orangeburg of Charleston counties, which have rates well below two homicides per 10,000 people.
The Lancaster police chief didn’t return several messages to discuss the increased violence in her city, but City Councilwoman Tamara Green Garris said the chief is stressing community watch programs.
Garris said the city also recently started bringing the solicitor to community events to help people understand how they can have minor criminal charges that might show up in background checks removed from their records.
“You would be surprised at the people who have made one mistake and now they just can’t find a job,” Garris said.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said he is putting more officers on the streets and is emphasizing fighting drugs and illegal guns. But he thinks this uptick in homicides is just a blip that may take care of itself. All the homicides in the county this year have been committed by people with criminal records, who are either involved in selling drugs or need money to buy them, he said.
“If you get involved in this stuff, you end up in jail or you end up dead,” Faile said.
Faile also is asking judges to consider higher bonds. Not only did the two convicted felons who shot each other have long records, but one of them was free on bond awaiting trial on a murder charge, the sheriff said.
The neighborhoods where the killings are taking place aren’t far from the businesses and homes proudly displaying the “We Are Lancaster!” signs. But you won’t see any of those signs in Rhonda Hood’s community. In fact, the “no trespassing” signs outnumber the community watch signs. Hood has lived in Lancaster for all her 26 years. She said she makes sure to dress and act like she doesn’t have anything, which she said is fairly easy when she can’t find a job. But she figures she can’t guarantee she won’t be a victim.
“If it’s better for them, they are going to rob and steal,” Hood said.
Garris and the rest of Lancaster City Council are aware that the violence has to end in the city — nicknamed the “The Red Rose City” after its namesake in England — if they want to keep selling it as a small-town alternative close to the Charlotte region. She plans candlelight vigils to remember families ruined by violence so people don’t become desensitized and has let the police department know they have her full support.
“We can’t let them win. The greater good has to win,” Garris said. “The elderly people used to sit on their porches, but now they are afraid of gunfire ringing out. It shouldn’t be that way.”
BLUEFIELD WV July 9 2012 — The West Virginia State Police are investigating a fatal police shooting that occurred early Sunday morning at the intersection of U.S. Route 460 and Country Girl Road in Green Valley.
The incident started at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday night, when a man who was arrested at a traffic stop in Bluefield, managed to steal a Bluefield Police Department cruiser and flee from the scene.
The suspect exited the cruiser on U.S. Route 460 and attempted to escape on foot.
Bluefield police officers and a trooper with the West Virginia State Police pursued the subject on foot. During a scuffle, the subject took a handgun from one of the pursuing officers.
When the subject refused to relinquish the weapon, a state trooper fatally shot the subject, according to a press release from First Sgt. Michael Baylous of the West Virginia State Police.