Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Nation Briefs

April 29, 2002

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St. Louis: Storms kill four in Midwest, East

Storms on Sundya battered the Tennessee and Ohio valleys with tornadoes, high wind and hail before the system swept east. Four deaths were blamed on the storms.

Sunday evening, the system's leading edge unleashed a tornado in southern Maryland, authorities said. One man was killed and at least several others were injured.

A tornado cut a four-mile swath through Marble Hill, Mo., south of St. Louis, early Sunday and swept a family from their home. Billy Hoover, 12, was dropped about 40 yards away and died, authorities said. The four others in the house walked away unscathed.

High wind in southern Illinois destroyed or damaged several homes about 20 miles north of the Kentucky border. The body of Janie Chamness, 69, was found outside her mobile home.

In western Kentucky, straight-line wind destroyed a house, killing a man.

Nevada: Bikers leave town after casino killings

Thousands of bikers rumbled out of town Sunday as investigators sorted out the details of a casino brawl between rival motorcycle gangs that left three people dead.

Dozens of extra police patrolled the streets to guard against possible gang retaliation at one of the nation's largest motorcycle festivals, inl Laughlin.

Gamblers ran for cover Saturday as 60 to 70 people fought inside Harrah's hotel-casino. Police said gunfire erupted when an argument between the rival Mongols and Hells Angels gangs escalated.

"Blow by blow, stab by stab, and shot by shot, we know exactly what happened in that casino," said Las Vegas police Lt. Vince Cannito after watching casino surveillance tapes.

All three of the dead were gang members involved in the fight, police said.

New mexico: Indian bureau faces drunken-driving lawsuit

The family of a Nebraska couple killed in a wrong-way freeway collision told the federal government last week that it will sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs for $72.6 million for providing a vehicle to a chronic drunken driver.

Larry and Rita Beller were killed Jan. 25 when Lloyd Larson drove his BIA pickup the wrong direction on Interstate 40 near Albuquerque and collided head-on with their car. Two other people in the Bellers' car, Edward and Alice Ramaekers, were also killed.

Larson, who inspected construction projects on American Indian reservations, had a blood-alcohol level of more than 2 1/2 times the state's legal limit several hours after the crash. Court documents showed Larson had four driving-while-intoxicated convictions and five other DWI arrests.

Lynn Sharp, a lawyer for the Beller family, said that the bureau knew some employees regularly drove drunk and did nothing to prevent it.

Texas: Sheriff under fire for civilian patrols

A local sheriff is being criticized for letting armed civilians ride on patrol with deputies.

"The days of the Wild West are over," said Larry Watts, chief of staff of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. "To deputize citizens who've had no training is a poor police policy. Taxpayers should insist this does not happen. The sheriff should be ashamed."

Chambers County Sheriff Monroe Kreuzer defends the program he created, saying that while the volunteers are not law enforcement officers, they are licensed to carry concealed handguns.

"It's an added advantage to have that civilian with the officer," Kreuzer told county commissioners last week. "If the officer gets in trouble, it's another warm body there."

There are no rules prohibiting citizens, armed or unarmed, from riding with police officers, said Steve Myers, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Connecticut: School official cites 1978 threat from Skakel

Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was once suspended from a private school in Vermont after threatening a teacher's wife with a ski pole, the school's founder said Sunday.

Richard Wright, founder of The Vershire School, said that Skakel was "sent home" after threatening to strike a woman during a confrontation in 1978 in a dormitory staircase.

"He was aggressive and threatened the wife of a staff person, and we don't allow that," Wright told The Associated Press Sunday. "He was sent home and told to consult with a psychiatrist or psychologist to control impulsive behavior."

The incident allegedly occurred 2 1/2 years after Skakel's neighbor, Martha Moxley, was beaten to death with a golf club in Greenwich. Skakel, a nephew of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is charged with her murder, and testimony in his trial is to begin May 7 in Norwalk.

Nebraska: State becomes last to use electric chair

Nebraska officially became the only state in the country with the electric chair as the sole method of execution after Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman last week signed a bill that switches his state to lethal injection as the preferred method.

That's a source of embarrassment to many in Nebraska's unicameral Legislature, which adjourned this month without altering the way it executes the condemned. Republican Sen. Jon Bruning, R, introduced measures to authorize lethal injection this year and last year, but they never got out of the Judiciary Committee.

"The time to change is now," Bruning said. "It's only a matter of time before Nebraska's method is ruled cruel and unusual."

Three men have been put to death in Nebraska since the state resumed executions in 1994. Seven men are on the state's death row.

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