TYLER — Following the release of videos showing controversial Smith County Commissioners Court meetings, the county is fighting back. That’s according to KETK. After Grassroots America – We the People filed an open records request, the videos were released on the order of state District Judge Jack Carter. Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran (pictured) issued a statement saying the county is seeking appellate review of the court order “because of irregularities surrounding the timing and procedure used to obtain this order and because the law is clear that improper disclosure of videos of closed sessions is a crime.”… Read More
GILMER — A preliminary autopsy shows a Union Grove woman found dead early this month was killed with a gunshot to the head. According to KETK, Upshur County authorities responded to a house on Private Road 3367 in Union Grove. They say when they got there, they found 23-year-old Miranda Streed. She was also shot in the arm. There have been no arrests in the case. The death was one of three homicides in Upshur County this year.
TYLER — The mosquito-borne Zika virus is getting plenty of attention from Texas physicians and public health experts, including one based at UT Health Northeast. As the mercury climbs and mosquitoes buzz in greater numbers, doctors are worried that Zika will again be a major threat to unborn children. Dr. David Lakey says the public can fight Zika by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds — and taking precautions when visiting areas where the disease is prevalent. According to Lakey, “Transmission of mosquitoes, that’ll probably be limited to the southern part of our state, but I expect that there’s gonna be travelers returning throughout the state of Texas that’ll be infected.” In people, Zika causes headaches, fever, nausea — and potentially, a range of birth defects in unborn children.
ALPINE (AP) – Prosecutors say a former Texas schoolteacher and Indian national who’s been jailed for nearly a year has been sentenced to time served for job-related visa fraud and will be deported. George Mariadas Kurusu was sentenced Wednesday in Alpine and must repay about $53,000. The 58-year-old Kurusu in January pleaded guilty to wire fraud, fraud in foreign labor contracting, making a false statement on a visa application and to tampering with a witness, victim or an informant. Kurusu formerly taught in Fort Stockton, Texas. Administrators were unaware of the scheme in which he helped lure foreign teachers, via newspaper ads in Hyderabad, India, then pocketed large fees. Prosecutors say Kurusu, who was arrested last May, took 15 percent from each teacher’s paycheck and threatened deportation for those who complained.
AUSTIN (AP) – In a push to combat campus sexual assault, the Texas Legislature is moving to pardon victims from criminal charges for underage drinking. A bill passed unanimously Wednesday by the state Senate protects from prosecution victims of sexual assault who admit to underage drinking while they were being abused. The victim must report the crime to a health professional, administrator, or to law enforcement for immunity. The bill now heads to the Texas House. It’s one of several by Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson designed to increase campus sexual assault reporting rates. Another excuses victims and witnesses from being punished for underage drinking, and other violations, under university codes of conduct. The effort follows a Baylor University scandal where many female students sued, saying they were bullied into keeping rapes secret.
LAREDO (AP) – The FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety have raided Laredo municipal offices, the Webb County Courthouse and other offices as they seized materials and sent employees home. County officials said in a statement Wednesday that the auditor’s office, information technology and other offices will remain closed until further notice. City spokeswoman Blasita Lopez told the Laredo Morning Times that agents directed city hall employees to step away from their work stations. In a statement, the FBI declined to reveal what prompted the raid but said there’s no threat to public safety. Agents also raided a private engineering company in Laredo and Houston. In a statement, an attorney for Dannenbaum Engineering said the firm is cooperating with federal agents and is performing its own investigation into what prompted the raid.
HOUSTON (AP) – Mayor Sylvester Turner is warning that up to 2,200 city workers would be laid off if Houston’s pension-reform measures don’t win approval from the Texas Legislature. Turner was flanked by city leaders Wednesday at a news conference at which he urged state lawmakers to OK the reform plan. The city is seeking to resolve a 15-year pension funding crisis that’s contributed to recent credit downgrades and severe strains on the city budget. Houston ended 2016 with a deficit for the first time in the history of the nation’s fourth-largest city. Turner attributes the $95 million deficit to the continued growth of the city’s pension obligations. An audit late last year put pension underfunding in Houston at $7.7 billion, nearly double from 2014.
AUSTIN (AP) – Thousands more Texas children could soon have seat belts on the buses they ride to school. The state Senate voted 25-6 on Tuesday to approve legislation that would require all new school buses to come equipped with safety belts. The measure now heads to the Texas House. It doesn’t include extra state funding to pay for seat belts, and the bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston, said schools districts can opt out if they can’t afford them. Advocates say the bill’s critical to ensuring students’ safety in crashes. Those opposed say installation is costly and schools could use that funding for other needs. The state Legislature approved $10 million in grant funding for optional school bus seat belts in 2009, but a very small percentage of school districts installed them.
HOUSTON (AP) – Texas prison officials are asking a federal judge to rescind a U.S. Food and Drug Administration order that blocks the corrections agency from receiving a foreign shipment of a drug to use for executions. Attorneys for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Galveston. They argue that it’s unlawful for the FDA to refuse importation of 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental that have been detained for nearly two years at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport. The prison agency also wants the court to block the FDA from imposing similar prohibitions in the future. Texas is the most active death penalty state in the U.S. Its prison agency bought the drugs from an unidentified foreign supplier. The FDA last week refused to release the shipment.
TYLER — The Tyler City Council has approved a contract for $3,171,239.98 with Reynolds & Kay to execute the 2017 Asphalt Enhancement Program. According to a news release, the City of Tyler Engineering Department and Streets Department completed a visual inspection of all streets within the city limits with the lowest Pavement Condition Index (PCI) ratings. The PCI is a number calculated by a pavement management software program; the higher the number, the better the condition of the street. Numbers range from 0 to 100, with 100 indicating a new or newly overlaid street. In January, Dynatest North America, Inc. began the process of evaluating streets in Tyler with lower PCIs. City officials say a complete analysis of those updated PCIs will be available later this year.… Read More
SHARYLAND (AP) – When an autistic Texas man’s favorite video store closed, his parents surprised him by bringing part of it home. HuffPost reports 20-year-old Hector Zuniga visited the Blockbuster video store in Sharyland, Texas, twice a week since he was 13 to rent his favorite movies. When his parents were told the store was closing, they thought the news would be devastating to Hector. So, they decided buy some of the store’s inventory to recreate it at home. Hector Zuniga Sr. brought his son to the store on its final day Sunday in order to give him closure. When they came home, Hector Jr. was surprised to find a Blockbuster rack stuffed with his favorite DVDs. The moment has been heavily shared on Twitter after it was posted by his younger brother.
EL PASO (AP) – Police in El Paso say seven current and former employees of an auto dealership have been arrested for running a series of illegal schemes that included taking vehicles from the lot and stealing tires. Authorities said in a news release that managers of a Toyota dealership in El Paso were unaware the seven men were engaged in criminal activity that also included overbilling vendors and operating illegal insurance scams. The men face charges that include theft and engaging in organized criminal activity. They range in age from 32 to 51 and all live in El Paso. The investigation by the police department’s financial crimes unit began in May when it was determined two vehicles were missing. The investigation is continuing.
EL DORADO, Ark. (AP) – The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center says there is a risk of severe thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes in southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, northeastern Texas and western Mississippi. The center in Norman, Oklahoma, says the storms are expected in the region Wednesday and could bring tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds, primarily during the afternoon hours to the more than 22,600 square mile area that includes more than 1.1 million people. The storm system could also move into western Tennessee and southeastern Missouri. The Storm Prediction Center says the storms are expected to move northward during the night, possibly as far as Illinois and into the central Gulf States.
LONGVIEW — Longview Police say a man who was injured after a reported shooting Tuesday in Longview might not have been shot. Richard Arthur Kasten Jr., 28, of Longview was taken to Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center Tuesday after he was injured following a report of a shooting in the area near Twelfth and Dean streets. Police Wednesday morning said they are unsure how Kasten received his injury. Kasten was treated and released into police custody before being booked into the Gregg County Jail on two outstanding warrants and charges of public intoxication and no driver’s license.
AUSTINs (AP) — The anniversary of five Dallas police officers killed during a downtown shooting would be commemorated as “Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day” under a bill tentatively approved by the House. The measure approved Tuesday would designate July 7 as a day to honor officers in Texas killed in the line of duty. Law enforcement groups say nearly 1,900 officers in Texas history have died on the job. An Army veteran opened fire on Dallas police during a protest march last summer. It marked the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In all, 12 officers were shot.
FORT WORTH (AP) — A 53-year-old man is dead — shot, Fort Worth police say, after he raised a gun toward officers answering a domestic-disturbance report. The incident happened about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in a parking lot on Texas 180 in east Fort Worth. Police Sgt. Marc Povero says a 911 caller reported her father was intoxicated and walking around with a gun. Two officers came upon a man matching the caller’s description, stopped their car and ordered the man to drop his long gun. Instead, Povero says, the man raised the gun and one officer fired at least two shotgun blasts, killing the gunman. No identity has been released, but Povero says officers have gone to the man’s address many times in the past year on mental health-related calls, including seven suicide attempts.
LOYAL, Okla. (AP) – A Houston-based pipeline company is cleaning up a nearly 19,000 gallon oil spill in northwest Oklahoma that threatened a local water supply. Crews from Plains All American Pipeline were at the site Tuesday in Loyal, about 60 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The leak was reported Friday, but it’s unclear when it started. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring the cleanup. Corporation spokesman Matt Skinner says roughly 70 acres of farmland are affected and that the spill reached a small creek, but he says it was contained before it flowed into a second creek that flows into the Cimarron River about 16 miles away. A spokeswoman for the pipeline company promised a statement on the spill soon.
AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Senate has authorized a late push in the Republican-controlled Legislature to ban genital mutilation in the country’s largest conservative state. Republican Sen. Jane Nelson is sponsoring the measure, which has been co-signed by the other seven women in the state Senate. The deadline to file new bills has passed, but the Senate voted Tuesday to authorize the new bill and refer it to the powerful State Affairs Committee. Texas’ legislative session ends May 29. The bill follows a high-profile Michigan case where two doctors have been arrested and charged with performing the procedure on two 7-year-old girls. Genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision or cutting, is outlawed in the U.S. But the practice is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
DALLAS (AP) – Authorities in a North Texas city want state officials to investigate after a vehicle driven by the county’s district attorney struck and fatally injured an 87-year-old school crossing guard. Greenville officials said Tuesday police want the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate because of the relationship between police and Hunt County District Attorney Noble Walker. Officials say Walker’s vehicle struck Christine Sandlin in a crosswalk about 7 a.m. March 29. She died April 11. The accident report shows failure to yield to a pedestrian was a contributing factor. Conditions were dark and rainy. Walker told WFAA-TV he couldn’t “express enough how deeply saddened and sorry” he was. David Sandlin said Walker visited his mother in the hospital and apologized. He said “she forgave him of course.”
AUSTIN (AP) – Austin Mayor Steve Adler says he left a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believing that the Texas capital isn’t a “sanctuary city” in the eyes of the federal government. Adler and other mayors met with Sessions on Tuesday in Washington to get a better understanding of what it means to be considered a “sanctuary community.” The label could cost cities and counties federal grant money as part of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already denied Travis County some state grant funds for refusing to continue honoring all federal immigration detainer requests. Adler says he didn’t directly ask Sessions whether Travis County qualifies as a “sanctuary city.” But he said Sessions told him that not honoring voluntary detainer requests wasn’t a punishable violation.
ANGELINA COUNTY — One man is dead following an hours-long standoff with East Texas law enforcement. According to KETK, Angelina County Sheriff’s Office Captain Alton Lenderman said Stacy Sturdivant, 46 of Lufkin, barricaded himself inside a residence off FM 842 around 7:30 Monday night. He reportedly fired multiple shots in the air and was yelling at people. The Angelina County Sheriff’s Office SWAT along with Department of Public Safety SWAT and a Nacogdoches Police Department armored vehicle all responded to the scene just after 8:00. Officials said Sturdivant began shooting at law enforcement, even hitting an Angelina County Sheriff’s Office unit multiple times. The man was found inside the house dead around 4:00 Tuesday morning. The cause of death has not been released.
GALVESTON (AP) – Some fans of fishing at the popular Rollover Pass cut in Texas have protested plans to fill the gap and build a park and pier. The Galveston County Daily News reports a judge last week affirmed the authority of Galveston County commissioners, who in 2016 voted to use eminent domain to acquire the property. No timetable was set to fill the 200-foot-wide channel connecting Galveston Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. The Bolivar Peninsula travel and fishing destination is owned by the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club. About two dozen pass supporters demonstrated Monday. The pass was created through a public-private partnership and dredged by Texas in 1954. The Texas General Land Office has pushed for closure amid concerns about erosion and silt reaching nearby shipping lanes.
HOUSTON (AP) – County commissioners in the Houston area have approved a $160,000 study this month to investigate whether capturing floodwaters and storing them underground is feasible. The Houston Chronicle reports researchers from Texas A&M University will study whether the impact of floods can be reduced by using high-powered pumps to whisk water into aquifers or old oil wells underground. Harris County thinks floodwater could help serve Houston’s increasing water demands and preserve water for drought conditions.… Read More
NEW YORK (AP) – Air Force officials in New Jersey have identified an airman from Texas who was struck and killed by a subway in New York City. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey says 25-year-old Airman 1st Class Montiel Alleyne was from San Antonio. He was assigned as an aerial port apprentice to the 621st Contingency Response Squadron. The NYPD says he was in a rail tunnel when he was struck and killed by a subway early Sunday morning. Criminal activity is not suspected. His commander says he will be greatly missed.
HOUSTON (AP) – Investigators say officers fatally shot a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect and wounded two others during a Houston-area restaurant holdup. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office says an 18-year-old suspect was arrested Monday night in a nearby vehicle. A sheriff’s statement Tuesday said three suspects, wearing hoodies and bandannas, were seen running toward the fast-food restaurant. Authorities say two suspects had guns and took money from the cash drawers.… Read More
DALLAS (AP) – The interim Dallas police chief says the number of officers has fallen to its lowest level in about 10 years while the department also is falling short of its goal for new hires. Chief David Pughes told a city council committee on Monday that the number of officers on the force is 3,077. That’s down from nearly 3,700 officers some six years ago. He says the department will be short-staffed as the summer approaches and crime generally increases. The Dallas Morning News reports that concerns over the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension System have led many officers to retire at a rate faster than the department can hire and train new ones. Pughes says he’s considering hiring many of those retired officers to temporarily bolster patrol numbers.
DEL RIO (AP) – The Trump administration is promising to take a hard line on illegal immigration and step up prosecutions of immigration crime, including crossing the border illegally. Along a stretch of Mexican border at the edge of West Texas such an approach has been in place for more than a decade and nearly every immigrant caught crossing the border illegally faces the same fate: a criminal charge. On a recent morning in Del Rio, Texas, 15 Mexican men were just the latest to experience first-hand the tough approach as each pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for trying to sneak into the United States. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling for that scene to be repeated in other courthouses along the border and in the interior of the country.
DALLAS (AP) – The operator of a newsstand in a downtown Dallas high-rise has been indicted on charges that accuse him of cashing fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury checks amounting in value to about $16 million. A federal grand jury in Dallas indicted Moiz Mumtaz Ali last week, but the indictment was unsealed Monday. It accuses the 36-year-old McKinney, Texas, man of conspiracy, bank fraud, theft of public money, identity theft and money laundering-related charges. Ali manages the Gateway Newsstand in the Plaza of the Americas, a business that includes a convenience and check-cashing store. The indictment alleges he and others schemed to defraud Neighborhood Credit Union by cashing fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury checks. Unidentified co-conspirators would bring the checks to Ali, who would redeem them for a percentage of the face amount.
AUSTIN (AP) – Lottery winners could soon stay incognito in the Lone Star State. Texas’ House of Representatives approved by voice vote Monday legislation that would shield the identity of state lottery winners receiving prizes of at least $1 million. Individuals could choose to remain anonymous and to prohibit the release of all personal information to the public under the bill, which now needs only a largely symbolic vote Tuesday to go to the state Senate. It’s designed to protect lottery winners from unwanted attention, predatory acts, and media scrutiny, while still sharing key information with authorities for tax purposes. Opponents warn the measure would reduce the Texas Lottery Commission’s transparency, leading to more skepticism about the process and possibly even hurting ticket sales. At least six other states already have similar legislation.
HOUSTON (AP) – A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush says the nation’s 41st president will remain in a Houston hospital for a few more days of observation while he recovers from a mild case of pneumonia. Family spokesman Jim McGrath said Monday that the medical team at Houston Methodist Hospital hopes to discharge the 92-year-old Bush by the end of the week. McGrath says Bush “continues to be in good spirits and is resting comfortably” at the hospital. Bush was hospitalized April 14 for treatment of a persistent cough. Physicians say his pneumonia was treated and resolved. But he has been held while he regains his strength. Bush served as president from 1989 to 1993. He spent 16 days in the hospital in January for treatment of pneumonia.