PLAINVIEW (AP) – An eight-story Hilton hotel that opened in downtown Plainview in West Texas in 1929 but has been abandoned for more than 30 years is about to gain new life. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has approved a tax credit application to renovate the building into a multifamily housing project. Plainview Assistant City Manager Andrew Freeman tells the Plainview Daily Herald the agency’s approval culminates a more than year-long effort that it’s hoped will spur economic activity in the city’s downtown. The hotel had 125 guest rooms, a ballroom, a lounge, and private dining rooms when it opened July 3, 1929. It’s to be converted into about 27 rental units with one to three bedrooms. Developer MRE Capital says it intends to spend about $7.7 million on the project.
AMARILLO (AP) – Amarillo city officials are facing a $5.5 million expense to address the growing city’s growing amount garbage at its landfill. A gas collection and control system now is needed because the existing simple venting system no longer can handle the gas expelled by the increased amount of decaying garbage. Last year, the gas production exceeded allowable limits and the more sophisticated system is needed to avoid fines from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. City officials tell the Amarillo Globe-News they’re trying to find the money amid other capital needs. Public Works Director Robert Patrick says besides the $5.5 million to install the system, the annual maintenance cost will be about $200,000.
DALLAS (AP) – Federal inspectors say a South Texas research facility where 13 primates died of hyperthermia in overheated rooms violated the Animal Welfare Act and has been fined. Covance Research Products in Alice was fined $31,500 for four violations of the federal act following the 2014 deaths of the cynomolgus monkeys, a type of macaque often used in medical research. Two animals died when a thermostat malfunctioned at the facility about 40 miles west of Corpus Christi. A similar incident occurred about a month later when a thermostat override switch failed, killing 11. Inspectors further found that at least five other primates suffered that year when they weren’t given water or proper care after being flown into Texas for Covance experiments. The company didn’t immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
EL PASO (AP) – Federal authorities in El Paso say an 18-year-old man believed from Africa is held without bond on a sex trafficking charge after he was arrested for bringing two 15-year-old girls from Phoenix and then prostituting them on an internet classified website. FBI assistant special agent Keith Byers says authorities arrested Edema Missiadan after police in Mesa, Arizona, relayed information that a girl possibly was being forced into prostitution in the El Paso area. An investigator responding to ads set up a meeting at an El Paso motel Wednesday evening and Missiadan was arrested. The El Paso Times reports Missiadan told a federal judge Thursday he committed no crime and is a U.S. citizen. Officials say he’s a refugee from Ghana and is believed to be a citizen of Togo.
HOUSTON (AP) – A federal appeals court has refused an appeal from a Texas death row inmate who was arrested nearly 19 years after an 11-year-old Fort Worth girl was raped and strangled in her home. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected claims from 53-year-old Juan Segundo that his lawyers at his 2006 Tarrant County trial were deficient for failing to properly investigate and develop evidence he was intellectually disabled. Segundo’s wife was a family friend of Vanessa Villa, who was found dead in 1986 in her home. A DNA match in a national database nearly two decades later tied Segundo to her slaying. DNA evidence also linked Segundo to the rapes and strangling of two other women in the Fort Worth area in 1994 and 1995.
AUSTIN (AP) – Austin’s police chief says his department’s chain of command needs to be reviewed in the wake of a video showing a white officer throwing a black teacher to the ground during a traffic stop. More than a year passed between the traffic stop in which Officer Bryan Richter nearly threw Breaion King into an adjacent truck and Chief Art Acevedo condemning what happened. The Austin American-Statesman reported that there were at least four opportunities for Acevedo to have been notified of the video sooner. Police officials tell the newspaper that Richter’s supervisors didn’t notify the chief that they were investigating the arrest months earlier. Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the video “disgusting,” and a grand jury is expected to review the case soon.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – A 38-year-old Texas Mexican Mafia leader has pleaded guilty to all federal charges against him, including charges related to the slaying of a San Antonio-area police officer and four other gang members. San Antonio TV station WOAI reports Ruben “Menace” Reyes admitted responsibility for ordering the 2014 slaying of Balcones Heights Police Officer Julian Pesina. He was killed outside his “Notorious Ink Tattoo and Piercing Studio.” The San Antonio Express News reported earlier Pesina had been under investigation. According to a federal indictment, Pesina claimed to be a gang member. When the gang looked at his Facebook page, they saw he identified himself as a police officer. Reyes faces a life prison sentence when he returns to court in September for his sentencing hearing.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Authorities in San Antonio are searching for someone who drove up to the parking lot used by Bexar County Jail employees and opened fire. At least three cars belonging to detention deputies were damaged. Sheriff’s department spokesman James Keith tells San Antonio TV station KENS that a surveillance video from Wednesday night shows an SUV slows, puts on its four-way flashers and then someone starts shooting. Keith says authorities are looking into whether the shooting is a random act or someone is targeting the sheriff’s office or its employees. Earlier this month, someone shot at the San Antonio police headquarters. That incident remains under investigation.
AUSTIN (AP) – Mourners at a memorial service have remembered a Texas father and son who were killed in the truck attack two weeks ago in Nice, France. Hundreds gathered Thursday evening at Lake Hills Church in Austin to celebrate the lives of 51-year-old Sean Copeland and 11-year-old Brodie Copeland. The Austin-area father and son were on a European vacation with their family when they were among 84 people killed as a truck driver indiscriminately drove through a crowd. The Copeland family said in a statement that a bright spot in the sorrow and grief has been family, friends and “countless strangers” whose love, prayers and message of support have been a comfort. Cary Copeland remembered his brother Sean’s “remarkable laugh” and Maegen Copeland recalled her stepbrother’s ability to make people smile.
AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas attorney general has filed suit against Austin, accusing the state capital of violating “open carry” rules by banning guns inside city hall. Republican Ken Paxton said in a statement Thursday that Austin’s municipal building is violating a law approved last year that allowed licensed Texans to openly carry handguns. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Travis County, which includes Austin. It says Austin has argued that its municipal building is exempt from the law under exclusions for court buildings. Paxton’s office says it responded that the city would be fined for non-compliance within 15 days. The suit asks the court to compel Austin to follow the law – and impose fines worth $1,500 per day for not doing so as of earlier this week.
FORT WORTH (AP) – Police officers saved an armed robbery suspect from a burning car after a chase ended in a crash in an episode caught on police body camera video. The incident happened in south Fort Worth earlier this month when officers were advised to watch for a car with three men wanted for a reported armed robbery. Officers soon spotted a car matching the description. Police Sgt. Marc Povero tells TV station WFAA the car crashed after a brief pursuit and the engine began to burn. Povero says one suspect fled, another was detained but a third was trapped in the front passenger’s seat. Police video shows an officer working to pry open the jammed door before finally pulling the unconscious suspect from the car. Povero says the man was treated and is healthy.
DALLAS (AP) – A police officer in the small Texas town where Sandra Bland was pulled over and jailed says the county’s top prosecutors threatened to end his career if he came forward with what he says is evidence of wrongdoing. Prosecutors strongly deny the allegations Michael Kelley made this week. Kelley says trooper Brian Encinia was on the phone with a supervisor last July after arresting Sandra Bland because he didn’t know what charge she should face. Encinia was indicted for perjury, but Kelley says he and others should have faced more charges. Prosecutors say Kelley is only coming forward to distract from his own indictment in a separate use-of-force case. But Kelley’s allegations are the latest to raise the idea that authorities haven’t thoroughly investigated Bland’s death.
AUSTIN (AP) – The annual Texas sales tax holiday has been set for the first weekend in August as children prepare to return to classes. The Texas comptroller’s office says the tax-free weekend, for a number of school-related items, will be Aug. 5-7. The law, as in previous years, exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks priced under $100 from sales and use taxes. The tax break for anyone shopping that weekend in Texas would be about $8 on every $100 spent. The sales tax holiday includes qualifying items sold online, by telephone or by mail. Shoppers can also use layaway plans. Sales tax must still be paid on some items, such as luggage, purses, wallets, and watches. The Texas tax break weekend has been an annual event since 1999.
HOUSTON (AP) – A Texas man must serve 10 years in federal prison after a child sex investigation led to more than two dozen homemade bombs. Mark Duesterberg of Royse City was sentenced Thursday in Houston. The 34-year-old Duesterberg, who formerly lived in Spring, earlier pleaded guilty to enticing a minor and to unlawful making of weapons. Prosecutors say Duesterberg last year communicated online with some he thought was a girl and tried to entice her into a sexual relationship. Duesterberg arranged to meet the person, who turned out to be an undercover agent, and was arrested at the scene. Authorities found seven pipe bombs in his vehicle. A search of Duesterberg’s home led to more than two dozen homemade bombs and items for making explosives. Agents also found an unregistered machine gun.
ALVIN (AP) – Investigators say a 7-year-old boy should recover after shooting himself in the head with a revolver he found in his Texas grandfather’s gun cabinet. The Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that no charges would be filed in the accidental shooting in Alvin, about 20 miles south of Houston. A sheriff’s statement says the boy went to “great efforts” Wednesday to locate the key to get into the locked gun cabinet. The sheriff’s department did not immediately say where the child found the key. The boy, whose name wasn’t released, located a .38-caliber revolver and fired one round. Investigators say the bullet penetrated the boy’s forehead, just below the hairline, traveled under the skin and exited. The bullet did not penetrate the child’s skull.
HOUSTON (AP) – Houston police say a suspected drunken driver fatally shot himself as officers pursued his vehicle. Police found the armed man dead following the chase that ended early Thursday. Police identified the suspect as 38-year-old Gary Leonard Blalock Jr. Two officers on patrol pulled over a vehicle, suspecting the driver was intoxicated, when one noticed Blalock was sitting on a gun and yelled a warning to his partner. Blalock sped off and eventually crashed his vehicle. Police found Blalock dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Houston police say the case will be reviewed as an in-custody death since Blalock was being pursued by officers at the time he died.
FORT WORTH (AP) – A veteran police detective in Fort Worth has been fired after supervisors say he repeatedly mishandled child abuse cases, including failing to arrest a registered sex offender linked to the rape of a young girl. Dennis Hutchins also is accused of failing to properly investigate claims by two girls that their father sexually abused them. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the father was recently arrested after a third sibling said she, too, was abused. A disciplinary letter signed by police Chief Joel Fitzgerald says Hutchins’ actions meant “multiple offenders” were not arrested or prosecuted. Hutchins’ attorney, Terry Daffron, says the former detective’s actions were not malicious and that he was overworked in a unit that’s significantly understaffed. Daffron says the caseloads in the Crimes Against Children unit are “crushing.”
AUSTIN (AP) – The latest version of a booklet that Texas produces for women considering an abortion suggests medical connections between terminating pregnancies and heightened risks of breast cancer and depression. Since 2003, state law has mandated that pregnant women be provided information when mulling an abortion. A draft of this year’s booklet has been produced and the public comment period ends Friday. The Department of State Health Services plans to consider stakeholder comments before publishing the final version. One section is titled “Breast Cancer Risk,” despite numerous peer-reviewed studies that have refuted links between abortion and breast cancer. The booklet also says women who terminate pregnancies can become suicidal. Last month, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of Texas’ 2013 law placing some of the nation’s tightest restrictions on abortion.
ODESSA (AP) – A granite and limestone memorial salutes slain Navy Seal and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle in the West Texas city where he was born in 1974. Patriotic ceremonies were held Thursday to unveil the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza in Odessa. The privately funded site includes a bronze statue of Kyle. Several trees from ex-President George W. Bush’s ranch near Crawford were purchased by memorial organizers and moved to the site earlier this year. Kyle, regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, and a friend were killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range. A former Marine was convicted in the deaths of Kyle and Chad Littlefield, then sentenced to life in prison. Kyle’s autobiography was the basis for the 2014 film “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper.
FORT WORTH (AP) – Investigators say an off-duty Fort Worth police officer has shot a robbery suspect holding a box cutter. The officer is on paid administrative leave during a review of the incident. Fort Worth police say the suspect was hospitalized in critical condition following the shooting early Thursday. The Fort Worth officer and an off-duty Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy were working security when one heard a police call about a person robbed at a gas station. Police Sgt. Marc Povero says the officers responded and saw a man holding what looked like a silver handgun. The officers yelled for the man to stop. The man refused to drop the silver object, pointed it toward the deputy and then the police officer fired. Investigators later determined the suspect had a box cutter.
WHITE OAK — The White Oak Police Department advises people to keep their cars locked at all times. According to KETK, police have seen a string of car burglaries in the past week. They say usually it’s stolen sunglasses and money, but recently, it’s been handguns. Just this week, police said there have been 4 guns taken from vehicles during burglaries. Police Chief Terry Roach said, “They’re just walking car to car. And if it’s unlocked they will get anything with value. These guns are taken, then you don’t have a thief, now you’ve got an armed thief.”… Read More
BASTROP (AP) – Police say last weekend’s fatal shooting of four people at a Central Texas apartment complex began with an argument between the gunman and his girlfriend. Bastrop police on Wednesday said Alejandro Martinez and Erica Rodriguez had a “verbal disturbance” in an unknown dispute when he opened fire with a rifle. Police say Martinez on Saturday night shot and killed Rodriguez, her friend Paula Nino and his 3-year-old son, who was being carried by Nino. Nino’s 2-year-old daughter sustained minor injuries. Police say Martinez then fatally shot himself. Authorities did not immediately release further details on the youngsters.
COPPELL (AP) – Retail gasoline prices in Texas have slipped 3 cents this week to settle at an average $2 per gallon. AAA Texas on Thursday reported nationwide prices at the pump declined a nickel this week to reach an average $2.14 per gallon. Amarillo has the cheapest gasoline in Texas this week at $1.85 per gallon. The association survey found that drivers in El Paso have the most expensive gasoline statewide at an average $2.12 per gallon. AAA officials cited abundant U.S. fuel supplies and declining crude oil costs as gasoline prices continue to drop.
GRAPEVINE (AP) – An American Airlines aircraft landed safely at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport despite a dramatic discharge of flames from one of the engines. American spokesman Ross Feinstein says none of the 139 passengers and crew was injured when Flight 438 to Seattle returned to Dallas about 20 minutes after takeoff Wednesday night. A Federal Aviation Administration statement says the pilot reported an engine problem causing compressor stalls, which discharged flames from the back of the engine. Feinstein says the left-side engine of the Airbus 321 was not on fire, despite the flames, and that the engine remained operational as the aircraft landed. Passengers are taking alternative flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Thursday.
BROWNSVILLE (AP) – Nearly a dozen people have been arrested in an alleged South Texas human smuggling ring operating since March. Federal prosecutors in Brownsville on Thursday announced the suspects are charged with conspiracy and harboring immigrants. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson says a nine-count indictment was returned Tuesday, leading to arrests on Wednesday. The defendants are from La Feria, Brownsville, Alton and Harlingen. Magidson says the suspects are accused of operating an immigrant smuggling scheme and providing the individuals with fake identification documents. The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture of two residential properties in La Feria and Harlingen.
PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Two sheriff’s deputies and a Texas man are being credited for saving six tourists from rough surf in the Gulf of Mexico. The Pensacola News Journal reports Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies Darren Robinson and Stefan Chamlis were on beach patrol on Tuesday when they spotted two young children, two mothers and two male family members struggling in the water. They radioed for help and went in the water. At the same time, Frank Counselman of Rockwell, Texas, was on his balcony and saw the commotion. He grabbed a flotation device and ran to help. He helped one swimmer to safety while the deputies and the lifeguards assisted the others. Officials say two men were treated and released from the hospital. The other swimmers are OK.
HOUSTON (AP) – Two circus acrobats tied the knot on a tightrope during a performance in Houston. Mustafa Danguir and Anna Lebedeva got married 30 feet off the ground Tuesday during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show at NRG Stadium. The groom, wearing a white tuxedo coat, arrived on a camel and climbed a side ladder to reach the tightrope. The veiled bride rode a horse. She shed her high heels and adjusted her flowing gown to also climb a ladder to the wire. The ringmaster presided as the pair met in the middle of the wire, then exchanged vows and rings. The smiling newlyweds descended and waved to the cheering crowd as they walked away arm-in-arm.
LA GRULLA (AP) – Law enforcement officers have saved nearly 40 immigrants from the blistering South Texas heat but found another man dead. Border Patrol officials on Wednesday announced two separate rescues of people believed to be in the U.S. illegally. Supervisory Agent Marlene Castro says the 39 immigrants, located Sunday and Monday, were not hurt and all were being processed. The National Weather Service says high temperatures on both days topped 100 degrees. Agents responded to a call from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office about 19 immigrants abandoned by human smugglers. The immigrants were located in La Grulla and given water and checked for medical issues. Hours later agents working in Brooks County, tracking immigrants on a ranch, located a man’s body. Castro says agents then found 20 immigrants nearby.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The chairman of the House Science Committee is threatening further action after the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general refused to comply with congressional subpoenas seeking records about their investigations into whether Exxon Mobil misled investors about man-made climate change. Texas GOP Rep. Lamar Smith said he was disappointed that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey refused to comply with subpoenas he issued two weeks ago. In an escalating political fight over global warming, Smith is pursuing records from the two Democrats, along with nine environmental, scientific and philanthropic organizations. Schneiderman and Healey say Congress lacks authority over them. Smith said Wednesday their noncompliance “only raises additional questions” and said “the committee will consider using all tools at its disposal to further its investigation.”
TYLER — The Texas Department of State Health Services advised Tyler Animal Services Wednesday that a skunk submitted for analysis tested positive for rabies. The skunk was found near the intersection of Glen Eagles and Royal Oak. Officials say the known individuals and animals with possible exposure have been identified and addressed. To aid in the prevention of rabies, it is critical for people not to handle bats, skunks, raccoons or other wild animals. It is also important for children to tell their parents of any contact with any wild or sick animals. If you or anyone you know has been bitten by an animal, the bite incident must be reported to the Local Rabies Control Authority for proper investigation.… Read More