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Navarro College Responds to Pepper Spray Incident

Navarro CollegeKILGORE (AP/Staff) – Leaders of Navarro college have defended their basketball team after Kilgore College police used pepper spray on the squad following a loss. Navarro College District President Richard Sanchez denies that his players were unruly after an 88-78 loss Saturday at Kilgore. KC spokesman Chris Craddock said Wednesday that Navarro players made threats and two officers discharged pepper spray when the team refused to return to the locker room. Craddock says the officers remain on the job and the investigation continues. Navarro Athletic Director Roark Montgomery says all 15 players and three coaches suffered some pepper spray effects and police were too aggressive. Several players applied cooling foam to their skin.

Van Cliburn Dies

Van CliburnFORT WORTH (AP/Staff) – The renowned American classical pianist Van Cliburn has died. He was 78. Cliburn was born in Louisiana and raised in Kilgore, where an auditorium at Kilgore College bears his name. His publicist and longtime friend Mary Lou Falcone told The Associated Press that Cliburn died Wednesday morning after suffering from bone cancer. She’d announced in late August that Cliburn had been diagnosed with advanced cancer and was being cared for at his home in Fort Worth.

Cliburn’s triumph at a Moscow competition in 1958 helped thaw the Cold War and launched a spectacular international career. Cliburn skyrocketed to fame after winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23. He returned to a New York ticker tape parade, a first for a classical musician. He’d performed for every president since Harry Truman, and for years devoted his time to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

According to a news release from Kilgore College, the school is saddened to hear of Cliburn’s passing. KC President Dr. Bill Holda says Cliburn is among the college’s most distinguished alumni. Cliburn attended summer classes at KC in 1951 and 1952. “He was a once-in-a-lifetime musician who in many ways was bigger than life,” Holda said. “Whether on the musical stage or the international political stage, he was a signature individual.” Holda said Kilgore College will always cherish the long and warm relationship the college has enjoyed with Cliburn through the years.

Smith County Postal Facility to Begin Closure Next Month

usps_etx_centerOWENTOWN — Officials now say the East Texas Mail Processing and Distribution Center in Owentown will close beginning in mid-March. KETK reports mail originating in the greater Tyler area will go to Shreveport and Houston or Dallas and Austin for handling, all by May 1. The closure of East Texas P&DC was originally reported in February of 2012, when the decision was made to shut down the facility. The issue of the processing center’s shutdown was initially broached in December of 2011, when the U.S. Postal Service held a public meeting about the potential closure of several processing centers across the country in order to save money. The Waco and Lufkin centers were also among those slated to close.

Officials Believe Shooting Was an Isolated Incident

Cherokee County Sheriff's Department BadgeRUSK — Cherokee County officials believe a shooting Tuesday involving a Rusk State Hospital employee was an isolated incident. Sheriff’s Capt. John Raffield issued a statement Wednesday saying, “Apparently there have been calls to several news outlets from concerned citizens about the safety of the general public in regards to this shooting. From all information available to investigators yesterday, last night, and this morning, we believe this was an isolated incident that was directed solely at the victim and not a random attack.” Raffield says officials “are actively pursuing what leads we have from the victim and witnesses that were at Rusk State Hospital when he arrived back at work.”

The statement continues, “An investigator spoke briefly with him last night at the hospital, but because of the medications being administered, that interview was cut short. When he is released from the hospital, he has agreed to meet with investigators on the case. At this time this department has no information on when he will be released. The victim made statements to several people prior to the shooting, that he had been in an altercation with some individuals from another county in the past week, and this shooting was in direct retaliation to that altercation. Investigators are actively pursing all leads in the case and an update on the investigation will be released as soon as it becomes available.”

Officials said earlier that the victim returned to work from lunch Tuesday with a gunshot wound to the shoulder or neck area. He’s identified as Garrett Scott Curtis, 22, of Alto.

Longview Man Shot at Local Motel

motel_shootingLONGVIEW — Longview police investigate a gunfire incident. Tuesday evening shortly after 10:15, officers responded to a shooting at the Globe Inn Motel, at 1300 East Marshall Avenue. When officers arrived they were told a man identified as Will Cox Jr., 37, of Longview, and several others were involved in an altercation. Witnesses said Cox allegedly shot Darkis Ramond Vaughn, 29, once in the leg. He then allegedly turned the weapon on a 29-year-old woman and threatened to shoot her as well. He allegedly fired the weapon several more times, striking the rear of the car the woman was sitting in. Cox then reportedly fled the scene. He was located a short time later near Teague Park. Cox was arrested for Deadly Conduct and Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. He was transported to the Gregg County Jail without incident.

Tyler Council Tables Alcohol Boundary Exemption Requests

tylercouncilalcoholTYLER – The Tyler City Council decided Wednesday to table three alcohol boundary exemption requests. According to KETK, retail stores asked the council for permission to sell alcohol within the current 300 foot boundary. CEFCO on Broadway, Super Mercado on the Loop and Sam’s Club on the Loop were all seeking permission to sell alcohol at their respective locations. Two of the stores were denied because of nearby schools, and the third, a church. Council members said they plan to look over each location’s dynamics before making a decision.

New GOP Chair for Smith County

Texas GOPTYLER — Smith County Republicans have a new party chairman. With 33 of 46 precinct chairs at the meeting, the Smith County Republican Executive Committee voted Tim McCormick, 50, as the new Republican Party of Smith County’s chairman. The vacancy came open due to J. Ashton Oravetz, Jr.’s resignation in January. Mr. McCormick is a Tyler public school music teacher and has served as a Republican precinct chair in Smith County, as well as in several other Texas counties.

Tyler ISD AEIS Report Shows Progress

thumb_gary-mooringTYLER – Tyler ISD showed progress in several areas according to the latest Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) Report. Those areas include attendance, dropout rate, completion rate, and college readiness. Tyler ISD’s student attendance rate increased from 95.8% to 96% from the 2009-2010 school year to the 2010-2011 school year. At the same time, the District’s dropout rate for students in seventh and eighth grades dropped from 0.1% to 0%. The completion rate for students in the class of 2011 also increased to 93%, up from 91.2% last year and 89.6% the prior year.

In terms of college readiness indicators, Tyler ISD students improved in several areas. The number of students who took the SAT/ACT increased; the average ACT score increased; and the advanced course/dual enrollment completion increased.

When compared to the state, Tyler ISD has a higher percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students, At-Risk students, and Limited English Proficient (LEP) students. Nearly 70% of Tyler ISD students are Economically Disadvantaged, compared to the state average of 60.4%.

“Our students are benefiting from the instructional support our teachers provide combined with rigorous coursework,” Tyler ISD Superintendent Gary Mooring (pictured) said. “We are proud of these improvements, and we will continue to focus on areas where there is more work to be done. Despite becoming an increasingly urban school district, we are continuing to make progress in key areas. We are responsible for educating all children, and our teachers and staff are determined to help each student reach his or her highest potential.”

Fire at Nacogdoches School

NACOGDOCHES — Carpenter Elementary school in Nachogdoches as evacuated after a fire Tuesday morning around 10:00 in a pre-K classroom. KETK reports firefighters were able to contain the blaze to one room, but smoke spread from the fire to twelve other classrooms. Authorities believe the blaze was electrical in origin. No one was hurt.

Second Suspect Sought in Attempted Tractor Theft

Nacogdoches County Sheriff DeptNACOGDOCHES — One person has been arrested and a second is on the loose after a pair of men were caught allegedly stealing heavy equipment. According to KETK, deputies were dispatched to a burglary in progress near County Road 262 in Nacogdoches County Monday afternoon. The suspect’s used a tractor to pull another tractor from a wooded area and crank it. The duo then hooked up a Bush Hog mower to their tractor and headed in different directions, each on a tractor. Responding law enforcement found Joey Van-Cooper Smith, 26, on his tractor with the stolen Bush Hog close-by County Road 262. He was arrested and booked into the Nacogdoches County Jail and charged with theft. Detectives later found the stolen tractor at a house on Appleby Sand Road, but the suspect, David Heath Parker, 23, had already left the scene and is still on the loose. A theft warrant for Parker was obtained by authorities.

TISD Survey to Identify Strengths, Areas Needing Improvement

thumb_TISD_Logo_NewTYLER – Tyler ISD is embarking on what’s termed a new and innovative effort to engage all segments of the community and increase involvement in discussions on how to improve schools. The first step in this process will be a parent survey to identify strengths and areas needing improvement at each campus. The survey launches today, and will ask parents to share their thoughts regarding the overall campus climate, including areas such as safety and behavior, communications, instructional programs and support services. “We welcome this survey as it invites parents to share their thoughts on what we do well and where we can improve,” said Gary Mooring, Tyler ISD Superintendent. “Our conversations will continue beyond this one initiative. Engaging in an ongoing, constructive dialogue is the best way to work toward continuous improvement.”

Parents for whom the District has an email address on file will receive email invitations to participate in the survey. Any parent who does not receive an email invitation may click a link posted on http://www.tylerisd.org to access the survey . Any parent without Internet access may complete the survey at any Tyler ISD school, or a paper copy may be requested by contacting the Tyler ISD Communications Department at 903-262-1064. The District is working with independent research and communication firm K12 Insight, which will administer the survey. Parent responses will be confidential, with reports shared in a manner which does not identify individuals.

Once the reports are reviewed by the Tyler ISD leadership team, they will be made available to the public, along with specific actions parents can expect as a result of their feedback. According to a TISD news release, “Future projects are planned to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in this critical dialogue and that every facet of the District continues to improve.” Mooring adds, “We embrace another opportunity to hear from all of our parents, and I thank all our community partners who are helping us with outreach. I know that such transparency will help us build more trust which will lead to more productive collaboration as we work toward achieving our mission of providing all students a premier education and preparing them to be successful, productive citizens.”

Date Set for Closure of Mail Processing Center

usps_etx_centerSMITH COUNTY — A date has been finalized for the closure of a mail processing center in Smith County. Sources with the local postal service employee union tell KETK they were informed by management that the East Texas Processing and Delivery Center will close in June. The sources say employees had originally been told that the facility would not close until 2014. They also question the actual savings the Postal Service claims it would obtain from the facility’s closure.

The closure of East Texas P&DC was originally reported in February of 2012, when the decision was made to shut down the facility. Authorities had announced facilities operations would be split between the Shreveport, North Texas, and Austin centers. At the time, employees said they did not want to be “uprooted” or transferred to other cities. One employee estimated that up to 100 of the current facility’s employees would choose not to relocate.

The issue of the processing center’s shutdown was initially broached in December of 2011, when the U.S. Postal Service held a public meeting about the potential closure of several processing centers across the country in order to save money. The Waco and Lufkin centers were also among those slated to close. KETK spoke to McKinney Boyd, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service early Tuesday morning. An official statement is expected later in the day.

Police Looking for Suspects in Robbery

suspects2.jpgTYLER — Tyler Police have asked for the public’s help in identifying two suspects accused of stealing cash from a hotel customer. It happened February 12 at the Best Western, 120 West Rieck Road. Authorities said a customer was checking into the hotel when a suspect reportedly noticed he had a large cash roll. The suspects, described as black males, told the clerk that they wanted an application for employment. As the victim went to his car to retrieve luggage, one suspect reached into his pocket and grabbed the money. The suspects fled the area when the victim displayed a handgun in attempt to stop the theft. The getaway vehicle is described as as a blue four door.

If you recognize the suspects pictured, please contact the Tyler Police Department, 903-531-1000 or Crimestoppers, 903-597-CUFF (903-597-2833). Crimestoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and charges filed against the suspects in this case or any felony case.

Tyler Police Arrest Suspect in Burglary Case

Shaquille LollarTYLER — A suspect has been arrested after an attempted residential burglary. It happened Monday evening around 11:00 at 3617 Jan Street. According to authorities, the resident was awakened when he heard a loud noise. Shortly after the noise his bedroom door was opened and an unknown man was standing in the doorway. The suspect, who broke into the front door to burglarize the residence, realized that he was not alone and ran out the front door fleeing the scene on foot. Officers searched the area for the suspect and found a person matching the description at Paluxy and Loop 323. After further investigation officers arrested Shaquille Lollar, 18, Tyler. Lollar was transported to Smith County Jail and charged with Burglary of a Habitation, a 2nd degree Felony. His bond was set at $10,000.

Firefighters Save More than a Dozen Homes

ravenwoodSMITH COUNTY — Several East Texas fire departments were able to band together and save more than a dozen houses. Just after 2:00 Tuesday afternoon, a brush fire spread in the 17000 block of Ravenwood Drive, just off of Highway 155. A total of 14 homes were threatened by the blaze. Fire officials tell KETK one mobile home in particular was extremely near the brush fire. Winds were a suspected factor in the fire, but no official cause has been released. Authorities warn the public to pay close attention to burning during high winds. The Noonday Fire Department was the primary responding crew.

Smith County Man Sentenced for Dealing Cocaine in East Texas

Federal Courthouse-ATYLER — A Lindale man has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking crimes in the Eastern District of Texas. Christopher Florence, 41, pleaded guilty last September to possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced yesterday to 38 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis.

According to information presented in court, on January 27, 2011, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at a residence on County road 141 in Overton, during which Florence was observed attempting to discard a semi-automatic pistol, $1,757 in cash and approximately 6.16 grams of cocaine base in the yard of the residence. Florence admitted to possessing the cocaine with the intent to distribute it to others in the area.

Smith County Man and Woman Guilty of Methamphetamine Violations

TYLER — A Tyler man and woman have pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking violations in an appearance in Tyler federal court. Juan Dedias Herrera, 29, and Lamanda McCoy, 34, both pleaded guilty yesterday to the distribution of more than 50 grams of pure methamphetamine when they appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith K. Guthrie. According to information presented in court, on October 31, 2011, Herrera agreed to acquire and distribute methamphetamine with another person. McCoy admitted to being in possession of methamphetamine on April 20, 2011. Herrera faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison. McCoy faces up to 20 years in federal prison at sentencing. Sentencing dates have not been set.

Former Wood County Rancher Sentenced for Selling Mortgaged Cattle

Michael Kord ChapmanTYLER — A 26-year-old Ainsworth, Nebraska man has been sentenced in Tyler federal court for misapplying funds owed to the Farm Services Agency. Michael Kord Chapman, a former Wood County rancher, pleaded guilty last August to conversion of mortgaged property. He was sentenced yesterday to five years probation by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis. Chapman was also ordered to pay restitution of $83,622.42 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency.

According to federal prosecutors, between February 18, 2011 and April 7, 2011, Chapman sold approximately 158 head of cattle valued at over $83,400.00 that had been pledged as collateral on a loan from the Farm Services Agency. Instead of paying the loan, Chapman kept the proceeds of the sale for himself and converted them to his own use.

Gregg County Man Sentenced to 40 Years for Drug Trafficking

TYLER – A 39-year-old Longview man has been sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for drug trafficking. Spencer Garod Elam was convicted by a jury last October of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hydrocodone, two counts of possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, felon in possession of a firearm, and use of a communications facility to facilitate a felony. Elam was sentenced yesterday in Tyler to a total of 480 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis.

According to information presented in court, Elam was arrested on May 16, 2011 following a lengthy investigation into a drug trafficking enterprise in Gregg County, Texas. A federal grand jury returned an indictment on May 11, 2011, charging 13 Longview residents, including Elam, with multiple drug and gun violations.

Wood County Man Sentenced for Bank Robbery

Robin Marion AllenTYLER — A Hawkins man, formerly of Louisiana, has been sentenced in Tyler to federal prison for bank robbery. Robin Marion Allen pleaded guilty last September, to bank robbery. He has been sentenced to 160 months in federal prison today by U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap. Federal prosecutors contend, on June 25, 2012, Allen borrowed a car and drove to the Wells Fargo Bank on East Main Street in Atlanta, Texas. Allen approached a bank teller and gave the teller a hand-written note with instructions to fill a black bag with cash. The teller placed $1,944 in cash in the bag and returned it to Allen. Allen was arrested Atlanta two days later.

California Man Sentenced for Luggage Loaded with Meth at Train Station

TYLER — A California man has been sentenced in Tyler federal court for drug trafficking violations. Hercel Vernoy Shultz, III, 37, pleaded guilty last September to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was sentenced yesterday to 120 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis. According to information presented in court, on February 24, 2012, Shultz was arrested after he was found in possession of over 400 grams of methamphetamine which was in his luggage at the Amtrak train station in Longview. Before his arrest, Shultz had been traveling from Yuma, Arizona to Longview.

Marion County Woman Sentenced for Drug Trafficking

MARSHALL – A 45-year-old Jefferson woman has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking violations. Tracy Renee Hampton pleaded guilty on March 27, 2012, to possession of pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. She was sentenced in Marshall yesterday to 84 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap. According to prosecutors, Hampton was involved in a conspiracy with others to purchase cold pills containing pseudoephedrine at multiple pharmacies across East Texas. Hampton was indicted by a federal grand jury on February 1, 2012 and charged with federal drug trafficking violations.

Nacogdoches Man Sentenced for Drug Trafficking

BEAUMONT — A Nacogdoches man man has been sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking violations. Rodney Stevenson, 26, pleaded guilty last August, to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of crack cocaine. He was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison yesterday by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.

Federal prosecutors say from 2008 to June 20, 2012, Donald Dixon, a.k.a. “Black”, Cedrick Fowler, a.k.a. “C” and “C-Murder”, Kerry Wayne Griffin, a.k.a. “Big Boy”, Omar Paunetto, Jose Angel Bustillos, Michael John Pereira, Rodney Stevenson, a.k.a. “Arod”, Darius Thorn, a.k.a. “Bs” and “Beez”, Tremaine Smith and Anthony Fowler conspired to traffic cocaine and crack cocaine throughout East Texas.

Stevenson’s role in the organization was to assist Cedrick Fowler in acquisition of cocaine and the distribution of cocaine base. Stevenson traveled with Cedrick Fowler on one or more occasions to purchase cocaine from Donald Dixon. On May 25, 2012, investigators executed an arrest warrant at Stevenson’s apartment and detained him after he attempted to flee. They found C. Fowler in a second bedroom of the apartment and Stevenson’s girlfriend in his bedroom. Underneath a pillow on Stevenson’s bed, agents recovered a FEG, 9mm, Model P9R, semiautomatic pistol. They also found 4 pounds of marijuana in the bedroom closet and a small amount of cocaine in a kitchen cabinet. They say Stevenson was responsible for distributing over 5 kilograms of cocaine

Schaefer: Bill Cuts Red Tape on Hiring Career and Technology Teachers

thumb_matt-schaeffer-1AUSTIN — Republican Representative Matt Schaefer of Tyler has filed House Bill 1415 to give local school districts flexibility to employ highly qualified teachers for career and technical education courses. “Parents would love to have experts from various professions teaching their students. Right now, Austin is making that very difficult. This bill cuts the red tape,” Schaefer said. “I want our local school officials deciding whom to put in the classroom, not bureaucrats in Austin.” Schaefer says the superintendents in Bullard and Chapel Hill have voiced support for his bill.

Kilgore Collge Student Awarded Scholarship

KILGORE — Kilgore College student Samuel Essary has been awarded the first installment of a $3,200 college scholarship due to his high scores on the GED tests. The scholarship was awarded in Austin at the Texas Association of Literacy and Adult Education (TALAE) Awards Banquet. He received the scholarship for having the highest scores of any TALAE student member in the East Region which is comprised of nine adult education programs.

Essary, now in his second semester of college at KC, was also the valedictorian of the KC GED graduating class last June after completing classes with the KC Adult Education Program. Since earning his GED, he has also completed the Intensive College Readiness Program to further prepare for college.

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