TYLER — The ongoing controversy about Planned Parenthood will include a Tyler rally this weekend. In a news release, the Pro-Life Action League says its goal is “to defund Planned Parenthood and to bring attention to pro-life in East Texas.” The rally will be held Saturday from 9 till 11 a.m. at the local Planned Parenthood office at 3500 South Broadway. Organizers say it’s to be held in conjunction with a national protest in over 250 cities nationwide.… Read More
TYLER — Tyler Fire Department crews responded to a branch of East Texas Medical Center following the activation of a fire alarm. According to KETK, it happened at the ETMC First Physicians Clinic located at 6210 South Broadway, near Andy’s Frozen Custard. The building was briefly evacuated before officials gave the all clear. No word on what triggered the alarm.
FLINT — A motorcycle accident in southwestern Smith County has killed a Ben Wheeler man. Pronounced dead at the scene Friday night was Jason Holt, 46. He is said to have attempted a left turn in front of a car driven by Seth Wilkerson, 18, of Brownsboro, when he was struck and killed. The accident happened on Farm Road 2661.
More closures are planned for the West Loop 323 widening and bridge replacement project in Tyler. Starting Monday, the west side of Bellwood will be closed until further notice as additional project work is conducted. Also, left turns from the loop’s southbound lanes onto East Bellwood are no longer allowed due to the recent traffic switch. Motorists are advised to use alternate routes to avoid delays. More information on this project is available in the Smith County construction updates portion of this release.… Read More
TYLER — Tyler Junior College is preparing to welcome back a pair of special visitors as it kicks off the school year Aug. 21. According to a news release, former TJC presidents Dr. Raymond Hawkins and Dr. Bill Crowe will join current TJC President Dr. Mike Metke in leading opening convocation activities, beginning 9 a.m. Friday in Wise Auditorium. Metke says the two guests’ impact “is still felt to this day,” according to the release. Hawkins served as TJC president from 1981 until 1994. Crowe was TJC president from 1994 until 2007. Metke has been president of TJC since 2007. … Read More
TYLER — A U.S. Army veteran from Tyler has announced plans to challenge outspoken East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert. Shirley McKellar says she’ll run for a second time as a Democrat against the Republican Gohmert for the First District Congressional seat. McKellar says, “All Texans deserve great economic growth, education, security, and the pursuit of individual liberty. It’s all about education and opportunity. I, Shirley McKellar, can bring that to District 1.” Gohmert took 77 percent of the vote in the 2014 general election vs. McKellar, who was seriously wounded while serving as a U.S. Army nurse in Iraq.
LONGVIEW — Moviegoers in East Texas could face a longer wait to see their chosen flick on the big screen as theaters ramp up bag-checking security measures. According to the Longview News-Journal, some area movie patrons said this past week that they were not bothered by the measures, which came in response to recent shootings at U.S. theaters. That wasn’t the case recently at Regal Longview Stadium 14, when one patron refused to allow ticket-takers to inspect her bag. She was refused entry and received a refund. Regal has notices posted on its ticket booth and doors informing people that backpacks and bags are subject to inspection before entry.… Read More
TYLER — Dozens turned out Friday evening as the Tyler A. Philip Randolph Institute honored longtime community leader Ernest Deckard. Speakers used words ranging from “warrior” and “super-negotiator” to “conciliator” and “comforter” during a banquet at Tyler’s Rose Garden Center. Deckard recently stepped down as president of the Tyler APRI and NAACP; he had presided over the latter group for 24 years. Deckard has also held membership or leadership roles in various other organizations.… Read More
AUSTIN (AP/Staff) – A group that advocates for the separation of church and state has filed a complaint about a Texas judge who ordered a man to marry his girlfriend as a condition of probation. The Freedom From Religion Foundation said Friday it filed the complaint against Smith County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Randall Rogers a day earlier with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Austin. Rogers’s action had already prompted a letter of objection from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.… Read More
CHEROKEE COUNTY — The owner of a recycling plant just south of Jacksonville reports heavy damage from what multiple responding fire crews described as a massive blaze. The fire began after 2:00 p.m. at STS Electronic Recycling on County Road 1520. Witnesses tell our news partner KETK flames and huge plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the facility. Jacksonville firefighters said they, along with crews from surrounding areas, were assisting. There are no reports of injuries. … Read More
QUITMAN — Wood County has been placed under a burn ban, according to local officials. Outside cooking is allowed if the grill is covered. KETK reports that almost all of East Texas is now under a burn ban. Anyone who does not follow the order is subject to a large fine. Go to the Texas A&M Forest Service website — http://tfsfrp.tamu.edu/wildfires/DecBan.png — for a current map of counties under a burn ban.
GILMER — A Longview woman pleaded guilty to two counts of assault against a public servant and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison, according to Upshur County officials. KETK and the Longview News-Journal report Laona Legail Wade, 45, pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on each count of assault. Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd says Wade was caught shoplifting at a Wal-Mart in Gilmer in January and was stopped by police in the parking lot. While being fingerprinted during booking, Wade became combative and struck a jailer in the face and kicked another, according to Byrd.
TYLER — The Smith County Commissioners Court will hold two public hearings on Tuesday, Aug. 18, as it prepares to pass its 2015-2016 budget. Officials say the court will hold its second public hearing on the proposed tax rate, along with its final budget workshop, during its regular 9:30 a.m. session Tuesday. That meeting will be held in the Commissioners Courtroom in the Annex, 200 E. Ferguson. At 5:30 p.m., the court will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at the R.B. Hubbard “Hub” Center, at 304 E. Ferguson. The court is scheduled to vote to adopt the budget on Aug. 24.
AUSTIN — A measure co-sponsored by Tyler State Senator Kevin Eltife (pictured) continues to move forward. The state’s legalization of cannabis oil for epilepsy patients has opened the door for the marijuana industry. Now that Texas will manufacture the marijuana extract, it will need licensed growers and manufacturers. This is where consulting groups like the Medcan Foundation come in. That organization’s holding seminars all around Texas to help companies land marijuana growing contracts. Medcan’s Dante Pacazo says, “In our seminars, you may have a grower that doesn’t have any money — but you may have an entrepreneur that has a tremendous amount of money.” He says his group started 10 years ago in Texas — and since the law was signed, things are heating up.
TYLER — A Tyler man who entered a not guilty plea in the case of a local robbery has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Derrell Hampton was one of the three men involved in a shooting at City Park, located at North Broadway and Queen Street. The victim was left paralyzed from a gunshot wound to the neck. According to KETK, a tip from Crime Stoppers led authorities to the suspects. Police said DNA later confirmed the three men responsible: Chester Lee Vaughn, Jr., 23; Derrell Hampton, 31; and Jeremie Deshawn Wheeler, 30, of Tyler. Hampton was sentence to life in prison on Thursday. The other suspects have not yet completed their jury trials.
LONGVIEW — The Longview city council has unanimously voted to name interim Chief Mike Bishop as the city’s new Chief of Police. The Longview News Journal reports the vote came at Thursday night’s city council meeting. Bishop was sworn in during a ceremony Friday afternoon. He was named interim chief the first of the month and succeeds Chief Don Dingler whose retirement was effective at the end of last month. Bishop joined the Longview Police Department in 1989 after serving in the U.S. Air Force and has served the department in a variety of capacities.
TYLER — A watchdog group is not happy with Smith County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Randall Rogers. Rogers made headlines when he offered a 20-year-old man who’d punched his girlfriend’s ex either 15 days in jail or probation — which included marriage to his 19-year-old steady. He was also forced to copy Bible verses. The accused took the latter option. Sarah Jones with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says, “He needs to refrain from imposing any further conditions that require any sort religious activity.” The group has written the judge a letter asking him to stick to the law. A call to the judge was not returned.
ATHENS — Athens city officials are asking for the community to band together and help one of their own who serves the public. According to KETK, officials say Police Officer Jonathan Hutchison’s home caught fire early Thursday morning. Hutchison, his wife, and their 2-year-old, Maddox, were able to escape without injury. Unfortunately, all their belongings were lost in the blaze. A relief account has been set up at Prosperity Bank under the name of Jonathan & Kelsey Hutchison to help with immediate needs. Donations can be made at any branch location. A GoFundMe account — http://www.gofundme.com/yypsb5jv — has also been established.
JACKSONVILLE — Employees at Century Industrial Coatings are back at work after the industrial plant just south of Jacksonville exploded early Wednesday morning. KETK reports no one was inside when one of the buildings went up in flames. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the explosion. The Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing for Century Industrial Coatings, Justin Rains, said the company is trying to move forward. “We’re leaning on our industry partners as we put together some backup plans,” said Rains. “From there, we are going to start to ramp up our production and get back on our feet.”… Read More
TYLER — A Tyler woman was sentenced Wednesday afternoon in Tyler for her involvement in an East Texas theft ring. KETK reports Ahteuhna Taylor was sentenced to 12 years in prison for two burglary charges, two years in state jail for credit card abuse, and 10 years in prison for fraud. All the sentences will run concurrently. The theft ring involved stealing guns and cars throughout several counties, as well as taking credit cards and personal identification. Another thief involved, Tyrell Choice, 18, was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this week after entering a guilty plea in the same court. A third defendant is due to be sentenced August 20.
TYLER — People across Texas interested in the mobile food truck industry met in Tyler Wednesday. KETK reports they talked about the best practices for zoning ordinances and building requirements, as well as a focus on health and safety. They also heard the pros and cons from several food truck owners. One woman from Jacksonville is planning to open up her own mobile food truck park in October. Emily Griffin says the discussion answered many of her questions.
TYLER – Smith County is one of only eight counties in Texas and one of 47 in the United States and Canada to receive an award from the National Procurement Institute, according to a news release from the county. The Smith County Purchasing Department earned the 2015 Annual Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award. County officials say the continuously evolving criteria to receive the award measure state-of-the-art best practices. Smith County Purchasing Director Kim Gould says she’s honored to receive the recognition, adding that it means her department “is continually striving for excellence,” according to the release. Gould will attend the National Procurement Institute’s national convention in Las Vegas in October to formally accept the award on behalf of Smith County.
TYLER — Drivers had to work a bit harder to get around in part of South Tyler Wednesday night and early Thursday morning after a stretch of New Copeland Road was shut down due to a gas leak. Tyler police report the road was closed in both directions between the intersections with Shiloh and Rieck Roads after a construction crew struck the gas line. The problem was first announced shortly after 5:30 Wednesday afternoon; police reported the problem fixed and the stretch reopened a little after 1:15 a.m. Thursday.
TYLER — Tyler police report New Copeland Road has been shut down in both directions between the intersections with Shiloh and Rieck Roads due to a gas leak. A construction crew struck the gas line earlier in the day. Shortly after 5:30 Wednesday afternoon, officials reported Police and Fire were standing by pending completion of repairs. There was no estimate as to when the road would be reopened but repairs were expected to take several hours. Police said motorists would need to find alternate routes and were urged to avoid the general area if possible until further notice.
TYLER — The Lynn family is one of many who suffered storm damage from Tuesday’s afternoon thunderstorm in Tyler. More specifically, a tree is now lying on their house, according to KETK. They immediately made a call to their insurance company, who gave them some tips on using a reputable repair business. Tyler Lynn was in his house when the tree hit. “I was in my room, which is right there where the tree’s kind of falling on, and all of a sudden I saw a flash of lightning and I heard a big crunch,” said Lynn. “Next thing I know I come out and see that there’s a big tree laying on our house.” … Read More
LONGVIEW — A Longview man has been arrested on a charge of tampering with evidence and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with the death of 2-year-old Ariyana Gonzales Aug. 3. KETK and the Longview News-Journal report Devetrick Tramel Johnson, 27, was held on bonds totaling $100,000 Wednesday. The girl was reported dead in a unit at the Huntington Hills apartments in the 2500 block of North Eastman Road in Longview. Johnson, who was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in 2009, was seen carrying two rifles wrapped in a towel or blanket at the scene, according to the arrest warrant. … Read More
TYLER — The Smith County 2016 fiscal year is right around the corner and Commissioners Court met Tuesday to talk budgets. KETK reports they also selected the committee that will hear objections from seven elected county officials. If you compare these elected officials’ salaries to counties similar in size, some say it’s not enough. One Smith County commissioner, all justices of the peace and one constable are asking for more reasonable pay. … Read More
CHEROKEE COUNTY — Investigators say nobody has been hurt in an overnight fire and explosions at a paint-related industrial plant in East Texas. Authorities are trying to determine what sparked the fire early Wednesday at Century Industrial Coatings Inc. near Jacksonville. Officials say the fire was brought under control by around dawn. Jacksonville Fire Department Chief Keith Fortner says several explosions happened as the fire produced flames visible throughout the city. Hazardous materials crews were helping with cleanup at the company, which manufactures paint and coatings. Law officers were rerouting traffic in the area.
LONGVIEW — LeTourneau University has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as the first Christian university to offer aircraft dispatcher courses to prepare students to take and pass needed exams to receive their FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificates. To date, six of six students who took the inaugural dispatch course during the summer have passed the practical test on their first attempt with the FAA, according to Laura Laster, director of flight operations. “I am thrilled with the success of our first six Aircraft Dispatcher students!” Laster said. “That’s a great testament to the work ethic and caliber of the students in our LETU School of Aviation.”… Read More
Seven people are displaced following an early morning house fire in Tyler. According to the Tyler Fire Department, crews were called to the scene of a structure fire around 3:30 yesterday morning in the 1400 block of North Bois D’Arc near the intersection of West Cedar Street and North Broadway Avenue. Officials said one resident was treated for smoke inhalation. The house sustained heavy smoke and fire damage. believe the fire started in the kitchen in the area of the stove. Burn patterns suggest that the fire started either on top of the stove or close to it. After talking to the residents, food left cooking on the stove cannot be ruled out. The tenants were also having electrical issues with the vent above the stove.