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February 2008

Killeen police charge day care worker with sexually assaulting infant

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From the Killeen Police Department:

Killeen Police have arrested Terrance Charles Beard, 23, of Louisiana, for the offense of Aggravated Sexual Assault to a child.

This arrest stems from a February 20, 2008 report in which a mother picked up her 4 month old daughter from The Little Blessing Daycare located at 803 N. 10th Street.

The mother was told by daycare providers that her daughter was injured. The mother examined her daughter and discovered non-accidental injuries to her anus; she immediately took her daughter to a local hospital and contacted the Killeen Police Department.

An investigation by the Killeen Police Department’s Youth Services Unit revealed an employment application and scheduling documents indicating that Terrance Charles Beard was employed at the day care.

He was at work on February 20th and had access to the baby. Further investigation revealed the child was not injured during the first diaper change by daycare staff. The injury to the child was noticed by the daycare staff but no one notified the police department or child protective services.

Terrance Charles Beard was interviewed by police detectives and admitted that he did assault the 4 month old child.

The case was screened by the Bell County District Attorney’s office and a complaint was returned charging Beard with Aggravated Sexual Assault to a Child. Beard was arraigned by Justice of Peace Garland Potvin and a bond of $200,000.00 dollars was set.

He is in the process of being transferred to the Bell County Jail.

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Police arrest suspect for improper photography

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From the City of San Marcos:

Tips from the public helped San Marcos Police arrest a 23-year-old Canyon Lake man on a felony charge of improper photography without consent.

Police arrested Michael Aaron McDonald, (DOB 09/09/1984) at his work place in San Marcos on Thursday, February 28, 2008. McDonald lives in the Hancock Hills Subdivision in Canyon Lake, TX

Police received over 20 phone calls, including 12 that identified McDonald from a February 25 press release seeking to identify the unknown suspect, said Commander Bill Glasgow.

The case began on February 22 when police responded to a call from the HEB store at 200 W. Hopkins. A female employee found a digital camera in the women’s restroom with video recording capabilities and reported it to her manager.

The manager called the San Marcos Police Department. Officers who responded found improper images on the camera taken at several locations. McDonald was not an employee of the store.

“The public’s response to the earlier press release was very helpful,” Glasgow said. “We also appreciate the media’s cooperation in releasing that information.”

Police served a search warrant on McDonald’s residence in Comal County and seized several computers, mp3 players and numerous CDs.

McDonald was arrested by San Marcos Police Thursday, February 28, and is jailed at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center under $150,000 bond. Improper photography is a state jail felony.

The investigation is ongoing and other charges are pending.

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Body of missing Dripping Springs kayaker found

The body of the Dripping Springs man who went missing after a kayaking accident Feb. 17 has been found about 30 miles south of the Port Aransas beach near where his kayak capsized, according to an official with the Kleberg County Police Department.

Stephen Stafford, 20, was kayak fishing with a co-worker before dawn when both men decided to return to the shore, officials said. After waves capsized their kayaks, Stafford’s co-worker made it to the shore, but Stafford didn’t. U.S. Coast Guard officials searched for Stafford for two days, but failed to find him.

Around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Coast Guard officials in a helicopter found Stafford’s body along a desolate stretch of beach at the Padre Island National Seashore. The beach is about 30 miles south of where he was reported missing, said Kleberg County police Sgt. Alan Gutierrez.

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Police arrest stepfather of boy who suffered fractured skull

San Marcos police arrested a 29-year-old man who they say caused his 2-year-old stepson to suffer a fractured skull.

Adrian Alvarez Rodriguez was arrested Thursday and charged with felony injury to a child and serious bodily injury.

Police say the child was in Rodriguez’s care on Feb. 22 while the boy’s mother was at work and his sister was at school. The boy began convulsing and vomiting and was taken to Central Texas Medical Center. He was later taken to Dell Children’s Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery for a fractured skull and remains in intensive care as of today.

Doctors were suspicious of Rodriguez’s initial explanation that the boy was injured while playing outside, police said. His story also changed during later interviews, police said.

The case remains under investigation.

Rodriguez is being held at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center with bail set at $75,000.

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Police identify woman found in burning garage

Austin police have identified a woman found in a burning garage in Northwest Austin as 51-year-old Carolyn Lois Ott, but they still have not yet determined how she died, a police spokeswoman said.

Ott was found Tuesday morning when firefighters responded to her home to put out a blaze in the 5700 block of Louise Lane at 10:30 a.m.

Police said investigators are still trying to figure out whether Ott died from natural causes or if foul play was involved.

Permalink | Categories: Fire

Man found dead in Western Travis County

The Travis County sheriff’s office this morning is trying to determine how a man died last night. His wife discovered his body outside of her home, Capt. Cyril Friday said. His death has been ruled accidental, Friday said.

The man, whose name and age were not released by authorities, had been outside of his home on Rivercrest Road when he told his son that he was going upstairs, Friday said.

When the man’s wife returned home at 11 p.m., she discovered her husband outside of the house below a balcony.

An autopsy has been ordered for the man, Friday said.

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Three arrested in alleged kidnapping

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A Georgetown man was safely returned home today and three people were charged with kidnapping and holding him for ransom in San Antonio, authorities said.

At first, officials thought 74-year-old Paul Roland was simply missing after he did not show up to work Tuesday and his car was found abandoned in Buda, according to an arrest affidavit.

But a 9-year-old girl who lives in his apartment complex told her mother that she saw Roland being forced into a car as she waited for the school bus, according to the affidavit.

Her mother called police and a kidnapping investigation began, said Det. John Foster, a spokesman with the Williamson County sheriff’s office.

On Wednesday, Roland’s brother received a telephone call and the caller demanded money for his brother’s return, Foster said. Foster would not disclose how much the caller asked for, nor would he say if the family paid the kidnappers.

The call was traced and authorities also found that Roland’s credit card was used to rent a hotel room in San Antonio, according to the affidavit.

At about 2:30 a.m. today, authorities went to the hotel and saw two men and a woman forcing Roland into a vehicle. The three were arrested after a pursuit.

Bartolo Dominguez, 22, Samantha Casablanca, 21, and Bobby Sharp III, 17, all of San Antonio, were charged with aggravated kidnapping. They are being held in the Williamson County Jail with bond set at $500,000.

Foster said authorities are still looking for more suspects in the case.

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Three arrested in alleged Williamson County kidnapping

From the Williamson County Sheriff’s office:

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office has arrested three individuals in connection to a kidnapping of a Williamson County man. Details of the investigation will be released today at 1:00pm.

No further information will be released until this time.

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Man injured during intrusion at substation

From Austin Energy:

A man sustained serious burns over much of his body from an electrical shock while apparently attempting to steal copper wiring from an Austin Energy substation this afternoon. The Kingsbury substation where the incident occurred is located near Airport Boulevard and Springdale Road.

The substation tripped off line at about 3:00 p.m. When Austin Energy crews arrived, two individuals who apparently lived in the area were trying to help the injured man out of the substation. Witnesses said the man’s clothing had been on fire. According to Austin Police, the injured man was airlifted from the site to the Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Power comes into the Kingsbury substation at a high voltage where it is stepped down to a lower voltage for distribution to customers. Austin Energy staff estimate that the injured individual could have received as much as 80,000 volts of electricity while trying to remove wiring. Austin Energy crews found openings that had been cut into the substation fence. The substation’s gates were locked.

Austin Energy crews inspecting the substation found multiple equipment grounds missing. Grounds are wiring that runs from equipment into the ground. They are there so that a power surge, which could be caused by lightning or an equipment failure, will flow into the ground rather than into equipment. The inspection also indicated the outage caused by the incident may have resulted in damage to equipment in the substation.

The incident reinforces the very serious dangers associated with tampering in any way with electric system equipment. Theft of copper wiring from electric systems has become an increasing problem in Austin and across the country and a number of deaths have resulted during attempted thefts. Austin Energy has taken steps to shield copper wiring in its substations to make access more difficult and where possible has switched to less valuable materials to try to make the wire less attractive to thieves. The utility is also increasing surveillance around its substations.

The outage caused by the incident affected approximately 7,300 customers in an area from the Colorado River to about 54th Street and from Highway 183 to Chicon. Austin Energy crews performed switching in the field to serve the affected customer through other circuits. Power was restored to all affected customers within about 2 hours.

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Power expected to be restored by 6 p.m.

Update from Austin Energy:

Power has been restored to all 7,300 customers in East Austin affected by the earlier outage.

Previous report:

Someone attempting to steal wire from an electricity substation caused power to go out for about 7,300 customers in East Austin this afternoon, Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark said.

The power went out about 3:30 p.m. and is affecting customers from the Colorado River to 54st Street and U.S. 183 to Chicon Street, Clark said.

He said electricity should be restored by about 6 p.m.

Clark said power went out after someone tried to take ground wire from the Kingsbury substation, near Springdale Road and 183.

A person with burn injuries at the scene was air-lifted to the hospital, Clark said.

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Power out to thousands in East Austin

About 7,300 customers are without power in East Austin this afternoon, Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark said.

The power went out at 3:20 p.m. and is affecting customers from the Colorado River to 51st Street and US 183 to Chicon Street.

He said officials are not yet sure how the outage happened or when power might come back on.

“We’re working on it,” Clark said. “We hope to have the thing resolved as quickly as possible.”

The outage cut power to the Alternative Learning Center, 901 Neal Street, but school officials have no plans to release students early, Austin Independent School District spokeswoman Roxanne Evans said.

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15-year-old Austin girl sexually assaulted in her apartment

A 15-year-old girl was sexually assaulted this morning by a man who knocked on the door of her apartment, tied up her stepfather and then entered her bedroom in South Austin, according to police.

Around 4:50 a.m., a man in his mid-20s knocked on the door of the apartment on the 3200 block of S. Interstate 35 near Woodward Street. The girl’s stepfather answered the door and the suspect, who was holding a gun, tied up the stepfather before sexually assaulting the girl, police said.

Police said the suspect was inside the apartment for about 30 minutes, during which time he smoked crack and also stole a sum of money.

One of the victims was able to run outside and call police, but when they arrived, the suspect was gone.

No detailed description of the suspect was available.

When the stepfather answered the door, the suspect asked for Robert, leading police to believe that he was looking for another apartment, said Sgt. Patrick Cochran of the child abuse unit.

The victims did not know the suspect, Cochran said.

Anyone with information is asked to call APD’s child abuse unit at 974-6880.

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APD seeking suspect in indecent exposure incident at Gold’s Gym

From the Austin Police Department:

Austin Police Department Sex Crimes detectives are seeking the public’s assistance to help identify a suspect involved in an Indecent Exposure case.

On Dec. 15, 2007 at Gold’s Gym, 1701 W. Ben White Blvd the unidentified suspect entered the sauna. As the suspect entered, the victim noticed all the other men in the sauna leaving. The suspect then exposed and touched himself for self gratification in front of the victim.

The victim left the sauna and reported the incident to the management. Based on the actions of the other males in the sauna, it is believed the suspect has done this in the past.

At this time the suspect has not been located.

The suspect is described as:

*White Male

*30 - 49 years of age

*Heavy set

*Very pale skin

*Short Brown hair

Detectives are asking anyone with information about the suspect or who may be a victim to call Sex Crimes Unit at 974-5230.

Permalink | Categories: Police

Wildfire risk lower today, but could return next week

An official with Texas Forest Service says today’s wildfire risk is pretty low, after fires burned about one quarter of a million acres across the state in the last two days. The forecast for next week, however, indicates we could see more of the dry conditions that contribute to the start of fires, said Sandra Taylor, a fire prevention specialist with Texas Forest Service.

A string of new fires started yesterday across Central Texas and the rest of the state. A fire in Blanco County burned 150 acres as of last night when it still was not contained. A fire in Caldwell County burned 40 acres and threatened 12 mobile homes before it was contained last night. Small fires also occurred in Bell County and Florence.

“Today will be a better day,” Taylor said. “Even though we’re going to have a low humidity, we’ll still have the winds. So that doesn’t mean there’s not going to be fires, it just means we should be able to handle them a little better.”

Taylor said we can expect these conditions to stick around for about another month until we get some warmer weather and some greening of grasses.

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Police investigating body found in burning garage

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Austin police are investigating whether a person found this morning in the burning garage of a house in Northwest Austin died because of homicide, suicide or natural causes.

Fire officials responded around 10:30 a.m. to a fire at a house in the 5700 block of Louise Lane. After putting out the blaze, firefighters discovered the dead body in the garage, said police spokesman Sgt. Richard Stresing, who could not say the victim’s age or gender.

The homicide unit has begun an investigation into the fire in order to determine the cause of death.

Lucia Ogburn, who lives across the street from the house where the fire occurred, said she and a man who was driving by noticed thick, black smoke billowing from the house.

When the man ran inside, he said he thought he saw a mannequin, and then realized it was a person’s body, Ogburn said.

“It is a very quiet neighborhood,” she said. “I was really shocked. I thought, ‘How could you have a fire in the garage?’”

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Fire in Jarrell prompts evacuations, but no one injured

An overnight 100-acre fire in Jarrell prompted home evacuations, but was extinguished with no injuries or property damage.

The fire was caused by a downed power line and threatened six or seven homes on Meadow Valley Loop.

Cliff Tschoerner, captain of the Jarrell Fire Department, lives on the road and was woken up by a neighbor when the fire started around 11:30 p.m. All families were evacuated safely.

The fire was put out by 1:30 a.m. with the help of five area departments, Tschoerner said.

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700 acres burned in Mason wildfires

A wildfire that started northwest of Austin on Monday afternoon was contained this morning after burning about 700 acres. Monday marked the worst day of the year for fires in Texas with nearly 250,000 acres burned across the state, according to an official with Texas Forest Service.

In a wildfire in Mason County, seven homes were evacuated, another 27 structures were threatened and one barn was lost, said Sandra Taylor, a prevention specialist with Texas Forest Service. Twelve departments and more than 35 trucks battled the blaze, which was under control as of 7:13 a.m. today.

There is no word yet on how the fire started, but a mixture of a cold front coming in and low humidity levels Monday could have contributed, Taylor said.

Today could be “another huge fire day,” Taylor said.

“People really need to be careful out there because the low humidities mean that the sparks that start are going to stay hotter longer, so you’re going to have to be more and more careful,” she said.

Wildfires raged across areas of Central and West Texas on Monday. In Sterling County, 140,000 acres have been burned in a fire that has not been contained. Another fire in Gillespie County near Kerrville on Monday burned about 350 acres.

Burn bans remain in effect for areas of Central Texas. A red flag warning, which warns fire officials that conditions are ripe for the quick spread of wildfires, has been issued for all of South Central Texas, including Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, until 6 p.m.

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Police investigate double homicide on East Sixth Street

Austin police are looking for witnesses to what they are now calling the second and third homicides of 2008.

A 47-year-old man was found critically injured with a gunshot wound after he flagged down someone nearby around 2 a.m. today in the 1500 block of East Sixth Street.

The man was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge, where he died around 3 a.m., police spokesman Sgt. Richard Stresing said.

Two hours after the first man was found, police said, a second man was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds inside a store called “Big Chief,” on the corner of Sixth and Onion Streets.

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“At this time, we know that the victims were injured in the same shooting incident,” said Lt. Mark Spangler, who works for the Police Department’s homicide unit. Spangler said that investigators are looking for anyone who may have been in the area between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., right around the time the bars in the area were about to close.

So far, witnesses have not reported hearing gunshots, he said. Spangler added that strong winds could have muffled gunfire if the victims were shot in the area.

The identities of the shooting victims have not been released pending positive identification and notification of family members.

The area around East Sixth Street and Onion Streets has been blocked off since around 4 a.m. and police are diverting traffic at that intersection as drivers head east. Police are advising drivers to avoid the area.

Anyone who has information on the incident is asked to call the homicide unit at 974-5210 or CrimeStoppers at 472-TIPS (8477).

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2-year-old dies after choking at day care

From the Hutto Police Department:

Today at about 11:24 a.m., Hutto patrol officers were sent to A Mother’s Choice Day Care, located at 208 Farley St., in reference to a child choking. Upon arrival, Hutto Fire and EMS were already on scene. The child was still breathing and transported to Round Rock Hospital Emergency Room, where the child later expired.

The child has been identified as 2 ½ year old Semaya Simon. An investigation is being conducted regarding the facts and circumstances of today’s incident by both the Hutto Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Williamson County Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, Judy Hobbs, pronounced the child deceased and has ordered an autopsy.

Supplemental information and updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

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San Marcos police seek improper photography suspect

From San Marcos Police Department:

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San Marcos Police ask the public’s help in identifying a possible suspect involved in an improper photography case.

The attached images were pulled off a digital camera of a potential suspect. Both adults and young children were captured on the improper videos.

Anyone recognizing the person is asked to contact Detective Kelly Earnest at 512-753-2318 or earnest_kelly@ci.san-marcos.tx.us.

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APD arrests suspect on stalking charges, seeks public’s assistance

FROM THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT:

On Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, the Austin Police Department arrested Olvin Velasquez, 08-01-82, on Stalking Charges, a 3rd degree felony.

On several occasions the suspect called the victim and made the threat that if she didn’t pay him 15,000 dollars he would injure or kill her or someone in her family. Each time he called, the dollar amount increased and the harassments became more threatening.

APD’s Robbery Unit along with the FBI Central Texas Violent Crimes Task Force was able to track down the payphone at the Chevron at IH -35 and Rundberg Ln in which the suspect called from. North Central Patrol Officers were able to locate the suspect on the phone and make an arrest without incident.

APD Robbery Detectives are asking anyone with information or who might be a victim to call the Robbery Tip Line at 974-5092.

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Hays County Sheriff’s Office seeks aggravated robbery suspect

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From the Hays County Sheriff’s Office:

On Sunday, February 24, 2008 at approximately 11:02 PM a White or Hispanic Male entered the Speedy Stop convenience store located at 5003 Overpass Rd. in Buda. The suspect displayed a kitchen style knife and demanded money from the clerk. The clerk complied and handed the suspect an undisclosed amount of money. The suspect immediately ran from the store.

The suspect is described as a white or Hispanic male approximately 21 years of age, approximately 5’9 and was wearing a baggy dark colored hooded sweatshirt and baggy light colored shorts. The suspect also had a goatee.

There were no customers in the store at the time of the robbery and no injuries reported.

A photo of the suspect is attached.

If anyone has information please comtact the Hays County Sheriff’s Office at 512-393-7896.

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60-year-old man who drowned in Lake Travis identified

FROM THE TRAVIS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE:

On Sunday, February 24, 2008, at 12:08pm, Travis County Sheriff’s Deputies were called to 16406 Stewart Road in reference to a missing person. Witnesses told deputies that a man was last seen going to bed, on a boat that was docked at the marina, at 1am and when they woke up between 5 and 6am he was not there.

Deputies searched the area and notified the Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Team. The divers went into the water at 4:16pm. At 4:43pm they found the body of a man in about 35 feet of water. The body was taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office for their examination.

After the Medical Examiner’s examination of the body they stated that the preliminary cause of death was accidental fresh water drowning and identified the man as, Charles Davis Shaw, Date of Birth 2-21-1948. Mr. Shaw was from the Austin area.

Note: This is the first drowning death on Lake Travis in Travis County in 2008.

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Man charged with two counts of aggravated sex assault on children

An Austin man is in custody and has been charged with two counts of sexually assaulting two young girls in 1999.

Genaro Herndandez, 62, is being questioned by police for two sex assaults that occurred at the Rosewood Apartments on East 11th Street several years ago.

Austin Police Sgt. Brian Loyd said investigators believe Hernandez, who went by the names “Generator” and “Candy Man”, lured two young girls into his apartment and assaulted them in 1999.

If convicted, he could face at least 10 years in prison. Police say there may be other victims of Hernandez.

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Woman threw egg salad at Secret Service agent, police say

A Texas state Capitol employee who police said wanted to go in the building Friday before a rally by presidential candidate Barack Obama threw a bowl of egg salad at a U.S. Secret Service agent who denied her access, according to an arrest affidavit.

Tracy Firsching, 47, is charged with assault on a peace officer, a third-degree felony for which she faces up to 10 years in prison.

According to the affidavit, Firsching started to go around police barriers when she was stopped by Secret Service agent Brian Sanders, who told her that she could not go in the secured area without an escort.

The affidavit said Firsching told Sanders that, “You’re going to have to arrest me” and attempted to go past him. Sanders grabbed her by the arm to turn her around when she threw a plastic bowl of egg salad at him and struck him in the face with the bowl, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, Sanders received a scratch that was “red and visible from several feet away” during the incident.

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Body found at Hippie Hollow

Travis County sheriff’s officials this morning recovered the second body found in Lake Travis in the past 24 hours, spokesman Roger Wade said.

The deceased man found today was discovered 12 feet underwater near Hippie Hollow, Wade said. The man’s name age have not been released pending positive identification and notification of his family members, Wade said.

Sunday afternoon, a 60-year-old man’s body was discovered in Lake Travis. His identity has not been released.

“This weekend was the first warm weekend of the year and people are getting out and enjoying the weather and the lake,” Wade said. “Unfortunately, you get a lot of people out and one person has to make a mistake and tragedy happens.”

According to Wade, park rangers noticed a car that had been parked near Hippie Hollow on Friday was still there Sunday.

Around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, he said, they requested that the sheriff’s officials check on the man’s welfare by looking up the registered owner of the car. Some of the man’s personal items also were found at the shore, Wade said. Divers recovered the man’s body near the shore this morning.

An autopsy has been ordered for both men.

A cold front is expected to move into the area this week, and the water on Lake Travis is about 56 degrees, Wade said, so traffic on the lake will probably dwindle as the week progresses. Still, he said, lake-goers should “wear flotation devices, don’t drink too much and have a good time, but be careful.”

The 60-year-old man whose body was found Sunday spent the night on a boat with family members at a marina off the 16400 block of Stewart Road in western Travis County, Wade said.

When the party disembarked Sunday morning, the man was not on the boat, Wade said. Divers recovered his body in 35-foot water around 4:30 p.m. today, Wade said.

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Body found near Lake Travis

The Travis County sheriff’s office is investigating the death of a man whose body was found in Lake Travis Sunday afternoon.

The 60-year-old man, whose name was not released, spent the night on a boat with family members at a marina off the 16400 block of Stewart Road in western Travis County, said sheriff’s spokesman Roger Wade.

When the party disembarked this morning, the man was not on the boat, Wade said. Divers recovered his body in 35-foot water around 4:30 p.m. today, Wade said.

An autopsy has been ordered for the man.

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Woman killed in motorcycle accident

A woman was killed early Sunday when she apparently lost control of the motorcycle she was driving in North Austin, said police.

Austin police spokesman Detective James Mason said 22-year-old Sherry Ann Marvel was driving east on West Braker Lane when she lost control near Kramer Lane at a crest in the road. Mason said her motorcycle struck a curb, flipped and came to rest a short distance later.

Marvel was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge, where she died.

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Injuries in minivan-truck collision not serious

Paramedics today evaluated nine people involved in an accident on Interstate 35, including two children who were at first thought be critically injured, authorities said.

Authorities said the accident happened on Interstate 35 near East 11th Street and involved a minivan and a truck that apparently collided broadside.

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services officials said two children were considered “trauma patients” with potentially life-threatening injures.

However, Austin Police Lt. Max Westbrook said the children were evaluated at Dell Children’s Medical Center and were found to not have serious injuries.

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Emergency landing ends safely

A small private plane landed safely Saturday afternoon after the plane’s pilot reported smelling smoke in the cockpit, airport officials said.

The plane was about four miles west of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport when the pilot reported the smell, airport spokesman Jim Halbrook said.

Halbrook said the pilot was the only person believed to be in the plane, which arrived at the airport shortly before 2 p.m. The plane was inspected in the general aviation area upon landing, Halbrook said. “Everything was ok,” he said.

Halbrook did not know where the plane was from or where it was headed when the pilot landed in Austin.

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Woman killed in wreck on U.S. 183

A 26-year-old woman was killed early Saturday morning when she lost control of her car and struck a tree in Williamson County, Texas Department of Public Safety officials said. Courtney Wilkinson, of Austin, was driving a 2002 Mitsubishi northbound on U.S. 183, when the accident occurred, officials said.

The wreck, which happened around 2:40 a.m., was near Liberty Hill and about a quarter-mile north of County Road 257.

Wilkinson was the only person in the car and no other vehicles were involved, officials said.

According to department officials, Wilkinson was not wearing a seatbelt.

DPS is still investigating the accident.

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Police: Gang members wanted for stealing cell phones

Three men have been charged with engaging in organized crime after police say they stole several demonstration cell phones from two T-Mobile stores last year, according to arrest warrant affidavits.

Brandon Berma, 17, Juan Carlos Mojica, 21, and Eric Salcedo, 19, are all wanted for the thefts, court records say. They are not in police custody. The affidavits say that Salcedo and Mojica are documented street gang members.

Affidavits say that between February 2007 and Dec. 16, demonstration phones were stolen from two T-Mobile stores in Austin. Police said they connected the thefts to Berma, Mojica and Salcedo after a store owner called 911 to report one of the men snatching the phones.

The store owner gave police the license plate number to the car the suspects got in after the theft, the affidavits say. Police found them later and pulled them over. According to the affidavits, nine cell phones belonging to T-Mobile were found in the car.

Permalink | Categories: Police

Motorcycle fatality in Cedar Park

From the Cedar Park Police Department:

On Feb. 21st at approximately 8:17p.m., the Cedar Park Police Department responded to a fatality accident in the 1300 block of West Park.

Preliminary investigation indicates that two motorcycles were traveling east on West Park.

As one of the motorcycles was slowing down to make a left turn onto Settlers Drive, it was struck from the rear by the second motorcycle.

As a result of the collision, the four occupants were ejected onto the roadway. The driver of the second motorcycle, Dennis Tramblie, 38, of Lakeway, was pronounced dead at the scene. The passenger, Anna Villarreal of Austin, was transported to Brackenridge Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The other two occupants of the first motorcycle were treated and released at the scene. None of the occupants were wearing helmets at the time of the accident. It is believed that both alcohol and unsafe speed were contributing factors in the collision.

This case is still pending investigation. This is Cedar Park’s second fatality accident of 2008.

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Police identify man who likely fell off roof

Police today identified a man they say probably fell off the roof of a four-story building Wednesday evening in a neighborhood near the University of Texas campus.

About 5:45 p.m., police were called to condominiums in the 3200 block of Duval Street, where someone had found the body of Corey G. Bishop, 21, between two buildings, Detective James Mason said.

Police said there was trauma to Bishop’s body, but it appeared he fell from the top of one of the four-story buildings, Mason said.

Mason said investigators were interviewing possible witnesses today.

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HazMat incident temporarily shuts down roadway

From the City of Round Rock:

At 9:19 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, Round Rock Fire Department units responded to a report of six bottles, one broken, with an unknown substance in them on the roadway at the intersection of Bowman Road and Sunrise Road.

The first fire department units arrived at 9:25 a.m. and found four plastic bottles in the roadway. The bottles contained muriatic acid (31.4 percent hydrochloric acid). HazMat crews approached the scene and found that none of the bottles were leaking and cleared the roadway.

Three units with a total of 10 personnel responded to the scene and had the roadway cleared of the hazard at 10:05 a.m.

Permalink | Categories: Police

Police searching for man accused of enticing a child

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Austin police are searching for a man they say tried to pick up a girl outside of a North Austin middle school Saturday.

About 8:45 a.m., police said the man drove up to the girl outside of Pearce Middle School, 6401 North Hampton, and tried to get her into his car by offering different items, including illegal drugs.

The man followed the girl into the parking lot of the school, which was having weekend classes, and the girl told an official of the incident. The official called police.

No detailed description of the man was available.

Police said it was a four-door car, probably a Ford Focus, with tinted windows and a gray interior.

Anyone with information should call the police department at 974-5524.

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Woman dies after Gillespie County collision

A 24-year-old Junction woman died Wednesday night after she lost control of the car she was driving and struck another vehicle head-on, Texas Department of Public Safety officials said this morning.

Marlayna Kay Smith died from her injuries at the scene.

The accident happened around 10:07 p.m. Wednesday on U.S. 290, about a mile west of Stonewall in Gillespie County, a DPS dispatcher said. Smith had been driving a 1989 Honda Accord westbound on U.S. 290, when she crossed the highway and struck a 2003 Ford Expedition, driven by Ryan Cole Turner, 18, of Fredericksburg, officials said.

Turner, who was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, was taken to Hill County Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg. He was listed in serious condition with a head injury as of this morning, according to DPS.

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Police investigate condominium death

Austin police are investigating the death of a man they say might have fallen off a roof Wednesday night in a neighborhood near the University of Texas campus, police said.

About 5:54 p.m., police were called to condominiums in the 3200 block of Duval Street, Austin Police Department spokesman Lt. Paul Christ said this morning. Someone had found a body between two buildings, Detective James Mason said, and called 911.

A preliminary investigation showed there was trauma to the man’s body, but it appears he fell from the top of one of the four-story buildings, Mason said. The roof is easily accessible and a common area for people who live in the condominiums, Mason said.

The man, who was in his 20s, was not identified. Christ said this morning that the man had previously been the subject of a “request to locate” investigation, which means that someone had called police searching for him in recent months.

“At this time, we are not investigating his death as a suspicious death,” Christ said.

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Smoke causes evacuation at Clinton headquarters

A malfunctioning air conditioning unit on the roof of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters caused an evacuation tonight before firefighters arrived and found no fire.

Firefighters were called just before 8:20 p.m. after the malfunction sent smoke into the building at 701 E. Ben White Blvd., Austin Fire Department Capt. Rob Bredahl said.

“There was never actually any fire or any real danger,” he said.

Bredahl said such malfunctions are common with air conditions on roofs.

Between 50 to 60 volunteers and staff were in the building when they smelled smoke and someone called the fire department, campaign spokeswoman Adrienne Elrod said. After firefighters cleared the building, everyone went back inside and got back to work.

“The only thing we’re suffering from is a bad stench,” Elrod said.

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Cabinet shop catches fire in Leander

A cabinet shop in Leander was nearly destroyed in a fire last night after sparks from a welder’s torch ignited a piece of wood. No one was injured.

Welders were working on the roof of the 20,000-square-foot building on FM 2243 when the torch sparks hit wood inside the building around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Employees at Austin Wood Works tried to extinguish the ensuing fire, a fire official said, but were unable to put it out.

There were several small explosions from glue, paint and solvents, Leander district fire chief Dave Lincoln said.

Because of the flammable liquids inside, firefighters had a hard time controlling the blaze, but it was finally brought under control around 7:30 p.m. with the help six other fire departments.

Lincoln said the damages have not been estimated because an insurance company is still assessing, but said the amount could be in the millions.

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APD chief: Detective suspended for kneeing suspect in head

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has suspended a detective for 10 days because Acevedo said the detective used excessive force by kneeing in the head a man who was being handcuffed during an undercover drug operation last year.

Other officers described the man as “cooperative” and not resisting arrest when Detective Joseph Lorett struck him, according to a disciplinary memo.

The man suffered extensive face injuries after the incident that required hospital treatment, the memo said. Internal affairs investigators said Lorett also used profanity directed toward the man during the incident.

Lorett had been working with a confidential informant to coordinate an undercover drug buy, the memo said. Police pulled over a car that they thought had been involved in a drug buy, and the driver was ordered out of the car. Officers then started to handcuff him, at which time investigators said Lorett approached and struck him.

“From what I could see, at the time he was hit, he had moved his arm and that may have given the officer reason to believe that he needed to use his knee,” Assistant Chief Sam Holt said. “But, still, we perceived it to be more force than necessary.”

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Stony Point student charged with choking teacher

A Stony Point High School student was arrested yesterday for allegedly choking a teacher.

According to an arrest affidavit, 17-year-old Scott Centeno was making gestures through a glass window to another student in Robin Land’s classroom at about noon Tuesday.

Land went outside his classroom to tell Centeno to stop and Centeno tried to run into the classroom, according to the affidavit. Land blocked Centeno, but the student grabbed his wrist and choked him, according to the affidavit.

Centeno was charged with assault on a public servant, a third degree felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, if convicted. Centeno is still in the Wiliamson County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

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Police investigating reported suspicious incident

From the Round Rock Police Department:

Round Rock police are investigating a report from two children that a carload of teens may have tried to entice them into a vehicle Monday afternoon, though one of the children gave police information that the incident could possibly be a prank.

The 9- and 10-year-old Voigt Elementary students told police that they were riding their bicycles home after school when a small car with at least four teens inside pulled alongside them and asked if they wanted some candy. The kids refused, and the group left the area traveling east on Logan Drive.

Shortly after the report, a citywide bulletin was sent to officers as they saturated the area. No car or suspects were found that matched the descriptions given.

The kids described the car as an older, rust-spotted small maroon four-door with dark window tint. No license plate number was given.The suspects were described as Hispanic teenagers, two male and two female. One male had a goatee, another had a “burr” haircut.

Police spoke with crossing guards, teachers and others in the area, none of whom saw anything suspicious. Investigators are working to clarify other details as the investigation continues.

Anybody with information is asked to call the Round Rock Police Department at 218-5500.

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Coast Guard: Search called off for Austin man near Port Aransas

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The U.S. Coast Guard has called off a search for a missing Austin kayaker two days after he went missing from the North Port Aransas Jetties on Sunday, according to Coast Guard spokesman Lt. j.g. Ben Sparacin.

Stephen Stafford, of Austin, 20, was reported missing at 5:55 a.m. Sunday, Sparecin said. He’d been kayaking with a friend before he disappeared and was not wearing a life jacket. Two rescue boats and a rescue helicopter had been looking for him until yesterday morning, when officials officially ended the search, pending further developments.

“The Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Texas Parks and Wildlife conducted multiple searches with no sightings of Stephen Stafford,” Sparacin said.

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Man killed in wreck on Texas 71

A man died from his injuries Monday night after the car he was driving rolled over on Texas 71 in Del Valle, Texas Department of Public Safety officials said.

Christopher Trejo, 33, of Austin, was driving westbound on Texas 71 at around 9:30 p.m. when he lost control of a 2007 Ford he was driving. Officials said he was traveling at a high rate of speed and when he went off the roadway on Texas 71 near Dr. Scott Drive in Del Valle. Officials said he went through a ditch before knocking down a fence and rolling over.

Trejo died at the University Medical Center at Brackenridge at 11:35 p.m., according to a DPS dispatcher.

A spokeswoman for DPS said that Trejo was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.


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Trejo is the fourth person to die from his injuries after a vehicle accident on Texas 71, though the others died on the other side of the county. On Saturday, Audrey Ducote, 16, and Lauren Hoffman, 17 died after a crash on Texas 71 in Western Travis County. Another teen, Randall Hibler, 16, also died in that accident.

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No policy violations in Rosales police shooting, investigators say

Austin police internal affairs investigators found no policy violations in last year’s police shooting of a 72-year-old man who opened fire as officers tried to serve a warrant on his house, officials said today.

Assistant Police Chief David Carter, who is the department’s chief of staff, said detectives finished their inquiry and closed the case last week.

A Travis County grand jury had declined in December to indict Detective Aaron Bishop.

Bishop shot Felix Rosales in the torso Oct. 22 after Rosales shot Officer Robert Benfer in the foot, police said. Investigators were serving a search warrant for narcotics at a home at 6102 Club Terrace in Southeast Austin at the time.

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Austin High reeling after Texas 71 accident hits home

They were four close friends, all Austin High School juniors, heading out to Llano for a birthday.

But they never got there.

Two of them - Audrey Ducote and Lauren Hoffman - died Saturday when the car they were riding in was hit by a pick-up truck that hydroplaned and spun out of control on Texas 71.

Two others students - Kathryn Powers and Katherine Singleton - remained in critical condition Sunday at University Medical Center at Brackenridge as did Powers’ stepmother, Amy Wright, 43, who was driving the car.

The accident has left the Austin High community reeling.

“This is just a huge blow for those kids,” said Austin High girls’ golf coach Woody Robinson, who coached Ducote, Hoffman and Powers. “I just miss them so much. It’s just terrible.”

Austin school district spokesman Andy Welch said Sunday that the focus now is to provide the campus with grief counselors and other resources when students return to campus.

“Schools are families,” Welch said. “It is going to be difficult for other students … and teachers who saw them everyday in their class.”

A Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said there was no additional information Sunday on the status of the investigation.

The driver of the pick-up truck, Tammy Sue Goodman of Marble Falls, was in fair condition at University Medical Center Sunday. The current condition of her 7-year-old son, Stephen, could not be determined. He was listed in stable condition Saturday.

Goodman’s older son, Randall Hibler, 16, was killed in the collision.

Hibler’s father, who could not be reached Sunday, said the family was heading to Cabela’s sporting goods store in Buda at the time of the collision.

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Fatal wreck on Texas 71 kills three, injures 5

At least three people are dead and five are seriously or critically injured after a two-car collision this afternoon, emergency officials said.

The dead are believed to be “student aged,” around 16 to 18 years old, and one of the critically injured is believed to be a child, said Warren Hassinger, a spokesman for Austin-Travis County EMS. Names and information about the injured and deceased were not immediately available.

The collision occurred around 1:15 p.m. at Texas 71 and Bee Creek Road, officials said, and may have been caused by the rainy weather in most of Central Texas today.

EMS officials reported that a small passenger vehicle collided with a pickup truck in what may have been a “broad-side position.”

Three people were in the truck at the time of the accident and five people were in the smaller vehicle. EMS officials said two of the deceased were traveling in the truck and one of the deceased was in the small vehicle. The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating the accident.

The westbound lanes of Texas 71 were closed after the accident.

The injured were transferred to University Medical Center at Brackenridge and Dell Children’s Medical Center, where they are in either serious or critical condition, officials said.

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Flyover from southbound Research Blvd. to southbound Interstate 35 shut down

The flyover from southbound Research Blvd. to southbound Interstate 35 is currently shut, according to fire and safety officials. The road was closed around 10 a.m., after a garbage truck lost its load.

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Police release mug shot of “Ponytail bandit”

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Austin police today released a mug shot a woman dubbed as the “Ponytail Bandit,” who is suspected of a string of bank robberies across Texas, including Austin.

Michelle Hoke, 21, was arrested this week in Thailand.

She was dubbed the “ponytail bandit” after bank security cameras showed her wearing a University of Texas baseball cap with a ponytail on her back.

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Search warrant served on UT’s Royal Memorial Stadium

The Travis County District Attorney’s office and the University of Texas Police Department are investigating UT Associate Athletic Director Douglas George Wilson in connection with up to $60,000 missing from accounts that he oversees, according to a search warrant for his office at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.

On Feb. 1, investigators conducted a search of the relay room, where items are kept for the Texas Relays. The warrant claims $50,000 to $60,000 in entrance fees from the Texas Relays, overseen by Wilson, have been missing since 2001.

The warrant says a search of the relay room to which Wilson had access found a “large amount of checks, cashier’s checks, money orders and receipts, all of which were dated between 2003 and 2007, that were … related to the payment of these entry fees that were not deposited.”

The warrant says investigators believe that “evidence of criminal activity is likely to be found in [Wilson’s] office.”

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Austin man arrested for terroristic threats against co-workers, ex-wife

A 37-year-old man was arrested last week after police say he amassed a collection of six weapons and 1,500 rounds of ammunition and threatened multiple people, an Austin police official said. He was charged with making terroristic threats, a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

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Police arrested Joseph Nipper on Feb. 4 after receiving information that he had threatened employees at his workplace and also made threats against his ex-wife and her new boyfriend, said Austin police Sgt. Richard Stresing. Employees at the Austin branch of Charles Schwab & Co. where Nipper worked alerted security and police of the threats, and Nipper was fired after an internal audit showed he “wasn’t doing the work they were paying him for,” Streising said.

He told his coworkers that he “could probably kill 15 people at work before anybody could stop him,” Stresing said.

Aside from the guns and ammunition, police also seized multiple books on making smoke and explosive devices, Stresing said. Police are investigating whether Nipper’s owning the weapons violated federal firearms laws.

Nipper was booked in Travis County Jail and since has been released on bond. The terms of his release dictate that he may not have contact with anyone at Charles Schwab and may not own any weapons.

Company spokeswoman Sarah Bulgatz confirmed Nipper is no longer an employee at Charles Schwab. “It’s a police matter at this point so we don’t have any additional information,” she said.

Stresing praised Charles Schwab employees “for their quick action, notifying the business and the police that the threats were made.”

“There was a potential for some serious damage,” Stresing said. “A potential crisis was averted.”

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Cedar Park stabbing suspect arrested

From the Cedar Park Police Department:

On Thursday morning at approx. 5:30AM, Cedar Park Police were summoned to 2500 Sumac in north Cedar Park, on a report of a fight and stabbing.

Upon arrival officers met with victim, Travis M. Thornton, 19, who said that he and suspect, Walter J. Stasko, 29, had become involved in a verbal disturbance that turned into a physical fight.

Stasko is accused of pulling a knife on the victim and stabbing him, resulting in a significant, but non-life threatening 6-7 inch laceration to his left side. Thornton was transported to Cedar Park Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

Stasko fled the scene of the assault, but his vehicle was spotted approximately 30-minutes later by an officer on Cypress Creek Road in south Cedar Park. The officer initiated a traffic stop, but Stasko refused to stop for police, which resulted in a low-speed 40-45MPH pursuit southbound on Hwy. 183.

Additional information provided to officers at the original assault scene indicated that the suspect claimed to have an assault rifle and possibly another gun in his car.

The suspected finally yielded to the police and a high-risk traffic stop was conducted near the Oak Knoll exit of southbound Hwy. 183. The suspect was taken into custody without further incident and no other firearms were found in the vehicle.

Stasko told arresting officers that he was having chest pains, so he was taken to Seton Northwest Hospital for care. After being treated and released, he was transported to Williamson County Jail, where awaits magistration. Stasko is charged with aggravated assault with serious bodily injury and evading arrest and detention.

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Elderly man critically injured in fire

From the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office:

Area fire departments responded to 550 Private Road 914 in Williamson County today at 2:30pm.

On arrival, they observed a small structure with fire coming from it. Emergency personnel also observed an elderly male standing in the doorway of the structure. The elderly male was transported by air ambulance to Brook Army Hospital in San Antonio with critical burns to his body.

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the circumstances of this fire at this time. No further information is available at this time. Updates will be made as information presents itself.

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Man arrested for stealing juice, candy and camera from school

A Hutto man was arrested Wednesday and charged with breaking into an elementary school and taking juice from the kitchen, candy from a vending machine, and a digital camera.

Joshua Ramirez, 17, broke into Nadine Johnson Elementary School at 955 Carl Stern Blvd. in October, according to an arrest affidavit.

Ramirez, who had a key from a previous burglary, broke a vending machine in the teacher’s lounge and took candy and money, the affidavit stated.

He also went into the cafeteria and drank some juice from kitchen, according to the affidavit. Ramirez also told police he stole a digital camera and charger from a teacher’s classroom.

He is charged with burglary of a building, a state jail felony that is punishable by up to two years in prison. He remained in the Williamson County Jail on Thursday on a $10,000 bond.

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Police: Toddler taken from South Austin home meth lab

At least two people were arrested Wednesday night after Austin police discovered what they said was a methamphetamine lab in a South Austin home.

A 3-year-old inside the house was taken to Dell Children’s Medical Center for evaluation. The case is being investigated by child abuse detectives.

Police responded to a call about 9:30 p.m. to serve two warrants at a house in the 5400 block of South Congress Avenue. Once officers entered the house, “they were overcome by fumes” that they believed were related to methamphetamines, said Sgt. Richard Stresing of Austin Police Department.

A HazMat team was called in to investigate the situation Wednesday night “because when you’re dealing with meth, you’re dealing with volatile substances,” Streising said.

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Power restored for 3,500 in West Austin

About 3,500 West Austin homes and businesses were without power for more than an hour this afternoon after a wooden power pole collapsed into trees, according to an official with Austin Energy.

The circuit lockout in the Enfield and Windsor area down to 10th Street was caused by a pole that collapsed behind a house on Patterson Avenue around 12:30 p.m., said public information officer Ed Clark.

By 1:50 p.m., crews stood the pole back up so power could be restored in the affected area, and they are working to replace the pole, Clark said.

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Outage in West Austin leaves 3,500 without power

About 3,500 West Austin homes and businesses are without power this afternoon after an outage occurred around 12:30 p.m., according to an official with Austin Energy.

Crews are examining the cause of the circuit lockout in the Enfield and Windsor area up to 10th Street.

“There is still some question about precisely what is wrong,” said public information officer Ed Clark, adding that crews could not find an obvious cause such as a tree limb or an animal caught in the power lines. “It’s going to take a little bit more analysis.”

Energy should be restored for the majority of the affected customers “any minute now,” Clark said.

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Fire that damaged NAACP office ruled arson

A fire that destroyed an abandoned house in East Austin on Wednesday and damaged the neighboring office of the NAACP has been ruled arson, authorities said today.

A two-alarm fire destroyed an abandoned house in East Austin last night also damaged the adjacent Mt. Carmel Masonic Temple, where the local chapter of the NAACP has offices.

According to the Austin Fire Department, the fire started around 8:30 p.m. last night on E. 12th St. near Salina Street and spread to the Mt. Carmel Masonic Temple, where the NAACP offices are housed.

No injuries were reported.

The fire destroyed the abandoned house. The NAACP headquarters had about $100,000 in damage, investigators said.

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Fort Hood soldier arrested for kidnapping girl, 15, at Austin hotel

A soldier stationed at Fort Hood was arrested Saturday on charges of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl at a North Austin hotel.

Officers said Thomas Cummings, 22, grabbed the girl from behind about 5:15 p.m. and dragged her more than 200 feet down a series of hallways on the fourth floor of the Doubletree Hotel at 6505 N. Interstate 35. A person in a nearby stairwell allegedly startled Cummings, who abandoned the girl and ran away, according to police Detective William Pursley of Austin Police Department’s child abuse unit.

Cummings returned to the hotel wearing a different shirt shortly after the altercation and was arrested by officers who were still at the hotel.

The victim, who lives in the Austin area, told police she was scared and believed the man was going to hurt and rape her, Pursley said. The girl told police she nearly blacked out twice as she was dragged down the hotel hallway and that she scratched and tried to bite him, according to the affidavit.

Cummings and the girl were attending Ikkicon, a Japanese animation and pop culture convention held at the hotel, Pursley said. Neither was a guest of the hotel.

Cummings, a soldier in the 4th Infantry Division, is being held at Travis County Jail on $55,000 bail.

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1 killed in Williamson County accident

A 72-year-old Round Rock man was killed early this morning after the pick-up truck he was driving struck a tree in Williamson County, according to Texas Department of Public Safety officials.

Glenn Roy Woods had been driving a 2004 Ford pickup truck south on Spearpoint Cove around midnight, a dispatcher said, when the truck left the road and hit a tree near the intersection of Spearpoint Cove and Hillstone Trail.

DPS is still investigating Woods’ death, which officials say may have been caused by medical problems. He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, officials say.

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Hesters Crossing construction wraps tonight

From the Texas Department of Transportation:

Tonight beginning at 8:30pm, TxDOT crews will complete the Phase Two demolition of the Hesters Crossing Bridge in Round Rock which began last Friday, February 8th.

The northbound right lane of Interstate 35 will be closed from SH 45 to McNeil Road so that work crews can demolish the remainder of an abutment on the east side of the bridge. The remaining two northbound main lanes of I-35 will remain open during this process. Traffic on the mainlanes of southbound I-35 will not be affected.

Also tonight, the SH 45 east and west direct connectors to North I-35 will be closed. Along the I-35 northbound access road, the left two lanes will be closed from Dell Centre Dr. to just north of Hester’s Crossing. Traffic on this stretch of the access road will be reduced to one lane.

Demolition and clean-up is expected to be complete by early Thursday morning, February 14th, and all lane closures are scheduled to re-open before morning rush hour. Tonight’s demolition means another weekend closure will not be necessary for Phase Two.

Construction of a new bridge at Hesters Crossing is part of a broader plan to improve mobility in the Hesters Crossing area. TxDOT and the City of Round Rock are also constructing new auxiliary roadways in the area to allow southbound frontage road traffic to bypass the signal at the Hesters Crossing Intersection.

Additional detours and lane closures will occur periodically throughout 2008 to accommodate the construction of the new bridge and auxiliary roadways. Information about these additional closures will be available at www.centraltexasturnpike.org and through recorded announcement on the project information line, 225-1503. Project staff may be contacted during regular business hours at the project office in Pflugerville, 225-1300.

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Firefighter injured in overnight fire

An Austin firefighter who was injured in a house fire this morning has been released from the hospital, an Austin Fire Department spokesman said.

The fire started around 3 a.m. this morning in the 500 block of Strawberry Cove, fire department spokesman Gary Wilks said. During the blaze, a firefighter had to be rescued from inside and was pulled from a window in the home with burns to one of his ears, officials said.

The firefighter, whose name and rank have not yet been released, was taken to South Austin Hospital where he was treated. Wilks said the firefighter had been released from the hospital by 5 a.m.

Fire investigators ruled the fire accidental and said that it was caused by an electrical short. The fire caused $160,000 in damage.

No one else was injured, Wilks said.

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I-35 closure in Round Rock canceled

FROM THE TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION:

UPDATE: THIS CLOSURE HAS BEEN CANCELED. ALL WORK AT THIS LOCATION HAS BEEN COMPLETED.

Interstate to close in Round Rock

(Round Rock) - Work on the second phase of reconstructing the Hesters Crossing bridge in Round Rock will continue on Friday, February 15 and is scheduled to last through Sunday, February 17. Interstate 35 will be closed with traffic being detoured to the north or southbound access road at exits 250 and 251. Lane closures and detours will also be in effect on South Mays Street, Hesters Crossing, State Highway 45 North and Dell Way. The bridge over the interstate will also be fully closed.

Half of the bridge was demolished last weekend. The remaining half of the existing structure will be knocked down before traffic is restored by Sunday night, February 17.

The construction of the new $22-million bridge is part of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) larger plan to improve mobility in the Hesters Crossing vicinity. TxDOT and the City of Round Rock are also constructing a new auxiliary roadway, known as a collector-distributor, to allow southbound access road traffic to bypass the signal at the Hesters Crossing intersection.

There will be additional closures and detours associated with the construction throughout the construction project which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009.

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Dry conditions fuel small brush fire; rain expected today

Austin firefighters battled a 2 to 3 acre brush fire near Parmer Lane and Interstate 35 around 11 p.m. last night, but Austin Fire Department officials say no one was injured and no homes were threatened. The fire was contained by midnight, a fire department spokesman said.

But the fire is a reminder of why the National Weather Service has placed parts of Central Texas under a Red Flag Warning, meaning there is an increased chance for out-of-control fires in the area. Rain and possible thunderstorms are forecast for today through this afternoon, the weather service says, which could help with the area’s dry conditions.

Today’s high is expected to be in the lower 60s with gusty winds of up to 30 miles per hour behind a cold front in the afternoon.

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Pedestrian killed after being struck by car

A pedestrian believed to be in his 30s was struck by two cars and fatally injured in Northwest Austin last night, police said. His death is Austin’s 4th traffic fatality this year, according to police.

The accident happened around 11 p.m., when officers responded to an automobile/pedestrian crash in the 12100 block of Waters Park Drive. The pedestrian, whose name has not been released pending positive identification and notification of his family, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Austin Police Department spokesman Joe Munoz said it is unclear why the pedestrian was in the roadway, but he was struck by a driver sometime after 10:30 p.m. and then again shortly after 11 p.m. The second car that struck the pedestrian, a 2002 gray Kia Spectra traveling southbound on Waters Park, stayed at the scene until police arrived, Munoz said.

Police ask that anyone with information about the accident call APD Vehicular Homicide detectives at 974-5774 or 974-5516.

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APD warns Ford, Dodge pickup drivers of thieves

FROM THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT:

The Austin Police Department Auto Theft Interdiction Unit is urging owners of large Ford model pickups and Dodge pickups to be aware that auto thieves are targeting their vehicles.

Vehicle theft is often a “gateway” crime, meaning it leads to other, more serious crimes. APD Auto Theft Interdiction Detectives have been working on several cases where trucks are being stolen to commit another crime. The trucks have become favorites among smugglers by removing the back seat and transporting illegal immigrants across the border. Recently APD Officers recovered nine stolen trucks at one location and five suspects were taken into custody. On another case, a Ford F-150 was recovered recently with 11 immigrants being transported.

Residents can help protect their vehicles from auto theft by taking precautions that will make your vehicle less of a target:

*Take your keys - Nearly 20% of all stolen vehicles had the keys in them.

*Lock Your Car - Approximately half of all stolen vehicles were left unlocked.

*Park in well-lit areas - Over half of all vehicle theft occurs at night.

*Never Leave Your Engine Running - It is against the law in Texas to leave your keys in the ignition or your vehicle engine running. If convicted, you can be fined up to $200.

*Install protection devices - Ignition kill switch, fuel kill switch, visible steering wheel lock, alarms and vehicle tracking.

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Arrest warrants issued in Austin boy’s kidnapping, authorities say

Austin police have issued multiple arrest warrants in the kidnapping of a 5-year-old boy last week, authorities said.

Police said today that the kidnapping was carried out to obtain money, and that the original target was the boy’s 10-year-old sister.

The boy, Adrian Jaimes, was found unharmed after an extensive search in a North Austin neighborhood late Thursday. The boy had been snatched from the back seat of his family’s Jeep Cherokee in Northeast Austin about 7:45 a.m. Thursday as his mother prepared to take him to school.

According to arrest affidavits obtained today, the kidnapping was carried out to obtain “money owed,” but does not say why the family may have owed them money. The documents said the group planned to hold Adrian for ransom or reward.

Hector Luis Hernandez and Modesto Vences-Garcia, who is identified in court documents as a cousin to Adrian Jaimes’ father, are each charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony for which they face life in prison. Bail was set at $100,000 each.

The affidavits said juvenile suspects also were involved.

The documents said that police interviewed neighbors for possible information after the kidnappings and that they described seeing a dark blue Oldsmobile Alero park in front of the house on at least three occasions before the kidnapping. One of the witnesses provided a license plate.

The affidavits said that police issued a bulletin for the car and that Cedar Park police officers found it a short time later. Police interviewed a man and woman, who they said gave conflicting information about their whereabouts that day.

Police went to their home to interview them again and that they were able to get information that eventually led them to the suspects based on those interviews.

In a news conference today, Austin Police Cmdr. Julie O’Brien described Vences-Garcia as the organizer of the kidnapping. She said he has not told investigators specifically why the thought Adrian’s father owed him money. “We know it was motivated by money,” O’Brien said. “He wanted a lot of money.”

O’Brien said Vences-Garcia told associates that he planned to demand $150,000 for Adrian’s return. O’Brien said a family member received two phone calls during the day Thursday demanding $300,000.

O’Brien said that based on information investigator received, the kidnappers initially wanted to abduct 10-year-old Zuleima Jaimes, Adrian’s sister, but that when they opened the door to the family ‘s car Thursday morning, Adrian was within closest reach.

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SWAT stand-off ends peacefully

A 12-hour standoff between a SWAT team and a man who barricaded himself in a home in the 8000 block Pinedale Cove in North Austin Sunday ended peacefully around 11 p.m. last night, according to Joe Munoz, a spokesman for the Austin Police Department.

Police identified the suspect inside the home as 46-year-old Donald Clayton Byers, Jr. Byers was wanted for making terroristic threats in Williamson County and parole violations and eluding officials in Hays County, police said.

Police said the man started communicating with them around 3 p.m., and showed his face through a roof vent. He was taken into custody eight hours later without incident, police said.

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Woman killed in overnight accident identified; man who left scene arrested

Police have arrested a man accused of being involved in a hit-and-run collision that killed a woman at 12:24 a.m. this morning at the intersection of the west frontage road of U.S. 183 and Spicewood Springs Road.

Ernesto Perez-Gomez, 22, has been charged with failure to stop and render aid, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Perez-Gomez has been booked into the Williamson County Jail.

Police have identified the woman killed as Shawna Marie Hutto, 19.

Police think the collision happened when Perez-Gomez ran a red light when he was traveling south on U.S. 183 on the west frontage road in a 2008 Dodge Ram pickup and crashed into the passenger side of a westbound 2007 Toyota on Spicewood Springs Road. Witnesses saw Perez-Gomez get into a Dodge SUV driven by a woman and leave the scene, police said.

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Warrant issued for suspect in fatal shooting

Police have issued an arrest warrant for a man accused of a fatal shooting near North Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane that also injured two other people. Efrain Benitez Arellano, 42, has been charged with murder and his bond has been set at $1 million. Police were still searching for him this morning.

Police responded to the 9400 block of Quail Meadow Drive at 3:06 a.m. Saturday after receiving a 911 call about a shooting. There, they found three people with gunshot wounds. One had been shot in the chest, another in the thigh and another in the knee, said Lt. David Crowder of the Austin police. All three people were taken to local hospitals. One of them, a man in his late 20s, died at 12:41 p.m., said Joe Munoz, spokesman for the Austin police.

Police describe Arellano as a 5 foot, 10 inch Hispanic male, weighing 160 to 180 pounds. He is driving a gray 2003 Lincoln Navigator with the Texas license plate W32 GRC and an “America Soccer” sticker on the rear windshield, Munoz said.The area where the shooting occurred is a “hot spot in Austin,” Munoz said, but investigators do not believe the shooting was random. It appears that there was an argument, then Arellano pulled out a gun and shot the other three people, Munoz said.

Anyone with information about the shooting or Arellano’s whereabouts is asked to call police at 974-5210 or 974-5371.This is the first homicide in Austin in 2008.

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Dripping Springs man killed in motorcycle wreck

A Dripping Springs man died and an Austin woman was injured in a motorcycle wreck at 2:35 a.m. Saturday in Kendall County.

Danny Vitolich, 52, of Dripping Springs died at the scene after the motorcycle he was driving west on RR 473 skidded while negotiating a curve and turned over, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. He was not wearing a helmet, officials said.

Sandra Delgado, 35, of Austin, a passenger on the motorcycle, was injured and is in critical condition at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, The wreck occurred near the Blanco County line.

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1 killed, 2 injured in North Austin shooting

Austin police are searching for a man who they say shot three people, killing one of them, early today near Rundberg Lane and North Lamar Boulevard.

Police responded to the 9400 block of Quail Meadow Drive at 3:06 a.m. after receiving a 911 call about a shooting. There, they found three people with gunshot wounds. One had been shot in the chest, another in the thigh and another in the knee, said Lt. David Crowder of the Austin police.

All three people were taken to local hospitals. One of them, a man in his late 20s, died at 12:41 p.m., said Joe Muñoz, spokesman for the Austin police.

Investigators are asking for the public’s help locating the man who they say fired the shots, 42-year-old Efrain Benitez Arellano. They describe Arellano as a 5 foot, 10 inch Hispanic male, weighing 160 to 180 pounds.

Arellano is driving a gray 2003 Lincoln Navigator with the Texas license plate W32 GRC and an “America Soccer” sticker on the rear windshield, Muñoz said.

The area where the shooting occurred is a “hot spot in Austin,” Muñoz said, but investigators do not believe the shooting was random. It appears that there was an argument, then Arellano pulled out a gun and shot the other three people, Muñoz said.

Anyone with information about the shooting or Arellano’s whereabouts is asked to call police at 974-5210 or 974-5371.

This is the first homicide in Austin in 2008.

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Suspect sought in Wells Fargo robbery

From the Austin Police Department:

BANK ROBBERY #4

Case: 08-0390813

Date: Friday, February 08, 2008

Time: 10:58 a.m.

Location: Wells Fargo Bank, 1901 West William Cannon Drive

Narrative:

Austin Police responded to a Bank Robbery at the Wells Fargo Bank located at 1901 West William Cannon Drive. The suspect entered the bank and demanded money. The suspect left the scene on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The suspect is described as: White male, 20-30 years of age, 5’9”, Medium build, Short black hair, Long sideburns that curls under the ears, Clean shaven, Small goatee, Last seen wearing a grey baseball cap with a patch, black leather jacket, blue jeans, and black shoes with white soles.

This case remains under investigation by APD Robbery detectives. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Robbery tip line at 974-5092 or CrimeStoppers at 472-8477. This is the 4th bank robbery of 2008.

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Early-morning collision slows traffic on MoPac

A three-car collision brought traffic to a halt on the MoPac Expressway at Lake Austin Boulevard early Friday morning, police said.

Police responded to the scene around 7 a.m. One person was transported to University Medical Center at Brackenridge with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Roads opened up shortly after 8 a.m., officials said.

Police had no further information.

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Police say man who was found dead in burned trailer near Belton was shot

Investigators say a man who was found dead inside a burned trailer near Belton on Wednesday was shot before the blaze started.

Authorities identified the man as 53-year-old Nolan Brantner, but said that a positive identification is pending an autopsy.

Bell County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the burning trailer behind a brick home on FM 1123, authorities said in a release. Brantner was found inside with a gunshot wound, according to police.

Sheriff’s officials said a preliminary autopsy report indicated that the death was a homicide, but the sheriff’s office would not release any more details of the investigation.

Belton is about 45 miles north of Austin, just south of Temple on Interstate 35.

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Death investigation underway at park

Burnet County officials said they are investigating a “questionable death” at Shaffer Bend Recreational Area on Lake Travis.

Responding to a call Wednesday, officials at 8:14 p.m. found 44-year-old Alan Wayne Huggins dead at the park, located on County Road 343A, southeast of Marble Falls, according to a press release from the Burnet County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s officials — who are working with the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and Lower Colorado River Authority Rangers — did not say in the release who reported the death or where or how Huggins’ body was found. Sheriff’s Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Burnet County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Peggy Simon said arrived at the scene and ordered an autopsy but would not comment on the condition of Huggins’ body.

The park, described on the LCRA web site as an undeveloped 523-acre recreational area, will be closed during the investigation, officials said.

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911 service restored in San Marcos

From the City of San Marcos:

The 911 emergency call service in San Marcos was restored about 1:05 p.m. today after going down around 11:45 a.m. Emergency calls in San Marcos were routed to Hays County 911 during the outage.

Technicians from Century Tel, the San Marcos telephone company, restored the 911 service after it went out following a brief power failure in the vicinity of Wonder World Drive. When the power came back on at the Police Department around 11:45 a.m., the 911 service went down, police officials said.

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Two teens charged with assaulting bus driver

A Pflugerville school bus driver stopped his route briefly Wednesday so police could arrest two teenagers accused of assaulting him for refusing to stop the bus at an unauthorized place.

The driver, a 52-year-old man whose name police and school officials declined to release, was not injured, said Veneza Aguiñaga, a spokeswoman for the Austin Police Department. “He was offended by being pushed,” she said.

The incident happened when another student, not involved in the assault, tried to get off the bus near the corner of Metric Boulevard and Gracy Farms Lane, Aguiñaga said. The driver was trying to keep the student on the bus because it wasn’t a normal stop, she said.

“He put his arm out to keep him on the bus,” Aguiñaga said. Two others boys on the bus, who were both 17-year-old Pflugerville ISD students, then came up and pushed the driver, she said. A witness called the police about 5:10 p.m., she said. When police arrived they issued citations for assault by contact to the Chris Johnson and C.J. Sterling.

The offense is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500. Aguiñaga said she didn’t know how the second 17-year-old boy, was involved in the assault. Police took the two 17-year-olds away from the scene in patrol cars but later released them, she said.

Pflugerville School district officials are still investigating the incident to determine what type of punishment the students who were involved should receive, said Amanda Brim, a district spokeswoman. The driver was following school policy when he refused to stop at an unauthorized location, Brim said. The driver finished his route after talking to the police at the scene, she said.

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911 down in San Marcos

From the City of San Marcos:

The 911 center at the San Marcos Police Department went down about 11:45 a.m. today. Emergency calls are being routed to Hays County 911 for the time being. Hays County will notify San Marcos Police, Fire and EMS for emergency calls in San Marcos.

A power failure in the area of Wonder World Drive occurred about 11:26 a.m. and power has now been restored.

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Child kidnapped, police say

Authorities have issued an Amber Alert for a 5-year-old boy who they said was kidnapped from his home in the 11800 block of Shropshire Boulevard in Northeast Austin. Police say the family was targeted and do not believe other children are in danger.

Police said Adrian Jaimes was abducted about 7:45 a.m. by three men in their late teens driving a four-door, silver or grey Volkswagen Jetta with dark tinted windows. They left eastbound on Shropshire.

The men were reported to be wearing white, hooded sweatshirts with orange flames on them.

Police spokesman Joe Munoz said that at 7:40 a.m., the boy’s older sister went outside to start the family’s Jeep Cherokee. Moments later, the boy came outside with his mother and got in the car. Munoz said his mother was in the driver’s seat, his sister in the front passenger seat, and the boy was in the back seat.

Police say the men then pulled up in the Jetta. Munoz said one of the suspects stayed in the car and two others got out, one of whom opened the door to the Jeep and pulled the boy out.

Munoz said the boy struggled to get away and that the mother ran after the Jetta, but was unable to stop the car or open its locked doors.

Munoz said police think the child is in imminent danger. “We’re looking at every lead we are getting,” he said. “We are going to look at every angle we come up with.”

Munoz said police have determined that the suspects are “complete strangers” to the family. However, “it is obvious to us it is not a random kidnapping,” Munoz said. “There is a reason behind it.”

Munoz said other children in the area were walking to school at the time of the incident.

The boy is described as 4 feet tall, 50 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, wearing a green jacket, black T-shirt and dark blue pants.

People are asked to call the homicide tip line at 477-3588 if they have information. Police said at 1 p.m. that they had received more than 30 possible tips.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials said road signs between Austin and the border have been activated with information about the kidnapping, including a description of the car.

Under state guidelines, an Amber Alert may be issued if a child is 17 years old or younger, investigators think the child has been abducted and is in immediate danger, and if they think the public could help locate the child.


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Delaware murder suspect arrested by Austin police, U.S. Marshals

A 38-year-old man suspected in connection with the slaying of his girlfriend in Newark, Del., was arrested Tuesday at a North Austin gas station on his way to Mexico, police said today.

New Castle Police were looking for Alejandro Cruz as “a person of interest” in the 34-year-old woman’s death, which happened around 1 a.m. Tuesday. The woman was found inside the garage of her home, dead from multiple stab wounds to her upper body, police said. Her name was not released.

Investigators with the U.S. Marshal’s office, the New Castle County Police Department and the Austin Police Department were looking for Cruz Wednesday and learned he was headed to Mexico. The marshals told Austin police to be on the lookout for Cruz, who was spotted by an Austin officer at a North Austin Shell gas station in a car that belonged to the deceased woman.

He was arrested there Tuesday night at around 9:40 p.m. without incident, police said.

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Fire investigators search for arson suspect in condo fire

The Austin Fire Department is looking for a man who allegedly set three fires inside a downtown condominium building being built at 603 Davis Street, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Charles Ellis Nelson, 36, was charged today with arson, a first-degree felony. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Fire investigators said they found pants with the crotch area burned out and cut off at the knee inside a 13th floor apartment Saturday, according to the affidavit. The affidavit says that a vanity cabinet door had been torched. Investigators also said that paper that had been placed over flooring in the condominium had been burned inside two closets and the fiberglass bathtub.

Investigators later identified Nelson because he’d been wearing those clothes during an earlier incident, the affidavit said.

Michelle DeCrane, a spokeswoman with the Austin Fire Department, said she was not sure how much damage had been done to the unit. She said that Nelson was not yet in custody.

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APD arrests Delaware murder suspect

From the Austin Police Department:

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, at 9:45 p.m., the Austin Police Department received a BOLO (Be on the look out) from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U. S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force about a suspect and a vehicle that were possibly involved in a murder in New Castle, Delaware.

North Central Area Command Officers patrolling the area found the vehicle matching the description from the BOLO at the Shell gas station parking lot at 9400 N. IH 35.

Officers initiated a High Risk Traffic Stop and apprehended the suspect without incident.

The murder investigation and arrest was a cooperative effort with local, state and federal agencies.

The suspect is identified as:

Alejandro Cruz , Hispanic Male, (D. O. B. 04-09-1969) was arrested by APD officer and is currently in custody with DPS.

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Siren test at University of Texas today

From UT:

The University conducts siren tests around 11:50 a.m. the first Wednesday of each month. The next siren test is scheduled for today. For more information regarding the university siren system, visit http://www.utexas.edu/safety/sirens/.

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Mother whose kids tested positive for meth sentenced to one year

A Florence woman whose children tested positive for methamphetamine last year pleaded guilty to three counts of endangering a child and was sentenced to one year in a state jail.

Melody Whatley, 29, was charged with using methamphetamine while her three children ages 1,2, and 3, were present in her Florence mobile home in November. The children tested positive for the drug, but it was unclear how they were exposed.

Whatley’s boyfriend was also arrested and faces charges of endangering a child criminal negligence.

Michael Denson, also 29, admitted to using the drug and was taken to a hospital shortly after police arrived. Denson has not pleaded nor has he been indicted by a grand jury. His case was reset for next month.

Their three children are in the care of their grandmother while a custody case is pending.

Whatley has been in trouble with child protective services because two children, one of whom died, tested positive for marijuana at birth.

She also served nine months in prison for disobeying her probation from a felony drug possession charge.

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Hays County accident kills 1, seriously injures two teens

Two teenagers are recovering this morning at University Medical Center at Brackenridge after an accident in Hays County last night that left one man dead.

At 8:25 p.m. Tuesday, a 2002 GMC Safari traveling westbound on RM 3237 collided with a 1991 Ford sedan in the eastbound lane near the 500 block of Box Canyon Road, according to a dispatcher with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Both drivers were pinned into their vehicles as a result of the crash, the dispatcher said.

The driver of the GMC, 58-year-old Scott Chamberlain, of Wimberley, died at the scene. Bonnie Sturdivant, 17, the driver of the Ford, and her passenger, Connor Picken, 15, were airlifted to the hospital after the accident.

Sturdivant is listed in fair condition, while Picken is listed in good condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

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Police: 31 arrested at local Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday celebration on Sixth Street

Some Fat Tuesday revelers got beads, others got handcuffed and some got sick: 18 adults and 13 teens were arrested downtown, according to Austin Police Department spokesman Joe Munoz. There were a total of 7 EMS calls.

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18-wheeler accident cleared on I-35

Austin police this morning said an 18-wheeler truck transporting car axles overturned in the northbound lane of Interstate 35 near the Woodward Street exit after it collided with a car last night, and while there were no injuries, workers had blocked two lanes of early morning traffic to continue clean up.

The axles had been cleaned up as of 6 a.m. and traffic was slowed on the Interstate coming into Austin beyond the William Cannon Drive exit. The road re-opened at 6:13 a.m.

The accident happened around 11 p.m. last night. A police spokesman said that the truck spilled axles onto a nearby concrete divider between Interstate 35 and the nearby frontage, which made it harder for officials to move the truck upright.

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Police: Stepfather accused of continuous sexual abuse of 11-year-old

From the Austin Police Department:

Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child

Case: 08-0291663

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 05, 2008

Narrative:

The Austin Police Department is the first law enforcement agency in Travis County to file a new state statute of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child.

An 11-year-old female victim made an outcry to her mother that her stepfather had sexual intercourse with the victim on at least two separate occasions.

The first incident took place during Thanksgiving 2007 and the second incident took place on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008.

The victim’s mother confronted the suspect and he stated he was not going to jail. While the mother was attempting to call the police the suspect grabbed a knife and asked her to kill him. As the mother was on the phone with police the suspect cut his wrists and throat with a knife.

Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child according to the definition in Texas Penal Code Section 21.02:

*During a period that is 30 or more days in duration, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse, regardless of whether the acts of sexual abuse are committed against one or more victims.

*This offense is a felony of the first degree punishable by imprisonment for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 25 years.

Note from the Austin American-Statesman: This release has been modified to protect the identity of the child.

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Hall denied parole

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles today denied parole for Laura Hall, who was convicted in August and sentenced to five years in prison for tampering with Jennifer Cave’s body after Cave was murdered, a board official said.

The three-member parole board panel denied parole because of the nature of the crime, board chairwoman Rissie Owens said.

Hall will come up for parole again in February of next year, Owens said.

Hall completed a 360-day sentence in the Travis County Jail in November for hindering apprehension charges for driving now-convicted killer Colton Pitonyak to Mexico to escape arrest, according to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

The pair left Cave’s headless body in Pitonyak’s West Campus bathtub.

Hall was being held in the Travis County Jail on Monday.

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Burn ban in effect for Travis, surrounding counties

Low humidity and high winds whipping through Central Texas led the Travis County Commissioners Court to maintain a burn ban that has been in effect since Jan. 8. The burn ban is now in effect until March 5, after which it will be reviewed on a weekly basis if case dry conditions improve.

Anyone who burns materials outside of an enclosure — a controlled burn — may be fined up to $500, since violating a burn ban is a Class C misdemeanor.

All of the counties surrounding Travis have bans in place: Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays and Williamson.

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Jail official arrested

From a Hays County press release:

Following an internal investigation by the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Shirley Flowers, 44, of San Marcos. Flowers, a Corrections Officer at the Hays County Jail was charged with Contraband in a Correctional Facility.

The charge, a misdemeanor punishable up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000, involves a person who provides, introduces or possesses contraband in a correctional facility.

Flowers’ bail was set at $3,000. Upon her arrest, she was immediately terminated from employment with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. Flowers posted bail and has been released from the Hays County Jail.

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After getting fired, man destroys several Web sites, police say

Austin police say that a 28-year-old former employee of an Austin company that develops and maintains Web sites deleted several client sites before he hacked into his boss’ computer to send e-mails to the boss’ wife and clients defaming the company.

According to an arrest affidavit, Arunabh Das was fired from Pixeldust Interactive, a South Congress Avenue company of six employees, around 4 p.m. on Sunday. His boss, Mick Southerland, told police he fired Das because he had not made satisfactory progress on a project. Investigators say that Das then deleted information from two Web servers and a database server for www.rottenneighbor.com. Rottenneighbor.com had been built and maintained by Pixeldust for about $80,000 in the past six months, the affidavit says.

Police said Das also deleted several other Web sites. Das was charged with breach of computer security, a second-degree felony.

The affidavit says that Das told Southerland he was holding the Web site hostage until he received his paycheck. Though Southerland said that checks weren’t being dispersed until the following week, Das hacked into Southerland’s e-mail account and sent e-mails to Southerland’s clients and family defaming the company, according to the affidavit.

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Victim in fatal car wreck identified

Austin Police Department

Date: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008

Time: 4:59 p.m.

Location: Scofield Ridge Parkway and Lamplight Village Avenue

Deceased: Melissa R. Valdez, Hispanic female, (D. O. B. 11-18-1979)

Narrative: At 4:59 p. m., North Central Area Command patrol officers responded to a collision at Scofield Ridge Parkway and Lamplight Village Avenue. It is believed that a black Lexus SUV was traveling south bound in the outside lane at a high rate of speed and was in the process of moving to the inside lane to pass another vehicle when it struck the center median causing the Lexus to roll several times.

The vehicle ended up on the west curb of Scofield Ridge Parkway on its wheels. The driver of the Lexus, Melissa R. Valdez, was not wearing a seatbelt and was pronounced deceased at the scene. Two juvenile passengers and an adult female passenger were transported to Brackenridge Hospital by Austin-Travis County EMS with minor injuries.

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact the APD Vehicular Homicide Unit detectives at 974-4724.

This case remains under investigation by APD Vehicular Homicide detectives. This is Austin’s second traffic fatality of 2008.

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Repeat drunken driver to serve 33 years in prison

From John Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney:

Oscar Barbosa (d.o.b. 11/25/56) decided to skip his jury trial this morning and pleaded guilty in the 277th District Court to felony driving while intoxicated. Judge Ken Anderson convicted Barbosa and sentenced him to 33 years in prison.

On Sept. 14, 2007, a Liberty Hill patrol officer stopped Barbosa, who was driving a truck in the northbound lane of U.S. 183. The officer observed Barbosa weaving off the right side of the road, throwing dirt and gravel into the air. Barbosa was arrested for driving while intoxicated. A breath test at the Williamson County jail revealed that Barbosa had an alcohol concentration of .184 in his body, more than two times the legal limit.

Barbosa already had been convicted of DWI on five previous occasions in Kerr, Gillespie and Hildago counties. In addition, he had been to federal prison for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

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Parents who left kids in car while drinking margaritas get one year in jail

A mother and father who left their children in a car while they drank margaritas in a Hutto restaurant last year were each sentenced to one year in state jail today.

Beatriz Pedroza, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of endangering a child and driving while intoxicated.

She will also have to complete intensive outpatient care for alcoholism, parenting classes and any conditions that child protective services may require.

Pedroza is in the country illegally, according to court records, but will not face deportation.

Miguel Lopez, 33, pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering a child.

Since Lopez is in the country illegally, District Judge Ken Anderson said he will be deported after his sentence is served.

On Sept. 30, the couple went into Rio Grande restaurant in Hutto and drank margaritas for about a half-hour, according to an arrest affidavit filed in state District Court in Williamson County.

Passers-by saw two young children in the car and called police, who found a 1-year-old boy and a 5-month-old girl unsupervised in a Ford Expedition, according to the arrest affidavit.

Pedroza said she had been on Sixth Street in Austin earlier in the day before driving to Hutto, according to the affidavit.

Although the children were not injured, the affidavit states that both were crying and covered in sweat.

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Woman jailed on multiple charges after Temple accident

From the Temple Police Department:

At about 5:50 p.m. Saturday night, Temple Police were dispatched to the South Interstate 35 overpass, near W Ave H reference a three-car accident. While Officers were arriving, dispatch advised of a reckless driver in the same area. Officers arrived to the accident scene to find out that the suspect vehicle had attempted to pass multiple vehicles on the left shoulder and was traveling at excessive speeds. After colliding with 3 different vehicles the suspect vehicle continued traveling northbound, where it finally broke down just north of the original accident scene, due to its extensive damage.

Two individuals in the struck vehicles were transported to Scott and White Hospital for minor injuries. The suspect was seen running from the car that she had been driving, after it broke down. The female, who was later identified as Amanda Hendrickson, a 39-year-old woman from Duncan, Texas, proceeded to run northbound on the interstate. Officers caught up with her at the Whataburger parking lot.

She was checked by EMS, and Officers proceeded to transport her to jail. While they were en route, Ms. Hendrickson became combative and kicked out a patrol car window. She was transferred to another patrol vehicle and placed in jail on multiple charges to include Resisting Arrest / Transportation.

Traffic on the highway became congested and somewhat backed up for about an hour, while Officers worked to clear the multi-vehicle accident.

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Officials: Husband killed estranged wife

Travis County deputies have arrested a 48-year-old man in connection with the shooting death of his estranged wife in northwestern Travis County on Friday.

Lori Langley, 44, was found dead on the front steps of her trailer on Joyce Drive on Friday afternoon with a gunshot wound to her head and the right side of her body, officials said. Ralph Langley was arrested later after calling 911 and confessing to killing her, according to an affidavit detailing the reasons for his arrest.

According to the document, Langley had been arguing with his estranged wife on the phone and then told the couple’s son he was going to kill her. The son told investigators that his father left in a tan Chevrolet truck and returned within 10 to 15 minutes.

Ralph Langley came back holding a pistol, told his son he had killed Lori Langley and then called 911, telling the operator that he had shot her and left her on the porch, the document said.

This is the first murder of 2008 to be investigated by the Travis County Sheriff’s Department.

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Pedestrians struck by pickup in downtown San Marcos

The City of San Marcos has issued the following news release:

A San Marcos couple suffered serious injuries early Saturday morning after they were struck by a pickup truck on Hopkins Street in front of the Hays County Courthouse.

Priscilla Torres, age 38, and her husband Johnny Torres, age 34, of 304 Picasso Drive were transported to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin where they are in intensive care.

The driver of the pickup, 24-year old Steven L. Mazac (DOB 10-05-1983) was arrested for felony intoxication assault. He was expected to appear before a judge for magistration Saturday.

The collision occurred in downtown San Marcos at 12:09 a.m. when a 1998 GMC pickup heading eastbound on Hopkins Street struck the couple who were crossing in the middle of the 100 block of the street.

Officers on foot patrol in the downtown area witnessed the collision. Nearby EMS staff provided immediate assistance to the victims.

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Standoff on I-35 in Hays County ends peacefully

A standoff that closed Interstate 35 north of Kyle and snarled traffic for miles this morning ended peacefully shortly after 9 a.m., officials said.

All lanes of the highway reopened at 9:15 a.m. after being closed for about two hours while police negotiated with a man who had barricaded himself inside a vehicle with a gun, said Deputy Mike Thielen of the Hays County Sheriff’s Department.

Kyle police responded to the vehicle stopped in the northbound lanes of I-35 near County Road 210 at about 7 a.m. When the man threatened to harm himself, they called for assistance from the Hays County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team, Thielen said.

Crisis negotiators were able to disarm him and no one was hurt, Thielen said.

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Temple woman in critical condition after being hit by truck

From th Temple Police Department:

At about 2:22 p.m., patrol was dispatched to an auto-pedestrian collision in the 100 block S. 31st St. The pedestrian was cross S. 31st St from west to east. Witnesses at the scene informed officers that the pedestrian ran out into traffic and into the lane of travel for a 1980 Tan Dodge Truck. The truck attempted to avoid a collision with the pedestrian, but was unable too. The truck was operated by William Edward Smetanka, 61, from Burlington.

The pedestrian was transported to Scott and White Hospital for medical treatment. The pedestrian was identified as Ann Jannette Wilson, 43, from Temple.

Mrs. Wilson is in critical condition at Scott and White Hospital. Her injuries are described as life threatening. Medical staff is still trying to determine the extent of the injures, but they did indicate head trauma and a fractured left leg as known injures at this time.

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7-year-old critically injured at charter school dies

FROM THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT

Case: 08-0311134

Date: Wednesday January 30, 2008

Time: 2:33 p.m.

Location: 1600 Block Kramer Lane

Deceased: 7-year-old male

Narrative:

On January 30, 2008, Austin-Travis County EMS was called to the N. Y. O. S. Charter School located in the 1600 block of Kramer Lane. A 7-year-old student was found suspended by his shirt from a coat hook in the boy’s restroom.

He was subsequently transported to Dell Children’s Hospital by Austin-Travis County EMS.

At 2:33 p.m. today, the child died as a result of the injuries.

The Austin Police Department offers its heartfelt sympathy to the family, students, teachers and school administrators during this tragic time.

This case is an ongoing investigation by APD Homicide detectives. More information will be shared with the public when additional and verified details are known surrounding the events that caused the child’s death.

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Woman charged with attempting to shoot ex-boyfriend

A woman accused of going to her ex-boyfriend’s Round Rock home and trying to shoot him was arrested Thursday.

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Thein Huong Phan, 27, walked into Robert Monaghan’s home while he was in bed Thursday afternoon, according to an arrest affidavit. She was wearing a long jacket, latex gloves, and carrying a .380 semi-automatic handgun.

When Monaghan heard his front door open, he walked downstairs to find Phan, according to the affidavit. He ran back upstairs to his bedroom to call 911, but Phan followed him and shut the door behind her, according to the affidavit.

Phan then pointed the gun at Monaghan and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t fire, according to the affidavit. A fight ensued and Phan tried to shoot Monaghan several times, but again the gun didn’t fire, according to the document. She told Monaghan, “I am going to kill you,” according to the affidavit.

Phan’s gun was loaded, but there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber, the affidavit stated.

She was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which could carry a 20-year sentence. She remained in the Williamson County Jail Friday, with bail set at $250,000.

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8 kilograms of cocaine, $40,000 seized from Northeast Austin apartment

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FROM THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT:

NARCOTICS SEIZURE AND ARREST OF SUSPECTS

Date: Monday, January 28, 2008

Time: Between 1:00 p. m. -7:30 p.m.

Location:
-Intersection of St. Johns Ave/N IH35 EF -Apartment on North Lamar Blvd. -Intersection of Braker Lane and North Lamar Blvd.

Narrative:

Austin Police Department Organized Crime Division-Narcotics Conspiracy Unit and Gang Unit seized approximately 8 kilograms of cocaine and $40,000 in cash.
Three suspects were arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver.

The arrested are identified as:

Marcelino Hernandez, Hispanic male, (D. O. B. 02-12-1975)

Melchor Garcia Delbosque, Hispanic male, (D. O. B. 10-21-1978)

Edgar Campusano Morales, Hispanic male, (D. O. B. 06-05-1976)

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Hydrogen chloride leak reported in Williamson County

From Williamson County Spokeswoman Connie Watson:

The Williamson County Hazardous Materials Response Team (Haz-Mat) was called to URS Austin this morning regarding the release of hydrogen chloride gas in their building at 9400 Amberglen, close to Parmer Lane and RM 620.

Hydrogen chloride gas is a respiratory irritant and burns skin and eyes on contact. Everyone was evacuated from the building safely. Only one person is reported as complaining of respiratory problems, but is declining treatment.

Workers in the building opened a canister of hydrogen chloride gas and then could not close the valve of the canister. The workers set off the fire alarm to evacuate the building at approximately 9:25 a.m. Approximately 20 people were in the building at the time of the incident. Haz-Mat crews will be on the scene for several hours for clean-up.

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Early morning blazes destroy homes, displace 8 residents

Fire officials in Travis County say that four overnight fires caused more than $300,000 in damage to two buildings and left eight people displaced.

No serious injuries were reported in the fires, but the fires underscore the importance of caution as dry weather conditions continue to effect Austin. Several counties are under a Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service, which means that out-of-control fires are more likely to be started.

Fire investigators say someone intentionally set a two-alarm fire at the Lakeview Apartments on 2323 S. Lakeshore Blvd. in Southeast Austin around 1 a.m. today. The fire began on the second floor of the building and caused $250,000 in damage to an abandoned building that was scheduled to be demolished.

At 1:45 a.m., firefighters put out a fire at an abandoned mobile home at 9416 Carson Creek near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Then, they responded to a two-alarm fire at a duplex in the 1100 block of Mason Avenue in East Austin around 2:30 a.m. that displaced one person and caused $60,000 worth of damage to the building, Austin Fire Department officials said. The duplex fire has been ruled accidental.

Another fire, on Citation Drive, east of U.S. 183 in southeastern Travis County, displaced at least six people from a duplex, said Claudia McWhorter, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Central Texas. Those residents are being helped with housing and clothing by the Red Cross.

She said the Red Cross also responded to a fire on Emile Street in Bastrop, she said, where one person was displaced.

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Woman in Northeast Travis County ditch accident ID’d

Department of Public Safety officials this morning said they are still investigating the death of 51-year-old Jan Mary Kaune, of Coupland.

Kaune was discovered Thursday night in a vehicle that had rolled into a water-filled ditch in Northeast Travis County, near 12200 Walton Hill Pass, northeast of Manor. Kaune was pronounced dead at the scene.

Emergency officials said it was unclear how long the vehicle had been in the ditch.

A man who identified himself as a longtime family friend, Juan Oyervides, said that Kaune once operated Kaune Line Farms with her husband, Brant.

They both provided fresh produce at Austin Farmers’ Market for a few years, but the business was discontinued in recent years after the death of Brant Kaune, Oyervides said.

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