National News Archives for 2016-02

Police: Virginia Officer Fatally Shot Day After Swearing-In

WOODBRIDGE, Va. (AP) -- A police officer was fatally shot a day after being sworn in, and two of her colleagues were wounded while responding to a reported argument at a northern Virginia home, authorities said.

 

A county official said a civilian woman was also killed in the domestic dispute Saturday.

 

Police

 

Officers received a call around 5:30 Saturday evening in Woodbridge, about 30 miles southwest of the nation's capital, about a "verbal argument," Sgt. Jonathan Perok, spokesman of the Prince William County Police Department, said. It's not clear how the altercation between the suspect and police began, but the suspect, a military serviceman, is in custody and was not injured, he said. The condition of the other two officers is not known.

 

The department announced on its Facebook page that Officer Ashley Guindon had died from the injuries she sustained in the shooting.

 

Cop

 

A picture of Guindon was posted to the department's Twitter page on Friday with a tweet that read, "Welcome Officers Steven Kendall & Ashley Guindon who were sworn in today & begin their shifts this weekend. Be Safe!" It is not known if the other officer in the tweet was involved in the shooting incident.

 

Guindon had been a county police officer a few years ago and had left and returned to the force, Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday night. He said he did not know the exact dates of when she started and left.

 

Another woman was killed in the domestic call and was dead before police arrived, Stewart said, but police declined to confirm that information. Stewart also said there was a child in the house during the incident who was not harmed.

 

Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert told The AP Saturday night that he has authorized a capital murder charge, along with other counts, against the suspect, who has not been identified.

 

At Inova Fairfax Hospital, where the three officers were flown by helicopter after the shooting, more than 100 patrol cars lined the roads outside early Sunday morning to stand vigil and escort Guindon's body to the medical examiner.

 

The shooting occurred in the Lake Ridge neighborhood, on a curving street with $500,000 suburban houses with brick and siding exteriors, manicured lawns and two-car garages about a five-minute drive from the county office building.

 

Until Saturday evening, the big news in the police department was the planned retirement of Chief Steve Hudson, who announced two weeks ago that he will step down at the end of March, and officers' plans to do a "polar bear" plunge on Saturday morning to raise money for Special Olympics.

 

Police said the incident is under investigation.

 

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3 Stabbed at KKK Gathering in Southern California, Police Say

 

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Three people were stabbed at a Ku Klux Klan gathering Saturday in Southern California, police said. At least one person was in critical condition.

 

An altercation between a group of KKK members and counter-protesters erupted at a Klan rally in Anaheim, with both sides involved in violent attacks, Sgt. Daron Wyatt with the Anaheim Police Department told The Associated Press.

 

KKK Rally

 

Three people, all initially believed to be counter-protesters, were stabbed. One person was in custody.

Wyatt said a Klan member was stomped on by counter-protesters during another altercation. Three people have been detained.

 

The KKK has a long history in Southern California, with Klansmen holding elected office in Anaheim in the 1920s. Nationwide, the number of active KKK groups increased to 190 in 2015 after falling in 2013 and 2014, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

In January 2015, packets containing fliers condemning Martin Luther King, Jr. and supporting the Ku Klux Klan were left in the driveways of about 40 homes in Santa Ana, about 8 miles south of Anaheim. The baggies contained a KKK business card, rock and candy.

 

The fliers opened with the heading, "On Martin Luther King Day, you are celebrating a communist pervert." The bottom of the fliers state they came from the "Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan."

 

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Teen Who Killed Teacher Gets Life With Chance for Parole

SALEM, Mass. (AP) -- A teenager who raped and killed his high school math teacher was sentenced Friday to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 40 years.

The 2013 slaying of Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer by Philip Chism was "brutal and senseless," Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy said as he pronounced the sentence.

 

Teen

 

"Colleen Ritzer lived a life of quiet heroism," Lowy said. "The crashing waves of this tragedy will never wane."

 

Chism was 14 when he followed the 24-year-old Ritzer into a school bathroom, strangled her, stabbed her at least 16 times and raped her. His lawyers argued he was mentally ill, a contention rejected by the jury.

 

He will serve life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years on a murder charge. He received 40-year concurrent sentences on rape and robbery charges.

Ritzer's parents, siblings, colleagues and lifelong friends on Friday described a young woman who loved her job, her students and life and who never had a negative word to say. Many of them wore pink, her favorite color.

 

Peggie Ritzer said her daughter's death had left her "so very broken."

 

"Now I isolate myself from people I love because pretending being to be happy is so difficult," she said. "He is pure evil, and evil can never be rehabilitated."

Tom Ritzer said he felt like he had failed his daughter.

"I didn't protect Colleen. A dad's job is to fix things," he said. "I would do anything I could if could fix this for Colleen."

 

Prosecutors had asked that he stay in prison for at least 50 years. Defense attorney Susan Oker asked for a sentence that would make Chism eligible for parole no later than age 40. She cited scientific studies that said a juvenile brain is not fully developed.

 

Chism's mother, Diane, cried quietly as he was sentenced. Earlier Friday, she released a statement expressing her condolences to Ritzer's family.

 

"Words can't express the amount of pain and sorrow these past 2 1/2 years have been," she said. "However, there is no one who has suffered more than the Ritzer family. My utmost esteem, prayers and humble respect is with them today as they continue their journey to heal."

 

At trial, the defense admitted Chism killed Ritzer but said he was suffering from severe mental illness and wasn't criminally responsible for his actions. A psychiatrist who testified for the defense said Chism, who had just moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee, was hearing voices and in the throes of a psychotic episode when he killed Ritzer.

 

Chism was convicted of raping Ritzer inside the bathroom but was acquitted of a second rape, committed with a tree branch in woods near the school where Chism put her body. He was also convicted of armed robbery for stealing Ritzer's credit cards and her underwear.

 

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This story has been corrected to show Chism will be eligible for parole in 40 years, not 25 years.

 

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Sheriff: Kansas Gunman Kills 3, Wounds 14, Dies in Shootout

 

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) -- A man who shot three people before storming into the central Kansas factory where he worked and shooting 15 others, killing three of them, had just been served a protection from abuse order that likely triggered the attack, a sheriff said Friday.

 

Shooting

 

All of the dead were shot Thursday inside Excel Industries, a plant in Hesston that makes lawnmower products, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said. Of those hurt, 10 were critically wounded, he said.

Walton would not identify the suspect.

 

The shooting came less than a week after authorities say a man opened fire at several locations in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area, leaving six people dead and two severely wounded.

 

Walton said his office served the suspect with the protection order at around 3:30 p.m., which was about 90 minutes before the first shooting happened. He said such orders are usually filed because there's some type of violence in a relationship, but he didn't disclose the nature of the relationship in question.

 

While driving to the factory, the gunman shot a man on the street in the nearby town of Newton, striking him in the shoulder. A short time later, he shot someone else in the leg at an intersection.

 

"The shooter proceeded north to Excel Industries in Hesston, where one person was shot in the parking lot before he opened fire inside the building," the department said in a release. "He was seen entering the building with an assault-style long gun."

 

Martin Espinoza, who works at Excel, was in the plant during the attack. He heard people yelling to others to get out of the building, then heard popping, then saw the shooter, a co-worker he described as typically pretty calm.

 

Espinoza said the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. At that point, the gunman got a different gun and Espinoza ran.

 

"I took off running. He came outside after a few people, shot outside a few times, shot at the officers coming onto the scene at the moment and then reloaded in front of the company," Espinoza told The Associated Press. "After he reloaded he went inside the lobby in front of the building and that is the last I seen him."

A Hesston officer responding to the scene exchanged fire with the shooter, who was killed. The officer was not injured.

 

Walton said that about 150 people were likely in the plant at the time of the shooting and that the law enforcement officer who killed the suspect "saved multiple, multiple lives." He said the gunman also had a pistol.

 

The officer who killed the man is "a hero as far as I'm concerned," Walton said.

 

Erin McDaniel, spokeswoman for the nearby city of Newton, said the suspect was known to local authorities. She wouldn't elaborate.

 

A nearby college was briefly locked down.

Later Thursday night, several law enforcement vehicles surrounded the suspect's home in a Newton trailer park. The Harvey County Sheriff's Department initially said authorities believed the suspect's roommate could be inside. But McDaniel, the Newton spokeswoman, said later that the standoff had ended and no one was inside.

 

Hesston is a community of about 3,700 residents about 35 miles north of Wichita.

 

Excel Industries was founded there in 1960. The company manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowing equipment and was awarded the Governor's Exporter of the Year award in 2013 from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

 

Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement late Thursday, calling the shootings "a tragedy that affects every member of the community."

 

Walton said the FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation had been called in to assist. A spokeswoman for the Kansas City office of the FBI did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night.

 

"This is just a horrible incident. ... There's going to be a lot of sad people before this is all over," Walton said.

 

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Man Who Shot Colorado Deputies Angry Over Foreclosure

BAILEY, Colo. (AP) -- Martin Wirth spent recent years fuming over police brutality and corrupt mortgage companies, fueled by his own run-ins with the law and a long battle to save from foreclosure his two-story home in the Colorado mountains.

 

Colorado

 

That fight came to a violent end Wednesday when the 58-year-old shot three law enforcement officers trying to serve an eviction notice, killing one and wounding the others. Officers fired back, killing Wirth.

 

Some close to Wirth struggled to reconcile the shooting with their memories of him as a well-intentioned activist, while others recalled a quick-tempered man with a propensity for violence. He wrote disparagingly of the government and police in seething posts on his Facebook page.

 

"They are a brutal impediment to human progress a danger to us all," one post said. "Because I write such things, cops want me dead."

 

Aware of the danger, eight officers from the Park County Sheriff's Office went to the home in a hillside neighborhood north of the town of Bailey to serve what authorities described as a "high-risk" eviction notice. They had been ordered to remove Wirth and his property from the home, court documents show.

 

Wirth appeared on the deck when they arrived, then went back inside, the sheriff's office said. For unknown reasons, officers followed him in, and Wirth opened fire, leading to a shootout.

 

The gunfire killed Cpl. Nate Carrigan, a 13-year veteran of the agency. One of the wounded deputies underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries and was in critical condition. The other was treated and released after a bullet grazed his ear.

 

Wirth had several brushes with the law over the years. He was acquitted of second-degree murder in 1994 for the shooting death of his 24-year-old neighbor during an argument over a chess game.

 

Wirth testified that the man provoked him and lunged for his revolver before he shot him twice in the chest in Fort Collins, The Coloradoan reported. Jurors told the newspaper they were conflicted about the acquittal.

In January, he was charged with eluding a police officer, obstructing a law enforcement animal and driving without insurance and a license, court records show.

 

A man who got a protection order in 2005 against Wirth said he made violent threats while enrolled in court-ordered drug and alcohol counseling. Dan Spykstra, who was running the program at the time, said he confronted Wirth after Wirth went off on an employee.

 

Wirth said he would put a bomb in Spykstra's mailbox and said, "I have you in my crosshairs," according to Spykstra.

 

"I did not think they were jokes," Spykstra said. "He was a person who was constantly saying the government was out to get him. Nothing was his fault, it was always someone else's."

 

Wirth owned his home until March 2014, when Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage company, took ownership after he lost a court battle over his foreclosure. He had defaulted on a $138,000 mortgage he took out in 2002, according to court records.

 

Foreclosure proceedings began in 2013.

 

"It seems to me that he was just pushed to the end of his rope, and he tried every single approach to addressing his grievances, and at the end, he chose to not let them take his house away from him," said Tim Holland, who was involved in the Occupy Denver movement with Wirth. "It's the middle of winter in the mountains. Where was he going to go?"

 

The Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition, an organization aligned with the Occupy movement, said it helped Wirth with his foreclosure struggles.

 

Wirth "took extraordinary measures in the past several years to shed light on and bring an end to the mass of unjust foreclosures that have ruined the lives of so many," the group said.

 

After he lost his foreclosure case, Wirth sued Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the state attorney general and a judge in 2013. The federal lawsuit claimed that state foreclosure laws were unconstitutional and that Wirth was "in imminent danger of being wrongfully deprived of home and property while also being threatened with an armed and forcible entry onto the property and into the home."

 

He asked a federal judge to block Park County from selling his home, evicting him or forcibly entering the house and to strike down several state laws. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last September.

 

Wirth ran for the state Senate in 2014 as a Green Party candidate, but he lost to an incumbent Republican.

 

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Firefighter Pays Struggling Family's $1K Electric Bill

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A suburban Detroit firefighter has paid off a struggling family's electricity bill of more than $1,000 after responding to a call at their home.

 

Power

 

Clinton Township firefighters were called to the house Feb. 12 for a non-emergency medical call. They learned that one of the children living there needs a ventilator to breathe, but the house didn't have electricity because the parents had fallen behind on their payments. The child had to be taken to a hospital.

 

The Macomb Daily, of Mount Clemens, reports that 35-year-old firefighter Ryan McCuen paid the entire $1,023 electricity bill. He says he was glad to do it and wasn't seeking recognition.

 

McCuen says he didn't think of it as "an extraordinary act," but that he hopes it inspires others to take similar action.

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East Coast, Midwest Battered by Strong Storm Systems

WAVERLY, Va. (AP) -- Storms systems brought tornadoes to the East Coast - killing four in Virginia - heavy snow that canceled hundreds of flights in the Midwest and power outages that left hundreds of thousands across several states in the dark.

 

Storm

 

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Wednesday night after tornadoes damaged homes and left thousands without power across the state.

 

Elsewhere, officials in South Carolina said a man was killed Wednesday when a tree fell on him.

 

In Virginia, the tiny town of Waverly took the brunt of the storm. The Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said a 2-year-old child and two men, ages 50 and 26, were killed there during the storm. Their bodies were found about 300 yards from their mobile home.

 

At least five structures were damaged in the town of approximately 2,000 and roads leading into town had to be closed because of downed trees and debris tossed by winds gusting to 60 mph, Geller said.

 

In Appomattox County, a funnel cloud left an 8- to 10-mile path of destruction, injuring seven people and killing one man, state police said.

 

At least 15 structures were destroyed and 25 injuries were reported when the storm passed through Essex County and the town of Tappahannock, about 45 miles northeast of Richmond, state police said. The injuries ranged from minor to serious, but there were no confirmed fatalities.

 

In Waverly, witnesses said the storm swept through with little warning.

 

Timothy Williams said a friend had just come by to take his new car for a drive when the storm hit.

"It picked the car right off the ground, and put it right back on the ground," said Williams, 44. He said they remained in the car until the storm passed.

 

The storm blew down electrical wires "in a big ball of fire, thrashing all about each other," Williams said. He said they both escaped shaken but uninjured.

 

In South Carolina, Darlington County Corner Todd Hardee said in a statement that Michael Gaines Sr., 58, had stopped on a road near his home Wednesday to remove debris from the road when a pine tree fell on him. Sheriff Wayne Byrd said the victim was being a good Samaritan when he was killed.

 

The line of storms moved across Pennsylvania and the New York City area Wednesday night, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that knocked down trees and caused scattered power outages.

 

In the Midwest, a powerful storm brought heavy snow and biting winds, leading to mass flight cancellations at Chicago airports and school closings in several states.

The Chicago Department of Aviation reported more than 1,100 flights had been canceled at the city's two major airports by Wednesday evening.

 

Northern Indiana was expected to see the heaviest snow, as powerful winds blowing off Lake Michigan could bury the area in up to 18 inches. Parts of Michigan could also see more than a foot of snow, and some schools closed ahead of the storm. Most of the state was under a winter storm warning that extends until at least Thursday afternoon.

 

Bill Bunting with National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center estimated 20 to 24 tornados hit from Louisiana to Florida on Tuesday.

 

On Tuesday, one of the hardest-hit areas along the Gulf Coast was a recreational vehicle park in the town of Convent, in southern Louisiana. RVs were tossed about and lay on top of wrecked cars and pickup trucks. Two people were killed there, and 31 injured people were taken to area hospitals, St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said.

 

Briaxton Lott, 23, was in the trailer park when the tornado hit. The pad where his trailer once sat was empty and he pointed to the remnants of it about 100 feet away.

 

"The whole front end came up and slammed back down, and I grabbed up the baby and the next thing I know we just went rolling end over end," Lott said.

In Mississippi, 73-year-old Dale Purvis died of blunt-force trauma in a mobile home west of Purvis, Lamar County Coroner Cody Creel said.

 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said an apparent tornado in the Pensacola area significantly damaged more than 70 homes and 24 apartments, leaving three people with minor injuries.

 

He stopped at The Moorings apartment complex, where winds ripped the roof off of at least two buildings.

 

Residents in LaPlace, Louisiana, were cleaning up Wednesday after a tornado ripped up trees, tore roofs from houses and terrified local residents. Nearly 200 homes were damaged.

 

Rose Fuselier, 80, had a gaping hole where her home's front window once stood.

 

"The whole backyard is covered with trees, and then my shed is torn up, too. The roof is gone, and the siding is partially gone," she said. Still, she said others suffered damage even worse than hers: "I lucked out. I lucked out."

 

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Becherer reported from Convent, Louisiana.

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Should High School Punishments Go on College Applications?

 

AP - They are basic yes-no questions that ask whether a college applicant ever got into trouble in high school. Yet they're anything but simple, say some who want run-ins at school or with the law taken out of the college admissions equation.

 

Advocates, school districts and even some colleges share concerns about youthful mistakes haunting students into adulthood, especially minority students, who federal statistics show are suspended and arrested at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers.

 

College

 

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on Thursday is calling for the removal of discipline questions from the Common Application used by more than 620 colleges and universities. The Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse, New York, has issued similar appeals, saying that while most colleges collect the information, few have formal policies guiding its use.

 

"So long as racial disparities persist at every stage of our criminal justice system, we fully expect that these kinds of questions will unfairly deny educational opportunity to, or have a chilling effect on, African Americans and other minority groups," wrote Kristen Clarke, Lawyers' Committee president and executive director, in a letter to the Common Application.

 

At a time of heightened vigilance against campus shootings and terrorism, admissions officials say questions about student discipline are seen as a necessary piece of a much larger picture.

 

"College admissions is trying to take educated risks, whether it be academic risks or students that have had indiscretions in their past," said Kent Rinehart, dean of admission at Marist College and a board member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.

 

"After the Virginia Tech shooting, colleges really started to look closely at the responsibility the admissions office had in seeing whether there's some warning signs that are going to come along with it," he said.

 

At Marist, the questions have turned up everything from private school students suspended for not pulling up their socks to cheating, cyberbullying and felony convictions. All, Rinehart said, are taken in context.

The Common Application, completed by 860,000 students last year, added the discipline questions at the request of participating universities in 2006-07. Colleges using their own applications often include them, as well.

 

New York University in January asked the Common Application to review whether the queries do anything to make campuses safer or discourage minority applicants. The university, which uses the application, this year began ignoring whether the criminal conviction box had been checked until after an initial screening.

 

The Common App is looking at the issues, said Aba Blankson, senior director at the not-for-profit group. In the meantime, applicants who check yes have room to elaborate.

 

"A student can say in ninth grade, I was expelled or suspended and because of that incident, the alcohol thing I did, I became interested in (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) or became a volunteer," she said.

 

That was high school senior Miaija Jawara's approach when it came time to disclose a one-day suspension for a schoolyard fight that happened in 10th grade. She described using the experience to work toward in-school restorative justice in her New York City school.

Even so, "It made me feel like I'm lessening my chances of being admitted," said Jawara.

 

"It was, like, two years ago. I'm definitely not the same person I was then," she said. "So I think they shouldn't judge me on something I did when I was so naive and so immature. I've grown since that experience."

 

There were weeks of worry until acceptance letters from Iona College and others arrived. She still wonders, though, what to blame for two rejections.

The school board in Syracuse, New York, voted to no longer share disciplinary information with colleges when asked on the Common Application or elsewhere.

 

"How many times should a student pay? You make a mistake when you're a ninth grader and it hurts you when you are applying to college?" asked Sharon Contreras, superintendent in Syracuse.

 

Contreras said her urban district is particularly sensitive since being among those singled out by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in recent years for suspending black students at higher rates than white students, often for subjective, nonviolent offenses like insubordination. The district agreed to change its practices under a 2014 agreement with Schneiderman's office.

 

About half of U.S. high schools disclose disciplinary information about their students in at least some cases, according to a report last May by the Center for Community Alternatives, though the majority has no written disclosure policy.

 

The same report found 73 percent of colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information and 89 percent of those use it in deciding admission. But only 25 percent of the universities had formal policies guiding the use, the report said, and less than a third of schools had trained admissions staff to interpret disciplinary findings.

 

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Michigan governor plans $360M for Flint, infrastructure

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday proposed spending hundreds of millions more dollars to address Flint's water crisis and to update infrastructure, including lead water pipes, in the city and across the state.

 

Michigan

 

The $195 million for Flint and $165 million for statewide infrastructure needs were detailed in the Republican governor's annual $54.9 billion budget presentation to the GOP-led Legislature. Snyder, who has apologized for his administration's role in the disaster and an inadequate initial response, said $25 million of the funding designated for Flint could help replace an unspecified number of old lead lines running from city streets to houses.

 

The governor and legislators have already directed more than $37 million toward the disaster, including funds for bottled water, filters, testing, health care and other services.

 

"Clean drinking water is a human necessity," Snyder told members of legislative budget committees, as protesters rallied against him outside the Capitol hearing room.

 

Flint is under a state of emergency until government authorities and independent experts declare the water safe to drink again without filters, which officials have said could happen in the spring. The additional money for Flint also includes $30 million to help residents with two years of water bills, dating to when the water source was switched to the Flint River in 2014 and improperly treated without anti-corrosion chemicals.

 

Democrats say Snyder's plan is short of what is needed to fully reimburse the water portion of people's water/sewer bills, and city officials want more to replace old pipes. Budget director John Roberts said his recommended amount for pipe replacement is a starting point and could grow once a full analysis is done and all the underground service lines are found in the city of nearly 100,000 people.

 

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a Flint Democrat, said Snyder's priorities for Flint "seem to match the areas we have been stressing for some time - health, education and infrastructure. Although this is a step forward, I'm going to keep pushing for resources to get results for the people in my community. Our challenge now is to make sure that the state delivers and we don't take our foot off the gas."

 

Flint's water troubles, concerns about other aging water infrastructure and the Detroit school's district dire financial outlook - it needs a $720 million infusion of cash over a decade to avoid bankruptcy, according to Snyder - overshadowed more nuts-and-bolts budget details this year, such as funding for education, municipalities and workforce development.

 

Snyder, a former accountant who has been keen to fatten the state's savings account in his five years in office, called for shifting $165 million he had planned for the rainy day fund to a new Michigan Infrastructure Fund. A commission he announced in his recent State of the State address would recommend how to prioritize the money, which could replace high-risk lead and copper water service lines around the state, assess infrastructure needs and provide incentives for upgrades so they are done in conjunction with repairing roads.

 

The governor said the fund is a first step toward addressing other infrastructure issues months after the approval of a transportation-spending plan. Higher fuel taxes and vehicles registration fees will begin in 2017, boosting dedicated revenue by more than $500 million in the fiscal year that will start in October.

When a legislator asked about the potential for more federal aid for Flint - Congress is debating the issue - Snyder said: "We could use more help from Washington."

 

A Michigan Democrat, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, is sponsoring an emergency bill that would spend $765 million to help Flint fix and replace lead-contaminated pipes and provide a health and educational support for children poisoned by lead-contaminated water. Kildee said President Barack Obama's budget director, Shaun Donovan, "likes the direction" of the bill "but has some suggestions" on how it could be improved.

 

Michigan lawmakers from both parties have resisted Snyder's plan to shift $70 million a year from the school aid fund to pay down Detroit Public Schools' operating debt, estimated at $1,100 per student, and to launch a new district with better-performing schools. They do not want to affect funding for other districts.

 

So the governor proposed instead using a portion of Michigan's tobacco settlement, the annual payment the state receives from cigarette manufacturers under a 1998 agreement.

 

The district, which has been under state emergency financial management for almost seven years, is burdened by debt, falling enrollment, inadequate buildings and low morale among teachers whose recent "sickout" absences have closed schools. Snyder has said the city must have a decent school district to continue its resurgence after emerging from the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history.

 

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Utah Becomes Latest Place to Debate Ending Tax on Tampons

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The international debate over eliminating sales tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products that women must use has made its way to conservative Utah.

 

Tampon Tax

 

Governments that make money off the products penalize women for their biology, some say. That perspective has picked up momentum, with at least five U.S. states dumping the taxes.

 

But the Utah proposal, which is set for a committee hearing Wednesday, could face a steep challenge as some worry the move will put a dent in revenue.

 

Pennsylvania and Minnesota are among states that have eliminated the taxes. A handful of other states, including California, have seen similar proposals before their legislatures this year. In Wisconsin, a Democratic lawmaker has proposed providing free tampons in all public buildings.

 

President Barack Obama said in an interview with a YouTube blogger last month that he had no idea why feminine hygiene products were taxed.

 

Overseas, Canada removed taxes on the items last year, and British leaders, who have set the tax at the lowest possible level, have considered doing away with it altogether.

 

Feminine hygiene products should not be considered luxuries but necessities like prescription drugs or food, which most U.S. states do not tax, said Stephanie Pitcher with the Utah Women's Coalition.

 

"Having a period is not a choice for women," she said.

The Utah proposal from Democratic Rep. Susan Duckworth has been dubbed "the tampon bill" by some critics.

 

Duckworth said she worries the nickname may hurt its chances during a hearing scheduled Wednesday before a House tax panel made up of only men.

 

"I'm going into an all-male committee, and I just don't believe they're going to have much sympathy," she said.

 

The bill also calls for making adult incontinence products and children's diapers tax-free. She hopes that broadening her plan beyond feminine hygiene will get it more support, because all are medically necessary.

 

The measure could save residents who use those products at least $30 each year in taxes, Duckworth said.

 

But while it appears to cut taxes, it could actually do the opposite, said Billy Hesterman with the Utah Taxpayers Association. Eliminating the tax might mean lawmakers raise the overall tax rate.

 

And the small savings for taxpayers would have a much bigger effect on the state budget, according to estimates from legislative budget staff. It would reduce revenue to the general fund by over $1 million next year.

 

The fund is already shrinking because of Medicaid costs, Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes said. It also pays for key state programs such as transportation, corrections, and health and human services, he said.

 

Lawmakers may need more time to study the issue before the legislative session ends in mid-March, Hughes said.

 

With the Statehouse dominated by Republicans, Duckworth is realistic about the likelihood of her proposal passing.

 

"The chances of it getting out of committee are probably not very good, but I'm not going to give up on it," she said.

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Chicago Officer Sues Estate of Teen He Shot, Claiming Trauma

CHICAGO (AP) -- A white Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old college student and accidentally killed a neighbor has filed a lawsuit against the teenager's estate, arguing the shooting left him traumatized.

 

The highly unusual suit was filed Friday in the middle of the city's effort to grapple with serious questions about the future of its police force. Those questions include the adequacy of its system for investigating police shootings and how to win back public trust after several cases of alleged misconduct. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a wide-ranging civil rights investigation, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised a major overhaul of the Police Department and steps to heal its fraught relationship with black residents.

 

The timing and unusual nature of the suit by officer Robert Rialmo, who is seeking $10 million in damages, could complicate the department's efforts to demonstrate more sensitivity toward the community in how police shootings are handled. His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said it was important in the charged atmosphere to send a message that police are "not targets for assaults" and "suffer damage like anybody else."

 

The teen's father, Antonio LeGrier, filed a wrongful death lawsuit days after the Dec. 26 shooting, saying his son, Quintonio, was not armed with a weapon and was not a threat. His attorney, Basileios Foutris, was incredulous at what he called the officer's "temerity" in suing the grieving family of the person he shot.

 

"That's a new low even for the Chicago Police Department," he said. "First you shoot them, then you sue them."

 

The lawsuit provides the officer's first public account of how he says the shooting happened, offering details that differ with the family's version. It says Rialmo, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call with another officer, opened fire after Quintonio LeGrier swung a bat at the officer's head at close range. A downstairs neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, was standing nearby and was shot and killed by accident. She was not part of the domestic dispute.

 

"The fact that LeGrier's actions had forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier's life and to accidentally take the innocent life of Bettie Jones has caused, and will continue to cause, Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma," the filing says.

 

When arriving at the scene around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, Rialmo rang the doorbell of the two-story apartment building. Jones answered and directed them to the upstairs apartment. As Rialmo stepped through the doorway, he heard someone "charging down the stairway," the suit says.

 

It describes the teen coming down the stairs with a baseball bat in hand and says LeGrier "cocked" the bat "and took a full swing at Officer Rialmo's head, missing it by inches" when the two were around 4 feet apart.

The officer then backed away with his weapon still holstered, according to the suit, while repeatedly shouting at LeGrier to drop the bat.

 

But the suit says LeGrier kept advancing and swung the bat again. Only when LeGrier cocked the bat again from 3 or 4 feet away, did the officer pull out his 9 mm handgun and open fire, the filing says.

 

As he began firing, Rialmo did not see or hear Jones behind LeGrier, the suit says. It says one of the bullets went through LeGrier's body and struck Jones, killing her.

 

An autopsy determined that LeGrier suffered six bullet wounds.

 

Lawyers for Antonio LeGrier and for Jones have provided accounts that differ from Rialmo's. They say the evidence indicates the officer was 20 or 30 feet away when he fired, calling into question Rialmo's contention that he feared for his life.

 

Foutris also questions why the teen would attack the officer since he was the one who called 911. The father of the Northern Illinois University student also made a 911 call.

 

"If you're calling multiple times for help are you going to charge a police officer and try to hit him with a bat? That's ridiculous," Foutris said.

 

County prosecutors have asked the FBI to investigate the shooting.

 

A Police Department spokesman refused to comment on the officer's lawsuit.

 

Such a lawsuit by an officer is extraordinarily unusual, said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney who is not connected to the case.

 

He questioned whether a judge would give it any merit and said it appeared intended to intimidate LeGrier's family. He said he had never heard of an officer blaming his shooting victim for causing trauma.

"That is a known part of the job," Turner said of policing's emotional toll.

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