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Leading Off 3/30/16

Ken Johnson Had Undisclosed History of Excessive Force. The Farmers Branch police officer who chased down and killed one apparently unarmed teenager and shot another in the head had two excessive force complaints as a DART officer that he did not disclose on his application with the Farmers Branch police. Johnson also had job applications rejected by the Mesquite and Arlington police for reasons that aren’t clear. The family of the boy Johnson killed is also suing him and the city of Farmers Branch.

FBI Says Frisco Hospice Owner Encouraged Nurses to Kill Patients. Brad Harris, the founder of Novus Health Care Services, is accused by the FBI of telling nurses to overdose patients in an effort to maximize profits. It’s complicated, since it he ran a hospice, and no charges have been filed. Harris reportedly sent a text message saying “You need to make this patient go bye-bye.” How would you feel if that patient were a family member of yours?

Elementary Principal Posted Craigslist Ads Seeking Young Males. Oscar Figueroa, the now-former principal at Viridian Elementary in Arlington, is on trial in Sherman, accused of attempting to coerce or entice a minor. (He was caught in a sting.) Prosecutors showed jurors more than 100 pages of Craigslist ads Figueroa posted in the “Casual Encounters” section, using terms like: young, son, teen, kid, and boy. A witness for the prosecution said it shows Figueroa was looking for a minor. A witness for the defense said he was just using words common in the gay community.

Granbury Man Begged for Life Before Officer Killed Him. Daniel Shaver was recorded saying, “Please don’t shoot me” and “Please don’t shoot” before Mesa, Arizona police officer Philip “Mitch” Brailsford unloaded his service weapon. Shaver was unarmed. Brailsford has been charged with second-degree murder.

Local Man’s Son Endorsed by Former Rival. Wisconsin governor and former presidential candidate Scott Walker endorsed Ted Cruz ahead of that state’s upcoming primary. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s campaign manager was charged with battery on a reporter in Florida.

Leading Off 3/23/16

Grand Prairie Man Escapes Belgium Attacks. Rocky Gathright said he had just dropped off a friend at the airport and was pulling away when he heard a bomb go off. Two explosions, one at the Brussels airport and one at a busy metro station, killed at least 30 people yesterday and wounded at least 230 more. It’s not clear if security at DFW has been amplified in any way.

Scared Politicians Say Scared Things After Attacks. Some American politicians are already suggesting the country “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Which sounds to me like some people don’t understand that police are already allowed to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.

Murder Rate in Dallas Going Way Up. At this point last year, there had been a total of 24 murders in the city. This year there have already been 41, including three double murders in the last three days. Police blame drugs and domestic violence. Other people blame the police.

Hundreds Show Up To Funeral for Kholodenko Girls. There was an outpouring of grief and confusion last night as hundreds of people showed up to a Fort Worth church to remember the slain daughters of famed musician Vadym Kholodenko.

Dallas Stars Clinch Playoff Spot. Last night’s 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks guarantees a post-season slot. The team leads the Western conference with eight games left in the regular season.

Leading Off 3/16/16

Fort Worth Police Shootout With Father and Son. What started as a warrant stop led to a violent shootout on the west side of Fort Worth yesterday afternoon. The officer involved, Matt Pearce, is in critical condition at JPS. The mother of Ed Russell McIver Sr. told the Star-Telegram that her son said police “would never take him back alive.” He was shot dead at the scene. Ed Russell McIver Jr. fled in an SUV and then on foot, into the brush and a heavily wooded area, but was apprehended later in the afternoon. According to his grandmother, McIver Jr. was led into this Cormac McCarthy-esque chaos by his father, but the younger McIver wouldn’t hurt anyone because he has “a heart of gold.”

Have You Seen This Man? The Dallas police released a sketch of a man they say is suspected in two Lake Highlands assaults. On February 12, it appears the same man assaulted two different women 15 minutes apart. Police say the suspect is a black man between 30 and 33 years old, about 5-foot-8.

Off-duty Officer Says Magic Words: “Feared For My Life,” Almost Certainly Won’t Be Charged in Death of 16-Year-Old Boy. Off-duty Farmers Branch police officer Ken Johnson reportedly saw two boys burglarizing his SUV in an apartment parking lot. The off-duty officer got in his vehicle and gave chase, following the boys, identified as 16-year-olds Jose Raul Cruz and Edgar Rodriguez, into Addison, where there was finally a collision. Johnson then shot Cruz dead, and shot Rodriguez in the head — he’s at Parkland, expected to survive. There is no word on whether either kid was armed. Police from both the Addison and Farmers Branch forces say Johnson is cooperating and that they aren’t rushing the investigation. Johnson’s attorney stressed that his client feared for his life during the confrontation. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I’m sure that if anyone saw two kids possibly breaking into a car, chased them for miles, got into a wreck with them, killed one and put a bullet in the other’s head, that they would not immediately be arrested on the spot, and that they would receive the exact same treatment as this off-duty police officer.)

Local Man’s Son Still in Presidential Race. The son of local flan expert Rafael Cruz was, as of late last night, in a statistical tie with Donald Trump in the Missouri Republican primary. Trump won Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina. John Kasich won Ohio. Marco Rubio quit.

Poo-Pourri Sues Air Wick Over Copycat Product

Two years ago, I wrote a story about Suzy Batiz and her very interesting company. She’s the creator of Poo-Pourri, the spray-before-you-go scented oil designed to cover up any bathroom odors. The company is probably best known for a viral video of a Scottish woman on a toilet, saying hilariously crude things. (Incidentally, we keep a bottle or two in the restrooms here at D Headquarters–and when one went missing recently, it caused quite the email-chain controversy.)

When I was working on that story, Batiz and her team were very open about a lot of things, including the company’s financials. At the time, they were very concerned, though, that if my story revealed too many trade secrets a larger company might sweep in and try to replicate their product — and their massive success.

Well, today I got word that Poo-Pourri has filed a lawsuit against AirWick, which is owned by international conglomerate Reckitt Benckiser. It seems Air Wick has a product line called V.I.Poo that is strikingly similar to Poo-Pourri, down to the label and marketing.

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Leading Off (3/9/16)

Swaziland Elephants On the Way to Dallas. Eighteen pachyderms were sedated and loaded into crates, then loaded onto a cargo plane bound for the U.S. Officials from the Dallas Zoo and the other two other zoos involved in the transfer rushed in an effort to move the elephants before a court could rule on a temporary restraining order that would have halted the move. Dallas Zoo’s Harrison Edell explained a bit of the 18-elephants-in-a-cargo plane thing during his last Earburner appearance.

Prosecutors: Men Charged in Southlake Murder Linked to 12 Other Killings. Two men charged with murdering an attorney in Southlake three years ago might be linked to at least a dozen other killings, according to prosecutors in the case. Both suspects are former police officers. The trial of is set to start next month in Fort Worth.

Remains Identified as Missing Mother. Police confirmed yesterday that the body found under the Dowdy Ferry Bridge belonged to 34-year-old Marisol Espinosa, a mother of three who has been missing since late December. The death is being investigated as a homicide.

Chuck Norris Endorses Ted Cruz. Looking back in a few years, this probably won’t even be in the top 20 strangest headlines from this ridiculous election. Also: Cruz won Idaho last night. Trump won Mississippi, Michigan, and Hawaii, giving him more than a third of the total delegates he needs for the nomination.

Leading Off (3/2/16)

Cruz and Clinton Win in Texas. A big turnout led to a huge victory for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and a decisive win for Ted Cruz, who also won Oklahoma and Alaska and, from his speech last night, is clearly positioning this as a two-person race for the GOP nomination. Rubio won Minnesota. Trump won the seven other states up for grabs yesterday.

Price Beats Caraway. Despite a looming corruption trial, a pending lawsuit related to choking an opponent’s staffer, and a fight at a gospel station over an alleged affair with his opponent’s ex-wife, County Commissioner John Wiley Price won his Democratic primary race.

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Texas Abortion Law. Up for consideration: Texas House Bill 2, which would close many of the abortion clinics in the state. The decision will likely come down to Justice Kennedy. If he sides with the court’s conservatives, the subsequent 4-4 tie would mean the lower court’s decision — which upheld the restrictions — would stand.

Officer and Suspect Both Dead After Euless Shooting. Officer David Hofer, 29, was investigating gunshots in a park yesterday afternoon when he was shot and killed by someone reportedly carrying a high-powered rifle. The suspect was then shot and killed. Hofer, who graduated from New York University, served five years with the New York Police Department before coming to Euless in 2014.

Judge Who First Sentenced Ethan Couch Says She Has No Regrets

When I was working on our cover story about the “Affluenza” teen Ethan Couch and his family last year, I reached out to the now-retired judge, Jean Boyd, who first sentenced him, through both the court and through a family friend of hers. She didn’t want to talk, though I tried to present all the possible reasoning that may have led to her sentencing Couch to rehab and probation for killing four people and seriously injuring at least two more in a drunk driving crash.

One thing I didn’t try, though, was showing up at her house and waiting outside. (Something I’ve done for other stories.) Well, the Daily Mail Online did try that. They ambushed Boyd as she stood next to a big red pickup truck, wearing jeans and tennis shoes. (Side note: I wonder how long the reporter and photographer waited.)

Boyd reportedly said: “‘I had all the facts – most people don’t. They just don’t understand.” Then, when asked if she has any regrets, she said: “No. I have nothing else to say.”

Leading Off (2/24/16)

Local Man’s Son Finishes Third in Nevada Caucus. Rafael Cruz’s son Ted celebrated what his campaign called a “third-place win” in last night’s Nevada contest. Trump won big, and then crashed an event at which Glenn Beck was promoting Cruz. Open speculation about whether this is the end of the Cruz campaign has begun.

Lawyer Says New Evidence Raises Doubts in Denton Police Shooting. An attorney for the family of the 21-year-old UNT student shot and killed by a Denton police officer late last year says that new witnesses raise doubts about whether the officer’s use of force was appropriate. Of the young man carrying a hatchet, smashing car windows, and approaching the officer while saying “shoot me,” the attorney said: “Ryan McMillan did what an ordinary college student would do.”

Stripper Sentenced to 13 Years for Role in Fatal Heroin Overdose. This is so messed up: Cierra Allyn Rounds, 28, is the second person to be sentenced for a playing a part in the March 2014 death of Rian Lashley, 19. Apparently Rounds and another stripper who worked at Jaguar’s injected Lashley with heroin in an effort to rob her. Rounds’ then-boyfriend, Jimison Coleman, was already sentenced to 16 years for selling them the “China White” heroin.

HIV Survivor Speaks Out. Diana Reeve was one of at least six women infected with HIV by Philippe Padieu, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for having unprotected sex with multiple partners without telling them he was infected. Reeve has formed friendships with some of the other victims in the case, and now she has a book out about her experience.

Glenn Beck’s Latest Revelations

Glenn Beck fascinates me. I spent some time with him for this 2014 feature about his move to Texas, a story he sort of liked and kind of hated. He’s been in the news quite a bit this week. First, he made headlines when it appeared he was telling his show’s audience that God killed Antonin Scalia to help Ted Cruz get elected. (What he actually said was slightly more nuanced: that the death would “wake America up.”)

Last night he was on with WFAA’s Rebecca Lopez to talk about his family’s history with domestic violence. Both of his parents and his sisters were victims of domestic violence, he explained. And his mother continued the cycle both as a victim again and as an offender. The interview is classic Glenn Beck, by which I mean: a lot of things you already either like or dislike about him.

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Leading Off (2/17/16)

School District Wants to Integrate Poor Schools. DISD will ask the city council for help luring wealthier families back into public schools, because studies show poor kids do better when they learn alongside their richer peers. It seems logical, so I’m sure it will go over with absolutely no resistance.

Principals Accused of Manipulating Test Scores. Two administrators were suspended in September after instructing staffers to change exam grades, potentially graduating students from the DISD college-prep school that I’m betting most people didn’t know existed until now.

Police Looking for Person of Interest in Rowlett Murder. In November, Laura Grillo, a mother of three and former police volunteer, was found dead in her kitchen. Now police there are asking for the public’s help finding Jesus Trevino, a man convicted of sexual assault in 2008 and deported to his native Mexico in 2010.

Richardson Resident Shoots Alleged Burglar. Police say a Richardson homeowner called 911 early yesterday morning to say he was holding a burglar at gunpoint. Then, apparently the burglar and homeowner began to wrestle and the alleged burglar was killed. A grand jury will clear the unnamed resident soon.

Every Local Man with Beard and Plaid Shirt Convenes in One Place. Fresh off a win at the Grammys, Jason Isbell and his Mineral Wells-raised wife Amanda Shires played the South Side Ballroom last night. It was a great show.

Leading Off (2/10/16)

Son of Local Man Finishes Third in New Hampshire Primary. As of late last night, Carrollton resident Rafael Cruz’s son Ted was just behind John Kasich, good enough for third place. Trump and Sanders both won by big margins.

Rams Owner Buys Waggoner Ranch. The famous, massive ranch was on the market for $725 million, though it’s not clear how much L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke actually paid. In addition to a football team that will playing in a nice, new stadium in Southern California, Kroenke owns 11 other ranches in North America.

Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Teenager Who Was Battling Cancer. Yep. Tyler Wiley, 20, from Desoto, admitted shooting 15-year-old Ryan Lara in 2014 outside the boy’s Duncanville home in what police believe was an attempted robbery. Lara had been fighting Lymphoma. Three others are charged with murder and awaiting trial.

Dance Teacher Accused of Molesting Students. Vann Gilbert, who calls himself “the Doctor of Dance,” was arrested yesterday after a 90-minute standoff with the Dallas SWAT team. He’s charged with two cases of indecency with a child, stemming from an accusations that go back nearly 20 years.

Read Some Michael Brick. Earlier this week I posted about the death of a friend of mine, an incredible writer who graduated from R.L. Turner. I miss him. Yesterday, the New York Times posted a collection of some of Brick’s work. You should really take the time to read a few stories.

Michael Brick, R.I.P.

We’ve lost someone great. A great writer. A great friend. A great person.

Michael Brick was 41. He is survived by a wife and three kids, including a 5-year-old daughter, and an almost-8-year-old son. I met him at the Mayborn in 2010 and wrote about him and his book a few years ago. He was infinitely supportive of other writers, and he always felt like the wisest person in the room. I’m lucky to have known him.

The Houston Chronicle has a really good story about his life here. The New York Times, where he wrote so many incredible stories, has a remembrance here.

You should read his work, a sampling of which is available here. The way he put words together was wonderful and inspiring. An anthology is in the works. He was also a great songwriter and musician, and you can listen to some of his songs here and here.

And if you’re so inclined, have a thought, say a prayer, or tip a glass for a great one gone too soon.

Listen to the Newest Longform Podcast

The backstory for this is strange. I met Max Linsky, one of the hosts of the Longform Podcast, at a bar in Austin maybe two years ago. We’d emailed a few times before that, and he told me that I should do an episode of their podcast. Looking back, it was possibly just one of those things people say when they’re being polite–when you know they host a podcast with writers and they know you’re a writer–but I’m awkward.

At some point I knew I’d be in New York for a two days and figured I’d let him know. He said he’d put it on his calendar. Again, looking back, Max may have just been being polite. I’m honestly not sure. Either way, it happened.

We talked about, among other things, the bowling story I wrote, the Chris Kyle story, the JFK doctor story, Glenn Beck, “How Now to Get Away with Murder”, and the story I wrote in January’s Crime Issue.

I’m sure Tim will be along at some point with a whole series of his own notes and critiques about the episode, but in the meantime you can listen to it here.

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Leading Off (2/3/15)

Cyclist Finds Skull in Plano. Police are investigating what appears to be a skull and human bones found in a creek behind an elementary school yesterday afternoon. The family of at least one missing woman has been notified, though police say it’s too early to connect the remains to anyone.

Fight Over Phone Leads to Fatal Shooting. Police say a 21-year-old man confessed to shooting 30-year-old Jamal Deshaylen Berry in the chest after an argument over a phone. Berry was found shot in the street outside a rec center in East Oak Cliff yesterday morning.

Whataburger Robbers Sentenced to 115 Years. Two men who were convicted of robbing four different Whataburgers and three different Jack-in-Box locations in 2014 were sentenced to more than a century each — 1384 months, specifically — in prison for the crimes.

Local Man Returns Home After Son Wins Iowa Caucus. Rafael Cruz was spotted in an Iowa airport yesterday, heading back to Texas. He said he wouldn’t be spending as much time campaigning for his son in New Hampshire because “There are not as many evangelicals.”

Leading Off (1/27/16)

72-Year-Old Blind Woman Escapes Fire. Caroline Ware says she was asleep on the couch when fire alarms woke her up just after midnight. Ware, who is usually confined to a wheelchair, made it her electric scooter and drove out onto the front porch before calling for help. Ware’s daughter says she was gone from the house for only a few minutes when the fire started.

Video of Highland Park Chanel Store Robbery. Highland Park police released video from last Monday’s robbery. It shows a van crashing through the store window. Then a group of mask-wearing thieves gets out and starts collecting purses. The entire thing is over in seconds. (Seven people were arrested.)

Father Arrested for Taking Daughter’s Phone Found Not Guilty. It started when Ronald Jackson says he found a rude text message on his daughter’s phone in 2013, when is daughter was 12. Jackson confiscated the phone. Jackson’s ex-wife called the police to get it back. Jackson refused. He was charged with misdemeanor theft. He says he’d prefer police not tell him how to parent, and says justice has been served.

Report Says Texas Schools Are Worst in Nation. But it’s really hard to measure these things. By some standards, Texas is actually doing better than most states. Which is kind of the point of this story.

Mavs Beat Lakers. Dirk Nowitzki hit a beautiful jumper with two seconds left to help propel the 92-90 win in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant didn’t play, but he and Dirk shared a nice moment in what is almost certainly their final matchup.