The Morning News has more details about the demotion of Edwin Ruiz-Diaz. When I got the press release yesterday from the Dallas Police Department, I was trying to think about how I would react if I saw a uniformed police officer draining a brewski in a bar. It certainly wouldn’t have been as amusing as this.
West Explosion Still Possibly the Result of a Criminal Act. Authorities believe the deadly incident at West Fertilizer Co. occurred when a fire inside the seed building caused 28 to 34 tons of stored ammonium nitrate to explode. What they haven’t determined is what started that fire, though they’ve narrowed the list of possibilities: “a problem with one of the plant’s electrical systems, a battery-powered golf cart, and a criminal act. They ruled out a wide number of others, from a rail car on site loaded with fertilizer to someone smoking.”
Help Pouring Into Cleburne and Granbury, Even From West. The National Weather Service now says that 16 tornadoes touched down in North Texas on Wednesday night. Volunteers and rescue workers have poured into the hardest-hit communities. Some of that help has come from West, even as that town continues to deal with its own disaster recovery: “The Church of Christ in West, which has been feeding volunteers and victims since the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion, bagged up 200 lunches — pulled pork sandwiches, chips and cake — and sent them to storm-struck Cleburne in Johnson County.”
Dallas to Get a Maritime Museum. No, our city isn’t any closer to the ocean today than it was the last time you checked (about 250 miles away). And yet an $80 million maritime museum, with the soon-to-be decommissioned nuclear submarine USS Dallas as its headlining attraction, is being planned for a 3.5 acre site near the Trinity River, along Riverfront Boulevard in the Rock Island area. I suppose the proposal is no stranger than the fact that the town of Fredericksburg is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Anthony Swofford, a former Marine and the author of Jarhead, has made one of those newfangled electronic books about the tragic death of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. It’s titled Death of an American Sniper. In this excerpt, Swofford writes of the first time he ever heard of Kyle:
I would have liked to get down on my belly in a patch of dirt somewhere with a sick-ass sniper rifle against my shoulder and blow out some rounds with Mr. Chris Kyle. Bob was right: if I was famous for anything, it was for not killing with my sniper rifle. I thought about this Kyle guy. I wondered how he’d learned to shoot, what rifle or rifles he’d used, why he favored a two-pound trigger weight, and just how many goddamn people he might actually have killed. A few hundred? That seemed impossible.
But I also wondered about other things beyond such technical issues. Had Chris Kyle really been able to kill that many men and feel no guilt, as his book suggests? Was he perfectly adjusted to the stark reality of how he had achieved his fame? I know that normal men do not suffer from an addiction to bloodshed. But men trained to kill do. I suspected that the psychic toll of being such a proficient and excellent killer would have finally worn Kyle down. There surely must have been times when he was alone with his thoughts and a blunt nausea took over and he realized that he, a proud son, had slayed son after son, and that he, a loving father, must have vanquished many fathers who left children behind. Like most soldiers who’ve killed in combat, Chris Kyle could not have experienced many days when his train of dead men wasn’t bearing down on him, a chorus of ghosts.
I wondered about all these things, and I had no reason to think that I would never be able to ask the man himself.
I would recommend you purchase this work if you’re interested in reading more about Kyle, but only after you first purchase the (presumably) superior electronic book on much the same subject authored by our own Michael J. Mooney, The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy SEAL.
Lawrence Wright is a staff writer at the New Yorker and author of the books The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 and Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. (A book about terrorism and a book about the strange extent to which people will go to cling to their beliefs.) He was also at the George W. Bush Presidential Library a few days ago, when there was an “active shooter” alert on the SMU campus.
“We had just gotten through security and were standing in the vast marble atrium, waiting for some friends, when suddenly a cry went out: ‘Active shooter!’ Everybody dove for cover—but there was none. We were lined up against the walls, feeling very exposed. An elderly man had fallen and was lying on his back, helpless. People were crying and praying. The library went into lockdown. Two university policemen with automatic weapons and grim expressions shoved ammunition clips into their chambers and walked toward the front entrance. It was less than a month after the Boston Marathon bombing, and even though it seemed implausible that such a pleasant afternoon could be interrupted by a terrorist attack, I had to admit that the target would seem an obvious one if I’d just heard about it on the radio.”
Wright also gets into the loose gun laws in Texas. “Suppose the incident had happened at the other Bush library, the one for George H. W. Bush at Texas A&M, where it’s legal to display weapons openly unless they are used in a manner that ‘harms, threatens or causes fear to others.’ As we learned that afternoon at S.M.U., the mere presence of a gun openly displayed causes fear and confusion.”
Eddie Routh was arrested for killing former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend Chad Littlefield in February. NBC 5 has reported that more than 90 days after his arrest Routh is still in the Erath County Jail but has not been formally charged with the crime. This would seem to be a violation of Texas state law, which guarantees a speedy trial.
The delay could be grounds for Routh to be released from jail or to see his $3 million bond reduced or removed. His attorneys have apparently not asked for his release.
Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said the Texas Rangers took over the investigation soon after the shootings at a gun range near Glen Rose.
Asked by NBC 5 about the delay, the Rangers said in a statement that, “There are many parts to this active investigation, and it may take some time before the investigation is completed and ready to present to the district attorney. No additional information will be released at this time.”
Where Do Saturday’s Elections Leave Hispanic Dallas City Council Representation? The answer, in short, is not in a good way. In a newly drawn district that is 74 percent Hispanic, incumbent Scott Griggs defeated Hispanic incumbent Delia Jasso. In another new district drawn to give Pleasant Grove single representation at the horseshoe (the neighborhood was previously split between multiple districts), candidate Jesse Diaz is headed to a runoff with white candidate Rick Callahan. If Callahan wins, then there will be one less Hispanic representative on the council than previously, whereas the redistricting was seemingly designed to add one Hispanic representative. In other news, Farmers Branch got its first Hispanic City Council member.
Arlington Man Throws Homemade Bomb at Neighbors: Michael Alex Johnson, 32, allegedly lit an eight-gallon bucket of gasoline on fire and threw it at two vehicles in a neighbor’s driveway. Luckily, another neighbor saw the incident and immediately called police. No one was hurt. Other bomb making materials were found in Johnson’s home, and Johnson’s mother described her son as “mentally ill.”
State Rep Wants to Build Bullion Depository: I don’t know why storing gold that belongs to the University of Texas Investment Management Co. out of state is a big deal, but apparently Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake is afraid the Yankee state may seize it when Texas declares its independence, or something like that. That’s why he wants the state to fund the construction of a Texas depository for the roughly $1 billion in gold bars. Rick Perry is, of course, on board: ““If we own it,” Perry said, “I will suggest to you that that’s not someone else’s determination whether we can take possession of it back or not.”
Worst Son In the World: Gonzalo Lopez: The night before Mother’s Day, Lopez killed his mother.
Last December, as you’ll likely recall, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent was arrested after a DUI-related accident killed his teammate, Jerry Brown (who was also Brent’s college teammate and roommate). There was some uproar when, out on bond, Brent was allowed to attend a home game and momentarily walk the sidelines with his teammates.
Now my friend Thomas Lake, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, has an interesting feature looking at why, given so many other viable options, NFL players continue to drink and drive. The story, which centers on the Brent case, hasn’t been posted online yet, but there is a short teaser here.
Pro athletes, Lake writes, are arrested for drunk driving less frequently than the general population, but “what distinguishes the sports figures is their financial ability to hire drivers. And now, with Safe Ride solutions, they have fewer excuses to drive drunk than they ever had before.”
Here’s how the story recounts December 8, 2012, the night of the accident, when Brent and Brown were at a bar just five miles from the apartment they shared:
“Brent had a choice to make…He can call a confidential safe-ride service administered by the NFL Players Association. He can call one of two limousine services affiliated with the Cowboys. He can call a member of the Cowboys’ staff whose job it is to be available all day and all night to help the players however he can. Josh Brent does none of those things.”
A West paramedic named Bryce Reed was arrested this morning. Officials haven’t indicated whether there’s any connection to last month’s fertilizer plant explosion. But, according to the Morning News:
Hours after a West paramedic was arrested for possessing a destructive device Friday, the Texas Rangers and McLennan County Sheriff’s office launched a criminal investigation into the fatal fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people, injured 200 others and damaged hundreds of homes …
The State Fire Marshal’s office has not determined – or ruled out – whether the fire was a criminal act or accidental. The agency also has not determined the cause of the fire that preceded the deadly explosion, believed to have been fueled largely by ammonium nitrate kept at the plant. Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Friday she could not comment on Reed’s arrest.
Dallas Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the crooks. The crime occurred just before 4 a.m. on April 30 at Speedy Beer and Wine, 1951 Singleton Boulevard. According to the cops:
The surveillance video shows a suspect tie a tow rope to the burglary bar doors while another suspect, driving a light colored truck, pull the doors from the building. Two of the suspects enter the building with cardboard boxes, fill them with an undetermined amount of cigarettes, lottery tickets and wine and then leave.
One of the suspects is described as a Black male wearing dark pants and a maroon hoodie. A second suspect is described as a Black male wearing a black coat, white baseball cap, long blue jean shorts and black shoes. There is at least one more suspect driving the vehicle and could possibly be more.
There was a robbery late Sunday night at a store in West Dallas. The store manager got into a shootout with the crooks. He called 911 at about 11 p.m. But police didn’t respond to the scene until 12:14 a.m. By that time the store manager had already locked up and gone home, having tired of waiting.
According to a statement from Dallas Police, the caller was talking so quickly and had such a heavy accent that the dispatcher didn’t hear him use the word “shoot” or “shot.” So she assumed this was an incident that was already concluded and it was logged as a robbery. Since there were already a number of nearby crimes classified as more urgent in the system, the response to this store was delayed.
Police posted the recording of the 911 call to YouTube, so you can hear it for yourself. I can hear him say he “shot ‘em” a couple times, and he does seem to state clearly that the robbery is happening “right now,” but I also felt sympathy for the dispatcher because it is difficult to make out some of his words.
Fox 4 got the security camera footage of the store owner confronting the four armed robbers and showed it on last night’s news. Jump to view that.
You’ll remember that last fall an 18-year-old Highland Park High School student named Ryan Romo was charged with raping a fellow student after a concert. The grand jury declined to indict him. Then Romo’s family sued the accuser for defamation.
Today we learn that accuser, a 16-year-old at the time of the alleged crime and identified in court documents only as Jane Doe, has countersued Romo for “mental anguish, physical pain and suffering, and medical treatment as a result of sexual assault.”
She’s being represented by Charla Aldous, who won a $9.3 million verdict in the case resulting from the Episcopal School of Dallas sex scandal. Via Culture Map Dallas:
“Ultimately, the criminal justice system did not punish Ryan Romo, in part because of what appears to be an inadequate presentation of the case by the attorney in charge,” the suit reads. “For reasons unknown, corroborating evidence was not presented to the grand jury, including the testimony of an examining gynecologist who was willing and will testify that, based on the physical trauma to Jane Doe, she in reasonable medical probability was forcibly sexually penetrated.”
The lawsuit further claims that the Romos intend to cause Jane Doe and her family distress and to discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward in cases of date rape.
“This jury will have the opportunity to send a message that this community will support those making good faith claims of assault and not tolerate attempts to trample on victims,” the suit reads.
Bill Baumbach, who runs the muckraking Collin County Observer website (and has contributed to FrontBurner previously), sent me this note following the news Friday that David Cary, of University Park, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for bribing a Collin County judge.
What it means to be a good old-fashioned Collin County conservative, and its consequences:
A citizen gives and sends the money for a bribe: 30 days, and probation and a fine.
A citizen spends the bribes: 100 days in jail, and probation and a fine
A citizen offers a bribe: 14 years in the pen.
An elected judge accepts a bribe: just probation, probation, a fine and community service.
West Blast Investigation Continues, Children Head back to School: The center of the fertilizer factory explosion was located over the weekend. Media were allowed a look at the epicenter of the blast Sunday. In Dallas, a memorial for a local firefighter who died in the explosions. West students head back to school in nine nearby school districts. Donations to West have been strong. And, if you haven’t yet, check out Zac’s expanded reflections on his hometown on NBC.
Photos and Criticism of the New Bush Center: The Dallas Morning News has a special section dedicated to the new George W. Bush Presidential Center, which opens this Thursday. It includes a sneak peek, an interview with the ex-president, and the news’ new architecture critic’s first bow:
Designed by New York architect Robert A.M. Stern, it seems decidedly undecided about its place in the world, trading in the language of architectures past while claiming, without much conviction, the mantle of the present. Everywhere competent, it nowhere rises to a level of inspiration.
Trial Over Kaufman Slayings Will Likely Take Place in Kaufman: You would think a highly publicized trial in a small county like Kaufman would force the trial to move in order to find jurors less familiar with the case. But finding any location in Texas where potential jurors are unfamiliar with the shooting death of the Kaufman County district attorney may be close to impossible.
Full Extent of Losses in West Still Unknown. Because of volatile chemicals on the site of fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night, some areas remain too dangerous for emergency workers to venture into. That’s partly to blame for official casualty counts being difficult to come by. As I type this, various media outlets are reporting anywhere from 10 to 40 fatalities, and I imagine that range will change further by the time you read this. (I’m grateful that the estimates now seem generally smaller than the 60-70 deaths reported the night of the event.) We know the names of some who were lost, first responders who rushed to the scene of the fire at the plant. Among them was Capt. Kenny Harris of Dallas Fire-Rescue, who lived in West.
20th Anniversary of Branch Davidian Standoff. It was April 19, 1993, when the world watched a different compound not far from Waco burn. Cult leader David Koresh and 73 of his followers perished in the flames, ending a 51-day standoff with the federal government. One of the survivors, Clive Doyle, spoke with the Star-Telegram. He still has faith in Koresh: “I believe he was a manifestation, yes, of God taking on flesh,” Doyle said. “God has done that more than once.”
Eric Williams Charged With Kaufman County DA Murders. Williams was formally charged with capital murder the day after his wife Kim confessed to her role in the slayings of Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, and prosecutor Mark Hasse. Authorities say Williams was behind an email confession that threatened more violence. Based on the affidavit, he may have been so concerned about covering up his crimes that he gave police more evidence to use against him. He “recently asked a friend how to get rid of specific gun parts. Those are parts that ballistics experts can use to link a weapon to a crime.”
“He’s the smartest guy in the room, and that’s ultimately what got him into trouble,” County Judge Bruce Wood said in an interview.
Police say that Kim Williams confessed to her role in the plot to kill the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife, as well as a county prosecutor. She says her husband, Eric Williams, was the shooter, and that he blamed the victims for his removal from office after he was convicted of felony burglary and theft by a public servant last year. The Morning News reports:
The warrant says she “did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual, Mark Hasse, by shooting him with a firearm and the said, Kim Renee Williams, on or about the 30th day of March 2013 did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual, Michael McLelland, by shooting him with a firearm and further, did then and there, intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual, Cynthia McLelland, by shooting her with a firearm.”
“Kim Williams described in detail her role along with that of her husband, Eric Williams, whom she reported to have shot to death Mark Hasse … and Mike and Cynthia McLelland.”
It says that during questioning, “the defendant gave details of both offenses which had not been made public.”