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Leading Off (4/13/16)

Funeral held for food reporter Stacey Fawcett and her two sons. More than 2,000 people filled Prestonwood Baptist Church yesterday to pay their respects to popular WFAA food reporter Fawcett and her sons. News broke Friday morning that Fawcett’s eldest son, 19-year old McCann Utu, Jr., murdered the reporter and her younger son, 17-year-old Josiah Utu, before turning the knife on himself. Friends and family say McCann’s mental health suffered after two concussions. His brain was donated for research.

Two dead in Southlake murder-suicide. Police found Anil and Neeta Kharabanda dead in a bedroom. Authorities believe the man shot the woman before killing himself, however they could not confirm how the two were related. This marks the city’s first murder since Mexican lawyer, and possible cartel leader, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa was gunned down in the Southlake Town Square.

Ethan Couch to appear in adult court. The “affluenza” teen who killed four people while driving under the influence, who then cost taxpayers a hefty $200K in rehab bills, who then skipped out on his cush probation sentence, is scheduled to appear in adult court for the first time today. He celebrated his 19th birthday in solitary confinement on Monday. Today’s hearing could keep Couch in jail for another four months. Fingers crossed.

Dallas woman caught riding dirty. Real dirty. Like, $1.6-million-worth-of-meth-hidden-inside-custom-tires-on-a-Chevy-Trailblazer kind of dirty. Eat her dust, Chamillionaire.

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Leading Off (4/12/16)

U.S. requests extradition for Brenda Delgado. Now that 33-year-old Brenda Delgado, the woman accused of plotting the murder of the dentist who was dating her ex-boyfriend, has been arrested in Mexico, the U.S. wants her back on American soil to face her charges of capital murder and unlawful flight. If Delgado doesn’t appeal this, it could only be two or three months before she is extradited.

Tent city to be closed by May 4. Last week, the Tent City situation seemed more uncertain, but now the homeless encampment near downtown is set to be closed by May 4. Residents who refuse to move to a shelter or other housing by then will be arrested. Dallas city officials have divided Tent City into five parts, and the first two will be closed next week. After these two have been closed, officials will decide when to close the others.

Mavs secure playoff spot. The Mavs’ 101-92 victory against the Utah Jazz last night put them in the NBA playoffs. Now Dirk and the Mavs can’t finish any lower than seventh in the Western Conference, but I’m always stubbornly hopeful for a 2011 repeat.

Softball-sized hail hits North Texas yesterday. Hail measuring 4.5 inches landed across North Texas yesterday. Wylie was one of the areas to be hardest hit; Wylie ISD cancelled all classes for today due to storm damage. Hopefully these spring storms are on their way out. Good riddance.

Leading Off (3/17/16)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Hope you’re wearing green today.

Dallas police reestablishes cold case unit. This is the first time the department has had a cold case unit since 2008. It’s a four-person team: two robbery division detectives, a homicide detective, and a crime scene analyst—working together to solve old cases.

Mark Cuban/SEC saga continues, this time to Supreme Court. The shark schooled the Securities and Exchange Commission three years ago when he beat insider trading charges, but he isn’t done negotiating. In a brief filed with the Supreme Court last week, Cuban joins others in attacking the SEC’s use of in-house/administrative courts. Perhaps the saga will never end.

Off-duty officer charged with murder in death of teen. Ken Johnson, the off-duty Farmers Branch police officer who fatally shot 16-year-old Jose Raul Cruz and wounded Edgar Rodriguez, has been charged with murder, a move that doesn’t often happen. It’s still unknown whether either teen was armed. The police chief for Farmers Branch said Johnson didn’t follow policy when he went after the teens in his personal car.

Topgolf looking to expand. The Dallas-based golf-while-you-eat-and-drink company says it’s interested in moving into more U.S. markets, including El Paso, Albuquerque, and New Orleans, which would be added to its current 24 locations. Another Topgolf in Fort Worth is scheduled to open next year. Seems like the concept is, ahem, a hole-in-one.

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Leading Off (3/10/16)

Plano lawyer to take on Sandbranch case pro bono. Sandbranch is a tiny community in far southern Dallas County, and its residents don’t have clean water. They haven’t for many years. Plano oil lawyer Mark McPherson wants to change that, and he’s taking this case on for free. McPherson learned about Sandbranch’s plight when he was part of a team that delivered water coolers there recently. His goal is to “provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sandbranch community.”

East Oak cliff death being investigated as homicide. A 62-year-old man, Allen Davis, was found dead on Tuesday in east Oak Cliff in the property where he lived, near Beckley-Saner Park. This follows another possible homicide that occurred recently in the same area. Both investigations are pending.

More violence at Tent City. The large homeless encampment near downtown, known as Tent City, saw yet another violent incident Tuesday night. Nikkie Perkins and Anthony Pierre were accused of assaulting three people whom they thought stole belongings from their tent. Apparently Pierre was armed with a hatchet. There was a fatal stabbing at Tent City last month, as well as another murder in January. Plans for the city to shut it down are underway, with a goal of May 4.

Attempted robbery in old east dallas. Raymond Jimenez was walking his dog in Old East Dallas when two men in a Jeep attempted to steal his cell phone. Jimenez didn’t let go of the phone, but the men eventually did. Aside from a few scrapes and bruises from being dragged, Jimenez, his phone, and his dog are fine.

Leading Off (3/3/16)

American airlines/Southwest vie for Cuba routes. In light of newly liberalized air travel regulations, American submitted an application yesterday to the Department of Transportation to launch a flight from D/FW Airport to Havana, Cuba, as well as flights from Charlotte, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago to Cuba. Southwest has followed suit, asking for flights Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando to Havana. The DOT plans to dish out routes by summer, with service beginning in the fall.

Obama will be here March 11 and 12. The president will travel to Dallas in about a week (after stopping in Austin) to head up Democratic National Committee fundraising events and raise money for Dallas’ Senate Democrats.

Officer Hofer’s death encourages acts of kindness. Euless police officer David Hofer was killed Tuesday in the line of duty. Using the hashtag #ForHofer, people on social media started posting acts of good will toward law enforcement officials to honor Hofer’s death. These included donating money, picking up the tab for cops at a restaurant, and delivering baked goods to police stations.

Leading Off (2/18/16)

$319 million drainage tunnel coming to east dallas. Construction of the 5-mile project, stretching more or less from State-Thomas to White Rock Creek to the M Streets to Deep Ellum to Fair Park, will begin this spring. A tunnel 30 feet in diameter is set to be completed by 2021 to help alleviate flooding after storms and to protect properties. Who knows how that construction will affect those living along that path in the meantime.

Second killing within a month occurs at Tent City. The largest homeless encampment in Dallas, known as Tent City, experienced another killing Tuesday. About 300 homeless people live in Tent City, located under I-45, south of downtown. A man was stabbed to death during a fight, and city officials are pushing for Tent City to be shut down. Although social workers have been gradually moving some residents to permanent housing, the encampment population is growing too rapidly. There have been several killings there in the past two years. City council members are debating how to go about shutting Tent City down and when.

Flower Mound residents targeted by red-light ticket scam. The people caught masterminding the fraud scam are prison workers and inmates in Georgia. Cellphones were smuggled into the prisons and used to commit identity theft and wire fraud. Residents of Flower Mound were informed that they owed money for red light tickets and told to buy prepaid cash cards and transfer the money. The calls apparently seemed real because the callers set up greetings identifying themselves as police officers from Flower Mound.

New trader joe’s to open near knox/henderson. A six-story apartment building called Armstrong at Knox—located on Cole Avenue directly south of Knox Street—is getting its finishing touches. Below the apartments will be a new Trader Joe’s and Sur La Table, which is moving from its current Travis Street location. In my opinion, you can never have too many Trader Joe’s stores.

Leading Off (2/4/16)

Southwest pilots picket for higher pay. Yesterday, hundreds of Southwest Airlines pilots picketed outside of Love Field to address the fact that they still don’t have a new contract after negotiating for four years. They held signs with “It’s time for a contract” written on them. Negotiations for a new contract will begin again in March.

50 police officers could be added to force. For the coming fiscal year, city council members are informally in favor of adding 50 more cops than the usual 200 added annually. This would add $2.3 million to the budget for next year. Police Chief David Brown noted to the council that, since 2010, his department has lost 200 officers.

Plano man loses thousands in fraud scheme. 88-year-old Plano resident Bob Devinney, a former University of Kansas track star who set a national record in 1952, lost $250,000 in retirement savings due to a Jamaican fraud scheme. The suspects had talked to Devinney on the phone, told him he won the lottery, and over two years asked him to pay insurance and taxes on his “winnings.” Devinney had planned to use his savings to take care of his wife, Sarah, who has Alzheimer’s.

Leading Off (1/7/16)

State trooper indicted for perjury regarding arrest of Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was arrested in July of last year during a traffic stop in Prairie View and was later found hanged in her Waller County jail cell. Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who arrested her, was indicted yesterday for perjury and will be fired. The grand jury believed Encinia issued a false statement as to why he made Bland get out of her car during the stop.

City Council considers pilot program for giving tickets for marijuana possession. Pretty soon, people in Dallas who are caught with four ounces or less of marijuana could be ticketed instead of arrested. Council members see the potential policy change as time-saving, as it would allow police to concentrate more on violent crimes. They also said it would be more in line with the national movement to legalize marijuana. The ticket would still include a court date, where a judge would ultimately make a decision. City council members will vote on the pilot program at an upcoming meeting.

Ethan Couch’s dog missing in Mexico. “Affluenza” teen Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, may have been caught by police, but their dog, Virgil, is still missing in action. The Puerto Vallarta SPCA posted a missing-dog notice. Hopefully Virgil is found safe and sound.

Three hospitalized after Lewisville Starbucks crash. A car crashed into a Starbucks in Lewisville yesterday, and three people were taken to hospitals. A Subaru ran a red light, crashed into two other cars, and went through a window of the coffee shop, injuring three patrons.

Dallas and Tarrant Counties Are Two of the Deadliest for Police Killings

An alert FrontBurnervian points us to a compelling story in the Guardian about the U.S. county with the most police killings per capita. It is Kern County, in California. You should read the story (the Guardian’s online presentation is pretty slick). But about midway through the story, I saw this chart and was a little startled to learn that Dallas and Tarrant counties are in a five-way tie for fifth place. I mean, Chicago has had a rash of gun violence, yet Cook County, Illinois, with more than twice Dallas County’s population, has fewer police killings. What’s going on here?

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Leading Off (10/22/15)

Texas health resources appeals decision in Nina Pham’s lawsuit. THR, which owns Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, appealed a judge’s order regarding the lawsuit filed by Nina Pham, a nurse who contracted Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan. The judge’s ruling temporarily stops the Texas Workforce Commission from saying whether THR is a co-employer of Pham with the hospital. If THR were ruled a co-employer, the lawsuit would be categorized as a worker’s compensation claim. Pham, who got the disease a year ago, recovered but is still experiencing ongoing health issues. She maintains that THR did not appropriately train and protect its staff.

Dallas Police to expand patrol in oak lawn following violent attacks. Dallas City Council member Adam Medrano announced yesterday with the DPD that patrol would be increased in the Oak Lawn area. Medrano represents Oak Lawn and is chairman of Mayor Mike Rawlings’ LGBT task force. Residents have voiced concern about poor lighting and lack of cameras near businesses. There have been about eight incidents of assault or robbery since the beginning of September, all of which occurred late on weekend nights. Expanded patrol will include bike officers, undercover officers, and officers on foot.

Margot Winspear, RIP. The Dallas opera house namesake died Tuesday in an assisted-care facility at age 83. She and her late husband, Bill Winspear, had contributed $42 million to the building of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Winspear Opera House.

Flash flood watch for north texas begins tonight. This weekend, rain will take over for sunshine. Starting tonight, expect rain through Sunday. And with the dry state North Texas is in, we won’t complain about it.

A Police Officer Explains Why Many Are Frustrated with DPD Management

My column for the November issue of D Magazine (on your newsstands in four short weeks) deals with the concerns of Dallas police officers. In said story, I say that the largest police organization, the Dallas Police Association, is wrong to buy into the silly narrative that there is a “war on cops.” I say they are absolutely right, however, to blame the administration for poor police response times. For days, I’ve been sent pictures of 3rd-shift details at large police substations that show only five or six officers available to handle calls from 3 p.m. to midnight.

This, I argue, is the issue that people care about. This is the concern supported by the data. This is why cops aren’t showing up for hours. And this is the concern that at least partially led to the behind-the-scenes meeting at City Hall last week, where Chief David Brown’s tenure was discussed.

In the column, I quote from a letter written by police officer Louis Mills.

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Leading Off (7/14/2015)

The Barnett Shale is Off-Gassing More Greenhouse Gasses Than Previous Thought: The EPA botched its initial estimates, and as it turns out, fracking in the Barnett Shale is responsible for 64 percent of all methane in our local atmosphere. The good news: most of those emissions are the result of human errors and mechanical failures.

Let’s Put Those Increased Violent Crime Numbers in Perspective: The Dallas Morning News breaks down the much-reported 10 percent increase in violent crime. The takeaway? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. You could argue the increase reflects a return to a historical norm. And if violent crime continues at pace through the end of the year, murders will be at the same level they were 2013 and 2012, while aggravated assaults would only see a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

When Will We Finally Run Craig Holcomb Out of Town? Read Eric Nicholson’s look into the laughable bike share program in Fair Park. I mean, it couldn’t be more stupidly designed, so it will come as no surprise that the usage numbers are equally laughable. But here’s the important bit: when Nicholson tried to get the usage numbers through an open records request, he was stonewalled by the Friends of Fair Park, which operates the program. That decision to not to release the bike share numbers was then upheld in a ruling by the Texas AG.

I mean, seriously? Bike share numbers? We’re keeping those under lock-and-key? Why? Because Friends of Fair Park – which is run by Craig Holcomb, who also heads the Trinity Commons Foundation – doesn’t want more mud on his face for a program that anyone who has any idea about anything looks at for two seconds and thinks, “Good God, that is the sorriest excuse for a bike share program I have ever seen in my entire life.” I mean, seriously? How long are we going to let Holcomb meddle in the city’s business? How long are we going to let him lord over his two little fiefdoms, which happen to involve two of Dallas’ greatest civic assets – Dallas and Fair Park – both of which have languished for decades under the weight of curiously stupid ideas? For the love of all things good, Criag Holcomb, will you please just drift off into a quiet retirement and leave Dallas alone? Please. Thank you for your service. Now go away.

New Designer Drug in Town: It’s called Flakka, and it doesn’t sound like too much fun. Effects include “murderous rage, paranoia, ultra-violence, and running around screaming.” Or basically what it feels like to read about Craig Holcomb’s meddling in Dallas affairs.

It’s Finally Texas Hot: After cool temps and so much rain, we can’t really complain about DFW finally flirting with 100 degrees (heat index popped up to 109 in some places yesterday). Well, unless the AC goes out in your entire apartment complex. Then you can complain.

Dallas State Rep Wants to Turn ‘Cop Watchers’ Into Criminals

One of the legacies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is a network of so-called “cop watchers,” volunteer groups who police the police with video cameras. Locally, there are a few networks, including Cop Watch Dallas and Dallas Cop Block who have caught instances of questionable use of force by area police on camera. Needless to say, cop watchers make cops uncomfortable. Last year, Arlington police arrested three citizens whose only offense was filming officers. This was after the cop watchers rolled up on Arlington police arresting a man. As soon as the cops saw the camera, they let the man go, according to the Dallas Observer.

Some police departments and municipalities argue that filming police interferes with officers’ police work, while cop watchers say their actions are protected by the first amendment, an argument that was backed up last year by a ruling by a Texas judge. But if State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) has his way, “cop watching” will become illegal. Enter House Bill 2918, which amends the state’s penal code, making filming within 25 feet of an officer “performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law” a class B misdemeanor. Video taping of police is allowed if you are a member of the news media, but as The Free Thought Project points out, the bill also defines the media in such a way that it excludes internet sites — not to mention documentary filmmakers. If this bill is passed, in Texas you would have to be a member of a law enforcement agency, or an employee of a radio station, television station, weekly or daily newspaper, or magazine in order to turn on a camera within 25 feet of a police officer.

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Dallas Police Water Rescue Caught on Body Camera

Last August, the Dallas Police Association pushed for the department and the district attorney’s office to provide all uniformed cops with body cameras. The DPD field-tested lapel cameras in 2014, with an original plan to equip up to 2,500 cops. These cameras have already proved useful in officer-involved shootings. But here we have something different.

According to the DPD blog, a man lost control of his car last Friday night near 5800 Military Parkway and plummeted 50 feet into a creek. As his vehicle flooded with water, officers from the department’s Southeast Crime Response Team (CRT) Unit were able to pull him out through the window. The body cam video was released as part to the DPD’s efforts to “enhance public safety and transparency.” Fortunately, the cops were nearby and able to respond when a witness called it in.

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