Archive for December, 2013

Sheriff: Colo. teen shooter planned to kill many

The gunman, who killed himself, had 125 rounds of ammo, a machete and Molotov cocktails.

A heavily armed teenager who fired a fatal shotgun blast at a fellow student at a Colorado school before killing himself was a “murderer” who intended to claim many more victims, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Monday.

The lone victim, 17-year-old Claire Davis, was shot point-blank in the face while she sat in the hallway of Arapahoe County High School on Dec. 13.

The high school senior, who was apparently a random victim, died eight days later.

Robinson, providing reporters in Centennial, Colo., with additional details on the shooting, said the entire incident lasted only about 80 seconds, The Denver Post reports.

The shooter, 18-year-old Karl Pierson, also a student at the school, shot Davis in the hallway where she was sitting then went to a nearby library where he killed himself as a unarmed security guard — a retired deputy sheriff — closed in.

“No question the person who entered the school is a murderer,” Robinson said. “He intended to hurt (a) maximum amount of people.”

The sheriff said Pierson, who was armed with a 12-guage shotgun, carried more than 125 rounds of ammunition strapped to his chest and waist on a pair of bandoliers, a machete and Molotov cocktails.

He said the shooter apparently intended to track down a librarian who had disciplined him and to whom he had made verbal threats months ago.

Robinson told reporters that Pierson had written on his arm the names of several classrooms that apparently were intended as targets. He had also written a Latin phrase that, translated to English, reads: “The die has been cast.”

Pierson was still in the planning process as recently as 30 minutes before the shooting and had bought additional ammunition.

“He took time to have a meal … went bowling alone,” Robinson said. “No question it was a very deliberate and planned event.”

Robinson said the school door that Pierson entered is supposed to be locked but rarely is because it is inconvenient.

The sheriff acknowledged that the shooting would forever change the community.

“It’s up to us to decide whether it changes us for better or worse,” Robinson said. “We will be better for this. There is no question.”

Contributing: Associated Press
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Cleanup of meth homes is big business in TN

(The Associated Press- Memphis) A tall man and a slender woman wiggled into their white hazardous materials suits, putting on protective masks and gloves before venturing into the dark, two-story home where police say a methamphetamine lab recently exploded.

Gary Siebenschuh and a helper used a yellow photo ionization detector to measure for meth residue, maneuvering around debris and a hole in the roof caused by the Nov. 6 fire that injured a young child. They took wipe samples of walls, ducts, window sills and other parts of the home, later sending them to a lab to be analyzed.

“The process is extremely cumbersome, but I think it’s necessary,” said Dick Cochran, owner of the Memphis home where a renter was charged with making meth and causing the explosion and fire. He hired Siebenschuh to inspect the property.

“You don’t know how bad a house can be contaminated,” Cochran said.

Tens of thousands of houses — including many in Tennessee, which state officials say has the nation’s worst meth addiction problem — have been used as meth labs in the past decade, and a cottage industry is developing around cleaning them up.

Many Americans are more aware of the production of the highly addictive drug thanks to AMC’s hit show “Breaking Bad,” about a high school chemistry teacher who turned into a meth cooker and dealer. In real life, cleanup contractors are the ones who deal with a property when a batch explodes or police raid an operation and shut it down.

However, there is little oversight of the growing industry in most states, opening the door for potential malfeasance. And homeowners are often reluctant to pay thousands of dollars to make a property safe, so many houses don’t get cleaned for years, exposing residents and sometimes neighbors to harmful chemicals.

Cochran expects to spend thousands to make the house rentable once again, with much of the cost covered by his insurance company. However, that is not the norm; many insurance policies do not cover meth cleanup.

To make a meth home safe, a certified contractor must remove and replace all contaminated materials, from walls to carpet to air conditioning vents. Next, a certified “industrial hygienist” tests the home to gauge whether it can be lived in or needs more cleaning.

Exposure poses risks

Hygienists and contractors find homes in different states of disrepair. Homes with no fires or explosions are easier to clean, but there is often a pungent odor, as well as contaminated cooktops, carpets and walls; leaky roofs; and dirty furniture. In Cochran’s home, Siebenschuh had to maneuver around debris and a burned-out shell of a second floor and attic.

“You do testing in the front end, so we can find out how much meth is there,” said Siebenschuh, whose company, G7 Environmental Services, also does testing for asbestos, mold and other contaminants. “Then the homeowner hires a contractor, and then he cleans it up.”

Despite laws requiring landlords to disclose if meth had been made on a property, experts say such disclosures often don’t happen and many people live in contaminated homes nationwide.

Exposure to meth residue can cause respiratory problems, and health officials say meth homes pose a threat to public safety. For example, squatters may enter abandoned homes, and children play around them.

Over the past decade, tens of thousands of homes have been used to cook meth, federal data show. About 25 states have laws related to meth cleanup. Some, including Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, place meth homes on quarantine lists. Some properties on Tennessee’s list date to 2006, underscoring the years it can take for some properties to be cleaned. Costs can range from $3,000 to $25,000, depending on the home’s size and the amount of contamination.

Many independent contractors, such as Don Horne, do meth cleanup as a second job to make extra money. Horne, a law enforcement officer in a small Arkansas town, also does pressure washing and cleaning of commercial kitchen exhausts.

Contractors who offer very low bids may be cutting corners.

One Tennessee hygienist faces federal fraud charges for contracting with homeowners to clean up their properties, then illegally certifying that the homes were safe to live in despite not being properly cleaned. Douglas McCasland has pleaded not guilty, and faces trial in June.

With a small staff, Tennessee’s meth remediation department acknowledges it does not have the manpower to closely oversee contractors.

Dan Hawkins, head of the state’s meth remediation office in Knoxville, says the division received federal funding to operate the website and has three full-time employees. The state is looking at training more people to oversee and evaluate cleanups.

“We are aware that contractors may run the entire scope, from very good to terrible, and we are evaluating,” he said.
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Jacksonville FL Dec 29 2013 Five teenagers were arrested when a 600-person brawl broke out in a Florida movie theater’s parking lot on Christmas night.

Described by police as a “melee,” the fight occurred around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday outside the Hollywood River City 14 movie theater in Jacksonville when a group tried to storm the theater’s doors without purchasing tickets, police said. Several had rushed an off-duty police officer working as a security guard.

The officer “administered pepper spray to disperse the group, locked the doors and called for backup, following protocol,” said Lauri-Ellen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Soon after the pepper spray was used, “upward of 600 people moving throughout a parking lot about the size of a football field began fighting, disrupting and jumping on cars,” she said.

Sixty-two police officers were called to the scene to break up the brawl, “sequestering them and separating them,” Smith said.

Only minor injuries and damage to property were reported. No gunshots were fired, according to Smith.

All five of the people arrested on the scene were charged with crimes related to fighting. Three of those arrested, including one minor, were charged with felonies. Two other juveniles, who have not been named by police, were charged with misdemeanors.

Tevyn Alonza Davis, 19, was charged with resisting arrest and breach of the peace. Jaquade Marquis Miller, 18, was charged with fighting and resisting arrest. Khalil Ahmad Bradley, 17, the only minor charged with a felony, was arrested for resisting arrest, refusal to disperse and breach of the peace.

Davis and Bradley each “took a fighting stance” when confronted by police and told to leave the area, according to arrest reports. Miller, too, “took an aggressive stance” when told by police to leave the parking lot.

According to the movie theater’s website, the cinema was showing “Tyler Perry’s A Medea Christmas,” “47 Ronin,” “Grudge Match,” “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” along with several other movies.

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Police: 4 Dead After La. Shootings, 3 Injured

A nurse embroiled in a custody fight with his ex-wife killed his current wife before shooting his former in-laws and his onetime boss in a rampage that spanned two parishes in Louisiana, leaving three people dead and three wounded. He then fatally shot himself in the head, authorities said.

All three survivors remained hospitalized Friday, two in critical condition, Brennan Matherne, a spokesman for the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, said in an email. He said deputies are still investigating the motive.

Preliminary evidence shows that Ben Freeman, 38, first killed his wife, Denise Taylor Freeman, 43, before he went on a rampage and shot the others Thursday, Maj. Malcolm Wolfe, of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office, wrote in an email.

Denise Freeman’s body was found in a bathroom of their house, and an autopsy showed that she suffocated and drowned, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said Friday.

According to investigators, Ben Freeman then drove to his former in-laws’ home in Lafourche Parish, about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans. With a shotgun, he killed his former mother-in-law, Susan “Pixie” Gouaux (pronounced “go”), and wounded her husband, Councilman Louis Phillip Gouaux, and one of their daughters, Andrea Gouaux. His ex-wife, Jeanne Gouaux, apparently wasn’t at the home.

About 20 minutes later, Freeman arrived at the home of Milton and Ann Bourgeois. Milton was the longtime CEO of Ochsner (OX-ner) St. Anne General Hospital in nearby Raceland, where Freeman had worked as a nurse until two years ago. Freeman shot Milton Bourgeois at close range, killing him, and shot Ann Beourgeois in the leg. She was in stable condition Friday.

Both Louis and Andrea Gouaux were in critical but stable condition following surgery Friday in New Orleans, Matherne said.

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said Freeman had been fired from St. Anne. He said police previously had been called to the hospital after Freeman damaged a room. Freeman told officers he would seek mental help, Webre said.

But in a teleconference later Friday, Ochsner officials said Freeman had resigned voluntarily, citing personal reasons. The officials said he had worked at the hospital from May 1998 to April 2011, and that he was considered an on-call employee for another five months after that.

Freeman also had worked at two other hospitals, which along with St. Anne had been placed on lockdown for a time on Thursday.

Susan Gouaux — “Pixie” to her friends — was a teachers’ aide at Holy Savior Elementary School. She also was a talented needlewoman and knitter who designed the state bicentennial quilt square for Lafourche Parish and made scarves for all her friends, Parish President Charlotte Randolph said in a telephone interview.

Randolph said she went to school at one time or another with Philip and Susan Gouaux, and that Susan Gouaux had taught her grandchildren. The couple has six adult daughters.

Gouaux called 911 around 6:40 p.m. Thursday from his home in Lockport, telling dispatchers he had been shot in the throat, The Courier newspaper in Houma reported. Freeman was divorced from Gouaux’s daughter Jeanne, whom he married in 1997.

Jeanne Gouaux — also a nurse — had filed several protective orders against Freeman, who had pleaded guilty to harassment charges and was allowed only supervised visits with their four children, Webre said. The last protective order expired less than a month ago, he said.

“Clearly, there has been a very difficult and complicated divorce/custody issue going on,” Webre said during a news conference late Thursday.

Freeman pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to one of two criminal telephone-harassment charges brought on a complaint filed June 19 by Gouaux and her father, Lafourche Parish Clerk of Court Vernon H. Rodrigue said. He was given a deferred sentence of a $250 fine or 10 days in jail, put on unsupervised probation for a year, and the second count of criminal harassment was dismissed, Rodrigue said.

On Nov. 27, Ben Freeman was issued a citation for simple battery domestic violence against Denise Freeman, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. A court date had been scheduled for Jan. 16, 2014.

Court records show Freeman agreed in June to pay Jeanne Gouaux $22,560 in overdue child support payments dating back two years. A settlement filed the following month showed the couple would sell three adjacent lots near her parents’ house and split the $25,000 in proceeds; Freeman also agreed to pay Gouaux $39,000.

Jeanne Gouaux and the children lived with her parents for a while after the divorce, said Rita Bonvillain (BAHN-vee-yenh), 83, a neighbor of the family for nearly 30 years. She said Andrea Gouaux, a nurse like her sister Jeanne, was visiting from Texas.

Whenever a holiday came, she said, children filled the house and yard. A trampoline, soccer balls and a swing hanging from a big oak in the front yard testified to that.

Bonvillain choked up and held back tears several times as she talked about the Gouauxes. Since her husband died, they regularly have stopped by to ask if she needs groceries or other errands run. The councilman once told her, “If you ever hear a sound at night and want someone to check it out, call me,” she said.

Ben Freeman was found dead around 10:45 p.m. along U.S. Highway 90 near Bayou Blue. He had shot himself in the head.

At Denise Freeman’s house, a man who did not give his name demanded that an Associated Press reporter leave his sister’s property.

Others in the neighborhood of quaint middle-class, ranch-style houses in Houma, the Terrebonne Parish seat, said the house was originally hers.

She had only recently married Freeman, but she and her son Josh — of elementary school age — had lived there for years, said Glenn Cradeur, who has owned his house, two down from hers, for 28 years. He said he believed the boy was not home when his mother was killed.

Cradeur said he saw no signs of trouble until about two weeks ago, when he saw police vehicles outside the home, responding to what he believed was a domestic dispute.

He returned from a visit to out-of-town relatives to find emergency vehicles outside the house and stunned neighbors gathered nearby.

“It’s shocking, and it’s sad,” he said.


Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans and researcher Judith Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.

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Jefferson Parish LA Dec 26 2013 Christmas Eve got off to a sour start for University of Southern Mississippi student Randolph Driscoll when he awoke Tuesday morning to find the back passenger window of his Chevrolet Trailblazer shattered by a pellet rifle. Glass covered the roadway in front of his aunt’s Ellen Drive home in Marrero, and his vehicle wasn’t the only overnight target.

Residents as early afternoon Tuesday reported 166 vehicles with windows shot in several West Bank neighborhoods, including Hillcrest, Oak Cove and Oak Forest, according to Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“Those victims who were vandalized had to wake up and face having to get their vehicles fixed the day before Christmas,” Fortunato said.

he suspects only shattered windows. No one was injured and residents did not report any stolen property. Authorities aren’t sure when the shootings occurred, but most residents discovered the damage at daybreak.

Driscoll, 24, who was just visiting for the holidays, said he parked his truck on the street Monday night with no damage. He overheard some dogs barking around midnight and said he suspected the culprits may have come through around that time.

Two other neighbors in the same block of Ellen Drive also woke to find their windows shattered. “It’s like nobody has anything better to do,” Driscoll said.

He spent most of the morning on the telephone with an auto glass shop trying to schedule a repair. “There was so many of them, they couldn’t fit me in,” he said.

A few Blocks away, Safelite Autoglass technician Ryan DuVernay worked to replace the back windshield of a minivan on Lemans Drive. He and coworkers had expected Christmas Eve to be a short, easy day.

“We planned on all of us eating a big lunch over at our office and then we were going to call it a half-day,” DuVernay said.

He had already replaced five windows in the neighborhood by 12:45 p.m. and was headed to one more residence before returning to the office where co-workers were swamped with damaged cars.

“Right now we’re at 28 vehicle glasses installed for today, and we have Thursday and Friday already booked solid,” said Bruce Cuquet, manager of the
Safelite located at 2000 Lapalco Blvd., Harvey.

Most of the damage has been to rear windshields, Cuquet said.

Victims who may already be low on cash because of holiday spending now find themselves reaching for their wallets again to pay for pricey window replacement. Repairs can cost anywhere between $200 to $1,000, Cuquet said. The jobs become more expensive if the windows include defrosters and alarms.

After combing through video from the department’s mounted crime and automated license-plate recognition cameras, Sheriff’s Office investigators released a still frame from surveillance footage that shows a silver Ford Escape they say may be linked to the crimes.

If the above car is spotted, witnesses are asked to contact JPSO Auto Theft Detective C. Dear at 504.874.4349.

Anyone with information about the Christmas Eve pellet gun-shooting spree on the West Bank is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office investigations bureau at 504.364.5300. The public can also call Crimestoppers at 504.822.1111 or toll-free at 877.903.7867. Tips can be texted to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637); text TELLCS then the crime information. Callers or texters do not have to give their names or testify, and can earn a $2,500 reward for information that leads to an indictment.
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Adam Hunter was left struggling to breathe after being repeatedly kicked in the head and stamped on in the city centre.

A judge has praised the prompt action of a security guard who may have saved the life of a student who was the victim of a horrific drunken gang attack in Birmingham.

He awarded Michael Miller £50 from public funds for his quick action in helping Adam Hunter.

Mr Hunter, who had been out celebrating after finishing his second year exams, was left struggling to breathe after being repeatedly kicked in the head and stamped on.

Fahim Choudhury, of Crowther Road, Erdington, Hassan Javeed, of Fox Hollies Road, and Amir Ahmed, of Rymond Road, Hodge Hill, all 21, who had previously admitted wounding Mr Hunter with intent, were all jailed for three and a half years.

Judge Stuart Rafferty QC said: “You were all drunk on a night out, like Mr Hunter, celebrating the completion of your exams, at least two of you.”

The judge said there had been an altercation and that the victim had been struck a “powerful” blow knocking him to the ground.

“If he was not unconscious by the time he hit the ground he was well on the way.

“He was quite defenceless and posed no threat to any of you.

“He was repeatedly kicked and stamped on. You left him lying in a pool of his own blood. If that security guard had not been trained, it he had not acted promptly and placed him in the recovery position it may be the case he would have died.”

Birmingham Crown Court heard that the attackers were later captured on CCTV in a group hug and congratulating themselves.

Patrick Sullivan, prosecuting, said the attack occurred around 4am on June 7 this year between Five Ways and Broadway as Mr Hunter, a keen rugby player, was walking home.

Rashad Mohammed, for Ahmed, a law student, had acted on the spur of the moment while Devon Small, for Choudhury said he had initially acted as a peace maker.

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BALTIMORE - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 128 pounds of cocaine Wednesday from a shipping container at the port of Baltimore, the agency confirmed via its Twitter account Tuesday.

A routine inspection netted one the agency’s largest drug seizures in Baltimore, according to a release. Officials estimate the street value of the cocaine at around $4 million.

Using an x-ray and gamma ray scanner, officers discovered two gym bags filled with a combined 50 bricks of cocaine.

“Narcotics interdiction remains a top Customs and Border Protection enforcement priority, and this case illustrates how CBP officers leverage non-intrusive imaging technologies to intercept dangerous drugs and to help keep our communities safe,” Dianna Bowman, acting CBP port director for the Port of Baltimore, said in a release.

The seizure spiked the needle for customs enforcement in Baltimore, which had collected less than one pound of cocaine in fiscal year 2012, customs spokesman Steve Sapp said.

“We generally do not see narcotics of any kind coming through the Port of Baltimore,” Sapp said.

He noted that marijuana was the most prevalent drug brought through the port by cruise ship passengers and tourists. Even Baltimore’s drug-of-choice, heroin, rarely flows through Baltimore’s travel terminals.

“I can count on one hand how many heroin seizures we’ve had at the port or at BWI,” Sapp said of his five years with the agency.

In a release, Sapp noted that the agency seized 526 pounds of cocaine coming through the port in 2007. The amount then significantly dropped off in 2011, which yielded 22 pounds of cocaine seizures.

The bricks of cocaine seized Dec. 18 were marked with a Nike swoosh symbol.

“That’s a branding mechanism,” Sapp said.

The agency will check with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for known drug distributors who mark their product with the Nike symbol.

“We have an idea,” Sapp said.

The shipping container that triggered Wednesday’s investigation came from Colon, Panama.

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Police search with dogs at Wando High School

MOUNT PLEASANT – The text message from her teenage daughter took Elizabeth Moffly by surprise: Wando High School had been locked down and police with dogs were swarming the campus.

Students weren’t told exactly what was going on, but school staff threatened to confiscate phones from anyone who tried to use one. This alarmed Moffly’s daughter, a senior at Wando.

“She said it seemed like half the police force was there,” said Moffly, a Charleston County School Board member.

Moffly soon learned that Mount Pleasant police had arranged with the school district to conduct a random search for drugs and weapons in Wando’s student parking lot. The Dec. 4 search produced some marijuana, a knife and two arrests.

School officials and police said the operation was a preventive effort aimed at ensuring a safe environment on the campus of the state’s largest school. They said it was done by the book and with little disruption to classroom studies.

“My number one priority will always to be to keep our children safe,” Wando Principal Lucy Beckham said, “and we will do whatever we have to do to keep them safe.”

To Moffly, however, the tactic smacked of an intrusive over-reach by law enforcement. She said police should concentrate on protecting kids from outside dangers, not subject them to unjustified, mass searches.

“It feels like my kids are in jail,” she said. “To me, it’s very disheartening that we are using the police like that on our children. We send our children to school to get an education, not to criminalize them by searching their belongings without probable cause.”

Wando is hardly alone in using such methods. Other schools in Charleston County have hosted periodic police sweeps, as have Berkeley and Dorchester county schools.

These tactics have become increasingly common across the nation in an edgy age where concerns about drug abuse and campus violence like the Newtown school massacre have communities fearing for students’ safety and well-being.

Controversial practices

Authorities in Ocean County, N.J., recently brought police and drug-sniffing dogs through a high school to counter a perceived narcotics epidemic, mainly involving heroin use. Well-to-do Litchfield, Conn., is mulling a similar plan.
Students recently surveyed at a middle school in Michigan said they actually felt safer when drug dogs were around. And The San Antonio (Texas) Express News reported that drug-sniffing dogs have been commonplace for school districts there for decades.

But the searches haven’t been without controversy.

In 2003, a Goose Creek police raid at Stratford High School made national headlines and led to a $1.6 million class-action lawsuit settlement.

About 140 Stratford students were present when police burst into a school hallway shouting, waving guns and forcing some students to the ground while a barking dog sniffed for weapons and drugs. None were found.

The school’s longtime principal resigned in the wake of the raid, and in the settlement that followed, the Berkeley County School District and Goose Creek police agreed to change their policies for drug sweeps. The Goose Creek Police Department, for instance, agreed to undergo additional training and limit the use of dogs around students.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, represented Stratford students as one of Motley Rice’s lead lawyers on the case. He has received several calls in the years since the Stratford incident regarding concerns about drug sweeps, but he has encountered nothing on the same scale. He said police “hit that school like a crack house.”

“Everyone is against drugs in school. We can all agree on that,” he said. “But we also have to recognize that students deserve protection under the Constitution, and they don’t shed those rights just by walking through the schoolhouse door.”

Goose Creek police did not return an email seeking comment on the matter.

Controversial checks

South Carolina law gives authorities the power to conduct a “reasonable search” of anyone who comes onto a school’s campus. School leaders or their designees can search lockers, desks, vehicles, purses and wallets “with or without” probable cause. State law prohibits only strip searches.
That means although students have a Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the courts have ruled that they may be searched as long as the search is reasonable at its inception and in its scope, said Scott Price, attorney for the South Carolina School Boards Association.

“They have the right to conduct a search, but in terms of safely meeting the constitutional standard, reasonable suspicion is something any entity would want to have going into the operation,” he said.

The association gives guidance to districts statewide on how to follow that law, and it does so in the form of a model policy that delves into more specifics. Price said it provides a checklist that schools can use for searches, and that he hasn’t had many inquiries about it.

Berkeley County School District spokeswoman Susan Haire said her district has seldom used police sweeps at schools in recent years, and there is no current plan to change that. The sole search during the past two years took place at Hanahan High School in a response to a complaint about possible narcotics at the school. Hanahan police conducted the search, which turned up no drugs, she said.

Searching local schools

Other area police agencies said they usually conduct sweeps at the invitation of school officials on an as-needed basis. Strict guidelines then govern how the operation is conducted, they said. Charleston police, for example, plan the operations with school officials and never allow the drug dog to come in contact with students, department spokesman Charles Francis said.
Jeff Scott, the director of security and emergency management for Charleston County schools, said the searches with dogs are done at the district’s request and with its consent. Charleston school leaders try to coordinate that kind of search at every high school at least once each year, but that hasn’t happened.

Scott said the searches are one of two prevention strategies used to create an environment where students feel uneasy about bringing weapons, drugs or any other contraband to schools. The second strategy in the use of metal detectors, which are used randomly.

“The purpose is to make it uncomfortable,” Scott said. “If we don’t find anything, everyone knows we were there, and they don’t know when we’re going to show up and come back.”

Charleston police this year conducted searches in March at West Ashley and St. John’s high schools. Nothing was found, Francis said.

Charleston County Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said he wasn’t aware of any school searches conducted by his agency this year. A few have been done in past years, following standard guidelines that generally limit searches to common areas such as hallways and locker rooms, he said.

“If we conduct a search in a classroom, the students are never present, and they will be instructed by a representative from the school to leave their bags in the classroom,” he said. “In the past, we have yielded some drugs as well as weapons.”

Dorchester 2 schools don’t have a regular schedule for sweeps, staging them more as problems or issues arise. Then, principals work with the county sheriff’s office and police in North Charleston and Summerville to plan their sweeps well in advance, to ensure that the operations are done “in a very orderly fashion” away from students in classrooms, said Mike Turner, a former sheriff’s major who serves as schools’ security coordinator.

“That’s pretty much the norm across the country,” he said.

The Wando sweep

Mount Pleasant police Maj. Stan Gragg wouldn’t say what prompted the recent search at Wando, only that “it was a planned operation as part of the ongoing effort which will continue to ensure a violence- and drug-free environment.”
Eight officers, two K-9 handlers and two dogs participated in the sweep, Gragg said.

At Wando High, Scott said the campus is so large that they couldn’t have searched everywhere unless they had 15 dogs. They couldn’t even search the entire student parking area because it was too big – one lot has 780 vehicles – so they relegated their search to a portion of that.

Schools are kept on lockdown during the searches as a safety precaution and as a way of controlling the campus, Scott said. Beckham said the sweep lasted about 90 minutes while classroom study continued. Students were told not to use their phones to avoid alerting those who might have drugs or weapons in the parking area. “But they are not supposed to use their phones in class anyway, so that’s a bit redundant,” she said.

Reaction to search

The response to the search at Wando High has varied. Beckham said Wando hadn’t conducted such an operation in several years, and she received several positive comments from parents. The only complaint she heard of came from Moffly, who has been critical of an ongoing police presence in schools.
Some share Moffly’s concern with the way police handled the incident. County school board member Chris Collins called the Wando search unwarranted and unnecessary. Bringing dogs on campus brings to mind situations involving violence and riots, and these students weren’t criminals or protesters, he said.

“I don’t think it’s justified when you’re dealing with children,” he said. “It’s an unnecessary liability. We shouldn’t bother with it at all.”

Searches with dogs can traumatize kids, and it’s going overboard, he said.

Collins has taken issue in the past with police criminalizing juvenile behavior and intervening in discipline matters that should be handled by the school.

Others felt the search was long overdue and that it was a way to ensure school safety.

“We live in a very different world from when our parents grew up, and even when I went to high school,” said county school board member Craig Ascue. “We want safe schools. … If that means doing a drug dog sweep, then that’s fine.”

Barbara Mercer’s 16-year-old daughter attends Wando High, and she said she received a text message from her daughter when the search was happening. Her daughter wasn’t alarmed, and neither was Mercer.

She has had a child at Wando for the past seven years, and she said she has confidence that the administration handled the situation appropriately.

She appreciated what may have been a difficult decision to make in doing the search, and it made the point that the school was serious about preventing drugs and weapons on campus, she said.

“For me, my bottom line is the safety of children,” she said. “If people are bringing drugs or weapons that the dogs would uncover, I want that turned up and taken out of there”

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Cyber Stalker

A 29-year-old Michigan man was sentenced to five years in federal prison last week—the maximum allowed by law—for interstate stalking in a bizarre case of online romance gone bad.

Brian Curtis Hile traveled to San Diego from Michigan in 2011 intending to kill a woman and her boyfriend after the pair had unwittingly gotten caught up in Hile’s virtual love affair.

Hile had been ensnared in a “catfishing” scheme—in which a person uses social media to pretend to be someone they’re not, typically to engage in misleading online romances. During the course of an Internet-only relationship that lasted two years, Hile exchanged explicit photos and romantic communications with someone he believed to be a woman. When he learned that “she” was actually a man living in South Africa, Hile became enraged and vowed to find the man who deceived him—and the woman whose images played a role in the deception.

“The woman in this case was a victim twice,” said Special Agent Steve Kim in our San Diego Division. Kim, a member of the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team—a multi-agency task force that apprehends and prosecutes criminals who use technology to prey on victims—explained that when the woman was 18 years old, she took revealing pictures of herself for personal use, never intending for them to be seen publicly. Those photos were later stolen from her online account, which she was aware of. “But she had no idea what was being done with them,” Kim said.

Hile’s primary target for revenge was the man who duped him, but South Africa was too far away. So using what Kim described as “circular logic,” Hile went after the woman. “He knew she didn’t have anything to do with the romance scam,” Kim said, “but he believed she bore some responsibility. In his mind, the mere fact that those photos were used indicated that she was somehow responsible for what had happened to him.”

An avid Internet user and computer gamer, Hile was determined to learn the woman’s identity. He conducted an extensive online search and used hacking tools. “Eventually, he was able to hack into her e-mail account,” Kim said, and compiled detailed personal information about the woman and her live-in boyfriend as well as their extended family and friends.

Armed with her address, Hile purchased a bus ticket from Michigan to San Diego to exact his revenge. Fortunately, Hile’s family sensed that he was planning something and alerted authorities, which eventually led to Hile’s detention in San Diego—about a mile from the woman’s residence.

At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of the woman’s address, telephone numbers, and information such as her favorite restaurant. He also had duct tape, zip ties, and a to-do list that included obtaining a knife and chloroform.

“Had he gotten there,” Kim said, “we are convinced he would have hurt or killed the victims.” Hile was found guilty by a San Diego jury in August 2013.

Kim believes this case should serve as a cautionary tale for others. When it comes to social media sites, he said, “You really have to know the people you are communicating with. If you don’t absolutely know who’s on the other end, you shouldn’t be sending personal information or photographs. The Internet is an amazing thing,” he added, “but it’s also a very scary thing.”

- Press release

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HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – The owner of a Mechanicsville restaurant has been charged with unlawful filming, videotaping or photographing of another after installing a camera in the men’s bathroom at Calabash Seafood Restaurant. Dennis W. Smith, 54, was indicted by a grand jury earlier this week. He is not being held in jail while he awaits trial, according to Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Chris Whitley. Calabash Seafood is located along Lee Davis Rd. in Mechanicville. Earlier this month Smith told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he installed the camera to catch people who vandalized urinals and toilets. “There’s no video being taken illegally. None,” Smith told the RTD. “This is my business,” Smith said. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat here.”

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