- - Monday, June 20, 2011

FLORIDA

Governor’s chief of staff moved in a shake-up

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Monday reassigned his chief of staff to the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, signaling an internal shake-up of the freshman governor’s executive office.

Mike Prendergast, 56, was an unusual choice for the top job in the governor’s inner circle and his ouster after less than six months indicates the experiment did not work.

Mr. Prendergast spent three decades in the military but had no state government experience. The Tampa native’s brief foray into politics was a failed 2010 campaign for U.S. House.

Mr. Scott’s office did not name Mr. Prendergast’s replacement.

NEW YORK

Gunman at pharmacy wanted painkillers, police say

YAPHANK — Four people killed during a pharmacy store robbery in a New York City suburb, including a teenager scheduled to graduate high school this week, were shot at very close range by a person intent on stealing painkillers, a police official said Monday.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer also warned physicians and the owners of small drugstores in the area to be vigilant about anyone “expressing an urgent need for prescription painkillers.” He said added police patrols would be deployed near small pharmacies until the gunman is apprehended.

Commissioner Dormer called Sunday’s killing at the Long Island pharmacy “one of the most heinous, brutal crimes we have ever encountered.”

The shootings happened at about 10:20 a.m. inside Haven Drugs in Medford, a family-owned pharmacy in a small cluster of medical offices about 60 miles east of New York City. Police identified the two employees who were killed as pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45, of Centereach, and store clerk Jennifer Mejia, 17, of East Patchogue.

Customers Bryon Sheffield, 71, of Medford, and Jamie Taccetta, 33, of Farmingville, also were slain.

OHIO

Woman: God sent her message about bomb

CINCINNATI — The grounding of flights Sunday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was prompted by a woman who told an Ohio airport worker that there was a bomb aboard an airplane, a warning she later said she had received in a message from God, the director of Dayton’s airport said Monday.

No explosives were found aboard the jet that left from Dayton International, but the threat shut down Reagan for about 20 minutes, the FBI said.

The woman approached a US Airways ticket agent in Dayton about midday Sunday, said Terrence Slaybaugh, director of the airport.

“She communicated to the agent that there was a bomb on board and that people were in danger and they needed to turn the plane around — that people were going to be killed,” Mr. Slaybaugh told the Associated Press on Monday.

The 54-year-old woman from Shelbyville, Ky., was taken into custody, he said.

COLORADO

Quadriplegic man says he was forced off plane

FORT COLLINS — A quadriplegic Colorado man says he was humiliated after he was forced off a Frontier Airlines plane because a pilot said it wasn’t safe for him to fly.

John Morris and his family were trying to board a flight in Dallas on Sunday to return home to Fort Collins.

The 24-year-old Colorado State University student says he has flown Frontier in the past, using an airline seat-belt extension to secure his chest and legs to the seat. But this time the pilot refused to take off.

Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuk told KMGH-TV that the pilot was concerned for Mr. Morris’ safety and uncertain whether the seat-belt extension could be used to restrain his legs and torso.

Mr. Kowalchuk says federal rules are unclear on whether the extension can be used to restrain disabled passengers.

Frontier eventually arranged for Mr. Morris and his family to take the next flight, and the pilot on that plane had no issues with transporting him.

INDIANA

Convicted spy not allowed at funeral

MISHAWAKA — A former Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel was not permitted to attend his father’s funeral in Indiana on Monday, despite requests from Israeli officials that he be allowed out of prison to pay his respects.

The White House also had spurned Israeli appeals to let Jonathan Pollard visit his father, Morris Pollard, before he died Saturday at the age of 95.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said Pollard remained at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina on Monday. Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, said in an email that Pollard had sought permission from the bureau since June 14 to see his dying father and then asked to attend the funeral in Indiana.

Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers enough classified documents to fill a walk-in closet.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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