- - Monday, March 14, 2011

COLORADO

Policy change allows police to have goatees

DURANGO | Full beards are still banned, but police in the mountain town of Durango are now allowed to have goatees, though the department won’t say why the change was made.

The Durango Herald reported that several officers, including the chief, have been sporting the fuzzier look since the new policy took effect Dec. 17.

The Colorado State Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department and some other agencies bar its officers from having either beards or goatees.

The newspaper obtained the details of the new policy through an open-records request. Police Chief David Felice didn’t respond to requests for comment.

FLORIDA

Space shuttle worker falls to his death

CAPE CANAVERAL | A space shuttle worker fell to his death Monday at the launch pad, the first fatality there in decades, NASA officials said.

Medics rushed to the pad, but were unable to revive him. He was identified as James Vanover, an engineer for United Space Alliance, a NASA contractor. Neither the company nor NASA released any details, including where he was working on the pad when the accident occurred Monday morning.

The chief executive officer of United Space Alliance, Virginia Barnes, said the company is providing full support to the accident investigation.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said work on space shuttle Endeavour was suspended for the day. The focus, for now, is on offering grief counseling to the work force, he said.

Endeavour is due to blast off April 19 on its final flight. The shuttle arrived at the pad last week.

Officials at the Kennedy Space Center think it is the first launch-pad fatality since 1981, just before the very first shuttle flight.

HAWAII

2 internment sites ID’d as part of research

WAILUKU | The National Park Service has identified two sites in Maui as former Japanese internment camps.

Park officials say the Kalana O Maui building in Wailuku and the Horizons Academy of Maui in Haiku lie on areas that held Japanese-Americans during World War II. The two sites are among 13 statewide to be part of a resource study.

A Park Service spokeswoman said in Maui that there is little left from the camps. But officials are holding a series of meetings across Maui County to seek the community’s input on how to preserve their history.

Congress recently instructed the National Park Service to carry out the study. Internment camp sites have been found on all six Hawaiian islands.

NEW YORK

Bus-crash driver has manslaughter conviction

NEW YORK | The driver at the wheel of a gambler’s tour bus that crashed and killed 15 people over the weekend has a criminal history that includes manslaughter and theft convictions.

The New York State Department of Correctional Services said Ophadell Williams was convicted of manslaughter for his role in a 1990 stabbing and served just over two years. He initially had been charged with second-degree murder in the case.

He also served about three years for grand larceny for removing an $83,905 check from a Police Athletic League fund in October 1997. Williams used aliases in both those cases.

He was also arrested for driving without a license and having three police scanners in 2003.

Williams has not been charged in the bus crash. Investigators are looking at his role.

On Monday, a 70-year-old man became the 15th fatality from the crash, while federal traffic safety experts and state police studied a black-box-type recorder and looked into the drivers’ actions before the deadly trip.

The New York City medical examiner’s office said Sunday that the other fatalities were caused by blunt force trauma. The bus scraped along a guard rail, toppled and slid into a sign pole that sheared it end to end in a horrific scene of blood, jumbled bodies and shattered glass. Some of the dead were tangled up with the living.

The bus, returning from the Mohegan Sun casino, was one of scores that travel daily between Chinatown and the casinos in southeastern Connecticut.

RHODE ISLAND

Mayor recommends closing 4 schools

PROVIDENCE | The mayor of Providence is proposing closing four schools and eliminating up to 70 teachers to bolster the finances of the city’s cash-strapped school system.

Mayor Angel Taveras and Providence Schools Superintendent Thomas Brady announced the recommendations Monday. The Providence School Board must approve the closures.

According to Mr. Brady, the schools picked for closure are in poor condition and are near other schools that can absorb new students.

The recommendations would save $12 million. Some 1,925 students would be affected.

Mr. Taveras said the city will offer stipends to teachers eligible for retirement to reduce the number of layoffs.

Last month, the city notified all of its nearly 2,000 teachers that their jobs could be eliminated. The city faces a budget shortfall of $180 million for this year and next.

UTAH

Man arrested after skulls found in shed

CLEARFIELD | A man is accused of desecration of a human body after police found what appear to be two human skulls in a shrine in a backyard shed along with several hundred pounds of animal bones, flesh and blood.

Roberto Cassillas-Corrales of Clearfield remained jailed Monday after his arrest a day earlier in the community about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Police told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden that they discovered the skulls during a drug investigation.

The skulls reportedly were removed from grave sites in Cuba and sold to Mr. Cassillas-Corrales, 53. He told authorities they were for religious purposes.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents also are investigating because Mr. Cassillas-Corrales isn’t a U.S. citizen.

VIRGINIA

Somali pirates sentenced in attack

NORFOLK | Five Somali men convicted of piracy for attacking a U.S. Navy ship off Africa’s coast were sentenced to life in prison Monday, although several of them said through an interpreter they wanted to appeal.

The men also were sentenced to serve an additional 80 years in prison on other charges related to the attack on the USS Nicholas.

Defense lawyers had argued the men were innocent fishermen who had been abducted by pirates and forced to fire their weapons at the ship.

But federal prosecutors argued during trial that the five had confessed to attacking the ship April 1 after mistaking it for a merchant ship. The Nicholas, based in Norfolk, was part of an international flotilla fighting piracy in the seas off Somalia.

The government said three of the men were in a skiff that opened fire on the Nicholas with assault rifles, then fled when sailors returned fire with machine guns. The other two men were found on a mother ship with weapons.

WASHINGTON

Companies pitch in on earthquake response

SEATTLE | Google, Twitter and other technology companies are finding ways to help after last week’s earthquake in Japan.

Google Inc. has an online “person finder” for people seeking information about a missing person.

Microsoft Corp. is offering free technical support and temporary software licenses to companies affected by the earthquake. It also has pledged $250,000 in cash.

Twitter is trying to help organize the flood of information flowing through its system. It is suggesting people use certain tags for general earthquake information, requests for rescue and other related topics.

Amazon.com Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have links on their home pages encouraging people to donate to the relief efforts.

From wire dispatches and staff reports