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American Scene: Officer, bystander killed in shootout at body shop

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TEXAS

HOUSTON — A Houston traffic stop ended with a gunman shooting and killing a police officer and a bystander on Christmas Eve in the parking lot of a body shop, police said.

The incident that began shortly before 9 a.m. Monday quickly evolved from a routine traffic stop into a violent confrontation when the suspect sped off in his black car rather than pull over as the police officer had requested, Houston police spokesman John Cannon said.

The suspect eventually pulled into a nearby Maaco body shop, and that is when the officer with the Bellaire Police Department approached the vehicle, Mr. Cannon added. Apparently, he said, an argument of sorts erupted, and the suspect pulled out a .380 caliber handgun and shot the officer. A man then walked out of the body shop, and the suspect fatally shot him, Mr. Cannon said.

Police have not released the identities of the officer, the bystander or the suspect. The suspect remains in a Houston hospital where he is in critical but stable condition and is expected to survive.

COLORADO

Volunteers at NORADtrack Santa across globe

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Volunteers at an Air Force base in Colorado monitoring maps showing Santa Claus' progress were several hours into their goodwill mission and already had answered more than 24,000 phone calls from children wanting to know everything from old St. Nick's age, to how reindeer fly, to when they can expect their presents.

Phones rang nonstop Monday at Peterson Air Force Base, headquarters of the North American Aerospace Command's annual Santa-tracking operation. Dozens of helpers at NORAD were taking calls and tracking Santa's location on large projection screens. They're posting updates for nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans and 104,000 Twitter followers.

At midafternoon Monday, U.S. time, the maps showed Santa in Pakistan and heading west. He had delivered more than 2 billion presents at that point, according to the "NORAD Tracks Santa" website. Volunteers started taking calls at 4 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on Monday and was to keep updating until 3 a.m. on Christmas morning.

NORAD Tracks Santa began in 1955 when a newspaper ad listed the wrong phone number for children to call Santa. Callers ended up getting the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor, and a tradition was born.

INDIANA

Suspects held without bond in home-explosion plot

INDIANAPOLIS — Residents whose Indianapolis homes were battered by a gas explosion and relatives of a couple who were killed packed a court hearing Monday for the three suspects charged with rigging the blast.

The crowd watched in grim silence as a Marion County judge entered not-guilty pleas for Monserrate Shirley, her boyfriend Mark Leonard, and his brother, Bob Leonard. They are charged with murder, arson and other counts in the Nov. 10 blast.

The three were ordered held without bond. Prosecutors say Miss Shirley and the Leonard brothers deliberately blew up her home so they could collect the insurance payout.

The fiery blast destroyed five homes, including Miss Shirley's, and damaged dozens of others in the Richmond Hill subdivision in the far south side of the city. The explosion killed Miss Shirley's next-door neighbors, John Dion Longworth, a 34-year-old electronics expert, and his 36-year-old wife, second-grade teacher Jennifer Longworth. Miss Shirley and Mark Leonard told investigators they were at a southern Indiana casino at the time of the blast.

CALIFORNIA

Identical twin principals take charge at school

OAKLAND — Students at a Northern California middle school are looking at double the trouble if they misbehave.

Two 36-year-old educators who are identical twins are sharing the job of principal at Oakland's Claremont Middle School this year. And parents and staff say the novel arrangement involving Ronald and Reginald Richardson has been good for the public school and its 410 students, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"There's a huge difference in the school culture," said Paul Kagiwada, father of a seventh-grader at Claremont, told the newspaper. "It's cleaner, nicer, quieter. There's an expectation of respect at all levels."

The Richardson brothers have followed the same academic and career paths all their lives. They were principals at neighboring elementary schools in Richmond before they were hired to work in Oakland last summer.

Before that, they both attended San Francisco State University on track-and-field scholarships, earned teaching credentials, and then master's degrees in education from the University of California at Berkeley. Their grandmother also was a principal in Oakland, and their mother taught school in the city.

"We both have this passion for leading," Reginald Richardson said. "Teaching was a natural fit for us. Fortunately, me and my brother had identical goals."

OREGON

Rescue teams reach 3 lost winter campers

PORTLAND — Oregon authorities say rescue teams are getting ready to bring out three people who got lost on a winter camping trip near Mount Hood.

A spokesman for the Hood River County Sheriff's Office east of Portland said that rescuers out Monday morning made contact with the three, who appeared to be in good health.

Detective Matt English says the three set out Saturday on snowshoes and called 911 on Sunday to report they were lost. The sheriff's office says they reported having food and sleeping bags.

The sheriff's office says one member of the party was reported to have what it called "extensive training and outdoor experience."

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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