- - Monday, January 2, 2012


Suspect arrested in L.A. area arson spree

LOS ANGELES — Authorities arrested a man Monday in connection with dozens of suspected arson attacks that destroyed parked cars, scorched buildings and rattled much of the nation’s second-largest city over the New Year’s weekend.

The suspect resembled a “person of interest” captured on surveillance video. The man, thought to be 20 to 30 years old, had a receding hairline and a shoulder-length ponytail and was seen emerging from an underground parking garage on Hollywood Boulevard, where a car fire was reported.

He was stopped by police early Monday in a van being sought by arson investigators.

Police declined to identify the suspect or reveal any motive for the fires, but he was to be booked later on arson charges arising from more than 50 blazes that have flared since Friday in Hollywood, neighboring West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

Firefighters have not responded to any other suspicious fires since the man was detained, Capt. Jaime Moore said.

The blazes caused an estimated $2 million in damage and forced many apartment dwellers from their homes. But there were no serious injuries, although one firefighter was hurt in a fall from a ladder, and another person suffered smoke inhalation.

One of Saturday’s fires occurred at the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, a popular tourist destination bordered by the Walk of Fame in a neighborhood that includes Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.


Trustees will create anti-hazing committee

TALLAHASSEE — Florida A&M University’s board of trustees on Monday approved plans to create an independent committee to study hazing and a memorial to a marching band member who police say died after being punched and paddled during a hazing ritual.

The five-member committee will study hazing at other universities, methods that have helped students resist hazing and how to best govern FAMU’s famed Marching 100 band.

The death of drum major Robert Champion in November and the alleged severe beating of another band member have brought renewed scrutiny to a hazing culture in the band.

The committee will not investigate Champion’s death or other hazing being investigated by law enforcement.

Trustees and university officials are being asked to make recommendations for a list of potential committee members. The committee’s makeup and a timeline for its work will be decided in the next 30 days.

The board also approved a scholarship bearing Champion’s name.


Fire in historic clock tower contained, still burning

PERU — Firefighters contained the blaze that destroyed part of a massive former clock factory in northern Illinois, but officials say it may be a week before it is extinguished.

Police Chief Doug Bernabei said the fire that broke out at about midnight on New Year’s Eve at the Westclox Co. complex in Peru was still smoldering with occasional eruptions of flames. Chief Bernabei says the city’s fire department and departments from 15 other communities started battling the fire with aerial trucks Monday.

He said there was no danger of the fire spreading from the middle building to other buildings in the complex.

The last of area residents evacuated from their homes were allowed to return Monday morning.

Two teenagers were arrested and charged with aggravated arson. Chief Bernabei said there are no other suspects.


Children rescued from icy river return home

SALT LAKE CITY — Three children trapped in an upturned car after it skidded into a river were released Monday from a hospital, two days after they were saved by several passers-by.

The children had been treated for hypothermia, said Primary Children’s Medical Center spokeswoman Bonnie Midget. The family wasn’t answering phone calls.

At least nine people helped right the car in the river.

“It’s an amazing story, so good,” Laurel Anderson Gilbert, the driver’s sister, told the Associated Press on Monday. “We’re so grateful. It was a miracle.”

The children’s father, Roger Andersen, lost control of the car Saturday on a slippery, narrow stretch of road in Logan Canyon. His sister said he was refusing interview requests.


Bodies of two brothers recovered from canal

MARICOPA — Authorities say they recovered the bodies of two young brothers from the water of an irrigation canal 30 miles south of Phoenix.

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Elias Johnson says a 6-year-old special needs child apparently fell into the canal in Maricopa on Sunday afternoon and his two brothers, both age 10, slid down the steep embankment to save him.

Mr. Johnson says the boys didn’t know how to swim. He says one 10-year-old was able to make it out of the canal and run home to get help, but the other 10-year-old drowned.

Divers found the boys’ bodies Sunday evening near where they had slipped into the water. Police originally thought they had washed several hundred yards downstream to a grate.

The names of the boys have not been released.


Expert: Wastewater well triggered quakes

CLEVELAND — A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, a seismologist investigating the quakes said Monday.

Research is continuing on the now-shuttered injection well at Youngstown and seismic activity, but it might take a year for the wastewater-related rumblings in the earth to dissipate, said John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including the so-called “fracking” process to extract gas from underground shale that has been a source of concern among environmental groups and some property owners. Injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Ashtabula in far northeast Ohio, and in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, Mr. Armbruster said.

Thousands of gallons of brine were injected daily into the Youngstown well that opened in 2010 until its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, agreed Friday to stop injecting the waste into the earth as a precaution while authorities assessed any potential links to the quakes.

After the latest and largest quake Saturday at magnitude 4.0, state officials announced their beliefs that injecting wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity. They said four inactive wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well would remain closed. But they also stressed that injection wells are different from drilling wells that employ fracking.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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