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American Scene

- - Thursday, January 5, 2012

FLORIDA

Man arrested in abortion clinic fire

PENSACOLA | Authorities arrested an Alabama man Thursday on federal charges of setting a New Year's fire that gutted a Florida Panhandle abortion clinic long targeted by violence and protests.

Bobby Joe Rogers, 41, of Tuscaloosa was charged with violating federal explosives laws and was being held at the Escambia County Jail pending indictment, the state fire marshal's office said. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The office said tips from the Pensacola community led to Mr. Rogers' arrest.

The two-story clinic that was gutted by flames early Sunday has been attacked before. It was bombed on Christmas Day in 1984, and in 1994, a doctor and a volunteer who escorted patients to and from the clinic were fatally shot as they arrived. The gunman, Paul Hill, was executed in 2003.

No one was hurt in Sunday's fire, which was reported around 1 a.m.

UTAH

Officer killed, 6 others wounded in shootout

OGDEN | A shootout erupted when police raided a Utah house on Wednesday evening, killing an officer and seriously wounding five others and the suspect, authorities said.

"It's a very, very sad day for Ogden," an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said Thursday.

The officers from a task force went to the small, red-brick northern Utah house as part of a routine drug-related investigation. They knocked on the door and identified themselves, he said.

"When there was no answer, they forced entry onto the door," he said. "When they entered, the officers came under fire."

The suspect, Matthew David Stewart, 37, has a limited criminal history. He suffered injuries that are not life-threatening, though it's unclear if he was shot.

Mr. Stewart is in a hospital under guard.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said it wasn't yet clear what charges Mr. Stewart might face once the shooting investigation concludes.

The officer killed, Jared Francom, was with the Ogden police. He is survived by a wife and two children.

MISSISSIPPI

Mayor to be asked to resign over spending

JACKSON | Leaders of an affluent northern suburb are calling for the mayor to resign after state auditors said he misspent thousands of taxpayer dollars, including a purchase at a gay sex shop in Canada.

Southaven Mayor Greg Davis has come under increasing scrutiny since November when Mississippi's auditor told him to pay back about $170,000 for allegedly improper billings. The FBI is investigating.

The auditor's office has said one $67 bill was at Priape, a gay lifestyle and sex shop. Mr. Davis is a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 on a family-values platform.

After the spending was revealed, he acknowledged he was gay and getting a divorce.

Alderman Ronnie Hale says the board plans to ask Mr. Davis to resign Friday, but it can't force him out.

CONNECTICUT

More lawsuits filed over sex abuse of Haitian boys

NEW HAVEN | Seventeen Haitian men are suing Fairfield University in Connecticut, the Society of Jesus and others alleging they failed to protect them from a man who sexually abused them when they were poor children or young adults attending a school he founded in Haiti.

The lawsuits bring to 21 the number of purported victims suing Douglas Perlitz and the others. Perlitz was sentenced in 2010 to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing children at Project Pierre Toussaint.

The victims ranged from ages 9 to 21 at the time of the abuse and are now 18 to 29.

The lawsuits seek $20 million for each victim. They contend Perlitz's supervisors disregarded warning signs of inappropriate behavior with boys.

TEXAS

At least 50 vehicles collide in foggy pileup

PORT ARTHUR | A pileup involving dozens of vehicles left more than 50 people hurt, four critically, as fog and smoke washed over a Southeast Texas highway early Thursday, officials said.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Deputy Rod Carroll said at least 50 vehicles crashed, but that nobody died in the chain-reaction collisions around 5:45 a.m. on Highway 73, five miles west of Port Arthur.

Many of the 54 victims were treated for injuries including broken bones, abrasions and trauma, and one man suffered a heart attack, Deputy Carroll said.

Early-morning fog, combined with smoke from recent marsh fires, contributed to the crashes, the deputy said.

Authorities closed a stretch of the highway about 80 miles east of Houston after the pileup, but reopened it by late morning, he said.

NEW YORK

Arson-attacks suspect arraigned in hospital

NEW YORK | A man accused of fashioning makeshift Molotov cocktails from Frappuccino bottles and hurling them at several locations said he wanted to inflict damage on an Islamic center because Muslims had been trying to take over his life for 40 years, according to court papers released Thursday.

Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, from Guyana, was arraigned Thursday on charges of arson as a hate crime and several other counts of arson in the five firebomb attacks on New Year's Day. He appeared groggy and dazed during the hearing via videoconference from his bedside at Bellevue Hospital Center. He answered "yes" and "OK."

No one was injured in the attacks and only one target, a private home, was seriously damaged.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Mr. Lengend filled the bottles with gasoline and set out in a stolen Buick.

He lobbed one bottle over the counter at a convenience store, threw two at the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, and one at a house used as a Hindu temple, prosecutors said. One cracked through a window at a private home and did serious damage, and he also threw one that didn't ignite at the home of his brother-in-law, they said.

OHIO

Charges to be dropped in dead-lion theft case

COLUMBUS | A prosecutor says charges will be dropped against four Ohio men accused of trying to steal the carcass of a lion from an exotic-animal compound as long as they each complete 40 hours of community service.

The lion was among dozens of animals killed by police outside Zanesville last fall after their owner released them and committed suicide.

Muskingum County assistant prosecutor Maria Kalis said Thursday the case involved youthful high jinks and poor decision-making by men ranging in age from 19 to 21. She says authorities don't want the men's futures to be affected by bad decisions on one night.

The men were charged with theft.