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American Scene: 1 dead, 3 hurt in gunfire near Texas courthouse

- - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BEAUMONT — A man opened fire Wednesday outside a Texas courthouse where he was on trial in a family dispute, killing an elderly woman and wounding three other people, including a daughter he ran over with a pickup truck as he tried to escape, authorities said.

Bartholomew Granger, 41, was being held at a jail without bond after being treated at a hospital following his arrest on a murder charge, police said.

Mr. Granger was outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont before the continuation of his trial, grabbed a gun from his truck and began shooting, authorities said.

The woman was fatally struck as she tried to run into the courthouse, while Mr. Granger's daughter and another bystander fell to the ground. Several law enforcement officers returned fire as the courthouse went into lockdown.

Mr. Granger allegedly was firing from his truck and then ran over his daughter as he drove away. He went about three blocks before abandoning his truck in the middle of the street then taking hostages in a nearby construction business, police said. Once inside, Mr. Granger spoke by phone to police and told them he was wounded. He eventually surrendered and was taken to the hospital.

WEST VIRGINIA

Former guard appeals conviction in 2010 mine explosion

BECKLEY — A former security chief found guilty of lying to investigators about the 2010 explosion that killed 29 West Virginia miners is appealing his conviction.

An attorney for Hughie Elbert Stover says he's taking the case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

A filing in U.S. District Court in Beckley says Judge Irene Berger wrongly denied a request for certain instructions to the jury, as well as Stover's request for a new trial. That motion also alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

Stover was convicted in October of ordering a subordinate to destroy security-related documents following the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in four decades.

He was sentenced to three years in prison Feb. 29. It's one of the stiffest punishments ever issued in a mine safety case.

NEW YORK

New frog species found in city

NEW YORK — Scientists have identified a new species of leopard frog in and around New York City. The frog was found hiding in plain sight on Staten Island.

The New York Times reports the find is surprising because the frog was discovered in one of the world's most populated urban areas.

Researchers say the new frog species was confused for a long time with a frog it closely resembles, the southern leopard frog.

So far, the new species has been positively identified on Staten Island. A Rutgers University doctoral candidate in ecology and evolution says it probably inhabited the city's other boroughs at one time.

MONTANA

Court rejects lawsuit, lets wolf hunt continue

BILLINGS — A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that want to block wolf hunts that have killed more than 500 of the predators across the Northern Rockies in recent months.

The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves last spring.

Lawmakers stepped in after court rulings kept wolves on the endangered list for years after they reached recovery goals. Wildlife advocates claimed in their lawsuit that Congress violated the separation of powers by interfering with the courts.

But in an opinion authored by Judge Mary Schroeder, the court said Congress was within its rights, and that lawmakers had appropriately amended the Endangered Species Act to deal with Northern Rockies wolves.

That amendment marked the first time Congress has forcibly removed a species' endangered status. It was tacked onto a federal budget bill by Idaho Republican Rep. Michael K. Simpson and Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

"This case has made it clear that those who persist in trying to manage wildlife through the courts, in spite of all scientific evidence that this species has recovered, no longer have a defensible position," Mr. Simpson said Wednesday.

UTAH

Air Force base facing fines for storing mercury

SALT LAKE CITY — Hill Air Force Base in Utah is facing millions of dollars in fines for cleaning 60 pounds of leaked mercury with vacuums and storing the hazardous waste in unsafe containers for years.

The Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste has given base officials a notice of violation for the 2007 mercury spill. The agency says the spill was handled by untrained workers and stored in plastic containers.

Division Director Scott Anderson says the maximum fine is $13,000 per day. That could mean a fine of more than $18 million.

Attorney Scot Boyd says the problem was first reported by a former employee who handled the mercury at the base about 35 miles north of Salt Lake City. The employee is concerned about the environmental dangers of the stored mercury.

MASSACHUSETTS

Lawsuit: U.S. pastor runs anti-gay effort in Uganda

SPRINGFIELD — A Massachusetts evangelist faces a federal lawsuit that alleges he has waged a decades-long campaign to persecute gays in Uganda.

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit Wednesday against Scott Lively of the Redemption Gate Mission Society in Springfield. A center attorney said it is bringing the case on behalf of the group Sexual Minorities Uganda under a statute that allows non-citizens to file actions in U.S. courts for violations of international law.

Mr. Lively told the Associated Press earlier that he hadn't read the complaint yet, but believed the legal action was "absurd" and "completely frivolous." Mr. Lively has said previously that he has advised the Ugandan parliament on issues involving gays.

Protesters planned to march from the Springfield federal courthouse to Mr. Lively's nearby business, the Holy Grounds Coffee House.

NEW JERSEY

Co-worker to pay 5 men millions in lottery suit

ELIZABETH — A lawyer for five construction workers says they have been awarded $4 million each by a New Jersey jury that concluded a co-worker cheated them out of their share of a lottery jackpot.

The jury in Superior Court in Elizabeth on Wednesday rejected the claims of Americo Lopes that he won the 2009 jackpot on a personal ticket rather than with a ticket he bought for a lottery pool.

Attorney Rubin Sinins represented the five men and says the $38.5 million jackpot was worth $24 million because the cash option was selected by the defendant.

Court spokeswoman Sandra Thaler-Gerber said earlier in the day that each plaintiff would get a pre-tax payment of $2 million. She did not return a message seeking information about the discrepancy.

From wire dispatches and staff reports