- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NEW YORK — Authorities say a car theft ring “stalked” New York City residents who drove Lexus SUVs and other mint-condition luxury vehicles so it could steal the cars and fill orders from clients in northwest Africa.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday that members of the ring “used the streets of New York as their own personal auto showroom.” Police have made 14 arrests.

Authorities say a Maryland-based international broker provided the ring with requests for specific makes, models and colors of cars. A locksmith and an employee at an Orlando, Fla., dealership provided special codes that allowed the thieves to steal the vehicles. The vehicles were shipped out of ports in New Jersey and Maryland.

Most went to Africa. Some ended up on the black market in the Chicago area.

TEXAS

Black leaders angry over ex-cop’s acquittal

HOUSTON — A jury’s acquittal Wednesday of a former Houston police officer in the alleged beating of a 15-year-old burglary suspect during a videotaped arrest upset black community leaders who criticized the verdict as unjust and racist.

Andrew Blomberg, 29, was the first of four fired police officers to stand trial for their roles in the alleged beating of Chad Holley during a daylight arrest on March 2010. The incident involving the black teen, now 18, prompted fierce public criticism of the police department by community activists who called it another example of police brutality against minorities.

Mr. Blomberg fought back tears after the verdict was read, then hugged his attorneys and started to cry as he embraced his parents. He could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted of official oppression, a misdemeanor that alleged Blomberg as a public servant intentionally mistreated Holley by kicking him.

Jurors declined to comment after the verdict. Community activists who were gathered in the hallway outside the courtroom yelled “Racism!” and “Injustice!” after hearing the outcome.

“It is pathetic. It is unacceptable,” the Rev. James Dixon of the Community of Faith Church said of the jury’s decision. “This kind of expression says to me, to my children and to every black child in the city, ‘Your life is not worth manure.’ “

CALIFORNIA

Tuberculosis patient jailed, charged with not medicating

SAN FRANCISCO — Authorities in California took the unusual step of jailing and charging a tuberculosis patient who they say refused to take medication to keep his disease from becoming contagious.

Health officials said Armando Rodriguez, 34, of Stockton has active pulmonary tuberculosis, which can include coughing up blood or phlegm and can spread through the air.

Mr. Rodriguez has been noncompliant with his treatment and could become contagious as a result, Ginger Wick, nursing director for San Joaquin County, said in a letter requesting an arrest warrant. After failing one time to give himself the drugs, Mr. Rodriguez told a nurse he had gone on an alcohol binge and taken methamphetamine and didn’t want to hurt his liver, Ms. Wick said in her letter.

Mr. Rodriguez was arrested Tuesday and is expected to be arraigned Thursday on two misdemeanor counts of refusing to comply with a tuberculosis order to be at home at certain times and make appointments to take his medication.

ARIZONA

Fire officials tell town’s residents to evacuate

CROWN KING — Officials working to keep a wildfire near a historic Arizona mining town from spreading were telling any residents still in their homes Wednesday to leave.

High winds pushed the blaze away from the mountain town of Crown King, a community of mostly summer homes about 85 miles north of Phoenix. But fire incident spokeswoman Michelle Fidler said winds could shift and push the fire back into the community where it started.

“Our official word is it’s time to go,” she said Wednesday.

Road access also was a concern. Fewer than 10 residents remained in their homes, Yavapai County sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said, and they could be trapped if the flames cross or block access roads.

Firefighters also would be pulled out if that happened, Ms. Fidler said.

Most of the 350 residents initially chose to stay in the town that’s popular for all-terrain vehicles because of its numerous hills and gorges. But Mr. D’Evelyn said sheriff’s officials convinced 20 of the 30 residents still left early Wednesday morning to go.

“The smoke is so bad today, I think the concern is a little more enhanced,” he said.

Winds estimated at 35 mph Tuesday helped the fire grow, fire officials said, and they were expecting much of the same conditions for the next couple of days.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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