- - Monday, October 22, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — A 20-year-old black woman said she was set on fire by three men who wrote the initials KKK and a racial slur on her car in northeastern Louisiana, police said Monday.

Officers found Sharmeka Moffitt with burns on more than half of her body when they responded to her 911 call Sunday night, said Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Lt. Julie Lewis.

The FBI is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime, but no arrests had been made as of late Monday, Lt. Lewis said.  She said Ms. Moffitt was in critical condition at a hospital and that some of her injuries were third-degree burns.

Ms. Moffitt told police the men doused her in a flammable liquid and set her on fire at a park in Winnsboro, a town in Franklin Parish. Lt. Lewis said she extinguished the fire using water from a spigot before a police officer arrived.

Officers found the letters KKK — an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan — and a racial slur smeared in a pastelike substance on the hood of her car, Lt. Lewis said.

MICHIGAN

Roadway shootings prompt precautions

WIXOM — Five schools kept children off playgrounds, and nervous commuters changed their routes Monday, as authorities searched for a suspect in more than 20 random, unsolved shootings in southeastern Michigan.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard urged the public to be vigilant, saying alert eyes probably were more critical than changing a daily routine.

No one has been hurt, and no shootings have occurred since Thursday. But a task force with officers from nine departments raised the number to 22 shootings after getting fresh reports in the region, more than 30 miles northwest of Detroit.

The shootings have occurred in four counties. Most involve cars near Interstate 96, though authorities said one occurred while a man was taking out his trash. In another incident, a woman said the rear window of her car was shattered. Ten of the 22 shootings were in Wixom.

CALIFORNIA

Legal action mulled over schools’ yoga classes

ENCINITAS — A group of parents is upset about free yoga classes at schools in this San Diego County beachside community, fearing they are indoctrinating youngsters in Eastern religion.

“There’s a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices,” the parents’ attorney, Dean Broyles, told the North County Times.

In an Oct. 12 email to district Superintendent Tim Baird, Mr. Broyles called the yoga program unconstitutional and said he may take unspecified legal action unless the classes stop.

The lessons are funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga.

NEW YORK

Complaint: Wedding site banned same-sex couple

ALBANY — Two upstate New York women turned away from a potential wedding site because they are gay have filed a discrimination complaint, sparking a possible precedent-setting battle involving the state’s same-sex marriage law.

The complaint with the state division of human rights appears to be a first involving a wedding venue since same-sex marriage became legal in New York in July 2011, according to advocates on both sides of the issue. One prominent gay-marriage opponent said the case could test the breadth of the law’s religious-freedom language.

Jennie McCarthy and Melisa Erwin of Albany filed the complaint Oct. 11 after Liberty Ridge Farm said it would not host their wedding next summer. Ms. McCarthy said that when the owners, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, found out they were a same-sex couple, the women were told there was a problem. The Giffords object to gay marriage based on their values and religious background, a spokesman said Monday.

FLORIDA

First defendant sentenced in fatal band hazing case

ORLANDO — The first of a dozen defendants to be sentenced in last year’s hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major avoided jail when he received his punishment Monday, but he will spend more than two years under close supervision.

Brian Jones was given six months of community control, which strictly limits his freedom with measures including an ankle monitor and frequent check-ins with probation officials. Following that, the 23-year-old from Parrish, Fla., will serve an additional two years of probation. He’s also required to perform 200 hours of community service.

Judge Marc Lubet said Jones’ role in the hazing death of Robert Champion was relatively minimal and that Jones did not beat or hit Champion. Champion died in November after being beaten by fellow band members during a hazing ritual aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after a football game.

From wire dispatches and staff reports