- - Monday, January 14, 2013

NEW YORK — Prominent evangelical leaders announced a new effort Monday to persuade conservative Christians and lawmakers they should support overhauling U.S. immigration laws.

Called “I Was A Stranger,” the campaign asks churches to spend 40 days studying Scripture related to immigration, centered on the Matthew 25 exhortation to clothe and feed the stranger. Organizers hope to create a groundswell of support for changes that balance national security with keeping immigrant families together.

The coalition includes the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 denominations; the public policy arm of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention; Esperanza, the Latino evangelical economic development group; pastor Bill Hybels of the influential Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and writer Max Lucado. Sojourners, the liberal-leaning evangelical advocacy group, is also participating.

“In the Anglo churches, there are so many more Hispanic people that we know and love,” said the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland church, which serves about 15,000 congregants in the Orlando, Fla., area. “There’s a readiness, even in the Anglo churches, to address this.”

Many evangelical leaders have actively supported reform in recent years as the number of immigrants has increased in their churches. However, rank-and-file congregants have been slower to take up the issue beyond demands for stronger national borders. In surveys, white evangelicals have generally ranked border security as their top priority, while showing low levels of support for creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

CONNECTICUT

US Airways plane lands after report of onboard fire

WINDSOR LOCKS — A US Airways flight with 49 passengers aboard landed safely at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut after a fire was reported on the plane. No one was injured.

Airport spokesman John Wallace said Flight 3518 to Pittsburgh took off from the airport in Windsor Locks at about 11:30 a.m. Monday. He said it was forced to return about 15 to 20 minutes later because of a fire reported in the plane’s auxiliary power unit. The plane landed at Bradley without incident shortly after noon.

It wasn’t clear if there actually was a fire. Airport officials said there was no fire when the plane landed.

US Airways officials didn’t immediately return messages.

ALABAMA

University asks court to toss shooting lawsuit

MOBILE — The University of South Alabama and its police chief want a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the parents of a nude student who was shot to death by a campus police officer.

Both the school and university Police Chief Zeke Aull argued in court documents that they are immune from being sued under state law in the October death of freshman Gil Collar, 18, of Wetumpka.

His parents filed the suit over the killing last month. They are seeking an unspecified amount of money and a court order requiring the school to arm its officers with stun guns.

Aside from arguing he can’t be held liable for Collar’s death, Chief Aull also asked a judge to refuse the demand to arm all school officers with the weapons, which are used to shock suspects into submission.

Chief Aull argued such an order is both outside the power of a court and would affect state budgets since the weapons can cost more than $1,000 apiece and the arming cartridges cost hundreds of dollars each.

Besides, Capt. Aull said, stun guns aren’t a guarantee against fatal police confrontations.

“It has been well-reported that suspects have been seriously injured and/or died from the proper use of (stun guns), so they are not without dangers,” his attorney wrote in a motion.

A judge has scheduled a hearing on the dismissal requests for Feb. 8 in Mobile.

MASSACHUSETTS

3 adults, 1 minor arrested during baby shower brawl

STOUGHTON — Three men arrested in a violent brawl at a baby shower in which bottles and punches were thrown and furniture was smashed have pleaded not guilty.

Patrick Cardoso Lopes and Paulo Pires Depina, both 24, as well as 22-year-old Aderito Lopes Deandrade, were released on $1,000 bail at their arraignment Monday.

The Brockton men face charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer.

The men had no comment outside court.

A 14-year-old boy was also arrested, but his name was not released.

Police responded to an incident at a hall in Stoughton late Saturday and found as many as 200 people involved in the fight they say was sparked by uninvited guests. Police Sgt. Daniel McGowan called the scene a “nightmare.”

MICHIGAN

Former mob captain says Hoffa buried near Detroit

DETROIT — A man convicted of crimes as a reputed Mafia captain has come forward with claims that missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was buried in suburban Detroit.

Tony Zerilli was in prison when Hoffa disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant in 1975, but tells Detroit television station WDIV that he was informed about Hoffa’s whereabouts after his release. The ailing 85-year-old took a WDIV reporter to a field in Rochester, north of Detroit. The station did not disclose the exact location Monday.

“The master plan was … they were going to put him in a shallow grave here,” Zerilli told the station. “Then, they were going to take him from here to Rogers City upstate. There was a hunting lodge and they were going to bury in a shallow grave, then take him up there for final burial. Then, I understand, that it just fell through.”

The FBI, which has led the search for Hoffa for decades, declined to comment Monday when asked if the claims were credible. Andrew Arena, former head of the FBI in Detroit, said the account deserves serious consideration.

“Anthony Zerilli was reputed to be the underboss of the Detroit organized crime family, so he would have been in the know,” Mr. Arena said.

WDIV reported that Zerilli has spoken with the FBI, but it was not clear during his interview why he chose to go public with his claims now. No listed phone number for him could be found Monday by The Associated Press.

Hoffa, Teamsters president from 1957-71, was an acquaintance of mobsters and adversary to federal officials. The day he disappeared, he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain.

ARIZONA

Hog-nosed skunk found far from native home

FLAGSTAFF — Desert bighorn sheep, river otters and mountain lions, yes. But a hog-nosed skunk at the Grand Canyon? Hardly.

The striped creatures are usually found in southeastern Arizona, Texas and Mexico. But one of them somehow made its way north of the Colorado River last year.

A group of rafters camping along the river in August was headed for bed when they noticed a black-and-white animal in the bushes near one of their tents. Jen Hiebert grabbed her camera, zoomed in and took some pictures.

When the rafters didn’t see the skunk listed as one of the animals found at the Grand Canyon, Ms. Hiebert sent photos and a note to the National Park Service.

“It was just walking through the canyon, totally ignored us and was just digging away in the sand,” said Ms. Hiebert, of Moscow, Idaho. “I’m not sure what it was after.”

Grand Canyon biologists later confirmed the group’s suspicion that it was a hog-nosed skunk.

At first, officials weren’t sure whether the skunk was merely visiting the area, or if they should to add it to the list of about 90 mammals that live in the national park. They decided that by listing it — even as extremely rare — people might be on the lookout for more of the skunks, and that could help biologists determine how prevalent they are in the park.

“Obviously it’s in the park and there’s a photograph of it,” Grand Canyon wildlife program manager Greg Holm said. “I guess the question would be, is it going to live out its life here or was it traveling from point A to point B?”

The hog-nosed skunk is just as smelly as the western spotted skunk and the striped skunk, which are also found in the park. But it’s distinguished in appearance by its entirely white back and tail, largely naked snout and long claws.

WASHINGTON

City sets Guinness record for largest snowball fight

SEATTLE — Seattle residents won a place in the Guinness World Records for the largest snowball fight.

About 5,800 people turned out Saturday at the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle to toss snowballs at one another.

More than 30 truckloads of snow were brought in from Cascades for the event, which included a snow fort building competition and pub crawl. Snow Day was a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County.

A spokeswoman for the Guinness World Records office in New York said the event was witnessed by a Guinness adjudicator who verified a count of 5,834 and presented a record certificate.

Seattle beat the previous record of about 5,400 at a 2010 snowball fight in South Korea.

From wire dispatches and staff reports