- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006



Three men killed within 24 hours

Three men were killed in apparently unrelated incidents in Prince George’s County in a 24-hour period that started before noon on Friday.

On Friday morning, Antoine Stephon Reeves, 21, was shot in a car in the 8600 block of 21st Place in the Temple Hills area.

About 2:30 Saturday morning, police found a man who had been shot at the 3700 block of Branch Avenue, near the Iverson Mall. His identity has not been released.

The third killing was reported to police about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Jose R. Del Cid Diaz was found stabbed on the 2000 block of University Boulevard, police said.


Funeral protest ban could be challenged

Maryland’s new law to restrict picketing at military funerals could face a challenge in federal court.

The law targets the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which uses funerals of fallen troops to protest homosexuality.

University of Baltimore law professor Byron Warnken says restrictions on the First Amendment right to free speech generally hold up only if that speech is meant to intimidate or incite violence.

“You can be as offensive as you want,” Mr. Warnken told WBAL-AM.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Westboro Baptist to pay more than $3,000 associated with a summons and complaint filed by the father of a Marine from Westminster whose funeral was picketed.

Maryland is one of a dozen states that have enacted laws in reaction to the protests.


Police wound man wielding knife, baby

A Chestertown man was shot in the arm by police early yesterday after he threatened officers who were responding to a report of a violent domestic disturbance, Maryland State Police said.

Clifton Blanchfield Jr., 25, was being treated at the Chester River Health Center, police said, and charges against him were pending.

Officers responded to an apartment complex after receiving a 911 call shortly after 1:30 a.m.

Mr. Blanchfield had forced his way into a woman’s apartment, despite a protection order requiring him to stay away, police said.

Inside were two women, two men and a 2-year-old.

Police said he picked up the toddler and grabbed a large knife. The two women fled the apartment and called 911. Mr. Blanchfield then knocked one of the two male guests onto a couch and held the knife to his throat, police said. The man was able to free himself, and the two men also fled.

When police arrived, they found Mr. Blanchfield holding the child and stabbing the furniture near him.

The officers ordered him to put down the knife, but he refused, police said. The officers then used a stun gun to try to subdue Mr. Blanchfield, but he ended up knocking the child to the floor and charging the officers.

Rock Hall City Police Officer Charles McCracklin fired his service weapon, hitting Mr. Blanchfield in the arm. Officer McCrackin has been placed on routine administrative leave pending an investigation by the Maryland State Police.

No one else required medical attention.



City tries to recoup misdirected funds

The city of Virginia Beach is trying to recover $600,000 mistakenly wired to a California company that once ran a portion of the local government’s health care plan.

A judge has ordered the money repaid, but Virginia Beach still may lose money because the man who received it says he has no assets other than his house.

Doyle, George and Co. of Orange County, Calif., ran the city’s flexible health benefits plan under a contract that expired Jan. 1, 2005. The city awarded the contract to a local firm but continued to wire Doyle $60,000 every two weeks for five months.

Accountants for the city discovered the error in late May 2005. City Finance Director Patricia Phillips said there was a miscommunication between the payroll office and the treasurer’s office.

The city recouped $104,000 before filing suit.


Doctor sentenced in delegate fraud case

A Petersburg doctor convicted of helping former Virginia Delegate Fenton Bland commit bank fraud was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison.

Clarence Scranage Jr., 51, was convicted in September of obstructing an FBI investigation and making a false statement.

Federal authorities said Scranage signed two competency letters that helped Bland take control of property owned by an elderly Petersburg resident.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Bland used the properties to obtain bank loans, primarily for the benefit of his funeral home.

Authorities filed charges after Scranage falsely denied having contact with Bland during the investigation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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