- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006


Storms fell trees, knock out power

Last night’s thunderstorms weren’t in the area long, but they caused considerable damage.

Thousands of people were without power, and some were displaced because of damage caused by falling trees.

In a two-hour stretch, Prince George’s County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said the department received more than 200 calls for service — many coming from the Hyattsville and Chillum areas.

Mr. Brady said at least two dozen homes were damaged by falling trees.

One man in the Hyattsville area suffered a minor back injury when he jumped from his deck to avoid a tree that was falling in his direction.

The evening storms also knocked out power to tens of thousands of residents.

Potomac Electric Power Co. reported more than 40,000 outages in the District and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.


Six hurt in crash involving tour bus

Six persons were injured in a three-vehicle crash involving a tour bus yesterday afternoon.

The tour bus rear-ended a minivan, which in turn rear-ended a car at Florida and New York avenues Northeast, fire officials said.

Five persons in the minivan, including two children, and one person from the bus were taken to hospitals with not life-threatening injuries.



Group seeks probe of governor’s lawyer

Common Cause has asked the State Ethics Commission to look into the activities of David Hamilton, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s personal attorney, to see whether he is violating state lobbying laws.

“It appears that Mr. Hamilton has not registered with the State Ethics Commission as a lobbyist, in spite of engaging in lobbying activities in his representation of clients before government officials,” Bobbie Walton, executive director of the government watchdog group, said in a letter to the commission.

He has said in the past that he represents his clients as a lawyer, but that his activities do not constitute lobbying, which he said is done on the behalf of his clients by William Pitcher, a registered lobbyist.

Mr. Hamilton has helped raise money for Mr. Ehrlich’s re-election campaign, which would be prohibited by state law if he is a registered lobbyist.


Homeless man held in break-in at church

Harford County authorities arrested a 23-year-old homeless man early yesterday and charged him with breaking into the rectory at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Harford County Sheriff’s deputies investigating the break-in found Robert Gregory Funkhouser not far from the church. They said he was carrying two plastic bags containing currencies and other items that belong to the Rev. Joseph Simmons.

Deputies said Mr. Funkhouser broke a sliding-glass door to get into the rectory. Father Simmons was not home, and no injuries were reported.

Mr. Funkhouser is charged with burglary and theft. He is being at the Harford County Detention Center on $20,000 bail.


Two fatally shot in parking lot

Two men were fatally shot during a fight in a shopping center parking lot yesterday afternoon, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said.

It happened just before 1 p.m. at the Bryans Road Shopping Center in the 3000 block of Marshall Hall Road.

Authorities said Mark Welcher, 25, of Fort Washington, got into an argument with Shaun Johnson, 33, of Indian Head.

The sheriff’s office said that when Delvin King, 33, came to Mr. Johnson’s aid, Mr. Welcher fatally shot both men. He then sped away in a sport utility vehicle with Donise Wiggins, 21.

Police chased them into the District, where they crashed in Southeast and were arrested. They were charged with possession of a weapon without a license and being a fugitive from justice.

Detectives have a warrant charging Mr. Welcher with two counts each of first-degree murder and assault and other charges.


Father loses leg during carjacking

Police have charged an 18-year-old soldier with a carjacking that left an Edgewood man with a partially amputated leg after he tried to prevent the theft.

Thomas Head, 30, went into a convenience store at a gas station Monday evening, leaving his 5-year-old son in his sport utility vehicle with the motor running, police said.

While in the store, Mr. Head saw a man get behind the wheel and start to drive off. Mr. Head ran out and grabbed the side of the vehicle, causing the thief to lose control and strike a utility pole.

Mr. Head’s leg was nearly amputated in the accident when it was trapped between the utility pole and the vehicle, Harford County Sheriff’s department spokesman Bob Thomas said. Mr. Head was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where he was listed in critical condition yesterday.

Police arrested Pvt. Brandon Lee Taylor at the scene and charged him with carjacking, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, reckless endangerment, and first and second-degree assault.

Pvt. Taylor of Canby, Ore., assigned to the Army’s 143rd Ordnance Battalion, police said.

Mr. Head’s son was not harmed, but Mr. Head could be charged for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, Mr. Thomas said.


VDOT installing hurricane gates

A contractor for the Virginia Department of Transportation is installing hurricane gates at Interstate 64 entrance ramps this summer, a project to hasten an evacuation of Hampton Roads when a hurricane is coming.

During an evacuation, the eastbound lanes of I-64 will be reversed and become westbound lanes so thousands of residents can leave more easily.

The $2.5 million project includes 71 gates eastbound I-64 from the Interstate 295 interchange outside of Richmond to the 4th View exit in Norfolk.

VDOT spokeswoman Sarah Sager said the gates will provide barriers so motorists won’t accidentally get into the eastbound lanes while traffic is moving westbound.

She said the project is in response to lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita when traffic was backed up for miles during the attempted evacuations of residents before the hurricanes slammed into the Gulf Coast.


Fund raising begin son marriage decision

Supporters and opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex “marriage” in Virginia are raising money for what is expected to be an aggressive and expensive advertising and direct-mail campaign.

The Richmond-based Commonwealth Coalition, which opposes the amendment, has set a fundraising goal of $3 million.

On the other side is Family Foundation Action, which expects to raise up to $900,000.

Voters will decide in November whether the state Constitution should be amended to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and ban civil unions, which already are illegal in Virginia.

Amendment supporters said they don’t need to raise millions of dollars because they think door-to-door activism and church networks will be effective.

But in 2004, supporters of homosexual “marriage” bans in 13 states raised more money than opponents, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics. The amendments have passed in each of the 20 states where they have been on the ballot.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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