- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Officer remembered as courageous

Police officers gathered at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Northwest yesterday to say a final goodbye to Sgt. Gerard W. Burke Jr., who was killed in a car crash Thursday night.

In his eulogy, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey called Sgt. Burke a courageous man and a role model. Other officers remembered the 16-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department as hardworking and dedicated.

Police said Sgt. Burke, 39, died after suffering from a ruptured blood vessel while driving on 11th Street Northwest. He had just called in to check on a possible stolen vehicle, even though he was off-duty. Authorities said he lost control of his sport utility vehicle and crashed into a parked car and a moving vehicle.

At yesterday’s service, his final 911 call was played for all to hear.

Sgt. Burke was named sergeant of the year in the 3rd Police District in 2005. He lived in the police service area where he was assigned.

His body was being flown last night to New York, where he will be buried.

Peak blossom time guaranteed tomorrow

Chilly weather at night last week forced a change in the forecast for the peak blooms of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.

Tomorrow is when the blossoms will be most beautiful, National Park Service Chief Horticulturist Rob DeFeo said yesterday. The blossoms had been forecast to hit their peak Monday or yesterday.

“These cool nights we’ve had have put the brakes on them a little bit,” Mr. DeFeo told WTTG-TV (Channel 5). “It takes a couple days of warm to get them going, and we haven’t had that yet, but we will this week.”

The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 9 and already is drawing crowds.

Even though his forecast had to change, Mr. DeFeo said he would “guarantee” a peak bloom tomorrow.



Armed home invaders tie up, rob couple

Montgomery County police are searching for the men responsible for a home invasion Monday night.

Police said armed robbers forced their way into the home in the 3700 block of Underwood Street, tied up a couple and held their two young children captive. The robbers barged into the house at about 9:45 p.m. and were inside for 20 to 40 minutes. They left with several items, including ATM cards that were used at a bank in the District.

One of the suspects attempted to sexually assault the wife, police said.

The 40-year-old husband eventually broke out of the house through a window and drew a police response when he broke a neighbor’s window seeking help.

The victim, whose hands still were bound, explained that his wife and children — a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old — still were being held inside the house. Seconds later, the wife came out, her hands still bound. Officers immediately entered the house, located the children and removed them safely. The invaders already had fled.

There were no major injuries.

Yesterday, police released bank surveillance photos of one of the robbers.

Authorities described the man as about 35 years old with short hair. He was wearing a salmon-colored shirt, jeans and black work boots.

Police said one of the robbers had knocked on the front door of the residence and asked for someone by name. The husband said there was no one there by that name. Within seconds, others armed with guns forced their way into the home through an unlocked back door.


$1 million program to help homeless

In an effort to give more homeless people access to permanent housing and health care, the Montgomery County Council yesterday announced a $1 million initiative to help them.

Half of the money will provide rental assistance for 50 families and individuals who are homeless, doubling the number of households served by the Partnership for Permanent Housing.

Another $500,000 will go toward increasing access to medical care, including doubling the number of visits to shelters by the Mobile Medical van.

As of January, more than 1,100 people were homeless in Montgomery County, a 9 percent increase over that same period a year ago.


Schools won’t weigh students

Waistlines won’t be joining reading and writing on student report cards anytime soon.

Lawmakers in the state Senate and House of Delegates have rejected a proposal requiring schools to weigh and measure children periodically in an effort to reduce childhood obesity. Education officials and school officials opposed the plan.

Instead, lawmakers appear likely to study the issue for another year before deciding what to do. The House voted this week to set up a study committee, and the Senate yesterday morning gave tentative approval to do the same.



Appeals court elects new chief judge

The Virginia Court of Appeals has elected Walter S. Felton Jr. as its chief judge, the court announced yesterday.

Judge Felton will succeed Judge Johanna L. Fitzpatrick, who will retire Friday. The chief judge works with the court clerk to coordinate administrative functions and participates in several judicial-system policy committees.

Judge Felton, a Suffolk, Va., native, was elected to the intermediate appellate court by the General Assembly in 2002. Before that, he served as policy director and chief lawyer for Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

He was appointed deputy state attorney general in 1994, and the next year became senior counsel to the attorney general — a position he held until January 1998. He also has worked in private practice and taught at the College of William & Mary Law School.

Judge Felton received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Richmond and served four years as a captain in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.


DEA agent admits to sex with informant

A former Drug Enforcement Administration agent pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to lying to investigators about a sexual encounter with an informant.

William Carter Harden, 46, of Richmond, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing was set for July 14.

Prosecutors said Harden demanded oral sex from the informant in a Richmond-area motel room July 22. The informant testified that she complied because she was afraid of Harden, who maintains that the sex was consensual.

Three months later, the woman recorded a telephone conversation with Harden about the sexual activity. Harden initially denied having sex with the woman and tried to orchestrate a cover-up at the motel, prosecutors said, but eventually admitted to the encounter to investigators.


Police to sweep Metro during rush

Metro Transit Police will be stepping up their visibility today with a special detail sweeping a station during the morning rush.

Officials will not announce which station will be targeted until 7:30 a.m.

The detail will include a dog team and as many as 20 officers, who will spread out along the station platform and inspect all trains. The officers normally work at Metro headquarters, so the sweep will not affect regular patrol assignments.

Metro officials do not expect delays because of the action.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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