- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Ballou High evacuated after small fire

Ballou High School was evacuated for about 90 minutes yesterday because of a fire.

Firefighters were called to the school on Fourth Street Southeast at about 12:30 p.m. for a fire in the school auditorium. No one was hurt, fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.

A curtain in the auditorium apparently caught fire, Mr. Etter said, and investigators called the fire suspicious. There have been several fires intentionally set in trash cans at the school in the past few years.

Three tiger cubs born at zoo

A Sumatran tiger at the National Zoo gave birth to three cubs last week, the zoo announced yesterday.

Soyono, the 13-year-old mother, had been off exhibit for several weeks and started giving birth late last Wednesday afternoon.

It will be a few weeks, however, before zoo veterinarians will be able to examine the cubs. Tiger cubs are born blind and weigh only about 2 pounds.

The newborns will not be on public exhibit for several months.

Last week’s litter was Soyono’s third at the zoo, where she was born. The father, Rokan, was born at the San Antonio Zoo and remains on exhibit here.

Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are thought to exist in the wild. Another 210 live in zoos around the world.



Speeding car slams into store

A speeding car skidded off the road and slammed into Hecht’s department store early yesterday.

Mitchell Coleman of Riverdale was speeding westbound on Military Road when he lost control of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo about 1 a.m., Montgomery County police said. The car went over the median and hit the building, punching a hole in an outside wall of the Hecht’s on Wisconsin Avenue.

The car landed on its roof and burst into flames, but police said Mr. Coleman got out and tried to get away on a bus. D.C. police officers who saw the crash held him until Montgomery County police could get there.

Charges are pending against him.

Building inspectors said damage to the store is extensive. It remained closed all day yesterday , and it was not known when the store will open again.


Jury deliberates in dog-handler trial

Jury deliberations began yesterday in the court-martial of an Army dog handler charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The panel of four officers and three enlisted soldiers must decide whether Sgt. Santos A. Cardona was a sadistic bad apple, as prosecutors say, or a good soldier who tried to meet the urgent but muddled demands of inept senior officers.

“This man did absolutely nothing wrong,” defense attorney Harvey J. Volzer said in his closing argument.

“You know how things get screwed up?” Mr. Volzer said. “You put pressure on people that are unqualified to do their jobs, and you wonder how things go wrong.”

But Maj. Christopher Graveline, the lead prosecutor in the Abu Ghraib scandal, discounted the defense theory that Sgt. Cardona and other military police soldiers felt obliged to take orders from military intelligence workers outside their chain of command.

“This is not about confusion, and it’s not about military intelligence. They were doing their own thing for their own entertainment,” Mr. Graveline said.

Sgt. Cardona, 32, of Fullerton, Calif., is accused of making his dog bite one prisoner and harass another to amuse himself and other soldiers already convicted of abuses at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004.

The military police officer, who was based at Fort Bragg, N.C., is charged with aggravated assault, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees and lying to investigators. He faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted on all nine counts.



Fire victims identified at retirement home

Officials yesterday identified the victims of a fire at a retirement home complex that killed two women and injured 11 other residents early Monday.

Rosa Petersen, 80, and Dorothy E. Jefferson, 78, were killed in the blaze, Richmond Fire Marshal Keith Vida said. Jack C. Garvin, 81, was critically injured.

Mr. Vida said the cause of the blaze still is under investigation, but said it began in an apartment on the fifth floor of the nine-story building and quickly spread to the apartment above. The exact cause may not be known for at least a week.

The fire was the third fatal blaze in that building in 28 years. One woman died in 2001 and two in 1978. The building has alarm systems but no sprinklers, which are not required because of a grandfather clause.

Officials and residents said at least one loud boom preceded the fire. At least one oxygen tank “catastrophically failed” and exploded in the blaze, Mr. Vida said.


Police investigateformer sheriff

State police are looking into whether Portsmouth’s former sheriff misappropriated office supplies and used inmates to work on a family member’s home.

It is the second investigation this year into what happened late in Gary Waters’ 24-year tenure.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that the sheriff’s office cannot explain or account for thousands of dollars worth of property and resources, such as labor. Mr. Waters, who now lives in Florida, repeatedly has refused to answer questions.

The newspaper said public records and interviews show a pattern of questionable spending under Mr. Waters, who supervised 170 employees and managed a budget of about $11 million. Some records that might show if he and his workers handled department resources properly are missing.

A state inquiry into Mr. Waters’ campaign spending also is under way.


Plane crashes during takeoff

A single-engine plane crashed while taking off from Leesburg Executive Airport yesterday with two passengers on board.

The airport said one passenger had minor injuries from the crash about 2:30 p.m. The aircraft remained on the runway during the investigation. There was minor damage to a runway light but no damage to the runway itself.


Tip from DEA leadsto arrest of two

A tip from the Drug Enforce-ment Administration led to the arrests of two county residents, county authorities said.

Sheriff Howard Smith said his agency learned Friday that a package coming into the county contained drugs. A drug dog found 25 pounds of marijuana in a package at United Parcel Service.

Jose Rodriguez and Sandra Webster face numerous drug charges. Authorities think Mr. Rodriguez has had more than 200 pounds of marijuana worth $160,000 shipped to him in the past four months.


Plane makes emergency landing

Three persons were taken to a hospital with minor injuries last night after a United Airlines plane they were traveling in made an emergency landing at Washington Dulles Interna-tional Airport, the airline said.

United Express 7512 from Houston had to make the emergency landing about 8:30 p.m. with its nose gear still up, United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said.

The flight was carrying four crew members and 56 passen-gers, who were evacuated from the aircraft on the runway.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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