- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007



Virginia Tech revamps emergency plans

Two months after the Virginia Tech shootings, the school is rolling out plans for an expanded emergency notification system that will allow students, faculty and staff to be alerted to emergencies by text messages, e-mails and online instant messages.

Starting July 2, members of the Tech community can sign up for the expanded “VT Alerts” system, which will be ready to go by the time fall classes begin Aug. 20.

Virginia Tech began looking into expanding its emergency alert system well before student gunman Seung-hui Cho killed 32 persons and then himself April 16, university spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Plans to revamp the system actually began last fall, after an escaped prisoner accused of killing a hospital security guard fled to the Tech area and caused the campus to shut down. The school was in the process of selecting a vendor for the new alert system when the April shootings occurred.

“We were already rolling down this path before April 16 came along,” Mr. Hincker said. “This is exactly what we have had planned.”

With the new technology, being provided by 3n (National Notification Network), a California-based provider of mass-notification systems, students and staffers can receive alerts by cell phone text message, online instant messages, phone calls and e-mails.

Students and staffers eventually will be able to add phone numbers, e-mail addresses and instant message screen names for their friends and family to the system.

During the April 16 shootings, the university relied mainly on e-mails, the campus siren and a message on Tech”s Web site to alert students to the danger, Mr. Hincker said. At the height of the crisis, the Web site was receiving 150,000 hits an hour, he said.

Since then, the school has been conducting a sweeping review of campus safety. Dorms now will be locked 24 hours a day, accessible only by swipe cards. School officials are debating whether to add locks to classroom doors.

Drag-racer had prior drunken-driving charge

The drag-racer whose car crashed into a crowd of spectators and killed six persons during a parade in Selmer, Tenn., pleaded guilty seven years ago to driving drunk in Loudoun County, Va.

Toxicology tests done on driver Troy Critchley after the accident were negative for drugs and alcohol.

His ex-wife, who lives in Waterford, Va., said Mr. Critchley is hiding at an undisclosed location.

Paige Critchley described him as devastated, and not holding up very well. She said she has spoken to him since the accident Saturday, but would not say whether he is still in Tennessee.

Mr. Critchley lost control of his drag-racing car while performing a “burnout exhibition” at a charity event.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the crash, and no criminal charges have been filed.



Groups seek to block new sex-ed curriculum

Members of three citizens organizations are hoping the Maryland State Board of Education will block introduction of new sex education lessons in Montgomery County.

The groups have petitioned the board in an effort to force reversal of a county school board plan to offer the lessons to students in the eighth and tenth grades beginning in September.

Some of the topics expected to be covered include instructions on condom use and lessons about sexual orientation.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Family Leader Network and the Virginia-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays have an appeal pending before the Maryland school board on the legality of the curriculum. They filed a petition Wednesday suggesting the county board’s decision to go ahead with introduction of the material is improper because they are subject to a legal appeal.

Maryland officials have promised a ruling on the appeal this summer.


Police force short of uniform pants

The Baltimore Police Department has run out of two popular sizes of the custom-made navy blue uniform pants it provides to every officer.

Officers who wear size 36 or 38 will have to wait for new pants until an emergency order comes through.

The department attributed the shortage to the recent hiring of 240 new officers. But city police union President Paul Blair blamed a new initiative that requires plainclothes detectives to walk periodic foot patrols in uniform.

Cadets receive four pairs of pants when they leave the police academy. When officers need a new pair, they get them free but are required to turn in their old ones.


Man walking his dog attacked by pit bulls

A Frostburg man is getting a series of rabies shots after being attacked by two pit bulls.

The shots are a precaution because authorities have not found the dogs or their owners, and it is unknown whether the dogs have been vaccinated.

John Ferree, 62, was attacked Sunday evening while he was walking his Jack Russell terrier on the Frostburg University campus. He said the dogs were with a young couple but not on leashes.

After the attack, the couple told Mr. Ferree that their dogs had been vaccinated, but they and the dogs then left.


Boy, 9, points gun at another child

A 9-year-old boy faces weapon and assault charges after being accused of pointing a handgun at another child’s head.

Hurlock police said it happened during a fight June 13 at a home on Maryland Avenue. Police found the boy a short time later.

He is charged with first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and a deadly weapon charge.


Sheriff sweeps county for suspects

Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department deputies were busy into the early morning hours yesterday as teams of deputies fanned out across the county about 10 p.m. Wednesday in a search for 149 suspects wanted on outstanding warrants.

Cpl. Mario Ellis said deputies hit more than 100 addresses across the county. They arrested 44 persons and cleared 52 warrants.

Cpl. Ellis said the major focus of the sweep was a roundup of domestic-violence suspects. At least two of those picked up face first-degree assault charges.


Medium security prison reports more fights

There has been another report of fights inside a prison near Hagerstown.

The state prison agency said there were minor fights Wednesday in two locations inside the Maryland Correctional Training Center. There was no word of injuries and the prison was locked down.

The prison is a medium-security facility.

Last week, officials locked down the nearby Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown after fights last Thursday night.


Man fatally shot driving in car

Police said a man was fatally shot while driving early yesterday in North Baltimore.

It happened about 12:20 a.m. in the 3100 block of Ellerslie Avenue. Police said someone in a dark sedan shot into the man’s car, hitting him in the head. He died about 90 minutes later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The dead man’s name has not been released.


Police fatally shoot man who had gun

A police officer fatally shot a man Wednesday afternoon after he pointed a gun at two plainclothes officers, police said.

Devine Moore, 23, was shot in the chest near Linwood Avenue and Hoffman Street in East Baltimore. He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Officer Luis Ruiz was one of two plainclothes officers in an unmarked car who had been following Mr. Moore and two other men after noticing one of them was holding a gun. When the men spotted the officers, they tried to hide something and two took off running. When one pointed a gun at Officer Ruiz, he shot him.

A second man was detained. The third man is still being sought.

Police recovered a gun in the storm drain.

Officer Ruiz has been placed on routine administrative leave. He has been a city officer for nearly six years.


Firefighters find body in burning car

State police said a body was found in the trunk of a burning car near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on Wednesday night.

Firefighters who responded to the ramp from southbound Route 295 to West Nursery Road about 6:30 p.m. to put out a car fire found the body.

Police spokesman 1st Sgt. Russell Newell said the death is being investigated as a homicide. He said detectives have a few leads.

Investigators have not identified the victim. Police said the cause of death has not been determined.


Two teens charged in barber’s killing

Police arrested two teenagers in the shooting death last week of a barber in his Southeast shop.

Richard Durham, 18, of Brandywine, and Demario Porter, 16, of Southeast, are both charged with murder. The Porter youth was arrested in jail,

William Little, 75, was found just before 11 a.m. last Friday at his shop on Howard Road in Anacostia. Mr. Little was the only person working at the time and police think he was killed in a robbery.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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