- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007


2 killed, 3 wounded in bank robbery

BESSEMER — At least one gunman killed two bank tellers and wounded two others during a robbery yesterday morning, and deputies wounded a suspect who was walking out with a hostage, authorities said.

FBI spokesman Paul Daymond said a second suspect was being sought.

Mr. Daymond said the four bank employees were shot about 9 a.m., when the Wachovia Bank branch opened. Wachovia spokeswoman Evelyn Mitchell said eight employees were inside, but she was unsure whether any customers were present.

The FBI spokesman said a deputy was driving by the bank when he saw a man coming out with a hostage. Deputies said the man was holding a gun to the head of a woman when he tripped, was shot and was captured.

The suspect, whose name was not immediately released, was taken to a hospital.

There was no immediate word on the condition of the two other bank employees who were wounded, or on what transpired inside before the gunfire. There was also no word on whether any money was taken.


FBI says passenger no threat to train

DENVER — An Amtrak passenger who was detained in Colorado after other passengers became suspicious was released yesterday after the FBI determined he was not a threat.

The man, whose name was not released, was taken off the eastbound California Zephyr about 20 miles west of Denver late Sunday after other passengers said they heard him talking about a bomb and a knife, authorities said.

“I think what happened was not a miscommunication, but I think that it’s one of those things that just escalated,” FBI agent Rene VonderHaar said. “With that said, we take all these things very seriously.”

About 220 passengers were evacuated from the train and taken by bus to Union Station in Denver, the train’s next scheduled stop. They reboarded the train there and continued eastward about 3 hours after the original stop, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Authorities said a bomb-sniffing dog signaled an alert when it checked the man’s luggage, but they said nothing suspicious was found.


Study: Nutrients cut eye-disease risk

CHICAGO — Taking vitamin D and eating fish — especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids — may reduce the risk of the most common cause of blindness among the elderly, researchers said yesterday.

Doctors do not know how to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness after age 60, but two studies in the Archives of Ophthalmology suggest nutrient-based treatments may help.

AMD occurs when the macula, an area at the back of the retina, breaks down over time. The central vision of the eye becomes blurred.

Researchers evaluated 4,519 persons aged 60 to 80 between 1992 and 1998 who took part in a trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute. When their diets were evaluated, the researchers found that people who ate more fish were least likely to have the disease.

A second team of researchers analyzed data from 7,752 persons taking part in a large national study between 1988 and 1994. The researchers found that vitamin D was associated with reduced risk of early AMD, but not advanced AMD.


Nagin seeks help on health care

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor C. Ray Nagin is asking the governor to immediately provide staffed psychiatric beds and additional funding to address a growing health crisis in a city still struggling to cope with the consequences of Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Nagin, in a letter to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco yesterday, said a shortage of hospital beds for emergency room and mental health patients is causing some patients in need of psychiatric care to be housed in jails and is forcing paramedics and police to stay with patients until beds are freed — in some cases, for hours.

His request did not include a total dollar figure, but he said the metropolitan region urgently needs more beds, including 100 beds for long-term mental health needs, and recommends that the state set up an “adequate” facility in the city, with trained personnel, and pay for medics, stretchers and overtime for police officers to aid in the transfer of patients. He said a state budget surplus could help cover the cost.

A Blanco spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.


Police seek names of MySpace offenders

RALEIGH — Top law-enforcement officers from seven states issued a letter to MySpace.com yesterday, asking the social networking site to turn over the names of registered sex offenders who use the service.

The letter asks MySpace to provide information on how many registered sex offenders are using the site, and where they live. Attorneys general from North Carolina, Connecticut, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania signed the letter.

Law-enforcement agencies have identified more than 200 cases nationwide of children “lured out of their home by predators they met on MySpace,” North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said yesterday.

In their letter, the attorneys general also asked that MySpace describe the steps it has taken to warn users about sex offenders and remove their profiles.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the site a “virtual playground” for predators.


Big Boy statue found on school roof

GAHANNA — Students arriving at Gahanna Lincoln High School yesterday morning were greeted by a 7-foot statue of a rosy-cheeked lad that was pilfered from a Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant.

The 200-pound fiberglass figure of the chubby boy in red and white suspenders was reporting missing Saturday morning from its concrete base, only to turn up on the roof of the school in the Columbus suburb, police said.

Officers think it may have been a prank by seniors, Gahanna police Lt. Jeffrey Spence said. No arrests had been made.

A school maintenance crew removed the statue with a forklift and returned it to the restaurant, Lt. Spence said. The statue, valued at $7,000, was not damaged.


2 enter pleas in fatal pier collapse

PHILADELPHIA — The operator of a pier that collapsed in 2000, killing three nightclub patrons and injuring 43 others, pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of involuntary manslaughter. The pier’s owner pleaded no contest to the same counts.

The pleas by operator Eli Karetny and owner Michael Asbell came as jury selection was to begin in their second trial.

A jury last fall heard their case but couldn’t reach a verdict. During that eight-week trial, prosecutors maintained that Asbell and Karetny knew the pier was likely to collapse but still allowed the nightclub atop it to open on May 18, 2000.

Karetny, 66, of Cherry Hill, N.J., also pleaded guilty to 43 counts of reckless endangerment. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of conspiracy and risking catastrophe.

Asbell, 64, of Merion, also pleaded no contest to 43 counts of reckless endangerment, one count of conspiracy and one count of risking catastrophe.

Both men face possible prison time when they are sentenced June 22; the maximum sentence for each involuntary manslaughter count is 2 to five years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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