- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009



Gas leak closes shopping center

Prince George’s County fire officials said a gas leak forced the evacuation of a Forestville shopping center that was the scene of a May gas explosion that injured nine firefighters.

Fire officials said the leak was reported about 1 p.m. Sunday at the Penn-Mar Shopping Center in the 3100 block of Donnell Drive. Firefighters evacuated the dozens of commercial establishments at the shopping center and shut off electricity and natural gas.

No injuries were reported.

The May explosion destroyed several stores at the shopping center.


Fire kills 7 horses at equestrian center

Authorities said a fire at a Maryland equestrian center early Sunday killed seven horses that were being boarded there.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries. He was treated at a hospital and released.

Joseph Zurolo, a spokesman for the state fire marshal’s office, said one family owned five of the horses being boarded at Royal Equestrian Center in Chesapeake City in Cecil County.

Damage was estimated to be about $1 million. One of the horses was valued at $40,000.

It took 75 firefighters to put out the three-alarm blaze, which was under control in about 45 minutes. The fire broke out about 3 a.m.

Officials were investigating the cause of the fire. Mr. Zurolo said it was too early to tell what may have caused the blaze.


Enforcement doubted on texting ban

Maryland’s new text-message ban has some wondering how it will be enforced because the law prohibits writing or sending, but not reading, text messages while driving.

Assistant State Attorney General Kathryn Rowe said police officers will have a lot of discretion.

She also said decisions will be based on what officers witness, just like with many other laws.

The law, which takes effect Thursday, calls for $500 fines if drivers are caught writing or sending text messages while operating motor vehicles.


Injured man charged with assaulting police

A Baltimore County man who police said was shot by an officer after ramming an unmarked police car is facing assault charges.

Anne Arundel County police said they pulled over 25-year-old Demekeo Reese Williams because of suspended plates shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. Police said Mr. Williams drove off as an officer approached the car.

Police said they later went to the Baltimore County neighborhood where the car was registered and spotted Mr. Williams on foot. They said Mr. Williams got into a second car, rammed the Anne Arundel officers’ unmarked car with it, and hit an officer who was on foot. The officer fired multiple rounds, but Mr. Williams escaped, police said.

Mr. Williams turned up at St. Agnes Hospital, where he was treated for gunshot wounds.

Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. Michael Hill said Mr. Williams was taken to the county jail.


Death of man, 74, ruled a homicide

The death of a man whose body was found Friday night in his Perry Hall home has been ruled a homicide, but police were not saying how he died.

Relatives of 74-year-old David Weeks went to check on him after they had not heard from him in a while and found his body. Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. Michael Hill said an autopsy Saturday revealed it was a homicide.

Authorities were not releasing the cause of death or any other details because of the ongoing investigation.


Casting for stolen DuPont statues found

Officials at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory say they have found the original casting of a statue of the famed Spanish ram once owned by E.I. DuPont at the Hagley Museum and Library.

They are talking with library officials to see if the casting can be used to make replacements for a pair of rams that guarded the gates of the former Dupont estate for half a century until they were stolen. The statues were taken Sept. 10. One was found lying damaged in the road nearby and the fate of the other remained a mystery until a tip led investigators to a teenager police say admitted stealing the pair with a friend and destroying the second.


Adventure trips motivate students

The operator of a Western Maryland sports center says Garrett County schools are successfully using his center’s river rafting trips to motivate students.

Adventure Sports Center International Executive Director Matt Taylor told Garrett County Commissioners that the number of sixth-grade students missing rafting trips because of absence or poor performance has dropped to 14 percent. The first year that float trips were offered to sixth graders, the number was closer to 40 percent. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Mr. Taylor also said more than 100,000 people have visited the center in about three years, bringing in $2.4 million in revenues and paying for 60 seasonal workers.


O’Malley seeks plan for mental patients

Gov. Martin O’Malley said Maryland will continue to admit patients to the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center until a plan is in place to care for people after the center is shut down.

The Kent County facility, which employs 90 people and treats about 200 patients a year, is scheduled to be shuttered early next year because of budget cuts.

Mr. O’Malley toured the facility Saturday and met with employees and local officials.

The governor said he did all he could to prevent shutting down the facility during previous rounds of budget cuts, but the recession is leaving him with harder and harder choices.

John Colmers, who heads the state health department, says he’ll bring a plan to the Oct. 7 Board of Public Works meeting outlining where patients will be treated.



Metro riders trapped after station closes

A group of Metrorail riders had to wait for police to rescue them after a station manager locked up and left for the night before the last train arrived.

Just after 1 a.m. Friday, about eight passengers found themselves trapped inside the Van Dorn Street station. Some of the passengers were able to slip through a 10-inch gap in the gate, witnesses said, but four passengers had to wait about a half-hour for Metro transit police to come free them.

The last scheduled train was at 12:32 a.m. Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said Metro is conducting an investigation into why another train arrived later.

Mr. Taubenkibel said he can’t remember another such instance in which passengers were locked inside a station.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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