- - Tuesday, July 24, 2012

WILSON — An early morning blast leveled a two-story house in a rural part of western New York on Tuesday, killing a 14-year-old girl and injuring her parents and two siblings, authorities said.

The occupants told investigators that they detected an odor of propane a day earlier, but it was unclear what action was taken, if any, Niagara County Undersheriff Michael Filicetti said. The cause of the explosion was being investigated.

The force of the 6 a.m. explosion in the town of Wilson, about 30 miles north of Buffalo, reduced the large home to a pile of waist-high rubble that caught fire. It blew in a basement window and knocked pictures from the wall of the nearest neighboring home, about 100 yards away.

The sheriff’s office said homeowners Jody and Judith Johnson, their 16-year-old son, Nathan, and 18-year-old daughter, Katie, were apparently thrown forward toward the road and survived. Sarah Johnson’s body was found about four hours later in the charred debris at the rear of the home.

The parents and Nathan were hospitalized in stable condition. Katie Johnson was in critical condition with severe burns, authorities said.


City Council puts a lock on burgeoning pot shops

LOS ANGELES — Unable to rein in the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have cropped up across the nation’s second-largest city, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to ban pot shops outright until it has clearer guidance from the state’s highest court.

The 13-1 vote drew an angry, profanity-laced response from some medical marijuana advocates who attended the council meeting.

If approved by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the storefront ban would go into effect after 30 days. The mayor’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment on the council vote.

In the interim, letters will be sent to as many as 900 dispensaries advising them of the ban.

The city has fumbled with its medical marijuana laws for years, trying to provide safe and affordable access to the drug for legitimate patients while addressing worries by neighborhood groups that streets were being overrun by dispensaries and pot users.


Holder announces reforms for New Orleans police

NEW ORLEANS — A court-supervised agreement Tuesday to overhaul the New Orleans Police Department will require the troubled agency to implement the most sweeping police reforms ever negotiated by the Justice Department.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu in announcing the signing of a federal consent decree designed to clean up a police force that has been plagued by decades of corruption and mismanagement. The department came under renewed scrutiny after a string of police shootings in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The 124-page agreement spells out a series of strict requirements for overhauling the police department’s policies and procedures for use of force, training, interrogations, searches and arrests, recruitment and supervision.

Mr. Holder said the agreement is the most wide-ranging in the Justice Department’s history and resolves its allegations that New Orleans police officers have engaged in a pattern of discriminatory and unconstitutional activity.

“There can be no question that today’s action represents a critical step forward,” he said. “It reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to fair and vigorous law enforcement at every level.”

Mr. Landrieu estimates that the city will pay roughly $11 million annually for the next four or five years to implement the reforms. He expressed confidence that the agreement will produce “the new NOPD.”

“There is no problem here that cannot be solved,” he said. “We can and we must change, and we now have a clear road map forward.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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