August 24, 2011 in Region

NW today: School board tussle brings police

Compiled from wire reports

What’s news in the Northwest today:

EVERETT, Wash. — A disagreement at an Everett School Board meeting got so heated, police were called to intervene. The Daily Herald reports a tussle erupted Tuesday night during a closed door session after a long and divisive public meeting. The dispute centered on the job performance review of Superintendent Gary Cohn. Things heated up when school board member Jessica Olson turned on a small videotape machine and other board members objected. Board President Ed Petersen says he reached over to turn it off because he didn’t want the private discussion to be made public. Olson says she was worried he was trying to confiscate her recorder. Then the argument reportedly got physical. Olson’s video recorder was working for part of the time and she showed the film to Herald reporters. Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz says statements were taken from those involved, but no arrests have been made.

Bainbridge Island police commission fires examiner

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — A Bainbridge Island police oversight commission is firing its independent chief examiner and giving the position to a city employee. The Kitsap Sun reports that examiner Kim Hendrickson has raised concerns about the department’s hiring practices and her access to police information. She’s been under a commission-imposed gag order for months not to talk to the press. Hendrickson says the position should be independent and giving the job to someone in city hall will make it less effective. City Manager Brenda Bauer proposed the change. She said it’s aimed at cutting costs, providing greater security for police personnel records and bringing the city’s practices in line with most other cities. She said she was concerned that Hendrickson, who was paid about $3,500 for her work last year, brought personnel records home with her.

Study: Land trade could cost county jobs, tax cash

LEWISTON — An economist has concluded that a proposed land swap in north central Idaho between the federal government and a timber company could lead to a loss of jobs and economic activity. The study by UI economist Steven Peterson focused on land trade proposal between the U.S. Forest Service and Western Pacific Timber Co. Under the plan, the government would exchange 18,000 acres in three national forests in northern Idaho for nearly 40,000 private acres. The Lewiston Tribune reports Peterson was contracted by Idaho County officials, who have opposed the trade. Peterson concluded the trade could cost the region 128 jobs and $8.2 million in lost economic activity. But he also determined it could spur the production of up to 12 million board feet of lumber per year.

Police: No motive yet in university murder-suicide

BOISE — Authorities continue to search for a motive in the death of a 22-year-old University of Idaho graduate student who police say was gunned down outside her Moscow home by an assistant professor who had recently resigned from the school. Police say an arrest warrant was issued for 31-year-old Ernesto A. Bustamante after officers found Katy Benoit dead late Monday at her residence. Police say Bustamante’s body was found Tuesday at a Moscow hotel after he apparently used a revolver to take his own life. Authorities say the two may have previously had a relationship, but they are still trying to establish a motive for Benoit’s murder. The university hired Bustamante in 2007 and he resigned effective Friday from his position in the psychology department, where Benoit was a graduate student.

Dike removal to help restore Nisqually delta

OLYMPIA — The Nisqually River is about to begin flowing freely near its mouth for the first time in a century. The last major dike removal in the river’s estuary is set to be completed next week, The Olympian newspaper reported. The 6,670 feet of earthen dike pulled out of the river delta caps nearly 12 years of estuary restoration work where the river flows into Puget Sound. In that time, more than eight miles of dike have been removed, recovering 900 acres of estuary, federal and Nisqually Tribe officials said. “Historically, the river was able to move across its wide flood plain here at the mouth,” said tribal habitat biologist Florian Leischner. “But for the past century, it’s been held in one path by the dikes.” The Nisqually flows from the south side of Mount Rainier into Puget Sound near Olympia.

Police say attackers are affiliated with anarchists

OLYMPIA – Several people arrested early Sunday after allegedly attacking two men downtown are affiliated with local anarchist groups, Olympia Police Lt. Jim Costa said Tuesday. Six of them also were arrested during a protest of police brutality in downtown Olympia in 2010. In Sunday’s early morning incident, two men told police they were attacked when they came upon a group of people throwing garbage and street signs into the street and questioned why they were doing that. “All we wanted them to do is respect where you live,” said Austin Wattenberg, 24, an Olympia resident. “They got violent over it. That’s not even that crazy of a thing to ask from someone.” Wattenberg said the people in the group told them to go away, and said “this doesn’t concern you” as they threw debris into the roadway at Fourth Avenue and Capitol Way about 2 a.m. Sunday.

Toddler dies after younger brother shoots BB gun

LEWISTON, Utah — A northern Utah toddler has died after her 9-year-old brother allegedly shot her in the head with a BB gun. Cache County officials say the 3-year-old girl from Lewiston suffered a head injury after the shooting last Friday. Sheriff’s deputies say the girl’s 11-year-old and 9-year-old brothers were pumping their BB guns and shooting her with air. A BB that was still in the 9-year-old boy’s gun discharged and wounded her on the left side of the head. The girl was taken to two different hospitals but died of her injuries. The incident is still under investigation.

Driver charged in 2 deaths during police chase

MYRTLE POINT, Ore. — A Washington state man has been charged with manslaughter in the deaths of his wife and a child when his car crashed during a police chase in Coos County. The World newspaper in Coos Bay reports that officers in Myrtle Point were looking for 26-year-old Michael Zubriski of College Place on Monday afternoon in connection with a theft. An officer reported that Zubriski’s Dodge Neon sped away and soon after crashed into a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer. Police said 26-year-old Natalia Zubriski and her son, 8-year-old Jolen Wilson, died. Police say two other children in the car were taken to the hospital. Michael Zubriski was arrested after he was treated.

Second Wolf Point woman claims $100,000 lottery prize

HELENA, Mont. — Montana Lottery officials say a second Wolf Point woman in as many weeks has claimed a $100,000 prize from a scratch lottery game. Irene “Weezie” Tjon purchased her “$100,000 Cash Inferno” ticket at the Git-N-Go in Wolf Point, the same store where Joan Peters bought a scratch ticket that won the grand prize in the “$100,000 Montana Black” game on Aug. 9. The women also work together. Tjon says she’s going to use her winnings to spoil her grandchildren. Meanwhile, Thomas Lee of Ballantine claimed a $10,000 prize from a “Quarter Million Cash” scratch ticket he bought at the Project Merc Food Farm in Worden.

Nampa man facing arrest on robbery warrant dead

NAMPA, Idaho — Police in Nampa say a 29-year-old man is dead after exchanging gunfire with officers trying to serve an arrest warrant. It was not immediately clear if the man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or shots fired by officers. Police Chief Bill Augsburger says a patrol officer located the vehicle of a man wanted on a robbery charge at around midnight Tuesday. The officer called for backup, approached the vehicle and the suspect pulled a handgun before running to a nearby house. The occupants were able to escape safely and police evacuated some neighboring houses. The man barricaded himself inside and officers spent hours overnight trying to contact him. At about 6 a.m. today, a bomb robot entered the residence and found the suspect dead.

Eugene Police seek driver in fatal hit-and-run

EUGENE, Ore. — Police are investigating a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist in Eugene. KEZI-TV reports that a witness saw 56-year-old Jeffery Paul Mauren lying in the road late Tuesday night and stopped to help. The witness reported that a sports car similar to a Toyota Supra then ran over Mauren and kept going. Mauren was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rockaway Beach officer arrested in sex abuse case

ROCKAWAY BEACH , Ore. — One of the three sworn officers in the Rockaway Beach Police Department has been arrested in connection with a child sexual abuse case. KGW-TV reports that 27-year-old Aaron Clark turned himself in at the Tillamook County Jail on Tuesday. He’d been on paid administrative leave since June, when Chief Ed Wortman asked the sheriff’s office to begin investigating whether Clark sent inappropriate electronic messages to a high school softball player. Clark, who is a high school softball coach, was indicted on several charges, including encouraging child sexual abuse and using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct. Clark has been with the department since 2005. The department has three sworn police officers and two reserve officers. It wasn’t immediately clear if Clark had a lawyer.

Yakima rapist resentenced to 46 years in 2 deaths

YAKIMA, Wash. — A serial rapist has been resentenced to 46 years in prison for the deaths of two Yakima women after his initial conviction and sentence were overturned. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that John Bill Fletcher could have faced as little as 34 years under a plea deal reached with prosecutors, but the judge said he deserved more time for preying on vulnerable, drug-addicted women. Fletcher went on a rape spree in 1987 that included the slayings of 20-year-old Teresa Branscomb and 26-year-old Bertha Cantu. His original conviction was one of hundreds invalidated by a pair of state Supreme Court decisions in 2001 concerning Washington’s felony murder law.

Pullman High evacuated day before students due to arrive

PULLMAN – Pullman High School was evacuated Tuesday morning after employees detected a gas-like odor in the building. The scare turned out to be a false alarm, according to Dan Hornfelt, executive director of support services for Pullman School District. He said the gassy smell emanated from the gymnasium, where sealer was being applied to a new floor. “That’s what was triggering our senses,” Hornfelt said. It was a group of maintenance employees who initially raised the alarm. Hornfelt said the workers were changing out shower heads in the school’s locker room when they smelled what they assumed was natural gas. The building was evacuated, and officials inspected the facility for evidence of a gas leak.

Woman charged with embezzling from Farm Bureau

KETCHUM, Idaho — A former secretary for the Blaine-Camas Farm Bureau office in Bellevue is charged with embezzling more than $35,000 from the organization over a four-year period. The Idaho Mountain Express reports 59-year-old Judith G. Shurtz was arraigned Monday in 5th District Court on a felony charge of grand theft by embezzlement. She pleaded not guilty and a trial is set for January 2012. Blaine County prosecutors charge she fraudulently wrote about 90 checks to herself between February 2006 and May 2010. An internal audit by the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation discovered the alleged thefts. The case was investigated for about a year before Shurtz was charged in May. She remains free on $5,000 bond.

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