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In brief: Pack labeled ‘bomb’ closes streets

Wed., June 15, 2011

A backpack labeled “bomb” was found in downtown Spokane on Tuesday, but police say it contained nothing dangerous.

A citizen found the backpack in a parking lot near 119 S. Howard St. and called police just after 8 a.m. The surrounding area was closed while the bomb squad responded. They determined the backpack was filled with clothing, and area streets and sidewalks reopened within an hour and a half.

Spokane police remind citizens of the ongoing “see something, say something” safety awareness campaign.

“While this particular backpack was not a credible threat, the community response was absolutely appropriate,” spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release. “Spokane Police wish to thank our concerned citizens for taking the time to keep our community safe.”

Woman pleads guilty to clinic fraud

A Colfax woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling $538,000 from a family-owned urology clinic in Pullman where she worked as a business manager.

Alicia E. Napier, 47, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of mail fraud and two counts of bank fraud in the case where she admitted diverting funds from Palouse Urology for her personal use between 2001 and 2009.

“Her mail and bank fraud scheme went undetected for so long because she was a trusted employee,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice wrote in a news release.

Napier faces up to 20 years in prison for the mail fraud and up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud at the sentencing on Sept. 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Tribe crews respond to Arizona fires

The Spokane Tribe of Indians sent six firefighters and two trucks to the Fort Yuma Agency in Arizona on Tuesday to assist with massive wildfires in that state.

Wildfires have burned nearly 500,000 acres in Arizona, prompting evacuations in some communities. Arizona’s Regional Firefighting office put out a call for assistance.

The Spokane Tribe’s fire crews will spend about two weeks in Arizona, supporting local communities if fires are reported along the Colorado River near Fort Yuma, according a news release from the tribe. They will help replace fire crews deployed to other parts of the state.

Police arrest man after struggle

A Spokane fugitive was arrested Monday after he knocked over a parking meter with his car while fleeing bail bondsmen, then tried to grab a firearm during a struggle with a Spokane police officer.

Christopher Cleo McCracken, 38, sped away from a parking lot at 907 W. Third Ave., Monday afternoon after the bondsmen tried to hold him on felony warrants. 

McCracken backed over a parking barrier and a sidewalk, knocking down a parking meter on Third Avenue, before driving north on Lincoln Street, police said.

Patrol officers located him about 5 p.m. near 3500 S. Marshall Road, police said. Officer Sean Wheeler pursued McCracken as he ran into a wooded area and over a barbed wire fence. McCracken grabbed the barrel of Wheeler’s rifle, but Wheeler was able to subdue McCracken and arrest him.

WSU’s Vancouver chancellor resigns

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The chancellor who has led Washington State University’s Vancouver, Wash., branch campus since its beginning in 1989 is resigning, effective Aug. 15.

In an email Tuesday, WSU President Elson Floyd praised Hal Dengerink’s leadership and judgment and said the branch campus is a lasting tribute to his efforts.

Floyd will assemble a search committee to look for a successor. In the meantime, the interim chancellor position will continue to be filled by Lynn Valenter. Valenter has held the interim position for the past 16 months while Dengerink has periodically taken medical leave.

Couple honored for work on forestland

A Coeur d’Alene couple have been honored for their stewardship of private forestland by the American Forest Foundation.

Steve and Janet Funk were named 2011 Tree Farmers of the Year for the foundation’s western region. The winner of the foundation’s national award will be announced at a convention in August. Besides the Funks, there are three other finalists for the national award.

The Funks bought 80 acres in the Wolf Lodge Bay area in 1974 that had been heavily logged. The trees had grown back as a dense thicket.

The Funks worked to improve the tree stands, purchasing and restoring additional acreage over the years. They now manage 374 acres with their daughter and son-in-law.

Their work has resulted in healthier stands of trees, better wildlife habitat and improvements to Wolf Lodge Creek. They also work to educate the public about sustainable forestry management.


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