What’s news in the Northwest today:
MOSCOW – A cell phone may have saved a Pullman Police officer’s life early Monday after he was stabbed by an allegedly incoherent, college-aged man. Officer Ryan McNannay sustained minor cuts to his chest and face while attempting to apprehend a hit-and-run suspect. The officer sustained a two-inch cut to his chest during the fight, and the blade was stopped by his cell phone, which was sitting in his breast pocket. The alleged assailant confronted the officer with a weapon after colliding with seven vehicles. After he was apprehended, the two got into a fight. The suspect had a knife in one hand and a screwdriver multi-tool in the other. He was arrested for alleged first-degree assault, hit-and-run, DUI and harassment, and was transported to Pullman Regional Hospital for a visible facial laceration, bruising and swelling.
Federal investigators begin review at Monroe prison
MONROE, Wash. – Federal investigators arrived at the Monroe Correctional Complex Monday for a week-long visit. They will be reviewing prison procedures, staff structure and the offender classification system. Gov. Chris Gregoire asked for the review after the murder of corrections officer Jayme Biendl. Justin Thompson, who worked with Biendl and says her death could have easily been prevented, hopes federal investigators take a hard look at prison staffing levels, specifically, the inmate to staff ratio. “There’s only one person to monitor 180-190 people,” Thompson said.
Oregon county refuses donations for rescued horses
ENTERPRISE, Ore. — The Wallowa County sheriff says he can’t accept donations that have come from across Oregon and as far away as Pennsylvania to help a herd of exotic horses that were seized because of poor care. Sheriff Fred Steen told The Oregonian Monday the county will return any donations because deputies are conducting a criminal investigation. The sheriff took custody of a remote farm north of Troy on Feb. 23 because of critical conditions for about 120 Portuguese Lusitano and Andalusian horses. Conditions include untrimmed hooves, fallen fences, lack of access to water and a hay shortage. The county has transported more than $3,000 worth of hay to the herd.
Oil studies find commercial fish in Arctic waters
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Surveys for possible oil and gas drilling off Alaska’s northern coast have found commercial fish such as Pacific cod and walleye pollock in Arctic waters where they have not been previously documented. The Anchorage Daily News reports studies of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas are generating research of value beyond oil exploration. The National Marine Fisheries Service conducted a trawler survey in the summer of 2008 in the western Beaufort. In addition to the discovery of cod and pollock it found commercial-sized snow crab. The findings led regulators to ban commercial fishing in U.S. Arctic waters before seafood companies could send boats. Another survey of the central Beaufort is scheduled this summer, led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Sheriff answers family’s criticism of response to report of missing couple
VANCOUVER, Wash. – Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas defended his department’s actions Monday against criticism from the family of John and Pat Norvell that it responded lackadaisically to information that the couple was missing. The fact that the missing 63-year-olds made no phone calls or registered any kind of bank activity indicated something was amiss, Lucas said, but there was nowhere for searchers to even begin to look for the Norvells, who got stuck in the snow and spent four days last week trapped on a secluded forest road near Mount St. Helens. One of the Norvell’s three children, Leanne Sosa, nonetheless said the detective she spoke with Friday “just wasn’t real responsive.”
Seattle City Council overturns mayor’s veto of tunnel project
SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council exercised some political muscle by overturning the mayor’s tunnel veto. But the pushback against their pushback may only have just begun. In a council meeting Monday, they heard from plenty of people against the plan to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep bore tunnel. Opponents call it a risky project, and say they’re worried about cost overruns falling back on Seattle taxpayers. Several council members told the crowd the issue is about safety, replacing the viaduct with a tunnel has been a contentious issue for years, and Mayor Mike McGinn has been leading the charge against it, vetoing the latest plan. Since the council overturned his veto as expected, McGinn says he wants to see voters get involved. “It’s their city,” he said. “They’ll be bearing the risk of cost overruns, they’ll be dealing with cost overruns and the sooner we ask them the better.”
Unbuckled in the back seat: a dangerous trend
SEATTLE – You’ve heard it before: buckle up or face a big ticket. But a new survey shows we may not be using our seatbelts as often as we should, sometimes with deadly consequences. The survey from leasetrader.com says as many as four out of five of us are not buckling up in the back seat. It’s a non-scientific study based on survey responses, not police reports. But a five-year study by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission shows that among people 26 and older, 78 percent were wearing seatbelts in the front seat in injury crashes, while just 66 percent had belts on in the back. From age 16 to 25, the picture’s even worse: about 70 percent buckled up in front, 54 percent in back.
Natural gas explosion shakes Pierce Transit headquarters
LAKEWOOD, Wash. – A natural gas explosion rocked the Pierce Transit Headquarters in Lakewood Monday evening. Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom just after five-oh-clock. It was followed by flames arching into the sky from Pierce Transit at 3701 96th Street Southwest. The area where the explosion occurred is still being cooled down. Lakewood Fire Department and engineers from Pierce Transit are working throughout the evening to determine the cause of the explosion. Lind Simonsen, Pierce Transit Spokesman says, “There was an explosion and fire in the mechanical building that houses our compressed natural gas compressors. All of our buses in the Pierce Transit fleet run on compressed natural gas.” All the employees in the building were immediately evacuated, and Lakewood Fire Department evacuated residents and businesses within two blocks of the area.
Tacoma school expels kids over fight video
TACOMA – Brawls in a middle school bathroom have prompted administrators to expel nearly two dozen kids. Relatives of the kids, concerned about the behavior, gave a TV station the cell phone video of the fights Sunday. Monday, the students learned they were expelled. School officials say they knew nothing about the organized fights. Dan Voelpel with Tacoma Public Schools says changes are on the way. “This particular bathroom that was identified will be locked immediately after school and no longer accessible and will be patrolling the grounds more vigilantly at school,” Voelpel said.
Two boats destroyed, three damaged in Kalama Marina fire
KALAMA, Wash. — A fire at the Kalama Marina destroyed two boats and damaged three others. KGW reports firefighters responded about 2:30 p.m. Monday and it took about 45 minutes to knock down flames that also damaged the float structure and roof. KATU reports one man was treated at Legacy Emmanuel Medical Center in Portland for burns to his face and breathing problems.
Billings zoo could lose animals over finance woes
BILLINGS, Mont. — ZooMontana faces a loss of accreditation that could force it to give up its tigers, grizzly bears, red pandas and most other animals within months unless it quickly shores up its deteriorating finances. The 13-employee Billings zoo has only enough money on hand to feed its animals and cover payroll through March, said Jackie Worstell, zoo director. Worstell said today that she and three other employees have given their resignation notices and two other workers already have left. ZooMontana could close by the end the year without a dramatic turnaround, she said. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums last month said the zoo’s accreditation was “in immediate jeopardy” unless its finances improved. Accreditation is considered crucial for ZooMontana to keep animals that are on loan from other institutions.
Four employees of Pullman businesses arrested for selling alcohol to minors
PULLMAN – Employees of Dissmore’s IGA, Thai Ginger, Fireside Grille and the Coug Corner Mart were arrested Friday after allegedly selling alcohol to a minor. They were caught during an alcohol compliance check conducted by the Pullman Police Department. “This is a target-rich environment for alcohol problems,” and a vast majority of crime is alcohol-related, said Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant. He said the department has found that by targeting alcohol violations in general, assaults, rapes and property crimes go down. For the compliance checks, a 19-year-old person was trained by officers to go into 15 establishments in Pullman, including restaurants, bars and stores, show legal identification and attempt to obtain alcohol. The person is involved in Washington State University’s law enforcement internship program.
Final days for Washington’s McNeil Island Prison
SEATTLE — A closing ceremony is scheduled Thursday at the McNeil Island Corrections Center. It’s officially closing on April 1 to save the state of Washington an estimated $9 million a year. The Puget Sound island prison originally opened 135 years ago as a territorial prison. It became a federal prison in 1904 and was taken over by the state Department of Corrections in 1981. At its peak McNeil housed 1,700 inmates. They have included Charles Manson who served time for check fraud before his California killing spree. Most inmates have now been moved to other prisons. The Seattle Times reports that in the remaining weeks workers will board up windows and doors, disconnect electrical lines and cap off plumbing.
Gas prices shoot up 26 cents in February
BOISE — The price of a gallon of gas in Idaho has spiked dramatically in the last month. The latest figures from AAA Idaho show the average price of gas in the state rose 26 cents, from $2.96 per gallon on Feb. 2 to $3.22 Monday. Prices at pumps in Boise are trending toward the mid-$3 range. The Idaho Statesman reports some retailers selling unleaded for $3.43 per gallon Monday, more than 50 cents higher than the same time a year ago. Still, Idaho motorists are getting a deal compared to other states. Idaho’s statewide average is still 15 cents below the national average.
At least 2 men die in Bozeman apartment fire
BOZEMAN, Mont. — Bozeman police say at least two men have died in an apartment fire. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports firefighters responded shortly after 1 a.m. today. Sgt. MaryAnn Rangitsch says more than one adult man died in the fire, but she could not be more specific because authorities are still trying to notify family members.
Dean agrees to speak at Idaho Democrat event
BOISE — Former national Democratic party official and Vermont governor Howard Dean will be paying a visit to Idaho Democrats next month. Dean, who also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, will headline a state party training event April 16 in Worley. During his tenure as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dean was credited with launching the “50 State Strategy” that helped the party regain control of Congress with a renewed emphasis on grassroots organizing and new forms of technology. He also served six terms as governor and worked for years as a physician. Idaho Democratic Party interim Director Shelley Landry says it’s an honor to have Dean headline the party event focused on strengthening the party and recruiting new supporters and candidates.