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In brief: Funds keep Spokane bioterrorism lab open for now

Thu., Feb. 20, 2014, midnight

A bioterrorism lab at the Spokane Regional Health District got a temporary reprieve from closure with funding from the federal government.

Spokane legislators successfully asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allocate about $65,000 to keep the lab open through June, according to a news release.

The Spokane lab is one of only two such facilities in the state. It has been instrumental in testing materials in high-profile local cases, such as a letter containing ricin sent to a federal judge last spring.

The lab is mostly funded by the federal government through a state Department of Health program encouraging emergency preparedness. Cuts in that federal funding have threatened the lab’s continued existence.

While the short-term infusion is welcome, “we need a long-term solution to keep this essential bioterrorism lab open,” state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, a Spokane Democrat, said in a prepared statement.

Update of regional trail plan gains commission approval

Spokane County commissioners on Tuesday approved an update of the Spokane County Regional Trail Plan.

“With its adoption and implementation it will be an important tool to help the region respond to the tremendous changes underway with increasing urbanization,” the plan says.

The plan emphasizes trail links between an increasing number of conservation acquisitions just outside the urban areas.

It also seeks to preserve nonmotorized trail connections and multipurpose open space corridors across the county. Policies, planning goals and project priorities are included in the plan.

The document is a cooperative effort of Spokane County Parks and the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition.

For a copy of the document, go to spokanecounty.org/parks and find the regional trails plan under the “Parks & Open Space” tab.

Scam of utility customers takes aim through email

Local power companies said Wednesday that their customers are being targeted in a bogus email billing scheme.

Avista Utilities, Inland Power & Light Co. and Kootenai Electric Cooperative warned customers to verify that emails purporting to be from one of the companies are real before taking any action.

The scam is national, according to a news release. “Rather than referencing a specific utility, the emails are generic and ask customers to view their bill by clicking a link in the email and set up automatic payment plans,” the release said.

The power companies advised customers to check the sender of any emails claiming to be an energy bill to verify it comes directly from Avista, Inland Power or Kootenai Electric. Also, before clicking a link, hover over it to be sure it is directed back to the utility. Finally, don’t enter personal payment information without first logging into a secure account with one of the utilities.

To contact customer service representatives: Avista, (800) 227-9187; Inland Power & Light, (509) 747-7151; Kootenai Electric, (208) 765-1200.

Man sentenced to 22 years for shooting death of brother

Eric Harris will spend the next 22 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder in the June shooting death of his brother, Larch Harris, near Colville.

A Stevens County judge handed down the sentence Tuesday, said Prosecuting Attorney Tim Rasmussen. Eric Harris, 49, told the judge at trial he “didn’t care one way or the other” what his sentence was, Rasmussen said.

Eric Harris shot Larch following an argument in the early morning hours June 23, according to the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office. The jury also found Eric Harris, a convicted felon, guilty of illegally possessing a firearm.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of more than 26 years because of the alleged drug use occurring at the house where the shooting took place, Rasmussen said. The jury also rejected claims that Eric Harris acted in self-defense against his brother, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Man taking shower arrested after fight and police chase

A Liberty Lake man was arrested Tuesday afternoon after a tussle with police and an attempt to barricade himself from pursuing officers while taking a shower, according to court records.

Gregory Graham, 41, was booked into Spokane County Jail on Tuesday evening after a traffic stop for driving with a suspended license ended in a fight and pursuit by a Liberty Lake police officer. Graham punched the officer multiple times and managed to evade a shot from a stun gun before fleeing into his home and piling furniture in front of the bathroom door, according to an affidavit.

The officer suffered some cuts to his arm in the scuffle. Graham, who has misdemeanor convictions in Idaho, Montana and Indiana, according to prosecutors, faces charges of assault and resisting arrest. When police forced their way into the bathroom, Graham had partially disrobed and was standing in the running shower, court documents say.

A Spokane County Superior Court judge set Graham’s bail at $7,500 on Wednesday.

FBI offers $10,000 reward for sex offender information

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a convicted sex offender on the lam and thought to be in Spokane.

Kevin Anthony Briggs, 28, escaped police custody in Montana earlier this month and bought a one-way bus ticket to Spokane, according to a news release from the FBI. Briggs was placed under arrest on suspicion he assaulted a woman and escaped police during a transfer to a detention facility.

Briggs is on probation for convictions of sex crimes, kidnapping and burglary from 2004 in two Montana counties, according to the FBI. He is described as between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-7, weighing 120 to 150 pounds with piercings and a tattoo on his lower lip.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Spokane FBI office at (509) 458-8100. Briggs is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached, the FBI said.


 

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