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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In brief: Benefits for slain officers pass panel

From Staff Reports

OLYMPIA – Improvements in pensions and other benefits for law enforcement and firefighters killed on duty moved a step closer to reality Tuesday.

Spurred by recent slayings of law enforcement officers in Western Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire and members of both parties in both houses have said they are willing to extend full pension benefits to all police, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and firefighters killed in the line of duty even if they haven’t been on the job the currently required 10 years.

A bill to do just that, as well as allow surviving spouses to continue receiving benefits if they remarry, and to waive tuition and fees at any state college for spouses and children of slain officers or firefighters, sailed out of the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday afternoon with no debate and no questions for a string of witnesses urging its passage.

Arson suspected in apartment fire

Firefighters are investigating a Tuesday apartment fire in Spokane Valley as a possible arson, a fire official said.

The blaze occurred at 2:20 a.m. inside a vacant unit at the Whimsical Pig apartments, 13303 E. Mission Ave. A neighboring tenant heard a fire alarm and called 911.

The blaze was quickly contained to a stove and surrounding cabinets, officials said.

Bill Clifford, assistant fire marshal with the Spokane Valley Fire Department, said the fire was intentionally started and that an investigation is under way.

Anyone with information is asked to call (509) 928-1700 or (509) 242-TIPS.

Spokane family’s Haitian son OK

The Simpson family of Spokane is breathing easier today. They spoke with their 18-year-old son, Emarc, from Haiti on Tuesday.

Emarc, a Haitian native, was doing work at an orphanage in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, when a devastating earthquake struck the island nation Jan. 12. His adoptive family in Spokane spent a week waiting to hear from him.

“He’s OK,” said his mother, Angela Simpson. “It’s been a long week.”

All the children at the orphanage survived the quake, Simpson said, including Emarc’s sister Elvanie, whom the Simpsons are in the process of adopting. On Thursday, Emarc will make his way to the U.S. Embassy, Simpson said, and hopefully will take his sister with him.

“We’re going to attempt to get her out, too,” Simpson said.

Man charged with battery in stabbing

Coeur d’Alene police arrested a man Tuesday after an altercation that ended in a stabbing.

Alan D. Burtness, 36, was booked into Kootenai County Jail on Tuesday on charges of aggravated battery, police said.

Officers responded to the 3100 block of North Seventh Street Tuesday evening after a caller reported a man in the street with possible stab wounds. They found a 36-year-old man with stab wounds to his left hand and arm, police said.

The victim was taken to Kootenai Medical Center for treatment of his wounds, which were not life threatening. Burtress and the victim are acquaintances, police said.

Proposal would fight health care rules

BOISE – Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, proposed legislation Tuesday that he’s calling the “Idaho Health Freedom Act” to fight federal health care reform. The proposal would ban the state from enforcing any requirements to purchase health insurance and ban enforcement of any penalties for not doing so.

When Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, noted that Idaho already requires people to purchase auto insurance, Clark responded, “You don’t have to purchase an automobile – that’s the difference. You can walk; you can take public transportation.”

The measure will now be scheduled for a full hearing. The bill’s fiscal note says it could require adding a position to the attorney general’s office and spend about $100,000 in state funds.

Car left running stolen from gym

A woman who left her car running in north Spokane on Monday while she picked up her baby returned to find the vehicle being driven away.

Detectives are looking for tips on the theft of the white Mazda Protege stolen from outside Global Fitness, 110 W. Price Ave., according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The woman left the car running at the curb after placing a diaper bag with her driver’s license inside, according to the sheriff’s office.

She saw the car driving away when she came back outside. An employee saw the car turn west on Price from the parking lot.

The woman’s wallet and house keys were also in the car.

Anyone with information is asked to call (509) 456-2233.

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