Archive for January 2018

Navy veteran puts up fight against carjacker at Texas gas station in brawl caught on video

Vet refused to back down when man stole his wallet, truck

A Vietnam War veteran proved Monday he had a lot of fight left in him, refusing to back down when a man stole his wallet and truck from a Texas gas station.

The Richland Hills Police Department said in a news release the incident happened around 6:30 a.m. when Allan Huddleston stopped at a Shell Gas Station along a freeway about 7 miles from downtown Fort Worth. A man first approached Huddleston asking for a cigarette, then pushed past him and got into the driver’s seat of his truck.

"He’s in my truck trying to drive off,” Huddleston told FOX4 News. “So I reach in there, and I grab him around his neck in a head hold, I guess you’d call it. I drag him out of the truck."

The two then fell to the ground in a brawl captured on surveillance video. The suspect was eventually able to steal Huddleston’s wallet and keys during the struggle, and then got into the vehicle to attempt to drive away.

Allan Huddleston describes how he tried to fight off a carjacker at a Texas gas station. (FOX4 News)

"No doubt in my mind he’s done this before,” Huddleston said. “This isn’t his first rodeo."

"He put up a fight. And I would expect nothing less from our veterans out there."

– Richland Hills Police Captain Sheena McEachran

Huddleston, who served with the Navy during the Vietnam War, still wasn’t about to throw in the towel. The 69-year-old held onto his truck door while the suspect drove away, and was dragged about 15 to 20 feet before he fell to the ground and had his legs run over by the vehicle, police said.

Huddleston was treated at a hospital for non-life threatening injuries, including a broken leg. His truck was later found abandoned in Fort Worth "a few hours later."

Richland Hills Police Captain Sheena McEachran told FOX4 News it was also fortunate the suspect wasn’t armed.

"He put up a fight,” McEachran said. “And I would expect nothing less from our veterans out there."

The suspect in the carjacking of a Vietnam War veteran as seen in surveillance video from a Texas gas station released by police.

(RHPD)

Police said based on reviewing surveillance video, the suspect approached several other people at the gas station, asking for cigarettes and money.

Huddleston said he had a message for the thief.

"By golly, partner. There’s no doubt in my mind you’ve done this before,” he told FOX4. “And I guarantee it’ll catch up to you if you haven’t been caught yet. But you will be caught. You’re a sorry individual."

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For Dallas’ homeless, Tuesday’s cold front was a matter of life or death

Staff Photographer

The mounds on the sidewalk looked like piles of discarded bedding, but under each blanket was someone trying to survive Dallas’ coldest night in seven years.

The brutal cold front that rolled in Tuesday caused overnight temperatures to plunge to 13 degrees — the kind of cold that can kill. And at least two people did die overnight in Dallas after they were exposed to the elements.

For those without a place to go on nights like this, it’s not about staying warm. That’s futile in biting cold that makes your bones ache and your skin burn. It’s about just surviving.

Curled up under one of the nests of blankets on Park Avenue was Dawaylon Raymond, or Will as he’s known on the streets. He and four others claimed spots surrounding a small exhaust vent — prized territory on a frigid night.

Relying on the warm air and one another’s body heat, the group planned to endure the night on the sidewalk with the blankets a good Samaritan had brought them earlier.

Raymond, who is 20, had thought about going to a shelter, but he’d been turned down before when there wasn’t enough room. He didn’t want to haul all of his belongings miles away and risk losing his spot on the street.

On the coldest nights, shelters hit capacity quickly, leaving many to fend for themselves. Some crowd around fires under overpasses, ride DART trains as long as they can or huddle in doorways.

Others aren’t able to find warmth in time.

Two miles from Raymond’s spot, a 58-year-old woman was found dead Wednesday morning. A witness said it appeared she had frozen to death and fallen out of her wheelchair at a bus stop shelter.

"The sad, tragic fact is there’s not enough shelter beds, so even if every homeless person wanted to get into a shelter tonight, there’s not enough room," said David Timothy, founder of the nonprofit SoupMobile. "And that’s not a knock on the city. There just aren’t enough resources."

For Raymond, the cold was just one more challenge. "It’s hard enough being on the streets, period," he said.

He said he graduated from high school with top grades but ended up homeless after he got tired of his mother’s rules and left his home in Broaddus, in East Texas.

“Young and dumb,” he said as he shivered and clapped his hands to keep them from going numb, even with gloves. “I’m really paying for it now.”

People moved their blankets down Park Avenue next to The Stewpot in downtown Dallas on Tuesday night.

Just then a car drove up. “Y’all want some coffee?” a man shouted from the window. “No cream or sugar, though.”

Raymond jumped up from the curb. “That’s fine! This’ll warm us up anyway.” He grabbed a cup for himself after he made sure the others gathered along the street had one.

The man handing out coffee, who went only by James, said he’d spent years on Dallas’ streets after he left the military. Now he drives around offering hot coffee to the homeless on cold nights and bottles of cold water in the summer because he’s been there.

“This is the best I can do,” he said. “Give them coffee to warm them up and encourage them to not give up.”

He and Raymond talked about the city’s best dumpster for finding a good meal and how they wished people could spend just one night on the street to see what it was like.

“We need to do more than just talk the talk,” James said. “There are churches everywhere. Are they really doing all they could be doing? I could say a whole lot, but words are cheap to me. Actions speak for themselves.”

Raymond thanked James for the coffee and curled back up on a sack containing all of his belongings, hopeful for some sleep.

"It’s the wind that gets you. You can fall asleep, but as soon as that wind comes up under you — whoo you’re awake!" he said while pulling a beanie tightly over his head.

Sticking up from the top of the cap was a paper tag. "This hat was made for you with love," it said. It was signed "Charlie Gonzales."

Raymond said Gonzales is a 91-year-old man who had come by earlier and handed out knit caps.

"He hand-knitted them all himself," he said. "Everyone got one."

Thanks to Gonzales, James and the those who brought blankets, Raymond and his group made it through the night. But they said each day the challenge starts over.

"We’re not living out here," said 39-year-old Ryan Rule, his nose red and speech slow from the numbing cold. "We’re just surviving. I’d like to live again."

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Huge stakes in Texas firm’s hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

Director General of Civil Aviation Malaysia, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, left, shakes hand and exchanges the Memorandum of Understanding documents with CEO of Ocean Infinity Limited, Oliver Plunkett, right, during the signing ceremony of the MH370 missing plane search operations between Malaysian government and Ocean Infinity Limited in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Jan. 10, 2018.

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Malaysia’s government said Wednesday it will pay U.S. company Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it can find the wreckage or black boxes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 within three months, in a renewed bid to solve the plane’s disappearance nearly four years ago.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said there was an 85 percent chance of finding the debris in a new 9,653 square mile area — roughly the size of Vermont — identified by experts.

The government signed a "no cure, no fee" deal with the Houston, Texas-based company to resume the hunt for the plane, a year after the official search by Malaysia, Australia and China in the southern Indian Ocean was called off. The plane vanished on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

"The primary mission by Ocean Infinity is to identify the location of the wreckage and/or both of the flight recorders … and present a considerable and credible evidence to confirm the exact location of the two main items," he told a news conference.

If the mission is successful within three months, payment will be made based on the size of the area searched. Liow said the government will pay Ocean Infinity $20 million for 1,930 square miles successfully searched, $30 million for 5,790 sq. miles, $50 million for 9,653 sq. miles and $70 million if the plane or recorders are found beyond the identified area.

Ocean Infinity Chief Executive Oliver Plunkett said the search vessel Seabed Constructor, which left the South African port of Durban last week, is expected to reach the southern Indian Ocean by Jan. 17 to begin the hunt.

He said eight autonomous underwater vehicles, which are drones fitted with high-tech cameras, sonars and sensors, will be dispatched to map the seabed at a faster pace. Plunkett said the underwater drones can cover 463 sq. miles a day and complete the designated search area within a month.

"We have a realistic prospect of finding it," he said. "While there can be no guarantees of locating the aircraft, we believe our system of multiple autonomous vehicles working simultaneously is well suited to the task at hand."

The official search was extremely difficult because no transmissions were received from the aircraft after its first 38 minutes of flight. Systems designed to automatically transmit the flight’s position failed to work after this point, said a final report from Australian Transport Safety Board last January.

"I feel very happy but at the same time very panicky whether it can be found or not. Now it’s back to four years ago where we have to wait everyday (to find out) whether debris can be found," said Shin Kok Chau, whose wife Tan Ser Kuin was a flight attendant on MH370.

Underwater wreck hunter David Mearns said the new search takes into account oceanographic models used to drastically narrow the possible locations of the crash and deploys state-of-the art underwater vehicles that will allow the company to cover far more seabed at a faster pace.

"There are no guarantees in a search of this type. However, notwithstanding that uncertainty, this upcoming search is the best chance yet that the aircraft wreckage will be found," said Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd.

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Dallas City Council has no appetite, or ability, to take over DCS’ crossing guard program

Staff Photographer

The city of Dallas is now tasked with cleaning up what City Council member Casey Thomas called "an absolute mess that we didn’t create": figuring out who will take over operations of the school crossing guard program that Dallas County Schools plans on abandoning at month’s end. And as the council discovered Wednesday, it won’t be easy picking up the pieces.

"We are grasping for solutions," Jon Fortune, the assistant city manager for public safety, told the council. "We don’t have a lot of answers."

Dallas doesn’t have the money to operate the program — $2 million just to get to the end of the school year, and $5 million every year going forward. The city also doesn’t have the personnel to either vet the 400 crossing guards employed by DCS or staff a new program.

Wednesday’s briefing came amid an ongoing legal battle between the city and DCS scheduled to resume in court next week. The city wants DCS to continue operating the crossing guard program until the end of the year. City attorneys are also demanding DCS hand over money sitting in an escrow account designated for the program.

Alan King, a former DISD chief of staff now heading DCS’s dissolution committee, told The News the agency has about $300,000 it will turn over when lawyers say it’s OK. But city officials say that amount is still "to be determined," and that they’re awaiting further responses from the bus agency.

"Look, this is an ugly situation we’re in," Mayor Mike Rawlings said Wednesday. "But in some ways I am very glad we’re starting to resolve this. There was terrible rot in this organization so I supported the dissolution of DCS."

DCS is being dissolved amid allegations of bribes and kickbacks. The committee tasked with DCS’s dissolution said last month it doesn’t have enough money to both keep the buses running through the end of the school year and oversee the crossing guard program.

That committee, which includes Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, wants Dallas to take over the crossing guard program, which the city ran until 2012. Six years ago, the city spent half of what DCS says it costs to run the program today.

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State law says cities with populations of more than 850,000 are responsible for providing school crossing guards. But that same chapter of the local government code says cities "may contract with one or more school districts to provide school crossing guards."

DISD officials have said they want to take control of DCS’s busing operations, but not its crossing guard program.

The biggest reason no one wants this particular hot potato is because there’s no money for it.

When this photo was taken in 2011, outside Hector P. Garcia Middle School in Dallas, then-83-year-old school crossing guard Oneal Davis was an employee of the city of Dallas. A year later, Dallas County Schools took over the program.

State law says counties may collect $1.50 from each county vehicle registration for what’s called a Child Safety Trust Fund, of which crossing guard programs are one component.

Harris and Bexar counties pocket that $1.50, but Dallas County doesn’t, which is one reason the city says it can’t afford the program. North Dallas council member Lee Kleinman said the council should tell the county commissioners to begin collecting that money immediately.

"There should be some way they contribute for the sake of the children," council member Tennell Atkins said. "They should do it."

But even if the county does reverse course, it likely wouldn’t happen until February 2019, said Kim Tolbert, chief of staff to city manager T.C. Broadnax.

"And even with that additional potential source," she told the council, "we’d be looking at a $2-million gap."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Rawlings said state Sen. Royce West, whose law firm has made millions representing the DISD,is planning a sit-down with representatives from City Hall, the school district, the county and DSC to find a way forward.

Tolbert said city officials were looking at taking over the crossing guards for 90 days, maximum, so all parties could work on a "more feasible solution down the road." North Oak Cliff’s Scott Griggs said he would support that short-term solution.

In 2012, DCS and the city signed two interlocal agreements that, in part, used fines collected from the so-called stop-arm camera program to pay for crossing guards. That’s the same program that led to Dallas County Schools’ downfall amid an FBI investigation and, last week, a federal indictment.

The city, so far, has had no say in DCS’ dissolution, as no city representative sits on the committee that state comptroller Glenn Hegar assembled to wind down the bus agency. Rawlings said he has requested a meeting with Hegar to remedy what several council members deem an unfair and unfortunate situation given the demands now being placed upon the city.

Said White Rock Lake’s council member Mark Clayton, "We’re gonna get hosed on this deal."

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