Annoyed groundskeeper shoots ducks in Delray Beach, police say

6 Sep


It was, by any stretch, a fowl deed.

Two days before Thanksgiving, police say there was drunken duck hunt in Delray Beach. But they also say Scott Jensen, the 48-year-old maintenance supervisor charged with killing the birds with a high-powered pellet gun from atop a roof, had no intention of serving the ducks at the dinner table.

“He was growing tired of cleaning up the duck feces from the patio,” detectives say Jensen told them, according to a Delray Beach Police report.

Jensen, who allegedly used an apartment complex storage room to practice shooting holes in paper targets and discarded appliances, now stands charged with animal cruelty.

The real shooting began on Nov. 19, just after 9 p.m., when two residents of the rental community noticed something out of the ordinary. The complex is in the 600 block of Audubon Boulevard, a street named after the famous naturalist who dedicated his life to cataloging birds.

There was a man on the roof, dressed in black, crouched in a tactical stance, slowly walking with a “sniper style” rifle in his hands.

The man then fired the gun four or five times toward the ducks around the lake. Concerned, residents called police.


The Mounted Unit

6 Sep


ROYAL PALM BEACH —  If left to his own devices, Amadeus would eat grass all day.

But the1,600-pound mixed-breed horse isn’t allowed to eat at work. If he dips his head down to snack on a patch of grass while on patrol at a palm-dotted plaza, Sgt. John Howley applies some pressure with his leg, and Amadeus knows: that means “nay.”

Amadeus listens, raising his bitted mouth upright again, and waits for his orders.

That’s because the seven horses in the mounted unit of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office have been trained to listen better than their farm-raised counterparts.

Sometimes, the lives and safety of people depend on the horse’s ability to listen.

Deputies typically use horses like Amadeus, or his 1,800-pound Clydesdale buddy, Valor, for holiday patrols at shopping centers, crowd control at parades or presidential debates, or searches for fugitives or missing persons.

Their gargantuan size and limber build, maintained by 20 pounds of hay a day, give horses – and, in turn, deputies – many advantages.


Man charged after shooting himself with homemade gun

6 Sep


Manny Garrido liked to tinker. But the 23-year-old may have tinkered one too many times when he built his own handgun — and promptly shot himself in the leg with it.

Bored, broke and unable to drive on a license suspended after a car crash, Garrido passed time building things. Resources weren’t hard to find in his father’s Lake Worth backyard, where you could often hear the buzz of impact wrenches and low growl of classic cars, like dad’s ’87 ‘Vette or ’84 Trans-Am.

But it was his last mechanical project that landed him in jail.

Garrido decided he needed to build a gun for protection: a one-round .40-caliber firearm made from the brass tube assembly of an air conditioner gauge, a large nut, springs and a screwdriver.

He kept the gun in his pocket. And on March 29, it went off, sending the single slug into his leg.

The wound later served as evidence for deputies, who arrested Garrido on Sunday on charges of possession of ammunition or firearms by a felon.


The Story of a Gun

6 Sep


This is the story of a gun.

It’s not an unusual story. This gun is no different from thousands of handguns just like it. This gun, a 40-caliber Glock sporting the serial number MPX753, was made for a deputy.

But it ultimately ended up in the wrong hands. This gun was used to shoot and wound two people on the streets of Boynton Beach. Its final stop was with a 22-year-old woman, who used this gun to shoot herself in the head.

Over four years, this gun traveled more than 5,000 miles, crossed an ocean and touched at least a half-dozen lives in Palm Beach County in ways no one ever thought it would.

The deputy

This gun entered the world on Sept. 26, 2008.

That’s when it ended its 5,000-mile journey from a factory in Austria to the Glock distributor in Smyrna, Ga. There, it was packaged and sent to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office — part of a fresh batch of 1,500 Glocks ordered by the sheriff to rearm his deputies.

Serial number MPX753 eventually landed in the car of Deputy William Hodge, of the traffic division.

But on the morning of Oct. 22, 2009, Deputy Hodge called the cops.

In the middle of night, someone had smashed the windows of his Dodge in the Central Park neighborhood of Boca Raton. The burglar took everything inside: a pair of handcuffs, a badge, $250 cash, some credit cards, a bullet-filled fanny pack — and the Glock.

Several witnesses told the cops they saw a large white van drive out of the neighborhood. It left behind nothing but shattered glass.

The drive-by

Two years later, a white truck crept down Northeast 10th Street in Boynton Beach.

It was 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2011 — the dead of night — but the truck’s headlights were out.

People were in the road when the driver stuck a gun barrel out the window and pulled the trigger.

A woman took off running. A man hit the ground and took cover. The bullets missed everyone. But police determined they were fired from a 40-caliber Glock.

Police arrested a 22-year-old man named Willie Hardimon and accused him of the shooting. The police never found the gun. The State Attorney’s Office had to drop the case.

And the gun went on its way.



28 Apr


Jim Billow needed something to keep him active after retiring from Caterpillar in York 15 years ago. He found that at the Mechanicsburg Cemetery. Jim and his brother are the cemetery’s groundskeepers. They clean the tombstones, mow the grass and bury the dead. CHRISTINE BAKER/ The Patriot-News


There’s a phone call from the boss: a problem at the mausoleum.

Jim and Gene Billow, keepers of the Mechanicsburg Cemetery, make their way to the building full of vaults for the dead, each marked with a name and date on a marble face plate.

“There’s some kind of smell coming out of there,” Jim says.

Walking up the mausoleum steps, they unlock the door and open it. A stench floats out of the darkness and hits you in the nose.

The Billow brothers, both in their 70s, are used to it.

“This is no smell,” Gene says, limping through the mausoleum.

Jim nods. “You’ll know when you smell a body,” he says. “It stays with you.”

It isn’t long before the Billow brothers find the source: A vault that had been sealed in 1976 broke open.

Now the brothers know they have to fix it, and the argument begins.

“Caulk it,” Gene says, pointing to the cracks along the edges of the vault.

“Nah,” Jim says. He drags out the vowel. The brothers have seen just about all there is to see at a cemetery: the vandalism, the animals, the sunken graves and stenches.

It’s nothing, Gene says. Nothing too exciting.

After the funeral

The brothers wait for the funeral to end.

Standing in the garage next to a dump truck filled with a drenched mound of red dirt, the brothers sip coffee and try to stay dry, not saying much.

For the Billow brothers, this is how it goes: They wait, sometimes in the rain or heat or snow, until it’s time to do a job that starts and ends with dirt.

There’s not much to talk about.

“Weather’s not too good to be throwing dirt,” says Gene, leaning on the truck.

The brothers fill graves with the same dirt pulled from the ground the day before. With a backhoe, it takes 15 minutes to dig a hole 6 feet deep. It’s a hole big enough to bury a coffin 7 feet long and 4 feet wide. They do it about 35 times a year, adding to the more than 4,000 graves logged at the cemetery.

“They look to be almost done up there,” Jim says, looking to the funeral procession in the distance, the black umbrellas and hats, the suits and dresses.

“We’ll be dumping mud,” Gene says and sips the coffee.

With black hair speckled with grains of gray, Gene has bad legs and a bad back. Because of multiple leg, back and neck surgeries, he has trouble walking. At 76, he’s a year and 15 days younger than Jim, who has stark white hair and doesn’t have much trouble getting around.

You wouldn’t know they’re brothers by looking at them. But you’d know it if you’ve seen them argue. It’s usually a fight about the smarter way to do something, not the faster way.

The brothers are in no hurry.



28 Apr

Pennsylvania State Police SERT members gear up for a hostage crisis at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg Friday February 3, 2012. CHRIS KNIGHT, The Patriot-News


The RV’s horn kept blaring Friday morning.

Harrisburg resident Tim Spangler was in the midst of helping his buddies from Montana unload their trailer for the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show and thought some kids were goofing off behind the wheel of one of the many RVs in the Farm Show Complex parking lot.

He finally walked about five spaces to his left, thinking he’d tell a bunch of kids to knock it off.

Instead, Spangler said he found a woman blowing the camper’s horn, her clothes and hair covered in dried blood.

“She said ‘I’m dying, I’m dying! My husband shot me,’” said Spangler, who said he then called police.

Friday night, authorities were still looking for the woman’s 62-year-old husband, Missouri resident Beau Gaylord Robinson, who police cautioned should be considered armed and dangerous. Robinson was a vendor at the show, authorities said.

Robinson’s wife, whom police did not identify, is in a local hospital, and Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. did not provide details of her wounds. He didn’t say what led to the incident or whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

Charges of aggravated assault are pending against Robinson, state police said.

Authorities didn’t immediately know Robinson was on the loose.


‘I’ve never been afraid — not of the cancer … Not of anything.’

28 Apr


Amelia Earhart was the cousin of Hampden Township resident Terry Earhart's father. ED KOMENDA, The Patriot-News


An old, grainy photograph recently unearthed by researchers might hold the key to solving one of the nation’s most enduring aviation mysteries.

The photo also could end one family’s search to find a long lost relative.

For years, Terry Earhart, a 69-year-old Hampden Township resident, wondered what happened to his father’s cousin, the high-flying, record-shattering daredevil of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937.

On Tuesday, researchers announced they might have found a clue to her final resting place preserved in an old photograph taken by a British soldier in 1937, off the coast of the remote island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

The image shows what looks to be the landing gear of a plane protruding from the water.

Terry learned of the photo’s existence Wednesday morning when he opened his newspaper.

The soldier snapped the photo just months after Amelia Earhart disappeared with navigator Fred Noonan in the area many have speculated to be the crash site.

The new clue was enough to prompt Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to publicize a new expedition to search the area for the Earhart plane’s wreckage. The search is expected to begin in July.

Since her disappearance, no indisputable evidence or wreckage has been found, although several rumors have emerged and evolved over the years.

One such rumor suggested Japanese soldiers captured Amelia and killed her at a Saipan prison.

Following the footsteps of his father — who was first cousins with Amelia — Terry traveled to Saipan in 1975 to conduct his own research.

He found no credible evidence.



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