Wednesday, January 05, 2011

5 JAN 11: Stop, You're Killing Me

Heath Taylor officially becomes Russell County Sheriff in 12 days. He told me so personally Tuesday. I didn't expect to have a phone conversation with him. Things simply ended up that way - and no, I didn't even jog across a bridge, to get in trouble in Alabama.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The incoming Russell County Sheriff confirmed to your blog Tuesday a police officer was assaulted last Friday night, and two suspects have been arrested. Yes, I know what a few of you are asking already - but first, here's the e-mail which led me to call Heath Taylor:

Sir Richard:

It was Christmas Eve, (1989) when I heard gunfire in the not so far distance. Someone explained to me that the sound wasn't too unususual on this blessed night. He further explained that certain segments of the community were quick to become irritated with one another; if they felt slighted by the gift they had received in exchange with another person.. Anger fueled with alcohol spilled over into violence, and often resulted in a senseless death.

I shook my head in disbelief - but statistics over the years have proven the story to be true.

This year violence didn't erupt in "Hurt'sboro until New Year's eve. Then a series of events occured that prove beyond the shadow of a doubt; that the town is far from peaceful and that our police officers are not up to the job of keeping the peace. Let's analyze what occured from all reports as I've heard them.

There was a "party" somewhere in "Hurt'sboro, there was a disturbance and someone called 911. Those calls are taken by the Russell County Sheriff and relayed back to "Hurt'sbor (if anyone is on duty) and then it's up to one of our Keystone Kops to take charge.

Let's stop right there for a moment, and put ourselves in "Barney's" situation. First of all - it was reported that two people were creating the problem. Simple arithmetic puts the "Kop" at a disadvantage - "two against one - isn't any fun." And, there was also the distinct possibility that the whole crowd would not welcome a man with a badge

. "Hurt'sboro doesn't provide it's officers with any equpment to subdue a violent or resisting individual. A well trained and intelligent person would have asked for back-up at first notice and responded with caution to monitor the situation until reinforcements arrived..

Not so; for our hero. He rushes into the building - handcuffs one of the combatants and is stabbed by the other during the process. .Then, the man with the knife takes off for parts unknown.

FINALLY, fearless Fosdick; calls for a three car back-up and an ambulance. The details get a bit fuzzy from there; but I'm sure the Russell County deputies regained a semblance of control on a situation that could have resulted in serious injury or one or more deaths.

The final twist to the story is that "Hurt'sboro doesn't insure its "Kops" The poor guy just "took one" for the team!...

There's a final twist to the tale. even though the "Hurt'sboro police officers are aware that their pay is not guaranteed, that their communication resources are inadequate, that they have to pay for and furnish their own equipment, they still are willing to "put in their time" in a town that cannot afford them.

I wonder what thoughts went through that officer's head when he learned that he had foolishly risked life and limb for an employer who has no medical coverage or life insurance on any of their employees. Loyalty must have its limits

R.J. Schweiger.

The former Constable should realize something first -- if only one year-end act of violence occurred in Hurtsboro, it's a lot closer to peaceful than some Columbus neighborhoods.

The mention of a "stabbed" police officer obviously forced a call to the Russell County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff-Elect Heath Taylor told me there was indeed a Friday night fight in Hurtsboro -- but the officer actually escaped with only a puncture wound on his forearm. Taylor doesn't consider that a stabbing. It's a bit like saying Krystal sells gourmet hamburgers....

The Sheriff-Elect says the man who escaped police Friday night was captured Monday in Hurtsboro. Courtney Cortez Walker, 21 of Opelika, now faces charges of assault on a police officer. And if Heath Taylor gave me three names for the suspect, you know this crime is considered serious.

I asked Heath Taylor for the Hurtsboro Police officer's name -- but for some reason, he declined to give it. Perhaps the officer works undercover, and is covering over that wound with a long-sleeved shirt.

The facts about the fight were my main concern Tuesday, as apparently no other news source has reported this story. Perhaps Robert Schweiger wanted me to focus on matters of police procedure and benefits. But really now - C.S.I. shows have to show a crime first.

And that leads to the question I knew some of you asked right away. Why would someone write a humor blogger to report on a stabbed police officer, and suspect possibly still at large? This is the place that once had Hurtsboro Mondays - while it's WLTZ which has Manhunt Mondays.

Some readers have told us they read this blog first thing in the morning, even before the newspaper. That's humbling to know - but the only criminals I'm comfortable putting on a humor blog are the really famous and the really dumb. Once in a rare while, those paths actually cross....

This blog turns eight years old Thursday - and while some people want it to be a local version of The New York Times, that's NOT what it was set up to be. I personally think Jon Stewart "jumped the shark" with his recent advocacy of the First Responders bill on "The Daily Show." Some actually will want him to run for President -- and not be a frightening close imitation like Stephen Colbert.

Regular blog readers know Robert Schweiger tries to spread "dirt" about Hurtsboro any way we can. Schweiger gets so desperate at times that he's used this blog to do it, even though he once dismissed me as a "buffoon" [19 Feb 07]. While Blog Exclusives are nice, there are other places besides humor blogs for crime news. Wane Hailes's paper "The Joint" might even pay a finder's fee.

By the way: readers younger than 40 may have been puzzled by Robert Schweiger's mention of "Fearless Fosdick." That was a comic strip parody of Dick Tracy in years gone by - and I don't know why someone hasn't reduced an iPhone to match Tracy's "two-way wrist TV."

E-MAIL UPDATE: Tuesday's InBox also had a comment about the Columbus mayoral, uh, swearing-in.

I too was worried that Commanding General Brown from Ft Benning would not be recognized at Mayor Tomlinson's swearing in..Just to look out over the crowd he was the first person that would catch your eye...His name should have been called before all the "elected and non-elected" Columbus officials..Other than the new Mayor he was the most important person there. I think he deserves a phone call from Mayor Tomlinson thanking him for attending..I hope she selects another person to fill an appointed position and replaces the person who has cost this county millions in uncollected revenue.I do believe that Mayor Tomlinson will be an outstanding mayor..

The River City Report has a picture of Teresa Tomlinson and Gen. Robert Brown chatting after Monday's ceremony. But wow - is the general more important than Rep. Sanford Bishop? Or Chief Judge John Allen? Simply because base realignment is coming does NOT mean Columbus is under martial law.

I'm not sure exactly who is the person "who has cost this county millions." Are the legal motions by Tony Adams's lawyers keeping city attorneys that busy?

Teresa Tomlinson presided over her first Columbus Council meeting Tuesday. The main issue was concern by retired city workers, because Blue Cross wants to increase their health insurance premiums 58 percent. City officials may respond by moving the insurance coverage elsewhere - and Columbus Regional might not need to ask for a city budget increase anymore.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Until further notice, all "essay-length" e-mails of 500 words or more will be held for Sunday posting unless they contain breaking news of some sort.)

BLOG UPDATE: The Phenix City Council reviewed an agreement Tuesday for a new auto supply plant at the Phenix Industrial Park with more than 100 new jobs. Yet some people spread rumors the city made a bad deal. Perhaps the criticism shouldn't be surprising - as Phenix City couldn't play in the Little League World Series 12 years ago without stories of feuding coaches.

"I don't see how they can do it," Economic Development Director J.W. Brannen told me. Not about the naysayer - about Iljin America's plan to have production underway in Phenix City by 1 July. They plan to convert an existing building at the Industrial Park nearly as fast as Rep. Lesley Vance converted to being a Republican.

Critics of the Iljin America deal point to a 2008 expansion in South Carolina, where the company acquired ten acres of land for $3.2 million. They ask where the sale money is for Phenix City - but J.W. Brannen said Iljin is buying a privately-owned building, once used by Columbus Carpet Works. That means contractors probably don't have to worry about the flooring....

J.W. Brannen says Iljin was offered a standard ten-year tax abatement, which is allowed for new business under Alabama law. And because an existing building is being used, there's no concern about stirring the infamous "bad dirt" at Phenix Industrial Park. Brannen told me that's only in "certain areas." Bring your own Geiger counter to figure out which ones.

J.W. Brannen dismissed another recent Phenix City rumor I read - that Ronnie Gilley might relocate the Phenixian condominiums away from the Phenix City riverfront to the old Phenix Regional Hospital building. Brannen noted Gilley is awaiting trial on gambling-related charges. Every dollar he wins at electronic bingo goes directly to his attorney.

And what about the talk of a new shopping area on South Seale Road? J.W. Brannan says nothing firm is in the works right now. Brannen added Target recently hired a Birmingham company to offer guidance on expansion in Alabama. But I'd think U.S. 431 would be a better place for that store -- as far from a Wal-Mart as possible.

It's been a busy day here, so let's quickly wrap up the rest of the news....

+ A source I tend to trust tells your blog DirecTV rejected the latest proposed agreement to carry Raycom Media stations, including WTVM and WXTX. So those urgent messages keep appearing on the bottom of the screen - and you can tell they're different from weather warnings, because they don't block any of your favorite programs.

+ Synovus Financial's Chief Information Officer announced she's retiring at age 49. Lee Lee James was also "Chief People Officer" - and if the rumors about big layoffs are true, that position might not be needed much longer.

+ The Mega Millions drawing was for $355 million -- a prize so huge that usual TV host John Crow was joined in Atlanta by a woman from New York. Take that, you critics! This big economic stimulus program created one new job.

+ WLTZ reported Toomer's Corner in Auburn now has a high-definition web-cam. If Auburn wins the big football game next week, you'll be able to count exactly how many rolls of toilet paper are on the trees.

+ WTVM visited Auburn restaurants which have adjusted their menus to celebrate the Bowl Championship Series title game. Niffer's is serving "Cam-burgers." The Hotel at Auburn University has added several duck dishes. And I assume everyone has dropped red potatoes, because that's too close to Alabama crimson.

+ Instant Message to all local TV viewers who may be at the brink of rage for the next few days: People in Auburn and Lee County watch Columbus newscasts, too. Imagine how annoyed they were last August by all the news about Northern Little League.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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