News Quirks 12.21.05
Curses, Foiled Again
Washington, D.C., police reported that Michael V. Donahoe, 53, robbed a bank, making off with $2000, but a witness thwarted Donahoe's getaway by blocking the taxi that he was escaping in. Then a dye pack, which the teller had put in with the stolen money, exploded in front of a crowd, which included two FBI agents eating lunch, who took Donahoe into custody.
Curses, Foiled Again and Again
A man who robbed a pharmacy in Philadelphia fled, but the pharmacist chased him to get the license number of the getaway car. There was no car, however, so the robber tried to hijack a truck. The driver was off-duty police Officer John Bender, who had his two children in the vehicle. Instead of turning over the vehicle to the armed man, Bender floored the accelerator and drove his children to safety. Meanwhile, the robber approached a woman, put the gun to her head and demanded her car, but passersby came to her rescue. The robber fled again. Bender returned to find the robber pointing his gun at a 29-year-old driver, who looked at the red plastic muzzle, realized it was a fake and tried to take it away. Bender pulled his gun and ordered the robber to freeze. Instead, he ran toward Bender's truck, which had the doors open and the motor running. Bender managed to tackle him, however, and placed him under arrest.
Leftovers may soon be used as fuel to provide electricity, thanks to a $100,000 pilot project at California's Sacramento Municipal Utility District. SMUD contracted with Ruihong Zhang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California at Davis, to study the feasibility of collecting food waste from restaurants that would otherwise be buried as garbage and feeding it to bacteria that will turn it into methane gas. The project, dubbed "Leftovers to Lights," is aimed at helping SMUD meet its goal of obtaining 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, according to SMUD manager Ruth MacDougall, who pointed out, "One of the most renewable things we have in Sacramento is our waste."
After a car ran into the front of a Burger King in Wausau, Wis., police said that the 78-year-old driver backed away from the crash, parked and then went inside to order. Police Patrol Inspector Bryan Hills reported that he found Rouland Steppert eating breakfast at a table near where his Lincoln Town Car struck the glass entryway.
- Alice Atwater, 72, drove her friends, Florence King, 78, and Ruthelle Outler, 84, from Thomaston, Ga., to a church in Griffin, Ga., 20 miles away to hear a particular preacher. The trip home lasted nearly 26 hours and took them to Macon, Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala. "We tried to find our way home, and the more we tried, the farther we went," Atwater said. "I wasn't scared. We just locked the doors and just rolled."
When Mark Copsy, 42, saw a burning car with two people trapped inside in Northlake, Ill., he was unable to open the door, even when he tried breaking the window with his feet. Then he realized that he was carrying a 20-pound frozen turkey that he had just bought for Thanksgiving. "I said, 'Hell, I'll just use the damn turkey.' And that's what I did," Copsy told the Chicago Tribune after a police officer and bystanders helped pull John and Juliana Brani from the car.
Police in West Bend, Wis., charged Jeffrey J. Hein, 40, with going on a three-month spree where he placed Polaroid photographs of his genitals on the cars of women who had parked at shopping centers. Hein told investigators that he selected the women "at random" and placed the photos on their cars because he thought they "would find it funny," according to a criminal complaint filed in Washington County Circuit Court. Hein explained that he got the idea after photographing his private parts and trying to sell the pictures to a pornographic website but was unable to interest anyone in buying them.
Why They Call It Dope
Philadelphia narcotics officers Michael Maresca and Joseph McCauley said that they were driving in a marked police car when they spotted Ronald Autin, 32, clutching a 2-pound bundle of white powder wrapped in duct tape "in plain view." The powder turned out to be cocaine.
Norwegian researcher Anita Lill Hansen began studying whether feeding people fatty fish can lower crime by controlling impulsive actions, violent outbursts and lack of concentration. She told the ANB news agency that she's looking for "a connection between low omega-3 levels and problem behavior."
- Danish researchers have come up with singing pillows to help its peacekeeping forces in the Balkans get a good night's sleep. The MusiCure pillows feature built-in speakers, which play birdcalls and other sounds of nature combined with acoustic instruments to help soldiers overcome stress. In Kosovo, 10 pillows provided by Denmark's Defense Academy became an instant hit among the 340 Danish soldiers deployed there, according to Maj. Helmer T. Hansen, who noted that each soldier gets to keep the pillows for two weeks.
School officials in Steilacoom, Wash., suspended a middle-school student for three days after he wore an inflatable penis costume outside another school's homecoming dance. The parents of James Watkins, who described their son as a straight-A student, an athlete and a "good kid," admitted that the boy made a mistake, but they said the suspension, along with a sexual harassment citation, was too severe. "He wasn't even on his own school grounds," said Mark Watkins, the boy's father.