County launches new mental health crisis team
Rockland County took new steps to address the medical needs of residents last week with the introduction of a new service designed specifically for mental health emergencies.
The County’s Behavioral Health Response Team is comprised of units which include a behavioral health clinician and an EMS technician or a psychiatric technician with EMS training. Working off emergency calls, the unit will function as first responders by assessing and addressing potential emergencies, providing transport to Nyack Hospital for emergency psychiatric evaluations and providing follow-up and referral services.
The program, which was funded by $950,000 in funding from the State Office of Mental Health, was pioneered as a way to bring help to Rocklanders in crisis while also taking the burden off police and other medical responders, who are not always trained to handle such situations. Similar programs also exist in neighboring Orange and Sullivan counties.
Pearl River school district sells condominium complex
The Pearl River School District is making moves to sell off a condo complex on a 4.6-acre patch of land it owns near its district offices.
The unusual asset, a complex known as the Pines at Pearl River, was approved for sale by the district in May and has since been listed online with Prudential Joyce Realty for prices ranging from $159,000 to $231,000. Properties for sale include four two-bedroom units, four single-bedroom units and two studio units.
The complex was initially owned by Africa Inland Mission, an evangelical christian organization which used the site as a combined residential and administrative center before it sold the parcel to the school district for $4.6 million. The school district took out a $4.9 million bond to finance the transfer of its administrative offices to the building, but had to await state approval before it was cleared to sell the residential portion of the property.
It is anticipated the revenue from the sale will be used to pay down the school district’s outstanding bond from 2010 before the issuance of a lesser $3.3 millio bond. After at least half the units have been filled, the property will be managed by a newly-formed homeowner’s association.
Man charged for cocaine, MDMA possession in Ramapo
A man arrested last year in Sloatsburg has returned to the county to face outstanding drug charges.
Craig Miller was arrested by police in South Brunswick, New Jersey on an outstanding warrant for fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Before his run-in with South Brunswick Police, Miller was arrested after a traffic stop in Sloatsburg turned up cocaine and MDMA, known by the more common street name “Molly.”
A warrant was issued for Miller’s arrest after he failed to appear for his most recent court date. He has since been arraigned in Sloatsburg Village Court and transferred to the Rockland County Jail, where he is being held on $5,000 bail.
Rockland robbbery suspect found hiding in Georgia attic
A fugitive wanted for a string of armed robberies-including one in Rockland-was arrested Thursday after authorities found him barricaded in a Georgia attic.
Lawrence “Squeaky” Brown, 44 of the Bronx, was found sealed away in the attic of a home owned by a relative of his ex-wife, more than two years after he allegedly orchestrated a string of armed robberies. Agents with the ATF and U.S. Marshals were able to bring Brown in only after they had physically removed the door of the attic.
Brown is suspected in a violent 2013 robbery of a drugstore on Route 59 in Hillcrest where he took money at gunpoint, forced the owner to zip-tie the manager and then zip-tied the owner before making his escape. He is also suspected in robberies in New Windsor, Newburgh and College Park, Georgia as well as a kidnapping and extortion case in Hackensack County, New Jersey.
The robberies earned Brown a spot on the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ 10 Most Wanted list. Though authorities floated a $2,500 reward for tips leading to his capture, they announced Brown’s discovery was the result of technical information, not a tipoff.
Investigators are continuing to look for clues as to possible accomplices who helped to move and hide Brown while he was wanted.
Schumer faces re-election challenge from high-profile NYC Republicans
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer could face a tough re-election race from a crowded pool of Republican candidates, a crowd comprised largely of established, socially liberal GOPers.
Though none of the candidates have formally announced their candidacy, many are at turning points in their political careers, turning points GOP insiders hope will prove advantageous in the race. Two, Rep. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook and Rep. Richard Hanna of Utica, are socially liberal Republican Congressmen with uncertain futures on a national stage.
Gibson announced he would soon retire from Congress to consider a gubernatorial campaign in 2018, but party members have expressed a hope that he would change his mind to challenge Schumer. Hanna only narrowly defeated Tea Party Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney in 2014, but is also considered a favorite.
Downstate, conservative stalwart Rep. Peter King and newly-elected Manhattan GOP Chairwoman Adele Malpass have been eyed as strong possibilities, as well. Though Malpass has stated her immediate priorities focused on strengthening New York’s Republican establishment, an unnamed Republican activist told the New York Post that King was likely to look favorably upon a race against Schumer.
Plumber confesses to illegally tapping into gas line at site of fatal explosion
A NYC plumber confessed to police that he illegally tapped into a gas line in the East Village apartment complex where two people died in an explosion last month, but added the landlord’s son ordered him to go through with the changes.
The March 26 explosion, which killed a customer and busboy in a ground-floor restaurant at 121 Second Avenue, is still under investigation. However, police announced this week that an unidentified plumber admitted to police that he illegally unhooked a gas line and reinstall it only 30 minutes before the blast.
According to police, the plumber attempted to deflect blame onto Michael Hrynenko Jr., the son of the building’s current landlady and Rockland resident Maria Hrynenko. According to him, Hrynenko Jr., who was injured in the explosion, compelled him to make the changes prior to a Con Edison inspection.
Police have not yet decided whether to use the plumber’s testimony against him or cut a deal.
Pizzeria’s opposition to gay marriage spurs rival crowd-funding campaigns
A small Indiana pizzeria’s reluctance to cater same-sex weddings has spurred strong verbal and charitable reactions from both sides of the culture war divide.
Following a local news interview with owner and professed Christian Crystal O’Connor, Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana received responses so overwhelmingly negative-and occasionally threatening-that O’Connor announced the business would close until the heat died down.
In response, a crowd-funding campaign initiated by Blaze TV contributor Lawrence Jones managed to raise over $842,000 over the course of five days, far surpassing the initial $200,000 goal set by Jones. The campaign prompted a rival campaign from Equality House, a Kansas-based group which responded by raising over $41,000 in funds for homeless LGBT youth. Musician Cyndi Lauper has also raised over $80,000 with her own pro-LGBT crowdfunding campaign.
Memories was placed in the spotlight when O’Connor voiced her support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a controversial state bill critics argued would legally-sanction religious discrimination against LGBT individuals in places of business. In response to a fierce public backlash, Indiana’s State Legislature legally clarified the law, altering its language to explicitly state it is not intended to be used for discriminatory purposes.
Edward Snowden statue removed from Brooklyn park, replaced by hologram
A sculpted bust of former National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden was quietly erected in a Brooklyn park by two NYC-based artists overnight on Monday before the city opted to take it down. However, another group of artists endeavored to put up their own monument in the form of a computer-projected image.
The statue, which weighed more than 100 pounds, was carved at another site before it was carried to Fort Greene Park by the team of artists, who made the statue as a way to honor Snowden for his exposure of the NSA’s broad warrantless surveillance program. The anonymous artists, who have reportedly pulled off similar sudden art assemblages in public, came up with the idea two years ago at the height of the fallout from Snowden’s release of classified program information
The statue did not last long. Employees with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation together with NYPD officers covered the monument on Monday and removed it later that afternoon. Another group of artists stepped in to replace the statue, however, temporarily projecting a holographic image of Snowden onto a cloud of smoke in the same spot the bust had been placed.
California governor imposes drought water restrictions
Caliornia Governor Jerry Brown introduced severe water restrictions on his state last week, requiring towns and cities to slash water use by at least 25 percent.
The executive order, which was announced April 1, severely limits residential and commercial water use. Property owners would be required to limit watering of not only lawns but also landscaped areas on school campuses, cemeteries, golf courses and other land tracts which typically require large amounts of irrigation. Residents might also be penalized for regular activities which consume inordinate amounts of water such as long showers.
However, agriculture and oil industries were controversially not included in the order, though the former encompasses about 80 percent of water use in the state. Brown argued he did not include farms in the order because of their critical role in providing for the nation’s food supply. The state has one of the largest agricultural industries in the nation, raking in $46.4 billion in 2013.
State water levels have been alarmingly low for four years, with a drought emergency being declared most recently in January 2014. Since then, Brown has instituted voluntary guidelines for water conservation which have met with mixed success statewide.
Ex-Congressional aide avoids prison time for rape due to acid attack
A former U.S. Senate aide and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs staff director has temporarily avoided prison time for sexual assault for medical reasons as he continues to recover from an acid attack.
Judge Robert E. Morin agreed to suspend the four-and-a-half year sentence imposed on Donny Ray Williams Jr., who was convicted after pleading guilty to raping two women in 2010, one with a date rape drug, and threatening another person.
However, prosecutors argued an acid attack in 2013 which disfigured Williams meant he was eligible for a suspended sentence until he was well enough to serve his time. Williams, who suspected a jealous ex-boyfriend of a woman he was dating might have been behind the attack, maintained his innocence and argued he pled guilty to focus on subsequent medical issues and surgeries rather than a legal battle.
Since the beginning of his political career working for Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, Williams worked on a number of major pieces of legislation, including the Homeland Security Act in 2002 which established the Department of Homeland Security. He also served on a committee tasked with planning a rebuild of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and served as a Housing and Urban Develoopment liaison to the White House.
Rolling Stone retracts rape story
An investigative Rolling Stone article on an alleged campus rape was retracted after a report released on Sunday found failures at every level of the journalistic process.
The magazine has agreed to publish a report by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism which argued the magazine ignored basic journalistic procedures when it published the story of “Jackie,” an anonymous University of Virginia student who told the magazine that she had been gang raped at a Phi Kappa Psi frat house.
After individuals mentioned in the story came forward to contest the claims and discrepancies arose, an investigation was initiated by police, who found no substantial evidence that the event occurred. The Columbia report went further into the reporting process, finding that its author Sabrina Rubin Erdely allowed Jackie to manipulate the process, frequently failed to find corroborating accounts to the victim’s initial claim and could have avoided the issue if a basic level of fact-checking had been employed by Erdely and her editors.
Erdely has since apologized for the article, but will not resign and will likely continue to work for Rolling Stone.
Kenya retaliates against militants for student massacre
Kenya has sent warplanes to bomb the strongholds of Somalian terror group al-Shabab as retaliation against the organization’s massacre of students at a college in Eastern Kenya.
Kenyan Air Force jets pummeled two camps in Somalia where they believe the attacks originated in an effort to create a buffer zone between al-Shabab controlled areas and the Kenyan border by forcing militants back into their country’s interior. The show of force was also pursued as a means of portraying the state’s military forces as strong and reactive amid criticisms of slowness to respond to al-Shabab attacks.
The attack was also revenge for an attack on Garissa University College by Al-Shabab gunmen, who killed 148 people last week before Kenyan security forces arrived and killed four of the attackers. The assault was reportedly retaliation for recent Kenyan incursions into Somalia as part of an African Union military campaign.
Kenya has been victimized by al-Shabab terror attacks before. In September 2013, the terror organization killed 63 people in an attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall.
South Carolina officer charged with murder for shooting fleeing suspect
A police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina has been arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday after video footage was released showing him shooting an unarmed suspect in the back as he ran away.
Michael Thomas Slager, 33, was charged after footage was released showing the aftermath of a traffic stop where the officer, who initially argued Scott made him fear for his life, fired eight shots as Scott ran away.
Initial support for Slager soon evaporated among North Charleston police and public officials after a bystander released film footage of Slager firing the shots into Scott’s back from a distance of several feet. Following the arrest, Slager was summarily terminated from his position.
The Justice Department has also announced it has launched an investigation into the incident with help from the FBI and the South Carolina U.S. Attorney’s Office.