US – West Region Archives:

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — American actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who starred as a death row inmate in “The Green Mile” and in other box office hits such as “Armageddon” and “Kung Fu Panda,” died at a hospital in California on Monday, his publicist said. He was 54.

Duncan suffered a heart attack nearly two months ago and had remained hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “The Oscar-nominated actor suffered a myocardial infarction on July 13 and never fully recovered,” said Joy Fehily, a publicist at public relations company Prime.

Reverend Omarosa Manigault, who was previously known to be Duncan’s girlfriend, announced his passing in a brief emailed statement from Fehily. “Manigault is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time,” she said, adding that Manigault was Duncan’s fiancĂ©. It had not previously been reported that the couple was engaged.

“Celebrations of his life, both private and public, will be announced at a later date,” Fehily added.

Born in Chicago, Duncan is probably best remembered for his role as death row inmate John Coffey in the 1999 drama film “The Green Mile, which earned him an Oscar nomination. But he is also known for having portrayed Bear on the 1998 disaster film “Armageddon,” the voice of Commander Vachir in the 2008 computer-animated action comedy film “Kung Fu Panda”, and Franklin Figueroa in the 2000 adventure crime comedy film “The Whole Nine Yards.”

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COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS (BNO NEWS) — A man opened fire Monday at his house near the campus of A&M University in eastern Texas after being served an eviction notice, killing a law enforcement officer and a bystander before being shot dead by police officers, officials said.

The incident began just after 12:10 p.m. local time when a Brazos County Constable was serving eviction papers at a residence on Fidelity Street near the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. Responding officers were also shot at by the homeowner, triggering a 30-minute firefight.

The University briefly issued a “Code Maroon”, warning students and residents to remain inside and stay away from the area.

The College Station Police Department said the firefight ended when the gunman, identified as 35-year-old Thomas Caffall, was shot by a College Station Officer. The gunman was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, as well as Brazos County Precinct 1 Constable Brian Bachmann and 43-year-old bystander Chris Northcliff.

Four other people were injured, including a 55-year-old woman who underwent surgery after the shooting and three College Station police officers. One of the injured College Station police officers was treated at the scene and refused transport to a hospital, police spokeswoman Officer Rhonda Seaton said.

“As a result of the initial investigation, detectives have determined that Constable Bachmann had gone to a residence located at 211 Fidelity to serve eviction papers. Multiple state and local agencies are assisting the College Station Police Department in the continued investigation regarding this incident,” Seaton said. “Updates will be provided as soon as they become available.”

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — Internet giant Google, Inc. on Monday said it plans to cut approximately 4,000 jobs at telecommunications company Motorola Mobility, which it acquired last year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Patrick Pichette, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Google, said it plans to cut about 20 percent of approximately 20,000 employees at smartphones and tablets developer Motorola Mobility. “Two-thirds of the reduction is set to occur outside of the U.S.,” he said in the filing.

The cuts are designed to return Motorola’s mobile devices unit to profitability, after it lost money in fourteen of the last sixteen quarters. Google announced its acquisition of Motorola in August 2011 and the $12.5 billion deal was approved by competition authorities in Europe and the United States earlier this year.

In addition to the layoffs, Pichette said Google plans to simplify Motorola’s mobile product portfolio and shift the emphasis from feature phones to more innovative and profitable devices. The changes will also result in Google closing or consolidating about one-third of Motorola’s 90 facilities.

“Investors should expect to see significant revenue variability for Motorola for several quarters,” Pichette said. “While lower expenses are likely to lag the immediate negative impact to revenue, Google sees these actions as a key step for Motorola to achieve sustainable profitability.”

Monday’s news sent Google’s shares up as much as 2.61 percent, although most analysts said they are unsure if the changes will be enough to return Motorola to profitability.

Pichette said the company expects to incur a severance-related charge of no greater than $275 million, but he warned Google may also incur other restructuring charges which cannot be predicted at this time. “These additional charges could be significant,” Pichette said in the filing.

For the employees affected by the layoffs, Motorola promised to provide generous severance packages as well as outplacement services to help them find new jobs. “Motorola understands how hard these changes will be for the employees concerned and is committed to helping them through this difficult transition,” Pichette added.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — A California scientist has discovered that Mars has at least two plate tectonics, contrary to popular belief that the Red Planet is too small, and its interior too cold, to host plate tectonic processes, his University announced on Thursday.

An Yin, a planetary geologist and professor of Earth and space sciences at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), has been studying the surface of Mars for years and recently analyzed about 100 satellite images taken by NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft and the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“When I studied the satellite images from Mars, many of the features looked very much like fault systems I have seen in the Himalayas and Tibet, and in California as well, including the geomorphology,” Yin said on Thursday. He previously conducted geologic research in the Himalayas and Tibet, where two of the Earth’s seven major plates divide.

Yin said he found a very smooth, flat side of a canyon wall which can only be generated by a fault and a steep cliff comparable to cliffs in California’s Death Valley, which are also generated by a fault. The Red Planet further has a linear volcanic zone, which is a typical product of plate tectonics.

But the surface of Mars is also home to Valles Marineris, a system of canyons that runs along the Martian surface and is more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) long, making it one of the largest canyons in the Solar System. Scientists have long been in disagreement about how the canyons formed, but Yin said his new evidence shows Mars has at least two plate tectonics which are divided by Valles Marineris.

“I saw that the idea that it is just a big crack that opened up is incorrect,” Yin said. “It is really a plate boundary, with horizontal motion. That is kind of shocking, but the evidence is quite clear. The shell is broken and is moving horizontally over a long distance. It is very similar to the Earth’s Dead Sea fault system, which has also opened up and is moving horizontally.”

Yin said the two plate tectonics have moved approximately 93 miles (150 kilometers) horizontally relative to each other. He pointed out that California’s San Andreas Fault, which is over the intersection of two plates, has moved about twice as much – but they are comparable because Earth is about twice the size of Mars.

The planetary geologist, who refers to the two plate tectonics as Valles Marineris North and Valles Marineris South, said the small size of Mars may explain why there are only two plates. “Earth has a very broken ‘egg shell,’ so its surface has many plates; Mars’ is slightly broken and may be on the way to becoming very broken, except its pace is very slow due to its small size and, thus, less thermal energy to drive it,” he explained.

The discovery of plate tectonics also suggests the Red Planet may experience so-called marsquakes, and this adds further support to evidence released earlier this year that a powerful marsquake hit the Cerberus region of the planet in recent history. “I think the fault is probably still active, but not every day. It wakes up every once in a while, over a very long duration – perhaps every million years or more,” Yin said.

Earlier this year, earthquake geologist Gerald Roberts at Birkbeck, an institution of the University of London, said there is evidence that our planetary neighbor may have experienced marsquakes in the recent past. He and his team also analyzed imagery from HiRISE and examined boulders along a fault system known as Cerberus Fossae, which cuts across a lava surface on Mars.

Roberts said the images showed boulders that ranged from 2 to 20 meters (6.5 to 65 feet) in diameter, which had fallen in avalanches from cliffs. The size and number of boulders decreased over a radius of 100 kilometers (62 miles) centered at a point along the Cerberus Fossae faults.

“This is consistent with the hypothesis that boulders had been mobilized by ground-shaking, and that the severity of the ground-shaking decreased away from the epicenters of marsquakes,” Roberts said in February. He estimated that the magnitude of the marsquakes may have been greater than 7 on the Richter scale.

The scientists said the marsquake likely happened in recent history, within the last few percent of the Red Planet’s 4.5 billion year history, but it is impossible to say exactly when. The British scientists said it is possible that large magnitude quake activity is still occurring on Mars, but it will be difficult to tell until seismographs are taken to Mars.

For Yin, there is still more work to do, as he is unsure how far beneath the surface the two plates are located. “I don’t quite understand why the plates are moving with such a large magnitude or what the rate of movement is; maybe Mars has a different form of plate tectonics,” he said. “The rate is much slower than on Earth.”

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FLORENCE, ARIZONA (BNO NEWS) — An Arizona man who tortured, raped and murdered two of his co-workers was executed by lethal injection Wednesday after spending nearly half his life on death row, prison officials said. He is the 26th person to be executed in the United States this year.

Daniel Cook, 51, was pronounced dead at 11:03 a.m. local time at Arizona State Prison Complex – Eyman in Florence, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix. It came several hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal by Cook’s attorneys to block the execution.

His last meal on Tuesday night included eggplant lasagna, garlic cheese mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, broiled asparagus, root beer soda, and ice cream. The drug for his execution was administered at 10:26 a.m. local time on Wednesday and it took approximately 37 minutes before the sentence was carried out.

Cook’s last moments were said to be emotional as he sobbed while making his last statement. “I’d like to say sorry to the victim’s family. I know that’s not enough,” he said before taking a pause. “Where am I?” he then asked. “To my lawyers, thank you. Red Robin, yum. I’m done. I love you.”

Cook was convicted of the brutal murder of 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos and 16-year-old Kevin Swaney in Lake Havasu City in 1987. Prosecutors said Cook had quit his job and on July 18 began drinking alcohol and smoking methamphetamine with his former co-worker John Matzke.

Cruz-Ramos confronted Cook and Matzke after he discovered they had stolen $90 money from him. But the two overpowered Cruz-Ramos, stripped off his clothing and bound him to a chair where they beat him with their fists and a pipe. Cook also cut Cruz-Ramos with a knife, raped him, burned his genitals with cigarettes and pierced a staple through his foreskin.

About six hours after the brutal assault began, after midnight, the Cook and Matzke attempted to strangle Cruz-Ramos with a sheet. They then continued to put a pipe over his throat and stood on it until he died.

Several hours later, Swaney arrived at the apartment and saw Cruz-Ramos, whose body had been dumped in a closet. Cook and Matzke then attacked Swaney, who was crying, and also tied him to a chair. Cook stripped off Swaney’s clothing and raped him before Cook and Matzke strangled him with a bed sheet.

Matzke went to the police and was offered a plea agreement for 20 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Cook, who had suffered severe sexual and physical abuse as a young child. Matzke was released from prison in July 2007 after he completed his 20-year sentence.

Cook was the fifth person to be executed in Arizona so far this year and the 26th in the United States. It came less than a day after 54-year-old Marvin Wilson was executed at Huntsville Unit in Walker County, Texas, for the shooting death of a police drug informant in November 1992.

The execution of Wilson was highly controversial because his attorneys claimed he was mentally handicapped. A psychological test conducted in 2004 pegged Wilson’s IQ at 61, which would make him mentally retarded. But prosecutors and officials argued that the test was carried out by an inexperienced intern and pointed out that several other tests showed his IQ to be above 70.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Regional airline Horizon Air is facing a hefty fine of more than $1 million for flying nearly two dozen passenger planes while they were not in compliance with federal regulations, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Wednesday.

The FAA said Horizon Air operated 22 Bombardier DHC-8-402 turboprop airliners on more than 186,000 revenue flights while security flight deck doors were installed with blind rivets which can damage other components such as wiring. Instead, federal regulations require these to be installed with solid rivets.

The FAA said it discovered the violations after a 23rd Horizon Air plane was modified with blind rivets, causing it to experience in-flight wiring damage during a non-revenue flight. But even after being told the aircraft were not in compliance with federal regulations, Horizon Air continued to operate one of the aircraft on another 22 passenger-carrying revenue flights before finally replacing the rivets.

As a result of the violations, which occurred between December 2007 and June 2011, the FAA has proposed a civil penalty of $1,005,000 against Horizon Air. The company, which is a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group that also owns Alaska Airlines, has 30 days to respond to the agency.

The fine proposed on Wednesday comes just three months after the FAA fined the airline $445,125 for operating a Bombardier Dash-8-400 aircraft on 45 flights while it was not in compliance with federal regulations. The FAA said Horizon Air failed to inspect the aircraft for cracked or corroded engine nacelle fittings every 300 operating hours.

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HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS (BNO NEWS) — A Texas man convicted for the shooting death of a police drug informant in November 1992 was executed Tuesday evening, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that he was mentally handicapped and therefore should not qualify for the death penalty.

Marvin Wilson, 54, was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. local time at Huntsville Unit in Walker County. He was convicted and sentenced to death in April 1994 in the shooting death of 21-year-old police drug informant Jerry Robert Williams, who had been abducted by Wilson after a physical confrontation.

Tuesday’s execution by lethal injection took place several hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal in which Wilson’s attorneys argued that his execution would be unconstitutional under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2002 which banned the executions of mentally retarded people.

It is widely accepted that someone with an IQ score under 70 is mentally retarded, and a psychological test conducted in 2004 pegged Wilson’s IQ at 61. But prosecutors and officials argued that the test was carried out by an inexperienced intern and pointed out that several other tests showed his IQ to be above 70.

As he was laid down on the death-chamber gurney, Wilson told his three sisters and son that he loved them. “Son, get your life right with Christ,” he said. “Give mom a hug for me and tell her that I love her. Ya’ll do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint. Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord. [..] I see you Rich, don’t cry son, don’t cry baby. I love ya’ll, I’m ready.”

Wilson was the seventh person to be executed in Texas so far this year and the 25th in the United States. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Texas has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

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PHOENIX, ARIZONA (BNO NEWS) — Jared Lee Loughner on Tuesday pleaded guilty to killing six people and wounding U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a dozen others when he opened fire at a political event outside a supermarket in Arizona in January 2011, prosecutors said.

Loughner, 23, pleaded guilty to nineteen federal charges in a plea agreement which will spare him a federal death penalty and instead sentences him to seven consecutive life sentences, followed by 140 years in prison, with no eligibility for parole. The deal also waives Loughner’s right to an appeal.

A federal judge had initially ruled in May 2011 that Loughner was incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness and ordered him to be hospitalized in a facility in Springfield, Missouri. Experts had examined Loughner and determined that he was severely schizophrenic, suffering from paranoia and delusions.

But U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns ruled on Tuesday that Loughner, a college dropout, was now competent enough to stand trial and enter a plea. “He’s a different person in his appearance and affect than the first time I saw him,” Burns said of Loughner during the court appearance, as quoted by NBC News.

John Leonardo, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, welcomed the plea agreement. “Given the defendant’s history of significant mental illness, this plea agreement, which requires the defendant to spend the remainder of his natural life in prison, with no possibility of parole, is a just and appropriate resolution of this case,” he said.

The attack happened in January 2011 when Loughner opened fire outside a supermarket in northwest Tucson, where Giffords was hosting her first “Congress on Your Corner” of the year. Loughner, armed with a Glock model 19 9mm semi-automatic pistol, walked up to Giffords and shot her in the head at close range.

The Democrat, who was at the time representing Arizona’s 8th congressional district, was critically injured and remained hospitalized for months. She announced her resignation from U.S. Congress in January of this year, saying she had more work to do on her recovery but promised to return to work for Arizona and the United States.

After shooting Giffords, Loughner opened fire at other people who were attending the political event, killing six people and injuring twelve others. Among the fatalities was federal judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green. Loughner was arrested when police arrived at the scene.

Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, said Tuesday they both support the plea agreement. “The pain and loss caused by the events of January 8, 2011, are incalculable,” the couple said in a joint statement. “Avoiding a trial will allow us – and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community – to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives.”

But Susan Hileman, who was injured as she accompanied 9-year-old Christina, said the plea agreement will not give her closure. “There is never closure because Christina is never going to ring my doorbell again,” she told reporters. “The wound is always open, there’s a hole in the world. Judicial proceedings don’t do anything for that.”

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YUBA CITY, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — A hostage situation at a sporting goods store in Northern California ended peacefully on Sunday afternoon after the human held employees hostage for several hours, police said. There were no injuries.

The situation began at about 11:15 a.m. local time on Sunday when a gunman entered the Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Yuba City in Sutter County, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Sacramento. The suspect walked up to a cashier and dragged her by her throat at gunpoint to a nearby office, where he attempted to gain entry.

The suspect then allegedly fired several rounds into the air and ordered everybody in the store to the back of the building, witnesses said. Two hostages remained in the sporting goods store while hostage negotiators tried to achieve a peaceful ending. A SWAT team also remained on standby at the scene.

Police said the situation was made more difficult because large groups of people had gathered in the parking lot.

But the situation came to a peaceful end at about 3 p.m. local time when the suspect, identified only as a 28-year-old man, surrendered and exited the store with his hands in the air before being taken into custody. It was not immediately known what was the motive for the hostage situation, or if the gunman made any demands.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (BNO NEWS) — Police in Southern California believe they have identified a serial killer who may have killed at least four women, and possibly more, between 1980 and 2000, investigators announced on Friday. The suspect died in police custody in January 2008.

The first known killing happened on August 19, 1980, when 25-year-old Sonia Smith was bound, raped, strangled with a cord and her body dumped in an abandoned field in Los Angeles. Another 25-year-old woman, Phyllis McClinton, was killed on November 4, 1980, in an almost identical case, with her body also dumped in an abandoned field in Los Angeles.

Two decades later, on August 11, 2000, 45-year-old Vanessa Williams was found naked and strangled to death in a vacant field in Pomona, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. Two months later, 27-year-old Christine Fields was found strangled to death in a field in Riverside County, although she lived in Pomona and investigators believe she was not killed in the field.

In July 2007, investigators linked the murders of Smith, Williams, and Fields based on DNA evidence. They also found a person of interest when they discovered the case of a woman who was assaulted and bound in a similar manner as Smith and McClinton. The woman survived the November 1980 attack and identified Los Angeles resident Larry D. Hubbard as the attacker. He was arrested at the time and charged with false imprisonment.

Just two months before the new developments in 2007, Hubbard was arrested by police in Ontario, California, for an outstanding Florida escape warrant, stemming from a 1974 robbery conviction. Hubbard had escaped the Florida prison in 1977 and then moved to California, where he lived in Los Angeles and Pomona until he was arrested while at work in San Bernardino.

But before investigators identified Hubbard as a person of interest in the serial murders, he attempted to hang himself on June 23, 2007, while being extradited to Florida. He initially survived the suicide attempt but died of complications from his self-inflicted injuries on January 13, 2008.

Before he died, detectives requested and used a biological sample from Hubbard to compare it to evidence from the Smith case. Detectives were notified on June 22, 2012, that Hubbard’s DNA profile matched a partial DNA profile which was developed from a sexual assault kit in Smith’s case.

Investigators believe Hubbard may be responsible for more murders that have gone undetected over the three decades and are asking the public for help. Anyone with possible information is being asked to contact Detectives Luis Rivera and Elizabeth Estupinian at the Robbery-Homicide Division of LAPD’s Cold Case Special Section at (213) 486-6810.

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