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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

911 tapes released in Ed Thomas shooting

Dispatcher: “Butler County 911.”

Daryl Myers: “This is Daryl Myers. I work for the school. We, uh, had, a, I think a shooting right now in the bus barn down at the high school.”

Dispatcher: “Where at?”

Myers: “At Parkersburg.”

Dispatcher: “Yeah, at the high school where?”

Myers: “Uh, in the bus barn.”

Dispatcher: “In the bus barn? Do you know who it was?”

Myers: “No I don’t, uh, kids just come running out and said somebody shot Ed Thomas.”

Dispatcher: “Ed Tho—! OK.”

Myers: “And they’re still in the building.”

Dispatcher: “They’re in the building?

Myers: “Yeah.”

Dispatcher: “All right. All right. We’ll get someone right there.”

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation on Friday released dramatic 911 tapes in which shocked but calm residents of Parkersburg report the fatal shooting of iconic high school football coach Ed Thomas. Mark Becker, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in Thomas’ death.

The tapes — three of five are intelligible — show concerns about a slow ambulance response and less-than-perfect communication between emergency responders.

The DCI withheld six 911 tapes, contending they contain information that’s part of the ongoing criminal investigation.

In one tape, Police Chief Chris Luhring told dispatchers he couldn’t reach an ambulance by radio.

“This is going to be a load and go. When they come in here and load that cot up, you’re out of here,” Police Chief Chris Luhring said.

The dispatcher told Luhring that a helicopter would be there in 15 minutes, and then the dispatchers spent a few seconds tracking down a cell phone number for someone in the ambulance.

In another call, Leah Vanderholt called 911 because several students had fled the weight room where Thomas was shot and were gathered at a house nearby.

“We can see the building right now, and all we see is a police blazer. We don’t see any ambulances, we don’t see anything,” Vanderholt told the dispatcher.

“The ambulance is on the way right now,” the dispatcher said. “They had a hard time getting a crew, but they are on the way. We also have paramedics that have been en route for about ten minutes.”

Vanderholt told the dispatcher the address of the home where she and the kids were waiting, and the dispatcher asked them not to leave until police arrived, and they had spoken with the officers.

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Where are Section 8 housing vouchers used in C.R.?

There’s a huge cluster in Wellington Heights. Here’s the map:

Section 8 Housing Map

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Hot Property #7: Commonwealth Apartments

The Commonwealth Apartment at 1400 Second Ave. SE rank seventh among residential properties that police were called to most often in 2008.

Police were called there 93 times. Considering the seven-story brick building has 110 apartments in it, that’s not an astonishing number of police calls. Rent (which is by the week) at the place is in the $600/month range.

The building is owned by WDJ Investments, and the manager is Jeff Frese.

I don’t see anything terribly shocking about the building in the archives, but the building does have an interesting history.

It was built in 1925, and at one point (hard to imagine now) there was a baseball park near it. It was supposed to be really fancy, with a 20-foot ceiling in the lobby. The art deco building was considered the height of luxury. The six stories were a self-contained community with its own dining room and laundry service.

Writer John Goulet lived there as a boy in the 1950s. Katherine Morrison, a resident there in the 1940s, was the first Eastern Iowa woman accepted by
the WAVES, the women’s division of the United States Navy.

In 1998, Bill and Donna Frese, then the new owners of the building, hoped to restore some of the building’s Jazz Age opulence.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , ,

Woman terrified after man’s second criminal trespass charge on her property

I met a woman on Friday who is scared of her neighbor. Since he moved in next door in December, she says he has tried to get into her house at least three times.

The problem is she can’t get a restraining order because she has no relationship with him. And police have charged him with criminal trespass, a simple misdemeanor, twice, in addition to several public intoxication charges.

I’m leaving out names for now, but I wonder if any other woman has had this problem, where she feels threatened by a man she doesn’t know personally, but has no recourse for separating herself from him in any significant, lasting way.

According to police:

In January, a little after 11 p.m., the woman heard someone knocking on the door and jiggling the door handle. (She has two small children.) Police came, charged the neighbor with public intoxication, and issued him a warning to stay off her property.

Then in March, she heard someone knocking on the door after 12:30 a.m. She thought it was her neighbor, and called police. When they arrived, he was asleep on her front porch. He was arrested for public intox and charged with criminal trespass as well because he had been warned in January to stay off her property.

In early May, a little after 4 p.m., she called police and told them her neighbor had tried to walk into her home. When police arrived, the neighbor was in a verbal argument with the woman’s landlord. He was charged again with criminal trespass. Police went back out there four hours later and looked to see if the lock on the screen door was actually broken, because she said he had broken it to get in. It was broken.

The man has already pled guilty to criminal trespass, criminal mischief for the lock and interference with official acts for the May incident. He wasn’t charged with anything more than criminal mischief because in order to charge someone with burglary, police have to prove intent to steal something or hurt somebody.

The March incident is going to trial, and yesterday, after I talked to the county attorney’s office (could be coincidence) the prosecutor filed a notice stating intent to seek jail time on the first criminal trespass charge.

One of the only ways for prosecutors to raise the stakes on this stuff is to charge the man with stalking, which requires that he has established a “course of conduct … that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury.”

It requires two or more instances. So there are already two instances, but no stalking charge.

As a commenter pointed out on http://www.gazetteonline.com, here’s what one lady did to solve a more serious problem.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this. A comment would be good, so would an e-mail: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Filed under: Courts, Public Safety, , , , , , ,

Why do C.R. police write so few crash reports?

Thousands of traffic accidents happen in Cedar Rapids each year without the police writing a report, leaving insurance companies to duke it out while their clients wish the police would weigh in.

Using state and local crash statistics, I found that Cedar Rapids police are half as likely to file a report on a traffic crash as police in some other major Iowa cities.

For instance, from 2004 to 2008, police responded to an almost equal number of accidents in Davenport and Cedar Rapids — a little over 25,000 in each city.

But over that same period Davenport police wrote twice as many crash reports as Cedar Rapids police — 14,690 in Davenport compared to 7,108 in Cedar Rapids.

By law, police are required to investigate and write reports on fatal or personal injury accidents. But when no one is hurt, the law is less clear.

The code requires that when an accident causes more than $1,000 damage, a written report should be forwarded to local law enforcement.

The code isn’t explicit about who needs to write the report. From a strict, literal reading, it could be either a police officer or one of the driver.

The interpretation at the Cedar Rapids Police Department is that police must pass along a driver’s report to the state, but generally don’t write a report unless the accident causes injury, or involves a moving violation or serious crime like drunk driving.

“A thousand dollars, as you know, is pretty low these days,” said Capt. Bernie Walther, who took over the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s Traffic Bureau in November.

Police Chief Greg Graham, Walther, and other higher-ups in the Cedar Rapids Police Department met in April to talk about the Traffic Bureau.

One key thing Walther pointed out to me is that Cedar Rapids officers can’t file accident reports from the computers in their squad cars. They don’t have the technology for it, and as a result, filing a report on an accident takes officers about two hours.

Even in Davenport, where officers file on average twice as many reports per year than Cedar Rapids, police aren’t always happy about it.

“It’s a pain in the butt,” said Sgt. Ron Waline, head of Davenport’s crash investigation unit.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , , , ,

Is the recession saving lives on Iowa roads?

As of yesterday, 88 people had died in car and truck crashes this year in Iowa.

That’s fewer fatalities by April 21 than in 2008, 2007, 2006 or 2005. It puts the state on a pace similar to 2004, when 388 people died on Iowa roads, the lowest number since World War II. (A monthly death count from 1938 to 2007 is available here.)

Scott Falb, a researcher for the Iowa DOT, thinks people are driving less — and driving slower — in 2009 because of the recession.

“I think they’re being a little more cautious with gasoline and it’s having an effect on their safety as well,” he said. “The same things that save you gasoline save lives out there as well.”

The worst year for Iowa traffic deaths was 1970, when 912 people died. Since then have come lower speed limits, child safety restraint laws and tougher drunk driving laws. Deaths have steadily declined.

The sharpest decline in fatalities was between 1981 and 1982, which reinforces Falb’s hypothesis about recessions and driver safety.

In 1982, the U.S. suffered its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (up to that point).

Filed under: 19467006, Public Safety, , , ,

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