Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chihuahuas Pack Attack Police Officer

By Lisa Fernandez (

Ferocious pit bulls they weren't.

But it couldn't have been pleasant for a Fremont police officer whose body parts were chomped on by a pack of nippy Chihuahuas, angry that police woke them from an early morning sleep and entered their master's home in a middle-class suburban neighborhood.

The officers were bringing home a 17-year-old boy, who was spotted in a car Wednesday about 3 a.m. without a driver's license. When officers Paul Mourgos and Paul Rush arrived and opened the door, five itty-bitty dogs "viciously attacked'' officer Rush, according to a Fremont police report.

Of course, the dogs couldn't reach anything higher than Rush's ankles, and the officer was treated and released from the hospital with only minor gashes, police said.

Rush is the third Fremont officer in two months bitten by a dog. Contacted Friday on his day off, Rush declined to comment about the incident. The case was forwarded to the city's animal-control services, which was closed Friday.

The name of the teen was not released because he is a juvenile and a Mercury News check of the neighborhood yielded only one Chihuahua owner, Lucas Valasquez, 18. But he said neither he nor his three brothers were the ones involved in that case. He also said that as far as he knows, his dog, "Casper'' is the only Chihuahua on the street.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Police Closer To Child's Attacker

U.K -- Police hunting the man who abducted a six-year-old girl from her bath and left her naked in the street after a sexual assault said yesterday that they were building up a detailed picture of the attacker.

The detective leading the inquiry, which has been inundated with information from people on North Tyneside, said that officers were "getting ever closer" to the middle-aged suspect seen hanging around and acting suspiciously before the snatch in icy weather on Tuesday evening. Detective Chief Inspector Jim Napier made a direct appeal to the man, who has been described as "extremely dangerous", to give himself up. He said: "Come forward now and get this off your chest before we find you. I have a team of highly trained, experienced detectives who are working with the sole aim of finding you."

The girl, who has described a "nasty man" to her family and specially trained police investigators, is believed to have made it clear that she did not recognise her attacker. But lines of inquiry are thought to include casual acquaintances of the girl's mother and her gay partner, or people who knew about access through an unlocked back door.

Northumbria police said yesterday that they were taking legal advice about photographs of the girl, disguised by pixellation, which were published in the Daily Mail and the Sun yesterday. The pictures were obtained from the family before the child's father, a former soldier, arrived at the house and demanded other copies back. He has lived apart from the family since the mother met her new partner in an internet chatroom.

The force's press officer, Barbara Brewis, said: "The pictures could quite clearly lead to her being identified and were used despite a warning issued to the media. There is an obligation not to publish anything which could lead to the identity of this victim being revealed, as she is both a juvenile and the victim of a sexually motivated assault."

Mr Napier said the girl, who has an 18-month-old brother, was safe and well back with her family. She was found screaming and shivering in a back lane about 15 minutes after her mother found the ground floor bathroom empty.

The child's grandmother, who lives in County Durham, said: "She seems to be coping well, though you never know what is going on underneath. As well as the nasty man who took her away from the house, she's been talking about the nice man who found her crying.

"She has been to hospital twice and been interviewed by the police, who've said that we should let her talk if she wants to but not to make a big thing of it. There are so many questions in my head and her dad's head but it is clear from what the police have said that she doesn't know this man at all."

The man who rescued the girl, after neighbours joined a search of the small grid of streets near the Tyne tunnel entrance, said yesterday he and his wife had been left devastated by the experience.

Geoff Brown said he ran over to the child standing naked in the cold shortly after 7pm and asked what had happened. She told him between sobs that she had been taken from her bath.

"I couldn't understand what had happened, so I just picked her up in my arms and brought her in the house," he said.

Police believe from the girl's account, and minor injuries she suffered, that a sexual assault occurred, possibly in a car which was seen driving erratically in the area shortly before the attack. Police have described a man in dark clothing and wearing dark gloves who may have been in the car and was also seen on foot by children playing in another alley.

Police are expected to question the girl further today. They are working through known paedophiles from the area's register of sex offenders to check their whereabouts on Tuesday evening.

Regular patrols have also been increased.

Egypt Police Attacks Sudanese Refugee Camp

CAIRO, Dec. 30 -- A three-month standoff between Sudanese refugees and Egyptian authorities climaxed in bloodshed early Friday when club-wielding police invaded a refugee squatter camp, setting off a melee in which at least 20 and perhaps 26 Sudanese were killed.

Some refugees fought back, using tent poles as weapons. An Egyptian Interior Ministry statement, which acknowledged 12 deaths, said 74 police officers were wounded. Officials blamed the deaths on a stampede.

The refugees set up the camp in a park in September to press their demands for resettlement in a Western country. They refused to return to their unstable homeland despite a January peace deal that ended years of north-south civil war. After the peace agreement, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stopped registering Sudanese for political asylum. Protesters resisted police orders and appeals from the Sudanese Embassy to leave.

At about 1 a.m. Friday, about 3,000 helmeted riot police surrounded the park, which is located in the relatively affluent Mohandessin district on the west side of the Nile River. They fired water cannons at some of the 2,000 refugees gathered there. After trying to drag people one by one onto buses for about two hours, the police invaded.

As is common with riot police in Egypt, the stiff rows of officers soon turned into a throbbing mob of uncontrolled baton-swingers. Police pursued refugees to the buses and whacked them as they boarded, including women and children.

Boutrous Deng, a Sudanese protest leader, told the Associated Press that 26 Sudanese were killed -- 17 men, 2 women and 7 children. Hospital officials earlier put the figure at 23, according to the Reuters news agency. Security officials cited anonymously by the AP said there were 20 deaths.

By dawn, the park was cleared, and about 1,000 refugees were transported to police barracks outside the city limits, Interior Ministry officials said. Other Sudanese huddled in parks and on street corners elsewhere in the sprawling capital. Piles of luggage and clothing remained where the protest camp had stood.

Tension over refugee arrivals from the south is felt across North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africans, fleeing violence and hunger in their homelands, have flocked to countries along Africa's Mediterranean coast. Many then board boats to try to reach Spain or Italy.

The European Union has pressured North African governments to curb the migrant traffic to its shores. Compliance commonly ends in brutality. In Libya, which until recently permitted sub-Saharan Africans to enter without a visa, reports of refugees disappearing without a trace after arrest are common.

On Thursday, seven migrants fled Morocco by clambering over a razor-wire fence into Spain's North African enclave of Melilla. In September and October, hundreds of African migrants stormed Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish possession in North Africa. In separate incidents, Moroccan and Spanish police shot at the crowds, killing 11.

The exact number of Sudanese in Egypt is not known, but estimates range from 200,000 to 2 million.

Egypt's Interior Ministry said police were responding to the needs of the UNHCR, which, according to a ministry statement, had received "threats to attack the commission offices and its members." The ministry also asserted that the refugees ignored a Sudanese Embassy deadline for them to abandon the park or face the consequences.

"Attempts had been made to convince them to disperse, but to no avail," the ministry statement said. "The Egyptian security forces were implementing the deadline imposed by the Sudanese Embassy. The migrants' leaders resorted to incitement and attacks against the police."

The UNHCR reported last week that it had reached a compromise with some protest leaders. The agency pledged to resume hearing some asylum cases and offered a one-time payment of up to $700 for housing expenses.

In Geneva, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement: "I am deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic events early today in Cairo. There is no justification for such violence and loss of life."

The Sudanese government expressed understanding of the police action, with a spokesman saying the Egyptian government "was within its rights to reestablish its control."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

South Korean National Police Commissioner Resigns

SEOUL, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The head of South Korea's National Police Agency offered to resign on Thursday in order to take responsibility for the deaths of two farmers who clashed with police during a violent protest, a police spokesman said.

Huh said he thought the deaths of the farmers were accidental, the official said. Use of excessive force by police led directly to the farmers' deaths, according to South Korea's Human Rights Commission, which recommended criminal investigations and reprimands of the officers involved. National Police Commissioner Huh Joon-young, seen as a possible candidate for mayor of Seoul, had apologised earlier this week for the incident that took place at a rally in Seoul in protest at a measure to open markets wider to imported rice.

President Roh Moo-hyun intends to accept the resignation, a spokesman of the presidential Blue House said. Thousands of farmers and activists clashed with police on Nov. 15 in front of parliament, demanding the withdrawal of a bill to gradually increase rice imports.

Cheon Yong-chul died several days later from head injuries suffered after he was pushed to the ground by police, the human rights commission said in a report. Hong Duk-pyo suffered fatal neck injuries from a shield swung by police, it added. In several of the protests against the rice market bill, South Korean farmers and activists used steel pipes and bamboo sticks in clashes with the police, who retaliated with water cannons, batons and metal shields. Earlier this month, about 1,000 South Korean farmers travelled to Hong Kong and staged violent protests there against globalisation during a World Trade Organisation meeting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Officer's Wife Campaigns For Injured Police Support

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- The wife of a northern Idaho police officer shot in the face a year ago wants to improve support services for law enforcement agents injured in the line of duty.

Michael Kralicek, 33, was shot three days after Christmas last year by a handcuffed man suspected of stealing a beer keg.

Other officers killed Michael Madonna, 39, after police say he fired the bullet that shattered Kralicek's jaw, severed his carotid artery and broke into fragments in his spine, leaving him partially paralyzed.

Carrie Kralicek and representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police, a support group for law enforcement, say they are now campaigning for better assistance for injured law officers like her husband.

Carrie Kralicek says she's fought with the Idaho State Insurance Fund over everything from aspirin prescriptions to getting more in-home help.

"I was nickel and dimed over everything," Carrie Kralicek told the Spokesman-Review newspaper. "It was absolutely horrible. It's not like he busted a knee cap. It's 10 times worse."

Carrie Kralicek didn't say if she was working with any of Idaho's lawmakers on legislation to boost aid to injured police.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Idaho State Insurance Fund officials for comment weren't immediately successful.

For the past year, the city has paid the difference between state worker's compensation insurance and Michael Kralicek's salary as he does hours of grueling rehabilitation. He says he wants to get back as much of his old life as he can.

Before the shooting, he was an athlete who lifted weights regularly.

Now, after seven months of working with a physical therapist, he's finally taking short walks. It's been a struggle, he said.

His biggest challenge? "It's confidence," he said. "I keep thinking I'm going to fall over."

He was welcomed home from a rehabilitation hospital in Denver last summer and was named grand marshal of this northern Idaho resort city's Fourth of July Parade.

Still, the family has been unhappy with his treatment by state and local officials they say should be more responsive to his needs. The situation has improved, Carrie Kralicek said, but only after media coverage.

A new challenge is looming: On Jan. 1, Michael Kralicek will be classified for insurance purposes as permanently disabled, allowing him to collect federal and state benefits. But that also means he'll lose his job and related benefits.

Carrie Kralicek is upset that her husband and other injured law officers have a limited time to rehabilitate before being stripped of their employment.

She says these concerns - and the financial struggle that has gripped the family following Michael Kralicek's injuries - has convinced her more needs to be done to protect law officers in Idaho after they've been wounded.

She's working with Brad Landes, national trustee of the Idaho Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, to boost support for people like her husband. A Pennsylvania labor attorney has chipped in his services for free, she said.

"Before it was about a fight for Mike," Carrie Kralicek said. "Now it's grown beyond that."

Border Patrol Officers Take a Chance on Love

DOUGLAS, Ariz. — The forbidden romance between the Border Patrol agent and the illegal immigrant began in a gym.

Maria Terrazas, 31, met Jose Ruiz three years ago at LM's Body Builders in this remote border town. Terrazas, a waitress and mother of two, knew Ruiz was a catch. As a Border Patrol officer, Ruiz belonged to an elite class in town: available men with good jobs and an education.

The two began dating, and their relationship continued even after Terrazas was deported to Mexico in November 2004. She quickly bluffed her way through U.S. customs and back to Ruiz.

Terrazas, who said several of her illegal immigrant girlfriends have relationships with border agents, saw nothing unusual about dating a man whose job was to keep people like her out of the U.S. "He had his own job and I had mine," Terrazas said in an interview. "I never thought it'd cause problems."

But it did.

Terrazas faces deportation again and Ruiz, 30, is on leave from the patrol. A second agent has been charged with felonies for giving Terrazas a short ride across the border from Mexico. It is one of four felony cases stemming from a federal crackdown against corruption on the Arizona border.

That push has highlighted an open secret along the border: romance between illegal immigrants and those responsible for deporting them.

Some locals say that such relationships are inevitable in a town where the nearest movie theater is 51 miles north and the nearest nightclubs lie just across the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico. The clandestine romances, they add, also make a mockery of efforts targeting illegal immigrants, such as laws being considered by Congress that would mandate fences along sections of the border and fine employers who hire illegal aliens.

But such lines between the legal and illegal can be hard to draw on the southwestern border. For generations, families have easily moved back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, and even Douglas' mayor says he doesn't know whether longtime residents are in the country legally or not. Border Patrol agents, often young, single and new to the area, can get caught between the clear dictates of U.S. immigration law and the ambiguities of the heart.

"The absurdity of it gets played out in the day-to-day lives of Border Patrol agents," said Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network, an immigrant rights group based in Tucson. "Everybody knows somebody [in the U.S. illegally] who has some kind of relationship with a Border Patrol agent. Either someone in their family is married to one, or they're sleeping with one. People's lives are very complicated and intertwined and they're not very clear-cut."

To the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix and Border Patrol officials, the issue is clear-cut, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks highlighted the importance of securing the nation's borders.

Agents aren't expected to inquire about the citizenship of women they meet socially, said Gustavo Soto, a Border Patrol spokesman in Tucson. "That's one of the last things a young lady wants to hear — 'Hey, you have any papers?' " he said. "But once that information is found, that the person is here illegally," the patrol expects the relationship to end.

Paul Charlton, U.S. attorney for the district of Arizona, said it's especially important to be diligent about enforcing immigration law in a state where 52% of all illegal immigrants caught entering the country are detained.

Charlton said of the agents: "These are individuals who have put aside concern, both for immigration laws and the security of their own country, for their own interests."

Border agents, or any U.S. citizen, who wish to marry foreigners can get approval to bring them into the country legally, Charlton said. But that approval doesn't always come smoothly.

Pablo Berry was a 17-year-old student at Douglas High School when he met the only woman he ever dated: classmate Claudia Veronica Vasquez-Banda, 18. Like many at the school, Vasquez-Banda, court records show, was an illegal immigrant.

After graduating, Berry held a series of minimum-wage jobs that reflected the paucity of opportunities on the border — picking chiles, cooking at a Kentucky Fried Chicken — before securing an $11-an-hour post at a resort in Sedona, Ariz. In March 2003, the couple's daughter, Emily, was born. Berry needed better pay to support his family.

In southern Arizona, there was only one growth industry: the Border Patrol. Berry's hometown of 17,000 was opening a new station with 500 agents and entry-level wages of $40,000 a year.

Berry joined the patrol in July 2003, stating in his application that he had no illegal immigrants in his household.

"He was blinded by love," said Berry's attorney, Gary Spector. "If you have a family member [who's an illegal immigrant] you don't feel it's as egregious as someone who's trying to sneak across the border."

1 Police Officer Dead, 1 Missing

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Authorities searched a river Monday for a missing police officer after two officers in an emergency truck plunged more than 40 feet off an open drawbridge in thick fog late Sunday. At least one of the officers was killed; the missing man was feared dead.

The vehicle fell into the Hackensack River after the officers crossed the Lincoln Highway Bridge — also known as Hackensack River Bridge — and placed flares to warn motorists that the bridge's safety warning system was not operating, said Jersey City Police Chief Robert Troy.

Before the officers turned around and drove back across the river, the bridge's middle span was raised to allow a tugboat to go under.

"They dropped off the cones and the flares, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and were joking around. From what I've heard, they were all in good spirits," Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said.

"The horrible irony is they were responding to the very situation that caused their demise. The bridge operator wanted cones and flares, and our police department was the first to respond."

The safety bar and bell used to warn motorists when the bridge is open had not been working for two days because a vehicle had crashed into them, officials said.

The body of Officer Shawn Carson, 40, was found Sunday night. Carson was a 16-year veteran of the force.

Divers searched the 40-degree water Monday for Officer Robert Nguyen, 30, who has been with the department for six years.

The bridge, which links Jersey City and Kearny, is operated by the state Department of Transportation.

Department spokeswoman Erin Phalon said investigators were trying to determine whether the bridge operator was required to contact the officers before they crossed back into Jersey City, or whether the officers should have notified the operator.

"Everything in the universe that could have gone wrong, did go wrong," said police Lt. Tom Comey.