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‘Sanctuary’ reprisals from Abbott take hardball politics a step further

When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez stopped detaining jail inmates for federal immigration checks, Gov. Greg Abbott quickly tried to change her mind with a tried and true incentive: Money. The choice was clear. Continue housing inmates while immigration agents investigate their status, and the county could keep getting $1.5 million in state grants being used for family violence education, the...
FAA missed chance to ground balloon pilot before deadly Lockhart crash

FAA missed chance to ground balloon pilot before deadly Lockhart crash

Alfred “Skip” Nichols, the chief pilot and owner of the Heart of Texas Balloon Rides, shouldn’t have been flying on the morning of July 30, 2016, when he crashed and died along with 15 passengers. Two years earlier, the Federal Aviation Administration had learned of his lengthy criminal record of alcohol-related driving offenses. Nichols had violated FAA rules by not voluntarily...
Why so many Texas teachers accused of improprieties are never charged

Why so many Texas teachers accused of improprieties are never charged

Hundreds of Texas primary and secondary teachers lost or surrendered their teaching licenses since 2010 after being investigated for improper relationships with a student. More than half were never criminally charged. In all of those cases, information about the alleged misconduct isn’t easily accessible from the Texas Education Agency and in many instances is kept secret by school districts...
An hour from Austin, Trump’s first two weeks are cause for celebration

An hour from Austin, Trump’s first two weeks are cause for celebration

From Day 1, Donald Trump’s presidency has roiled Austin. But on a gorgeous February day barely an hour northwest of the Texas capital in bucolic Burnet County, habitués of the Blue Bonnet Cafe were savoring the first two weeks of the Trump presidency like a slice of the timeless eatery’s best-selling coconut cream pie. “Love him,” said Dan Ross, who lives in Cottonwood...
12-year-old plants seeds of change for Austin’s hungry

12-year-old plants seeds of change for Austin’s hungry

It was supposed to be an educational conversation among first-graders about Christmas traditions around the world. But one little girl was crying. “She broke out in tears and said, ‘Santa’s never come to us, he hates us because we’re poor,’” Ian McKenna recalls his sister, Addison, telling him one day after school at Oak Hill Elementary in late 2012. Ian had to...
As South Congress redevelops, will the funky survive?

As South Congress redevelops, will the funky survive?

Dramatic changes are coming to South Congress Avenue, setting up a transformation that some Austinites say threatens the funky fabric of one of the city’s best-known destinations. A wave of upscale shops, restaurants, offices and boutique hotels is headed to the area — displacing some of the homegrown businesses that many patrons and merchants say have given South Congress the eclectic...
Austin crime lab bucked DNA standard for years, yet got passing grades

Austin crime lab bucked DNA standard for years, yet got passing grades

In 2010, an influential national organization of scientists devoted to ensuring that forensic labs employ only the latest and best methods of analyzing DNA evidence published a new set of guidelines. In essence, the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods concluded that analysts should use the quality of genetic samples, rather than the quantity of evidence gathered at a crime scene, to decide...
Lawyers raised doubts about Austin DNA lab work as early as 2009

Lawyers raised doubts about Austin DNA lab work as early as 2009

Long before the Austin Police Department’s DNA crime lab was shuttered, prosecutors and defense lawyers were second-guessing its work. In 2009, prosecutors raised red flags about DNA results in a rape case, later dismissed the charges against the suspect and eventually hired two private labs to double check the department’s results before refiling them. In 2015, a rape suspect&rsquo...
At end of Restore Rundberg grant period: crime down, future uncertain

At end of Restore Rundberg grant period: crime down, future uncertain

A few years ago, Barbara Williams said, she carried a pistol and a knife with her everywhere she went. She called police after hearing the cries of a little girl assaulted outside her window. She watched her neighbors openly dealing drugs out of the front doors of their North Austin apartments. She said she put a sign on her own door: “This is not the drug house.” Now things have changed...
Your guide to Austin-area festivals in 2017

Your guide to Austin-area festivals in 2017

From puns to Polish movies, Austin’s got it all when it comes to festivals. Whether you’re looking for something free, outdoor, indoor, musical, athletic or something else entirely, we’ve got you covered with our list of 2017 events. Are we missing one? Email cgonzales@statesman.com and we’ll add it to our list. JANUARY » See a map of January’s events here. Print...
Texas schools and districts get their letter grades from state

Texas schools and districts get their letter grades from state

School districts across the state got lackluster grades under the state’s newest accountability system that debuts Friday. Various Central Texas districts received unacceptable marks of D’s and F’s in certain categories, including Austin, Leander, Hays, Georgetown, Bastrop, Manor, Elgin, San Marcos, Hutto and Dripping Springs, according to a report sent to the Legislature last week...
Restaurants scheduled to open in Austin in 2017

Restaurants scheduled to open in Austin in 2017

The first of the year is a good time to look ahead at what’s to come. A chance to rev up our appetites, to imagine the possibilities. Unopened restaurants are full of potential. No plate has been poorly executed and no server has spilled a drink in your lap. While there will be many under-the-radar restaurants that open in 2017 and thrill us with their unique charms, I’ve highlighted here...
Firm studying I-35 toll lanes faces lawsuit over faulty projections

Firm studying I-35 toll lanes faces lawsuit over faulty projections

The company hired by the Texas Department of Transportation to study the viability of toll lanes on Interstate 35 is battling allegations that it used inflated traffic projections for toll road assets in other states, court documents show. TxDOT awarded the $6.8 million contract to Macquarie Capital in 2014, two years after a lawsuit alleged the firm paid kickbacks — in the form of undisclosed...
Betrayed and abused: How Texas failed to protect boys from Dr. Charles Fischer

Betrayed and abused: How Texas failed to protect boys from Dr. Charles Fischer

The thin young man sat on the witness stand, fending off sharp questions by the defense lawyer and trying to explain how he was sexually abused when he was 16. Who took off your clothes? attorney Chris Gunter asked. I did, the witness said. But you told another investigator he took your clothes off. No, I did. The sparring continued and after a few minutes, the witness lost it. “It doesn&rsquo...
Silent majority: Hispanics deeply underrepresented in local politics

Silent majority: Hispanics deeply underrepresented in local politics

Isabel García has learned to fear “la playa” — the beach. Most years, the sunken field in front of her house is a riot of long grasses and cattails swaying in the Texas Panhandle wind. But heavy rains can turn that area into a lake that floods the former migrant labor camp of San Jose, home to hundreds of low-income Hispanic residents just outside the city limits of the county...
A handful of hep Hammer horror movies for Halloween

A handful of hep Hammer horror movies for Halloween

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the British film studio Hammer Films made some of the best horror pictures in the Western world. With over the top scripts, lush gothic colors and beautiful women, Hammer horror influenced everygenre from sci-fi (George Lucas would not have cast Peter Cushing as the Grand Moff Tarkin without the latter’s run in dozens of Hammer flicks) to fashion (a whole lot of...
On the Texas coast, a hurricane recovery haunted by the past

On the Texas coast, a hurricane recovery haunted by the past

Between the beaches of Port Aransas and the vacation rentals of Port O’Connor, the Texas coast is filled with small towns that suffered massive damage in Hurricane Harvey. For some, the hurricane will forever alter the course of their future: Already in Bayside (pop. 333, and falling), at least eight families, close to 10 percent of the population, have decided to abandon the city. Small towns...
It’s the first day of fall in Austin! This means nothing!

It’s the first day of fall in Austin! This means nothing!

Today is Sept. 22 in the year of our Lord 2017. According to the calendar, it is the first day of autumn. Which means, according to popular imagination, golden-brown leaves falling from trees; crisp, cool air; everyone in sweaters or jackets; and the anticipation of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Except in Austin.  Austin does not have autumn. At all. For those of us who are born on the East Coast...
How to watch last night’s Emmy-winning shows

How to watch last night’s Emmy-winning shows

The big question after watching the Emmys every year is, “How can I, the humble viewer, watch all of this incredible TV, even when the season for said TV is over?” Here is your answer, in no particular order. “Atlanta” The stunning FX comedy picked up two of three awards for which it was nominated. Not only did Donald Glover walk away with the lead actor in a comedy trophy...
Wedding album lost during Harvey recovered

Wedding album lost during Harvey recovered

Much of the time, we, the people, look at the Internet and think, “Why, Lord, why?” Even when (with a little Google-fu) we are able to listen to pretty much every piece of recorded music in human history, it doesn’t change the fact that the Internet has made the basest, most destructive impulses of humanity as public as humanly possible. No, I’m not going to link to any of...
A guide to Austin record stores

A guide to Austin record stores

Austin may bill itself as the Live Music Capital of the World, but we submit that it is an equally incredible place to live if you like to buy records from live human beings.  For years, record stores have been rising and falling in the River City, but to the town’s lasting credit, there has never been a time when record shopping vanished.  Not a lot of cities can boast the sheer number...
Victim tries to buy gun sniper used

Victim tries to buy gun sniper used

An Austin man who was shot by Charles Whitman 23 years ago and another man who talked to the sniper on the morning of the massacre are trying to buy two guns from the "Whitman Collection" being offered for sale by a Dallas-area gun dealer. Morris Hohmann was an ambulance attendant for Hyltin-Manor Funeral Chapel when he was struck by a 6mm rifle slug fired by Whitman from his perch atop...
Killer of UT Tower sniper leaving law enforcement

Killer of UT Tower sniper leaving law enforcement

The law enforcement officer who climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower and killed sniper Charles Whitman has reconciled himself to being remembered primarily for his actions on Aug. 1, 1966. Ramiro "Ray" Martinez, 54, said he would prefer to be recalled as a man who did any job that had to be done, then moved on to the next job. "That's just the way I was brought up. I...
Sniper Charles Whitman in movies, books and song

Sniper Charles Whitman in movies, books and song

Thirty years later, Charles Whitman is a notch on a timeline of violence. Pain and loss quietly take the back seat to curiosity and even tastelessness as Whitman bubbles up in pop culture. Here are some examples: The made-for-TV movie, "THE DEADLY--TOWER" (1975), turns up on late-night cable from time to time; it also was released once on video under the name "Sniper." Kurt Russell...
Whitman's father copes by suppressing memories

Whitman's father copes by suppressing memories

He's an old man now with a touch of Alzheimer's. His short-term memory comes and goes. But some memories are never lost: The death of three children -- two violently, one with AIDS. The murder of his wife. And one searing event branded in his soul forever, stamped upon the psyche of countless Americans, and part of the violent saga of our time. Thirty years ago Thursday, his son and namesake, Charles...
Garden now a memorial to victims of UT sniper

Garden now a memorial to victims of UT sniper

This story originally was published on Aug. 2, 1999. A green, peaceful place where, more than three decades ago, horror and death exploded from above, was dedicated Sunday to those who died and those whose lives were forever changed by Charles Whitman's bullets. In a brief, somber ceremony, University of Texas President Larry Faulkner spoke at the leafy, sun-dappled plot of about one-half acre just...
UT reclaims its tower, after 25 years

UT reclaims its tower, after 25 years

University of Texas student Diana Arevalo hauled her bulging camera bag to a ceremony Wednesday night to celebrate the reopening of the UT Tower, and she's lucky she did. Arevalo, a junior majoring in photojournalism, was one of 10 people chosen at random for an inaugural tour of the Tower's observation deck, which reopens to the public today after almost 25 years. The deck sports a new birdcage-like...
UT Tower hero can't forget

UT Tower hero can't forget

The $286 monthly check for former Austin cop Houston McCoy is due any day now. It won't buy much, but to McCoy, the government stipend represents more than purchasing power. It is an acknowledgement that at least some of the problems he's wrestled with for the past 33 years have a rational basis. Since Aug. 1, 1966, when he and fellow officer Ramiro Martinez rode to the top of the University of Texas...
99 minutes, 30 years later

99 minutes, 30 years later

He dreamed of the Tower. People dream about the Tower all the time. Some want to jump off it, and nine people did between 1937 and 1974. Some dream they're falling off it. Some dream it's falling over on top of them. One student, years and years ago, dreamed of it blasting off like a Mercury rocket. Some go to a campus psychiatrist and talk about their anxieties, pop quizzes, success, champions, failure...
UT Tower Tragedy quietly fades into history

UT Tower Tragedy quietly fades into history

Editor's note: This story was written before the death of David Gunby in late 2001. Gunby, whose death was ruled a homicide by a Tarrant County medical examiner, is now considered Whitman's 16th victim. The University of Texas Tower shooting that left 15 people dead is an event that few want to remember as part of the university's history. And so the 35th anniversary of the event passed Wednesday...
A sniper's steely legacy

A sniper's steely legacy

The seven guns that Charles Whitman carried to the top of the University of Texas Tower in 1966 in a bloody rampage that left 14 dead and 31 wounded are being offered for sale by a Dallas-area gun collector. The sale of the three rifles, one shotgun and three pistols has brought back painful memories for some, but at least one of Whitman's shooting victims said he recognizes the historical value of...
Claire James survived Whitman's bullet; the baby she carried didn't

Claire James survived Whitman's bullet; the baby she carried didn't

Claire Wilson James lost her baby in a most public and lurid way. Forty-two years ago, Charles Whitman shot Claire's pregnant womb from his dreadful skybox atop the University of Texas Tower. Now, Claire loses her baby in private, in her sleep, when the world no longer is watching. "I so wanted a baby, and I so missed my baby," she says."For years, even now, I have dreams that somehow...
Heroes of UT Tower tragedy honored

Heroes of UT Tower tragedy honored

Austin's most legendary thin blue line stretched three generations deep Friday along a sidewalk in front of a government office building with a peaceful view of the Hill Country. One by one, the law enforcement officers who helped end Charles Whitman's killing spree from the University of Texas Tower 42 years ago stepped forward for a recognition of their bravery. In some cases, widows, children and...
Ending Whitman's life changed theirs

Ending Whitman's life changed theirs

The resting places of their Medals of Valor reveal the contrasting destinies of Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy better than the men themselves. Martinez's decoration is tucked away inside an upscale home in New Braunfels, where he serves as justice of the peace, clad in a dignified black cloak, respected by the community. McCoy displays his medal to visitors in a gutted building where he lives and...
Oak Hill facility to bear names of heroes of UT Tower rampage

Oak Hill facility to bear names of heroes of UT Tower rampage

The people who risked their lives to stop Charles Whitman's killing marathon from the University of Texas Tower on Aug. 1, 1966, finally are getting permanent recognition for their bravery. But the new memorial is 12 miles from the UT Tower. A Travis County building in Oak Hill will be named the Tower Heroes Building today at the unveiling of a black-and-silver metal historical plaque that lists the...
Houston McCoy, police officer who shot UT Tower sniper Charles Whitman, dies

Houston McCoy, police officer who shot UT Tower sniper Charles Whitman, dies

Houston McCoy, the Austin police officer who stopped University of Texas Tower sniper Charles Whitman more than 46 years ago, died early Thursday afternoon in a rest home in his hometown of Menard. He was 72. McCoy died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, caused by many years of smoking, said his daughter Monika McCoy. McCoy would have hated the first sentence of this obituary...

No joke: My old pal Artly was a hero, too

I've known for years that my buddy Artly Snuff is a funny guy. But I didn't know he was brave. On the front page of Sunday's newspaper, we ran a photo from a video taken that awful day of Aug. 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman went up in the University of Texas Tower and started shooting people. Thirteen people and an unborn baby were killed that day. I think if it weren't for Artly Snuff and a couple...
Reflections of pain and hope at UT

Reflections of pain and hope at UT

University of Texas officials are creating a million-dollar memorial to the victims of sniper Charles Whitman's shooting spree almost 40 years ago. The tree-covered grassy area north of the Main Building was dedicated as the Tower Garden three years ago. UT President Larry Faulkner said that dedication was the first step in remembering those who died and those whose lives were affected by the shootings...
UT Tower's legacy, 33 years later

UT Tower's legacy, 33 years later

All who were on the University of Texas at Austin campus Aug. 1, 1966, as I was, will forever remember the events of that day. The Tower shootings deeply affected the lives of many people in the community, the state and the nation. At 4 p.m. today, the university will honor all those who died and those whose lives were touched by this tragedy. At the ceremony, we will dedicate a grassy, tree-covered...
Public healing cannot erase private grief

Public healing cannot erase private grief

When her body came to rest after tumbling down two flights of stairs, Mary Lamport thanked God. She was alive, in spite of the multiple bullets that pierced her body. And so was her son Michael. Mother and son talked as they went in and out of consciousness on the stairwell. Nearby, the man who shot them, Charles Whitman, was picking off victims from the observation deck at the University of Texas...
UT Tower shooting claims one more life

UT Tower shooting claims one more life

It took 35 painful years, but a rifle bullet fired by Charles Whitman on Aug. 1, 1966, from the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower finally killed its victim this week. David Gunby, 58, died Monday at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth, and the Tarrant County medical examiner, Dr. Nizam Peerwani, ruled the death a homicide, given the chronic kidney problems he suffered because of the gunshot...
A killer's conscience

A killer's conscience

Charles Whitman liked to keep lists, neat little reminders of ways to better himself. In the Marine Corps it was: "Think -- don't be so ready with an excuse." "Organize yourself and your work." "... Exhaust all efforts to find answers." "Know your status and position and conduct yourself accordingly." At the top of the list, the 20-year-old Marine implored himself...
Sniper fire rings for 3 men after 25 years

Sniper fire rings for 3 men after 25 years

In a dry creekbed 150 miles west of Austin, an aging cowboy named Houston McCoy mends a barbed-wire fence under the searing sun, trying to make enough money to fix his ancient pickup. In New Braunfels, 50 miles south of Austin, a burned-out Texas Ranger named Ramiro Martinez leans back in his chair and dreams of retirement. A thousand miles from both of them - deep in the Nevada desert - an old slot...
Writing releases pain of Tower tragedy

Writing releases pain of Tower tragedy

Having lived with the UT sniper tragedy all of my life, I have suppressed a lot. I was a bright, energetic kid and saw the world as a wonderful adventure. Aug. 1, 1966 changed all that for me forever. It's a day that remains painful to me even 40 years later. For me it all started in June. I was in the Boy Scouts, and we were going on a campout that had started Friday night and continued through Sunday...
History forgot Whitman's other shooter

History forgot Whitman's other shooter

Former Austin police officer Houston McCoy says he doesn't want to be called a hero because he was just doing his job when he helped end a massacre by shooting Charles Whitman 40 years ago today on the University of Texas Tower. But McCoy, 66, wants his great-grandchildren, and future generations of Austinites, to know that he fired the two gunshots that stopped a terrifying 96-minute episode on Aug...
UT Tower shootings: The forgetting Aug. 1, 1966

UT Tower shootings: The forgetting Aug. 1, 1966

Forty years ago today a 25-year-old man with a blond crew cut stood high above Austin and forever embedded himself in the history of one of the most prominent elements of the city's skyline — the University of Texas Tower. Now, a generation has passed. Few of the tens of thousands of UT students give much thought to the fact they are the same ages as the majority of the people Charles Whitman...
UT Tower shootings: An anniversary with no answers

UT Tower shootings: An anniversary with no answers

After former University of Texas Police Chief Allen Hamilton's files on the 1966 Tower shootings turned up at Half-Price Books the other day, I got a glimpse of the future. Someday my children will come across the three sagging boxes labeled "Whitman" in my garage and ask the same question that Hamilton's family did: What to do with all this stuff? Their course of action likely will be the...
Sniper papers depict chaos

Sniper papers depict chaos

Christian Kurtz, a used-book buyer at Half Price Books in Austin, is used to finding all sorts of strange and unique things in the boxes people bring into his North Lamar store. Nothing, however, could have prepared Kurtz for what he found in the files of Allen Hamilton, who was chief of security for the University of Texas in 1966, when Charles Whitman went on a shooting spree atop the UT Tower....
40 years later, KTBC retells the tale of UT’s tragic day

40 years later, KTBC retells the tale of UT’s tragic day

Before Columbine, before Oklahoma City and Sept. 11, there was the University of Texas Tower massacre. On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman pointed a rifle from the observation deck of the Tower and began shooting in a homicidal rampage that went on for 96 minutes. All told, he killed 15 people (the film says 16, which includes an unborn child) and wounded another 31, and in the shocked aftermath, a handful...

Casualties of the streets: American-Statesman analysis reveals how Austin’s homeless are dying

They died just out of sight: In the wooded area behind Krieg fields in Southeast Austin; in the drainage ditch outside a North Austin Jiffy Lube; suspended in the branches of a Williamson Creek tree. City officials warn that up to 50 percent of chronically homeless people are at risk of premature death, according to recent studies. In Austin, that means about 300 people live with that increased risk...
Doctor says bodybuilding correction officer allegedly disabled for 20 years shouldn't return to work

Doctor says bodybuilding correction officer allegedly disabled for 20 years shouldn't return to work

A former Mass. state worker out on disability for 20 years also often enters bodybuilding competitions. FOX Undercover introduced you to the bodybuilder back in May and after our report, the state pushed for answers. "I'm in good shape, yeah," 45-year-old Mark Lovell said. "I can still try to stay in shape and do what I can do but I have my limitations, absolutely, 100 percent."...

Missed signs, fatal consequences

In 2009, the Legislature ordered Child Protective Services to publicly record every abuse — and neglect-related death in the state in hopes of identifying patterns and discovering ways to prevent abuse deaths. But the Statesman has learned that CPS has not systematically analyzed those reports, meaning that in important ways, Texas’ child protection workers effectively have been operating...
DPS ends South Texas checkpoints

DPS ends South Texas checkpoints

State law enforcement leaders said Tuesday they would no longer deploy controversial traffic checkpoints along the Texas-Mexico border, even as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for an unprecedented border enforcement initiative. Critics called the so-called regulatory checkpoints — used in the Rio Grande Valley in September and October — state-operated immigration traps. Department of Public...
Billy's World

Billy's World

The American-Statesman originally published this series in 2008 in the wake of a sexual-abuse scandal at a Texas Youth Commission lockup that produced a cascade of investigations and reform efforts. Nearly forgotten was the fate of 500 juveniles freed after state lawmakers told the agency to stop locking up misdemeanor offenders. American-Statesman investigative reporter Eric Dexheimer and photographer...
Emails reveal how agency grappled with doctor abuse case, aftermath

Emails reveal how agency grappled with doctor abuse case, aftermath

Shortly after 7 a.m. on Oct. 25, Austin State Hospital Superintendent Carl Schock was preparing to suspend a longtime child psychiatrist with a once-sterling history of service. Dr. Charles Fischer, a well-regarded doctor with a seemingly unblemished 20-year career at the psychiatric hospital, had been under investigation for more than five months by the Department of Family and Protective Services...

Even court officials find fees hard to untangle

Because of the Legislature's tinkering, the matrix of fees, fines and costs criminal defendants face has grown into an administrative thicket that even people who see it every day can find baffling. "Sometimes I can't even tell my client what the bill is for," said David Gonzales, an Austin defense attorney. The Office of Court Administration fields "hundreds of calls a year from trial...
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