Friday, March 30, 2007

"7-Foot Gator Caught on the Southeast Side"

Last October, there were some alligator sightings on the East Side. This is not unusual for East Texas, but it is strange for San Antonio.

Now, WOAI-TV reports that they have caught that great big lizard.

The chicken traps worked! Now a big alligator that crept into an East Bexar County pond is finally gone. But one neighbor doesn't think we've seen the last of the gators.

“This morning I got up about eight o'clock, and I looked out the window. I said, ‘That gate is down! He's in there!’” recalls Harold Rauschuber.

Sure enough, Harold found a seven-foot gator in the trap game wardens left outside his house near State Highway 87 and Southeast Loop 410.

“And it weighed about 150 pounds,” said Harold. “They estimated about six and a half, maybe seven feet long. Something in that proximity.”

They took that alligator down to Choke Canyon and let it go. Be careful if you go camping down there.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Couple Finds Large Boa Under Pickup Truck Hood"

Snakes under a truck hood are definitely strange.


SAN ANTONIO -- A Comal County woman said her husband found a South American Boa Constrictor under the hood of her pickup truck last Friday.

Ron Gulledge found the nearly 7-foot-long boa coiled underneath the hood of the family truck while trying to jumpstart their riding lawnmower.

Betty Gulledge said Ron saw the large snake when she asked him to clean out the dry leaves under the truck hood.

Dry leaves that need cleaning out from under a truck hood are strange, too. Although, I guess parking a vehicle under a live oak tree in the spring time will result in a large amount of leaves on said vehicle. Maybe it's not that strange to need to clean out leaves from under a hood.

The presence of the snake is still strange, though.

"Man Claims Strangers Shot Him After Invitation To Look For Girls"

If some strangers come up to you and offer to take you to some other part of town to look for women, it might be a good idea to refuse their invitation.


SAN ANTONIO -- Police said a man claimed that a group of strangers shot him after they invited him to look for girls.

The man told officers that he met the strangers on the city's West Side and they invited him to go to North Side, police said.

The man said the group pulled over and walked down into a culvert [!], police said.

He said by the time he realized they weren't taking him to find girls, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot him in the arm and the chin, police said.

Sounds like he got lucky. He's alive. And maybe he will go looking for women alone or with friends in the future.

"Man Allegedly Steals Fish From Church"

At first glance, I thought the headline from this KSAT-TV story promised to tell of aquarium pilfering. But then, I remembered that this is the Lenten season, and it made more sense. Still, the man's motivations seem a bit odd.

SAN ANTONIO -- Seguin police said they arrested a man who they accuse of stealing hundreds of dollars worth of fish and seafood from a Catholic church.

Police said Patrick Vaughn, 38, stole $800 worth of cod, catfish, and shrimp from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic church last week.

Police said Vaughn tried to sell the fish on the streets.

Be careful of what you buy from some guy on the streets. It could be stolen food from a church planning for a fish fry.

"Police dog bites officer instead of suspects during chase"

Usually, "dog bites man" is hardly a news story. But, then again, you would expect the canine police officers to bite the suspects.


An officer was bitten by a police dog during a foot chase for two teen suspects that had stolen a vehicle Wednesday night.


During a search around the area for the suspects a canine became confused in the dark and bit a officer in the leg.

The officer's injuries are minor and he is expected to be okay.

I wonder if the dog was put on administrative leave.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Pipe Bomb Found Near Botanical Gardens"

Finding a pipe bomb is, sadly enough, not that strange. It happens from time to time across the United States. But, what is strange, is what the discoverer of the bomb did when he found it.


SAN ANTONIO -- A man found a pipe bomb Wednesday afternoon near the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, police said.

The man noticed the white, 6-inch device, with a green fuse lying on Lucas Street near his mini van, police said.

He picked it up, put it in his van, and called police. [emphasis added]

That doesn't sound like a particularly smart thing to do. Except for the calling the police part, that is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A burning pile of mulch -- no more

It's official: that great big pile of mulch in Helotes that has been burning since Christmas has finally been put out.

From the Express-News:

The Helotes debris fire is finally out after three months and at a cost of about $5.5 million, officials announced today.

State officials say they'll continue for a while to monitor aquifer conditions and will oversee the landowner's efforts to clean up the mess left behind but expect no lasting impact to the Edwards Aquifer.


Dozens of people who had been staying in hotel rooms paid for by Bexar County to escape the smoke for health reasons were cleared to return home for the first time since Jan. 6, officials said.

That's good news, but the fire should have been put out sooner. I understand why the San Antonio Water System was reluctant to allow water to be put on the fire (they didn't want the Edwards Aquifer, San Antonio's primary source of drinking water, to get contaminated), but their stalling dragged out the process, and the mayor of Helotes sure wasn't happy about his town smelling like a great big smoke pit for so long. And the state officials came out looking pretty inept in the handling of the whole situation.

I hope they've learned some lessons and can make better emergency decisions in the future. After all, there are more piles around.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"San Antonio River cleanup uncovers an explosive box"

During the annual cleanup of the San Antonio River, a strange, explosive item was found.

From the Express-News:

Jerry Rowry was careful Saturday morning to troll for any unpleasant surprises that could lurk along the banks of the San Antonio River for the 13th annual Basura Bash.


But he wasn't expecting to find a metal box with protruding wires that turned out to be a commercial blasting cap used to detonate explosives. Though not quite a bomb, the contraption nonetheless posed a danger.

One girl, however, wasn't very worried. That's because the professionals seemed to be keeping their cool.

"She thinks it's a hoax," said Susie Gutierrez, a volunteer.

The relaxed demeanor of emergency responders comforted the girl, who refused to give her name or age for fear her mother would get mad at her for lingering near the blasting cap.

"They're not swarming the place in Jedi outfits," she scoffed. "Storm troopers, I mean."

Though Jedis would be more than adequate to deal with a blasting cap, no?

But, don't worry about the find, turistas. That part of the river is pretty far downstream from the River Walk.

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Woman's Body Discovered in the Middle of Highway 90"

The body was literally in the middle of the highway, but tucked between some barriers in such a way that no one noticed it was there. Until the smell.


Street sweepers found the woman along Highway 90 near General Hudnell on the west side. The body was directly hidden right in the middle of the east and westbound lanes of traffic.


"Some street sweeper people from the state were out here clearing the side of the highway," added Sgt. [John] Bocko. "They noticed a strong smell. And when they looked inside this area right here they saw what appeared to be a dead body."

What remains a mystery right now is how the woman got to this bizarre spot in the middle of the highway.

It's a strange story, and I bet there's a lot more that they will find out in the investigation.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Paramedics answer 911 calls for splinters, cramps, plumbing"

Folks, please don't call 911 unless you absolutely have to. If you call and you don't really need the service, you are sucking up resources that could be used to help other people in worse conditions. But, it seems that some of you already know that.

From the Express-News's Ken Rodriguez:

The San Antonio Fire Department estimates up to one of four transports for basic life support is noncritical. But that may be low. In 2000, emergency medical workers found that in more than half of their calls, "patients" did not require hospital attention.


For every legitimate 911 call, there seems to be an illegitimate one. Some without insurance call to receive treatment for minor ailments. Others phone in order to skip long lines at the ER.

"People now realize," one North Side paramedic says, "that if they go to the hospital on a stretcher, they'll get seen quicker."

Sometimes, a guy on his back with a migraine can see a doctor before a woman bent over with a bloody face. [emphasis added]

Strange, indeed. And sad.

"Update: San Antonio Principal Fails Test 37th Time"

If you needed to take a test in order to keep your job, and you just failed it for the 37th time, would you feel a nice, warm sense of job security (knowing you weren't fired the first 36 times)?


Smith Elementary principal Elizabeth Rojas took the state exam required for her job again just a few weeks ago. The day after we revealed she had already failed it 36 times, more than any other educator in the state.

Rojas told the Trouble Shooters, "I go into the testing situation feeling the anxiety of...throwing up, nervousness."

Her test score is in and Rojas has failed again, for the 37th time. San Antonio ISD declined to comment on her latest attempt.

I have nothing else to add.

"Dogs Rescued from Filthy Home"

So, how many dogs do you think can fit in one home? More than 20, apparently.

“I'm still a little bit in shock,” Linda Binkley of the Bulverde Area Humane Society said. “I don't think I've ever quite seen animals in this condition before."

Since the owner moved out of the home, the dogs have had the run of the place.

The home was so filthy, rescuers had to wear protective booties over their feet to walk around it. They told News 4 WOAI Wednesday that the home was the worst case of animal neglect that they have seen.

Yuck. Be sure to watch the video at the link. It's amazing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Car crashes into house

I include this story from WOAI ("Drug Buyer Kidnapped & Run Down by His Own Vehicle") because, besides the other strange things that happened in the incident, a vehicle smashed into a house once again.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Celebrating Che

Here is an embarrassingly weird thing about San Antonio: a local arts group called the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center recently put on a play about Che Guevara, one that Jeremy McCarter at New York Theater says "skims over his bloody deeds as an apparatchik—the executions, collectivization, and labor camps that followed his march into Havana with Castro." I personally think Che was a troublemaker at the least (any friend of Fidel Castro can't be all good), but I also believe in free speech. Anyone is free to write plays praising communist revolutionaries if they want to, and theaters are free to stage such plays without worrying about a government shut-down.

But, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center gets money from the City of San Antonio, and I'm not too comfortable with that. The city won't reduce or cut off funding because of this, not since the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center won its case against the city over a defunding flap. San Antonio just can't cut off funds to any particular group because of a viewpoint that's expressed.

While I agree that a government shouldn't repress ideas simply because they are unpopular, I don't think that the same government has an obligation to expend money to ensure all views are expressed. If I had my druthers, I would prefer that the city not fund any private arts organization to any extent. They sink or swim on their own, and my tax dollar shouldn't support their points of view.

Especially if it is sympathetic to Che.

"Teen's wild ride ends in capture"

If you're a young girl, and your boyfriend is running -- literally -- from the police, how do you help him escape? Well, a diversionary tactic might work.

From the Express-News:

The witness, who didn't want to give her name, said she saw the teen outside, looking dazed and confused. The woman then saw a man dash from two police officers, who gave chase.

During the chase, one of the officers dropped his keys, said San Antonio Police Department Sgt. George Antu.

The girl looked at the car, cursed the officers, picked up the keys and jumped in the cruiser, witnesses said.

The chase ended when she turned the car over on its roof. She was fine, but guess what her main concern was after wrecking the car.
"Did he get away, did he get away?" she said after police apprehended her.
He didn't.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Turns out Conan is chimp's daddy"

Did you ever want to know this much about chimpanzee vasectomies?

From the Express-News:

Forget about Anna Nicole's baby. The world's biggest paternity "whodunit" really revolves around a 40-something retiree named Teresa from San Antonio.

Teresa had emerged from her wooded habitat at Chimp Haven primate sanctuary in Louisiana one crisp January morning with a newborn chimpanzee cradled in her arms.

Her caretakers' jaws collectively hit the ground. Teresa, retired two years ago from San Antonio's Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, was well past her prime and hadn't given birth in 13 years.

But a real conundrum arose over who was baby Tracy's daddy. Teresa lived on a 5-acre habitat with 17 other chimps, including seven grinning, grunting bachelors.

However, all of them had undergone vasectomies years ago.

I think I'll stop there. Read more, if you like. If you dare.

Friday, March 16, 2007

"Shooter Injures 2 Over Cell Phone Dispute"

Someone needs help with his rage issues, as KSAT-TV reports:

Police said 19-year-old Quentin Lewis became upset when another man that shared a cell phone plan with him had it turned off for non-payment.

In his rage, Lewis opened fire on a group of people standing outside a home in the 7600 block of New World and injured the two women, police said.

The guy's on the loose. I hope they find him before he goes off again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Car crashes into house

It has happened again, an auto has a close encounter with an abode.


Police say a driver hit a home after he fell asleep at the wheel early Tuesday morning.

The driver crashed his pickup truck into a bedroom of a home on the city's Northwest Side, police said.


Police said no one was in the home at the time of the crash.

That's fortunate.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Homeowner Wounds Alleged Shooter Returning For Cell Phone"

Wow. This is one brash criminal. But, ulitmately, not too bright. After he and his buddy threatened some people in their home -- and then got scared away -- this guy and his friend have the strange gumption to return and demand his phone!


The woman's father was able to scare the men away but they fired several shots at the home, the woman said.

In the process of making their getaway, one of the men happened to drop his cell phone.

The woman said the men later knocked on the door and demanded the homeowner return the lost cell phone.

And, what did he get for his trouble? Shot.

This time, the woman's father answered the door armed with a shotgun, the woman said.

The men ran and the homeowner fired his shotgun, the woman said.

Pellets from the shotgun grazed one of the men's face, the woman said.

Now, after running from the cops and getting caught flushing drugs down a toilet, the two men have some charges pending against them.

"Police: Drunk Man Attempting Night Club Robbery Gets Stuck"

If you're drunk, and you're breaking into a bar, and the cops are after you, you might want to check the window before you leap out.


San Antonio police arrested the man, who they said tried to rob the Electric Company night club in the 400 block of West Laurel.

Police who responded to a burglary alarm said they found the suspect intoxicated.

The man tried to flee the scene by jumping through a metal awning but got stuck.

That made for easy pickings for the cops. The man's got a few charges pending, now.

"Mom Accused of Being Drunk with Kids in Car"

If you're drunk, your kids are in the car, and a police cruiser is blocking your way, it's probably not a good idea to go ahead and ram the cruiser.


Police had come to her house to calm a family fight, and that’s when [Yvonne] Delgado, got behind the wheel of a car, authorities said. An officer parked behind Delgado’s car, but she tried to leave anyway, police said.

Delgado backed out of the parking spot with her three children, ages three, five and eight, inside the vehicle, police said. It crashed into the patrol car, officials said.

She's had a few charges filed against her.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A burning pile of mulch XVII

WOAI-TV has the best headline so far about the Helotes mulch fire:

"Helotes Fire Fiasco Continues"
The latest spat comes as firefighters pour water directly onto the fire, in violation of an agreement with SAWS. TCEQ now says they have no idea when the fire will be extinguished, and it could burn into April. Both TCEQ and SAWS have indicated a willingness to sue the other to resolve the water use issue after contaminated water was found in five test wells.

Just what we need, a bunch of agencies willing to sue each other.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"UPDATE:Capital murder charge filed against mother of slain children"

The couple that put their dead babies under the house have been caught.

From the Express-News:

Police Chief William McManus and District Attorney Susan Reed announced at a news conference that Valerie Lopez, 19, and her boyfriend, Jerry Salazar, were arrested at 5 a.m. today near the intersection of Zarzamora and Interstate 35 by the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, a multi-agency group headed by the United States Marshal's Office.

McManus said Lopez admitted beating her 18-month-old daughter, Sariyah Garcia, to death and hiding her body beneath the house at 1301 W. Winnipeg, where the couple were living.

Reed Sariyah [sic] was killed on Christmas Eve, and that Lopez told investigators that her six-month-old son, Sebastian Lopez, died about two months later when she accidentally rolled over him. His body was also placed under the house.

I was wrong about them bugging out to Mexico. Apparently these two were not bright enough to even leave the city.

They are a danger to society.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Rattlesnake season is here"

If you've been seeing a few rattlers around, there's a reason. As Bridget Smith at KENS-TV reports, it's rattlesnake breeding season.

[Jarrod] Forthman, considered a rattlesnake expert for 20 years, said breeding season in South Texas has slithered upon us.

"They're popping up in garages, backyards, little kids are finding them," he said. "So, it's kind of scary knowing that a lot of these snakes could hurt kids."

Note to kids: be careful around the snakes. Some of 'em are nasty ol' rattlers.

"Mystery surrounding children's death grows"

The Express-News has more on the situation where the bodies of two babies were found under a house. The mother and her boyfriend are now on the run, and the police want to find them, though a relative almost got them first.

Wednesday night, Miguel Lopez had them in his sights, he said. The moment was propitious — both [Tina] Vara and Miguel Lopez had vowed to help police find their sister [the babies' mother] so she can be questioned about the deaths.


Miguel Lopez had driven to his father's South Side apartment around 9 p.m. Wednesday to take his dad to a rosary for the slain children. When he arrived, he said, he saw [Jerry] Salazar trying to enter the apartment through a window.

Salazar ran for the Buick and jumped into the back seat with Valerie Lopez, Miguel Lopez said. Somebody else was driving, a man whom Miguel Lopez did not recognize.

The Buick sped off, ran red lights and swerved onto U.S. 90 before exiting and turning back toward downtown, eventually stopping at Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, he said. A woman emerged from the car and ran inside, and the Buick screeched off again.

Miguel Lopez followed it onto Interstate 35, traveling at speeds of up to 100 mph, he said. But traffic was too thick; he lost the car.

I hope Valerie Lopez and Jerry Salazar are found soon. If they had anything to do with the deaths of their babies, they are a danger to all children they may come into contact with (her previous two children were taken away from her). They need to be brought to justice, though I suspect they might be in Mexico by now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A burning pile of mulch XVI

The bickering has started again.


SAN ANTONIO -- A second water war erupted Wednesday over the Helotes mulch fire, but this time San Antonio Water System and the state's environmental agency are in the fray.

TCEQ wants to extinguish an underground fire by putting water on what remains of the smoldering pile that has burned since Christmas.

However, SAWS found fecal coliform and fluid from decaying material in at least five nearby private wells.

SAWS official[s] said they want to prevent more contamination and keep their original agreement by squelching the blaze in clay-lined pits instead of directly hosing the pile.


The local and state agencies will continue trying to come to some sort of agreement with SAWS.

In fact, a SAWS team was at the site late Wednesday afternoon for a tour, so both sides are still talking, trying to reach an agreement on how to finish the job without contaminating the Edwards Aquifer.

Just do it soon, for everyone's sake.

So glad we had this time together ...

The San Antonio childhood home of Carol Burnett may be torn down to make room for a barbeque restaurant. Too bad. She seems to have fond memories of the place.

"2 Infants' Bodies Found"

This is strange and very sad.


Police were called to a triplex in the 1300 block of West Winnepeg Avenue at 7 p.m. Tuesday after residents reported smelling a foul odor that been lingering for as long as two weeks, San Antonio police spokesman Gabe Trevino said.

"At the time, they thought this still could have been an animal ... in (a) plastic bag," Trevino said. "(They) took a knife, cut the bag a little bit, and ... a child's leg came out of the bag."

A second plastic bag was taken to the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office, where a confirmation was made that the bag contained remains of a second child, police said.

The bodies were that of a 2-year-old girl and a 5-month-old boy, Trevino said.

Neighbors told police that the children's mother, Valerie Lopez, and a man named Jerry moved out of the triplex without the children about two weeks ago, Trevino said.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Modern-Day Fight at Alamo is Against Mold and Deterioration"

Over 170 years ago, the Mexican army attacked the Alamo. Today, the assault is coming from mold.


Left untreated, the mold creeps down from the top of the building, first darkening and then eating away at the creamy colored stone, said Alamo historian and curator Bruce Winders.

"What it does is dissolve the rock," Winders said. "It doesn't do it immediately, but it's one of those really gradual processes."

That's one of the hazards of a very humid climate, deterioration of historic structures. Good thing a shot of fungicide helps.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Scavenging your way to jail

Down in Laredo, the kids may call it a scavenger hunt. But the authorities just call it stealing.

From the Express-News:

Police realized a rogue operation was in effect after an officer pulled over a speeder at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, police spokesman Juan Rivera said.

"He found a stop sign — which they obviously weren't supposed to have — a garden hose and a bunch of other stuff," Rivera said.

The students confessed, and that, combined with noise complaints from residents, led officers to an empty lot that was the meeting spot.

The Police Department assembled a team of officers to watch the lot and arrested students as they stopped by.


The biggest item on the scavenger hunt list — which no one got — was a giant globe that serves as a centerpiece at Texas A&M International University, several students said.

They arrested 40 students, all told.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Protesting what?

The San Antonio Toll Party, a group opposed to toll roads, joined its friends in Austin to protest toll roads in Texas. At least, that's what I think they were protesting. They also seem to be against a lot of other things.

From the Express-News:

AUSTIN — A protest against toll roads highlighted a rally on the Capitol steps Friday, but the Texas Independence Day holiday put folks in the mood to raise hell about other grievances as well.

Many also complained about a national animal identification tag. Some grumbled about the state's loss of control of its borders. A few warned about the coming "North American Union." And some excoriated the United Nations for wanting "to take your gun," exhorting anyone within earshot to "get us out of the U.N."

That's quite a few disparate topics to be lumped together with toll roads. Oh well, I guess if you have the crowd together, and the people are worked up already, might as well get them to holler about your cause as well.

A burning pile of mulch XV

The Helotes mulch fire is almost out.


Firefighters said the size of the burning mulch pile has been greatly reduced over the past several days to half its original size. But smoke continues to be a problem.

Officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced Friday that the fire was about 75 percent out. They said they hope to have it under control by early next week, but the state agency said they aren’t ready to declare victory just yet.

And the key to getting it done now instead of much later?
"Once everybody got on board and once SAWS and TCEQ worked out their deals, I think it moved pretty good,” said Jon Allan, Helotes Mayor.
Yes, quit bickering and get it done. Good advice in this case and many others.

Friday, March 02, 2007

"New Braunfels Councilman Faces Recall"

If you are a politician in a town that gets a lot of tourists, you might be careful about trying to limit the activities of your visitors. If you do decide to impose limits, keep in mind that there might be some backlash.


NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas -- Critics of recent City Council actions aimed at taming rowdy river parties have collected enough signatures to force a recall election for a councilman linked with the measures.

City Secretary Michael Resendez said Thursday that residents had gathered enough valid signatures for the election, which targets Ken Valentine.


The council voted last month to limit tubers on the Comal to one six-pack-size cooler each and those on the Guadalupe to a 12-pack-size cooler. It also voted to restrict open containers from three riverfront parks and the last public tuber exit on the Comal.

The recall petition accuses Valentine of failing to represent the majority of his constituents and pushing divisive issues.

New Braunfels is on IH-35 northeast of San Antonio, and it is home to Schlitterbahn, a popular water park. People like to go to the town to have fun and party during the summer, and rowdy visitors causing commotions on the rivers have been an issue for some residents. But, if this story is any indication, there also appears to be a significant portion of the New Braunfels population that likes such visitors. And their cash, I bet.

It'll be interesting to see where this recall goes. (The election is May 12.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"SA Couple Accused Of Illegally Taking Mexican Baby"

Want to get a baby with minimum hassle? Apparently Mexico is the place you want to be.


MONTERREY, Mexico -- A San Antonio couple was arrested in Monterrey after inquiring about a visa at the U.S. Consulate here for a 2-week-old baby boy they said was given to them, police said Thursday.


The couple told police the baby's mother gave them the baby because she was too poor to care for him. They said they paid for the woman's expenses during childbirth but denied buying the baby boy.


The couple told police they had traveled to Monterrey a year ago to try to adopt a child but were rejected because they were living in the United States. They said they hadn't tried to adopt in Texas because it is too expensive.

"We thought it would be easy to do it this way, but we didn't do it in bad faith," [Tomasa] Ibarra told El Norte. "We wanted to do it the right way, that's why we came to ask."

Let's see, they didn't want to play by the adoption rules in their homeland because the process is too expensive. Then they try to adopt in another country, but they are turned down because they don't live there. So they try to find an "easy" way to skirt the rules by paying some poor woman to give up her child.

Sounds like buying a baby to me. At least it wasn't done in "bad faith".

UPDATE: More here from the Express-News.