January 14, 2013

St. Joseph Man Arrested After Alleged School Threat

A St. Joseph man is in custody after allegedly making threats against the local high school over the weekend.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School Superintendent Jim Acklin says 34-year old Uriah Fosdick allegedly made statements in front of a sheriff’s deputy, indicating he was threatening a shooting at a school.

Acklin says the key concern is that Fosdick lives literally blocks from the school.

“He’s a back door neighbor.” he said. “You could literally throw a rock from his yard, and toss it into our softball diamond.”

Fosdick was arrested by sheriff’s deputies Monday afternoon, and is in the Champaign County Jail on $750-thousand bond.

Acklin says there’s no reason to believe that anyone was involved with Fosdick and his alleged crime.  He says the school is literally on lockdown daily, with all outside doors locked and video cameras.

But he says school officials are always assessing safety standards and St. Joseph-Odgen’s crisis management plan.


January 12, 2013

Indiana University Opposes Guns on Campus

An Indiana state lawmaker's proposal to bar universities from banning guns on campus is raising concerns about the safety of students.

Republican Sen. Jim Banks of Columbia City says he submitted the bill on behalf of college students who want to protect themselves.

A similar measure introduced last year failed to get a hearing, and this year's measure could meet the same fate.

Indiana University spokesman Mark Land tells The Herald-Times that IU opposes the measure and thinks it's in the best position to determine how to keep the campus safe.

IU sophomore Crayle Vanest tells WSBT that allowing students to carry concealed weapons can help deter crime.

Only eight states currently allow guns to be carried on campus. More than 20 have banned the practice.


January 08, 2013

Indiana Lawmakers to Consider Budget, Gay Marriage, School Vouchers

Lawmakers returned to Indianapolis on Monday for the start of their four-month session. The legislature is expected to take up a host of issues during their session, including gun control, a gay marriage ban, and expanding school vouchers.

The state's biennial budget and tax cuts are also among the issues expected to be discussed during the session.

A handful of Republican state senators are pushing to expand access to guns this session. Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) has proposed allowing students to carry firearms on Indiana's public university campuses.

The measures face little chance of success in the General Assembly this year. But Banks said Tuesday that lawmakers should still have an open and ranging discussion about guns.

Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) wants a bill that would exempt guns made exclusively in Indiana from federal rules and regulations.

The proposals go up against a national push for more gun control following the Newtown school shooting. Members of Indiana's Black Legislative Caucus said Tuesday that they would support any national effort to reduce gun violence and are ready to support new federal limits.

There is also a push to ban gay marriage. State Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) said Tuesday he will file a resolution this session to write the state's ban on gay marriage into the Indiana constitution.

Turner was the author of the measure that passed in 2011. It would need to be approved by lawmakers one more time before going before voters for consideration in 2014.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis and Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne haven't said whether they'll allow action on the issue this year. Long says his staff is reviewing possible ramifications from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the topic due next summer.

Indiana lawmakers are expected to consider a measure to expand the state’s school voucher program, but critics worry doing so could shift attention away from strengthening public schools.

Under the voucher program, the state provides assistance to low- and moderate-income families who want to send their children to private school.

Each voucher at the elementary and middle school levels is worth up to $4,500.

Rep. Bob Behning (R- Indianapolis) chairs the House Education Committee.

He plans to introduce legislation to get rid of the $4,500 cap, and lift eligibility requirements for military and foster families, as well as families with children in special education.

“If you philosophically believe that parents should be able to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children,” Behning said. “Then making that choice available to more makes sense in terms of improving education.”

But the Indiana State Teacher's Association’s Teresa Meredith said expanding the voucher program doesn’t fix troubled public schools.

“We should be offering, whatever is needed, support wise, to those students and those families as the best we can through the public school system,” Meredith said. “And if we’re not meeting the needs of those learners in the public school system, then why not?”

Meredith is behind a lawsuit challenging the legality.

Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) said vouchers hurt urban school districts. He wants the General Assembly to wait and see what effect the program is having before making more changes.

More than 9,000 students are receiving vouchers this year.

Meanwhile, the following bills have been assigned by Senate President Pro Tem David Long to the Senate's rules committee, a step typically used to bottle up a proposal and prevent further action toward it becoming law:

  • Prohibit state agencies or public universities from limiting firearms possession except for buildings that house courtrooms.
  • Make any firearms or ammunition made in Indiana and remaining in the state not subject to federal laws or regulation.
  • Allow public school districts to require recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each school day.
  • Prohibit abortions being sought based on the gender of the fetus or because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome.
  • Prohibit many arrests or searches by federal agents without written permission from the local county sheriff.
  • Ban the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, by law enforcement agencies or others to monitor a person or property without consent.
  • Eliminate the use of grand juries by prosecutors to decide the filing of criminal charges.
  • Prohibit Indiana government entities from implementing any policies relating to the United Nation's 1992 conference on the environment, the subject of the novel titled ``Agenda 21'' by conservative commentator Glenn Beck.
  • Block public school districts from starting the school year until after Labor Day unless the district follows a year-round calendar or takes other steps.

January 08, 2013

Attorney General Seeks New Hearing on Concealed Carry

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is trying to salvage the state's ban on concealed carry.

Madigan said Tuesday that she's filed a petition asking that all 10 judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals review a lawsuit challenging the ban.

Last month, a three-judge panel struck down the ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois - the only remaining state where doing so is entirely illegal. They gave lawmakers 180 days to write a law legalizing it.

The judges said the ban was unconstitutional and suggested that legalizing concealed carry is long overdue.

Gun advocates had vowed to challenge the ban on every front.

Madigan says the court's decision "goes beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court has held'' and conflicts with decisions by two other federal appellate courts.


January 07, 2013

Illinois Lawmakers Abandon Attempts to Ban Assault Weapons

Illinois lawmakers are abandoning efforts to pass gun control legislation in the final days of their session. An assault weapons ban was one of several major issues that brought State House members back to Springfield on Sunday.

The assault weapons ban legislation was slated to appear Sunday afternoon in front of the House Judiciary Committee. But despite a room packed full of supporters and opponents of gun control legislation, the committee meeting lasted less than two minutes.

“I don’t think there’s much to take away,” said Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat who sits on the committee. “The sponsor wasn’t ready to call his bill. The amendment hadn’t been drafted and he wasn’t ready.”

When the brief meeting adjourned, several opponents of gun control stood and applauded.

“We will be back like a bad nightmare,” Nathan Moyer, an opponent of the assault weapons ban from Decatur, Ill., shouted to the room as soon as the meeting ended.

He predicted lawmakers will push gun control legislation again.

“Anytime tyranny is put together by the judicial system that is corrupt, the little man will stand,” Moyer said.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, who chairs the committee that was scheduled to hear the measure, said afterward that the House didn’t act since the Senate failed to approve an assault weapons ban last week.

She said it’s likely to be addressed in the next legislative session, which starts Wednesday.


January 04, 2013

Indiana Lawmakers Seek $10M for School Protection

A legislative proposal in Indiana would help that state put more police officers in schools. Proponents say the legislation isn’t meant to be a response to last month’s Connecticut school shooting.

School resource officers are already present in somewhere between a quarter and a third of Hoosier schools.

Legislation Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) is proposing would provide a grant to school corporations – up to a $50,000 funding match – to add resource officers to their schools.

The bill would also require that all school resource officers have law enforcement certification and training to work in a school environment.  Miller calls the proposal a first step in addressing violence like the Newtown school shooting.

“No one is suggesting that this is the end-all, be-all to school security, that there will be others in the legislature, there will be…the governor-elect, I’m sure, would like to weigh in,” Miller said.

Miller said applying for the grants is voluntary.

“This is not a mandate for local school corporations,” Miller said. “This is something that we think is a good idea. We would encourage them to embrace it but we’re not forcing it upon anyone.”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said while the Connecticut shooting spotlights school safety, resource officers play a larger role.

“This relationship in schools with a school resource officer can help develop a better relationship of respect for law enforcement,” Zoeller said.

Zoeller said school resource officers serve a multi-faceted role within the school.

“In addition to providing school safety and some discipline actions, it also assists in implementing the school’s safety plan, supporting the school safety specialist,” he said.

The proposal, while providing some funding to hire resource officers, would not mandate schools to participate.


January 02, 2013

Ill. Senate Returns Wednesday to Wrap Up Session

The Illinois Senate returns to the Capitol on Wednesday to begin a weeklong legislative session that could take up pension reform, legalizing gay marriage and banning assault rifles.

The 97th General Assembly will finish its work Jan. 9 when a new Legislature is sworn in. That means there are many lame-duck lawmakers not returning who might feel less constrained to vote for contentious issues. The House comes in Sunday.

Gov. Pat Quinn has made it a priority for the assembly to find a solution to the state employee retirement programs that are underfunded by $96 billion.

Supporters of gay marriage say they have enough votes to make Illinois the 10th state to legalize same-sex unions.

A ban on military-style assault weapons is on the agenda after the Connecticut school massacre.


photo of Dr. Judy Myers-Walls
Picture courtesy of Purdue University
December 19, 2012

Purdue Researcher on Discussing Shooting with Kids

The hurt caused by Friday’s horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut goes beyond the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Across the country, children are learning about the shooting, and they’re also being affected.

Dr. Judy Myers-Walls, Professor Emerita of Purdue University, has studied how parents can talk with children about frightening events, from wars and disasters to senseless shootings. In an interview with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows, Myers-Walls says some children will find news of a shooting at a school very disturbing.


November 05, 2012

Concealed Carry on Ballot in Some Counties

With most voters focused on the economy or health care when they vote Tuesday, some in Illinois will get a chance to send a message about gun control.

Gun-rights advocates in at least nine mostly rural counties have placed measures on ballots asking voters if they want Illinois to allow its residents to carry concealed weapons. Currently, Illinois is the last U.S. state where the practice is entirely illegal.

The measures are nonbinding, because no local law can override state law. But advocates hope the votes will help build pressure on lawmakers to support so-called "concealed carry," an issue that resonates in much of Illinois, and highlights the divide between Chicago's powerful anti-gun forces and the rest of the state.

While Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicagoan, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have both pushed for even tighter controls on guns, both the Republican and Democratic candidates in one downstate congressional race say they'd like to see concealed weapons legalized. And a prosecutor in McLean County in central Illinois said recently that he wouldn't enforce the current state ban.

"Part of it, I'm sure, is that growing up in more rural areas, people have grown up hunting, shooting guns," said Terry Patton, the Henry County state's attorney, who supports the legalization of concealed weapons. "They don't have the fear of guns, maybe, that someone who has never held a gun or shot a gun in their life might have against guns."

Patton said there are nights he leaves the courthouse when he wishes he could carry a gun.

"There's a fair number of times when I'm walking out of the office at night and just finished making a lot of family and loved ones extremely unhappy, sending someone away to prison."

Quinn has promised to veto any bill that would legalize concealed weapons, and earlier this year pushed for a ban on assault weapons. And Emanuel has pushed for statewide handgun registration, as part of a tough gun-control stance he inherited from previous Chicago mayors.

"We don't want situations when people can pull out weapons at their local grocery store, sports stadium or shopping mall," said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.

The Illinois House last year voted down a bill that would have legalized concealed weapons, but the vote was close.

The idea of allowing people to legally walk around with a "deadly weapon" in a pocket or holster horrifies Colleen Daley, the executive director of the Chicago-based Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. She's grown used to constant pressure from gun rights advocates to make it legal, but sees no reason to worry it will happen soon.

"Every year we do hear, 'This is the year concealed carry is going to pass,'" said Daley, who isn't related to the Chicago political family of the same name.

In addition to Henry County, the concealed weapons measures are on ballots in nearby McDonough, Mercer, Rock Island and Warren counties, Adams and Schuyler counties in western Illinois, Bond County in the south-central part of the state, and Stephenson County along the Wisconsin state line.

In Warren County, the man behind the ballot measure is 42-year-old Sean McKee, a computer-network administrator, husband and father who lives just outside Monmouth.

He started gathering the signatures needed to get the question on the ballot after a series of break-ins in the rural area where he lives. He installed a security system but decided he'd be in trouble if he actually caught someone breaking in.

"What am I going to do if I pull up in our driveway and there's somebody carrying out our guns from our home?" McKee asked. "I don't have a gun with me."

Gun-rights advocates believe the ballot measures are a good way to pressure lawmakers to try again and give reason for optimism. Town hall meetings on the subject around the state have drawn big crowds in counties with ballot measures and those without.

"We had a standing-room-only crowd of 500 people" at a meeting in McHenry County in northern Illinois, said Valinda Rowe, spokeswoman for a group called IllinoisCarry that tracks gun-rights advocacy around the state. She lives in rural White County in southeastern Illinois.

While there may be strong support in some areas outside Chicago, it isn't universal. State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, a Democrat whose district includes most of Champaign and Urbana, says she polled constituents about a year and a half ago and found that two-thirds didn't want concealed weapons to be legalized.

But in the race for Illinois'  new 13th Congressional District — a largely rural area that includes Jakobsson's state House district and the University of Illinois — both Republican Rodney Davis and Democrat David Gill say Illinois residents should be able to carry guns, even on college campuses.

"That's where bad stuff happens," Gill said during an October debate.

A number of state's attorneys, like Warren County's Chip Algren, say that while they back the legalization of concealed weapons, they would first want restrictions — background checks, mandatory firearms-safety courses, and limits on where a gun could be carried.

"I don't think it would be a good idea for everybody to be able to sit around a bar packing a piece," Algren said, "or walking into a school with a gun."


November 04, 2012

Gunshot, Fight Between Roommates Leads to Campustown Arrests

An early Sunday morning fight involving a gunshot in Champaign’s Campustown neighborhood prompted the evacuations of two apartment buildings and the arrests of two men.

Champaign Police believe alcohol played a role both arrests.

Officers were called to 106 E. John Street about 1:30 a.m. after a report of a gun being fired.  Officers say a 22-year old reported fighting with his roommate after coming up from a bar.  A knife was reportedly displayed by one of the parties, and a single shot was fired at the victim through his bedroom door.

When officers arrived, police found the victim in the area, and attempted to conduct an interview.  They say the man, 22-year old David Lu, become agitated, and started ripping up flooring and seating in the squad car.  Lu was arrested for Criminal Damage to Property.

A SWAT team was called in to help officers search the building.  As a precaution, officers evacuated the apartment building, and one just to the east of it, utilizing MTD buses to provide a warm location. 

After repeated attempts to enter the suspect’s apartment, police utilized a robot to gain access, and found him sleeping in the apartment.  Another man and woman not involved in the incident were also found asleep, and a knife and a gun were recovered.

22-year old Daniel Change of Naperville was arrested for Unlawful Use of a Weapon and Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm, and transported to the Champaign County Jail.  

“Investigators believe that both parties’ use of alcohol may have contributed to these incidents,” said Champaign Police Spokeperson Rene Dunn in a press release.  “Thankfully, this was resolved safely, and no one was seriously injured.”

The University of Illinois activated the Illini Alert system, sending out e-mails and text messages to avoid the area at 3:30 and 4:30 a.m.  The all clear was sent out at 6 a.m.


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