Never a dull moment
Judging by the time stamps on these posts, I’ve taken a hiatus from the blog. My sincere apologies.
As a cops reporter, it becomes very easy to get lost in the day-to-day muck of police briefs, research, court docs and crime-scene perusing.
These past few weeks have been nothing short of a constant blur.
The blurry symptoms began with a bang – literally. In the early morning hours of a Tuesday, College Park was struck with a murder-suicide involving students living near the University of Maryland campus.
The day of the tragedy was spent on 36th Avenue, the street where the shooting took place, and that same night a memorial was held at UM to mourn the victims. The following days were also consumed by the event that shocked the community by looking into the shooter’s mental illness background and how that related to his firearms purchases. In addition, several handfuls of county and state sources were weighing in on the issue, so content in the trusty reporter’s notebook were running rampant.
My coverage on the case was featured on the Dan Rodricks show on WYPR 88.1 in Baltimore, an NPR affiliate station. Rodricks had me on as a guest for his radio show to discuss the ongoing case and my reporting.
I know this incident was soon followed by several other high-profile story but those stories are currently escaping me. A short time after, several more high school students in Prince George’s County were shot and killed, some over a pair of shoes, some for other reasons.
There were already a number of student murders this year so this brought the total to six in one school year. So once again my hands were tied up into this story, digging into what officials plan to do to divert youth violence, etc. As I write this the coverage is ongoing as a county council has just agreed to set up a task force to make some tangible proposals that aim to curb student killings and youth violence.
Between these two hard-hitting stories were a slew of other high-profile cases that required the utmost attention to the beat.
If only there was a way to stop time, I would dedicate that frozen moment or two to write out a few more blog posts now and then. It’s important to document one’s work.
Without recording what you’re reporting on, many anecdotes, reflections and familiar faces are lost and are very difficult to recollect.
Going on our sixth week of living in Australia's second largest city, I can honestly say that Melbourne is the best city I have yet travelled. It's clean, there's lots to do, its people are friendly and relaxed, the city itself is beautiful, and the weather, though extremely unpredictable, is overall pleasant. It's the end of January, middle of the summer, and now approaching our final quarter of our year here in Oz.
A recent court hearing left a sour taste in the mouths of many attending the sentencing for a former FBI agent who was convicted of motor vehicle manslaughter, striking and killing an 18-year-old while driving under the influence of alcohol. The man convicted was sentenced to 18 months in prison. I’m sure someone somewhere following the case was saying,”Today there are no winners,” as the county’s state’s attorney says often in these types of outcomes. Here’s a snippet of my reporting.
Former FBI agent sentenced to 18 months for killing teen in drunk driving case
Brandywine youth, 18, was struck by speeding off-duty official
In a tear-filled, standing-room only courtroom, a former FBI agent convicted of killing a Brandywine teen in a drunk driving collision was sentenced to 18-months in prison.
Adrian Johnson, 37, was charged with vehicular manslaughter and related charges after striking a vehicle driven by Lawrence Garner Jr., 18, as he was leaving a Brandywine community park on North Keys Road in February 2011.
Johnson of Brandywine was found to have been driving 18 miles over the 40 miles per hour speed limit while off-duty and produced a .25 blood alcohol level during a breathalyzer test — more than three times the .08 legal limit.
Garner was pronounced dead at the scene while his passenger and friend, Robert Mitchell, 19, sustained life-threatening injuries and has since recovered.
During Friday’s sentencing in Upper Marlboro with Prince George’s Circuit Court judge Michael Pearson, state prosecutor Sam Danai noted a 2006 alcohol-related traffic offense where Johnson was charged, but the case was dismissed. He said if Johnson had not been drinking or speeding, the collision could have never occurred and Garner could be alive today.
“In this instance, Mr. Johnson chose to not do what he knew what was right,” Danai said. “The vehicle was a weapon, just as much as a knife, just as much as a gun.”
Johnson’s defense attorney Robert Bonsib said his client is a “good man who made a terrible mistake.”
“One matter of a few seconds has changes a lot of lives in this case,” Bonsib said. “Spending 10 years in jail is not going to bring anybody back.”
Some of Garner’s family members and friends spoke before the sentencing was announced.
“The impact of losing my son, JR, my namesake, my best friend, my everything, is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life,” said Garner’s father, Lawrence Garner Sr.
The full article can be found at gazette.net.
Much needed update for social networking app
This week, the officials at Facebook announced a long-awaited update to their iPhone app, which for long had lagged and struggled to provide all it could on the IOS 5 platform.
Without hesitation, I jumped on the update and was eager to see the power of the latest update, which had claims of being more than twice as fast from its past version.
I’m now about three days in using the new update and each time I open to app to add a new status, check on the happenings of my close friends or upload a few photos or mobile videos, I’m stunned. But not by the lagging or inefficiencies this time. No, the stunned feeling is only from the beauty of the successful update.
First and foremost, the speed does not compare. Extremely fast and easy to do just about any function a user would do normally using a desktop browser.
Along with the speed boost, there are just tons of subtle tweaks and perks I’ve found just by scrolling through the news feed or tagging new photos. From the infamous thumbs up “like” button that lights up blue when liking something, to the sleek transition from viewing a photo then the news feed, to the multiples photos that can be uploaded at once.
This app has it all, and it’s amazing to see such a clean, smooth interface with so many features packed into one app.
Thumbs up to the app developers at Facebook. In my humble opinion, this one was very worth the wait and all of the headaches from using the previous app. Looks like they took our many complaints and lack of use to heart.
I just downloaded a new app for my iPhone 4S and couldn’t wait to share the news after testing it out just twice.
It’s called Bump and it is available for free download in both iPhone and Android platforms.
Most notably, the app is used to transfer photos from one mobile device to the other with the simple touch of a button and a physical “bump” or light tap of two phones. The transfer is done in a matter of one to two seconds and you can even select multiple photos to “bump” at one time. Contact information can also be shared with one simple tap.
Not only can you share between phones, but you can transfer photos from your phone directly to your computer as well. Go to bu.mp and follow the three basic instructions. All it involves is selecting which photo you wish to share on your phone, then tap your phone to the computer’s space bar and boom, that amazing photo you wanted as your desktop background or for whatever reason is now stored on your computer.
I wouldn’t be raving about the app if it were for the technological breakthrough alone. The app itself is crystal clean and very smooth. It’s simplistic and modern and fits all of the requirements of top selling apps in today’s consumer, mobile market.
This is a perfect app for my work as well. In the field, being at pressers or crime scenes, I can’t help but pull out the iPhone and snap a few “b-roll” shots even when I’m carrying the SLR. With the app, I can come back into the office and transfer the photos with ease. No more cords or tedious wait times sending photos through email or what have you. This is the way it should be done and I’m glad to see such useful technology in our hands.
Perhaps the iPhone 5 will have this feature built in by the time it is released, but until then, this app really takes the cake.
County police go in for rescue, but not before family loses dogs to fiery blaze
Apartment fires are no anomaly. In fact, they seem to happen quite often in my coverage area, most likely because there is so much population density and a fair amount of low-income housing options. In traditional cases, a fire will ignite, I’ll get wind of it, and follow up with the county’s fire/EMS department to get the usual – any injuries, cost of damages, cause of fire, etc.
But last week, a blaze (still being investigated) engulfed an apartment building leaving 33 residents displaced and more than 20 apartment units destroyed. This was a bit more than your typical cooking mishap. To heighten this story, two patrolling county police officers were first to respond and miraculously saved a number of residents by pulling them out of the burning building when many of them did not even know there was a fire or had been sleeping.
And to top it off, we come to why I felt compelled to write this post. Though there were no reported injuries, a near miracle, two puppies were killed. They were both trapped inside their owner’s apartment and burned to death in the blaze. Neighbors and emergency responders alike reported they could hear the barks turn to yelps and the yelps turn to silence.
Since this event had all the ingredients of a unique story, I went to the scene to take a bit of a self-guided tour of the damages through this three-story apartment complex. While there, I saw a number of residents coming back into their apartments, taking what’s left of their belongings. This was something I never gave much thought to but it makes perfect sense. When writing other fire stories, I never thought about the actual aftermath and what those residents are now faced with.
Hearing about the dog tragedy, I began asking residents about it who were coming in and out of the rubble. I went to the very somber looking couple and asked, “Were you the dog owners?” Indeed they were.
It’s not everyday you see a grown man breakdown and cry, but this was the case of the man who said his two boxer puppies, Butter and Shiba, burned to death in front of his own eyes that night.
He hit the nail on the head when he said the material possessions can be replaced but it’s a different story when it comes to the dogs he referred to as his kids.
Check out the full story on The Gazette.
It’s been several weeks now since I’ve begun to understand the concept of Etsy. Sure I knew what it was as well as any other person knowledgeable of this sort of thing, but I must say it’s peaked my interest more than I first imagined.
For those of you that are hearing the word “Etsy” for the first time, quite simply it’s an online marketplace for all things handmade. Similar to Amazon.com where a user can create their own shop and list items for sale except these shop owners are only able to lists things they have actually made themselves. Browsing through random shops you can find anything from handmade jewelry to original paintings to knitted scarfs to stitched wallets and purses.
So why am I talking about Etsy?
My fiancée, being the amazing artist that she is, decided to set up a shop after one of her best friends convinced her to turn her crafts and artwork into something she could promote and sell, exposing herself to others artists and residents around the globe at the same time. Please visit her shop, Oak Leaf Crafts.
Since joining, I’ve seen a new spark in her eye. She’s motivated, she’s creative, she’s taken the hobby of crafting to a whole new level. Currently, there are lots of fun things in her digital shop – mainly jewelry made from clay, paint and glass – and she has a diverse inventory of other great things on the way.
Most importantly for me, she’s gained a profound attraction to technology and the web. Hearing anyone mention linking blog posts to content and the benefiting from SEO it’s truly exciting when it’s coming from someone who’s made no mention of such things before.
It seems as if Etsy, a modern day artist’s marketplace, is shining light on some of today’s most technological tools.