Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Blizzard; one Washington Deputy released from hospital; a little prep for the 2010 racing season; dreaming of taking a motorcycle trip

Just when I thought I could stop talking about the weather, we get yet ANOTHER storm! Late last week and early this week, the forecasters said we could get a Christmas storm. What appeared to be a massive winter storm was headed our way! Local forests said we would have snow by Wednesday evening.

People in the Beatrice area woke up to ice-coated trees and rain/freezing rain on Wednesday morning. With the temps staying right at or just above freezing, there was not much of a problem. There was already a lot of snow and wind in the west and central part of the state, though. Over Wednesday night we had periods of light rain, drizzle and mist. When I went home on Christmas Eve morning, I thought the forecasters were wrong, even though they were still saying we were in for a big storm.

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I woke up on Christmas eve to find it snowing and blowing. Forecast was for winter storm warnings, blizzard watches and blizzard warnings across most of the state. When I got to work, arrangements had already been made for us to use the Beatrice Fire Department’s Expedition to get around in the snow. I stayed in my Crown Vic until about 10:30 PM, when I switched over. About 7 PM, the local radio station announced that we were in a blizzard warning until 6 AM on Saturday with high winds and periods of heavy snow. TRAVEL WAS NOT ADVISED!!

Gage County Courthouse

The street department was to start cleaning emergency snow routes at 11 PM. The State Department of Roads was already out by 8 PM. With the high winds, they had a hard time of it. I fill my car with gas about 7 PM and the highway on the north end of town was already almost blown shut. Calls started coming in about stranded vehicles all over the county. Near the state line, a car was in the ditch with 2 adults and 2 infants. Roads all around them were drifted shut and deputies could not get to them. By now, there were many locations with zero visibility due to the blowing snow. Gage County Emergency Management organized a Search & Rescue effort and was able to reach the stalled vehicle and rescue the occupants. Several other vehicles were stalled in the south end of the county. About midnight, the highway on the north end of town was blocked again and several cars were stranded north of the city limits.

City crews kept on working to keep snow routes open. Around 4 AM, a report was received of several stalled cars on Hwy 77 between the east and west junctions of Hwy 41. One was a Jefferson County ambulance on its was to Lincoln with a patient.  The ambulance was able to continue after a snowplow arrived to clear the way.

400 block N 6th

It’s been so long since we’ve had a true blizzard that many people may not realize how dangerous this weather event is. The bottom line is, when the Weather Service says to stay home, STAY AT HOME!! At this point, this area has been lucky and there have been no serious injuries or fatalities.

The weather outside is frightful, but it can also help families enjoy time together. As long as there are enough supplies in the house, there is no reason to go out. At work on Christmas Eve, one of the dispatchers told us That her son told her "I wish that we could just stay home and spend Christmas Day together." I think he has wisdom beyond his years. He also got his wish!!

On Saturday we celebrate Christmas with Jason and Jeremy and their families and they will only have to go across town. Wednesday we’ll have Christmas with my side of the family and watch Nebraska win another bowl game. Hopefully, the weather will give us a few days’ break.


Downtown Beatrice, Christmas Eve 2009

In following up on the two Washington deputies shot early this week, one has been released from the hospital. Sgt Nick Hausner left the hospital on the morning of December 24th and a motorcade of police escorts accompanied him to Harborview Medical Center near Tacoma, where he visited his wounded partner, Deputy Kent Mundell. Deputy Mundell is still listed in critical condition. Vigils are being held at the hospital by officers from numerous agencies. The Law Enforcement community worldwide is praying for Deputy Mundell’s recovery.

Fighting the weather makes the beginning of the racing season seem like a very long time away, but everybody is still working on getting their equipment ready for the 2010 season. I got my engine block, crankshaft and heads back from the machine shop before the bad weather hit us. The block is on the engine stand, wrapped up in a plastic bag. Maybe before the weekend is over I can build a fire in the woodburner and warm the garage up enough so I can put the crank in and torque the main caps. I still need to find a set of pistons before I can put the short block together. I also have to get the engine that is in the car, out so it can be freshened, but I don’t want to have two engines apart at the same time.

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I’ve also been looking at the map trying to figure out if I can make it to Billings, Montana in two days on the Gold Wing. We’re going to attend the Blue Knights International Convention there in July. I’d wanted to take my time going both ways, but we won’t be able to leave Beatrice until Saturday morning and I wanted to be there on Sunday evening. I haven’t figured the exact mileage, but it looks like about 110 miles.

We rode to Spokane in 1998 for the International Convention. We left Grand Island about 5:30 AM on Friday and planned to stay in Coer d’Alene, Idaho, on Saturday night. However, mechanical problems on one of the bikes set us back. Anyway, we stayed at a KOA campground at Sheridan, Wyoming on Friday night and were in Billings well before noon on Saturday. Of course, we didn’t take time to do any sightseeing, and Grand Island is 13 miles closer than Beatrice. I hope to be able to take more time coming back from Billings to do some sightseeing.

Jan and I have really gone modern as we got new cell phones. I’m through the first 20 pages of the 150 page instruction manual and am already thoroughly confused. I hope this phone gives me as good of service as the last one. I had it for 5 years and never had a problem with it. Of course, I’d be satisfied if I could get calls, make calls and have my address book. Both of our phones have Navigation and that is included in the monthly bill on Jan’s phone. I can have it if I pay $9.95 a month more. I decided if I ever need it, we’ll probably be together so we’ll just use hers. We both have cameras incorporated in our phones, which is kind of cool. The pictures I took on Christmas eve were taken on my phone. I even got “Bluetooth” with my phone. They say I can talk on my phone without having to hang onto it, which will be cool if I can make the silly thing stay on my ear!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy birthday; Advances in police technology; area dirt tracks setting 2010 schedules; two Washington deputies ambushed, suspect killed; white Nebraska Christmas

My oldest daughter, Heather, celebrated a birthday December 18th. She had a posting on her Facebook page about being 29. I wish she was - it would mean that I’m not as old as I am. However, she also tells on herself because she also has her birthday posted on her profile, including the year she was born.

The night she was born, we headed to the hospital about 1 AM. We lived on the west edge of Grand Island and came in to the old Grand Island Memorial Hospital from the west on Faidley. We’d had a pretty good snowstorm just a couple of days earlier and the snow was still blowing across the road. There were no houses along Faidley back then, it was all cornfields. We got to the hospital and I had a couple of papers to fill out, then I went up to begin my wait. When I got upstairs, it was already over and we had a new daughter! I guess that’s the way to do it!!

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Things came full circle last winter when Heather & Dana had their 1st child, a son, Landon. He will be 10 months old in a few days and he rules the roost in their home. Unfortunately, it’s over 500 miles to Greeley, Colorado, so we don’t get to see him much, but Heather keeps us updated with pictures. She also has Skype on her computer and we have it on ours, so if we’re on the computer at the same time, we are able to talk and see each other on the computer.

Technology, especially in the last few years, has come such a long way. Cell phones, computers, GPS, video, video surveillance. I can set up video surveillance in cities all over the United States and through the internet, I can sit at a computer in an office and watch all of the surveillance cameras at once. I can remember at times thinking that I wish something was on video, now I have it. When our patrol cars got the first video systems, we had a big lock box in the trunk of the patrol cars that had a VCR in it. We had to ch ange the tapes every 8 hours. We now have digital video that is recorded on a memory card and the entire system is contained in the rear view mirror. We have laptop computers in our patrol cars from which we can run license plates and warrant checks. We can talk to dispatch and other officers through chat on our laptops instead of using the radio. All of our patrol cars have GPS so dispatch can see where we are at all times. They can see us on a map of the city or county and even know how fast we are going.

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I found out the other night that the GPS and mobile data now works when we’re out of the county. I had to make a trip to Lincoln, and could communicate by mobile data to dispatch. They could tell me where I was before I knew it, naming cross streets I was passing. All this technology enhances officer safety.

With winter setting in, all the racing going on here is “bench racing.” Nebraska Raceway Park at Greenwood, Nebraska has a tentative schedule posted on their website. Thunderhill Speedway, at Mayetta, Kansas, is under new ownership and they have announced that they will be IMCA sanctioned in 2010. Their program will be IMCA modifieds, sportmods, stock cars and hobby stocks and they will continue to race on Saturday nights. We raced at Thunderhill in a special at the beginning of 2008 and I’d love to go back there some time when the weather is nice and the track is in good shape. Maybe we’ll be able to make another trip there in 2010. We’re already making plans to go to Ft Worth in April for the NASCAR weekend. I’m hoping that with the economic downturn, rooms will be a bit less expensive. Tickets aren’t available as a package deal like they were at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it looks like even buying them individually, they will be less than they were in Las Vegas.

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At about 8:45 PM (PST) on Monday evening, December 21, two Sheriff’s Deputies were ambushed when the responded to a call near Eatonville, Washington. They were responding to a dispute at a home between two brothers. The deputies were shot by David Crable before he was killed when they returned fire. The gunman has a history of "terrorizing" his family. The names of the officers were not immediately released.

The officers were met at the door by Crable's brother. When the deputies entered the house, Crable fired at the deputies from upstairs, hitting one of the officers multiple times.


One deputy was flown to Harborview Medical Center In Seattle, where he was listed as critical in the intensive care unit. The other deputy was taken to Madigan Army Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition.

We’re in the Christmas season, but not everybody is in the Christmas spirit. PLEASE, everybody, BE CAREFUL out there!!

It looks like we’ll have a white Christmas as there’s another storm taking aim at Nebraska. If you’re living in this area and you don’t have to drive, please stay indoors. If you absolutely must be out in it, be careful. I might be boring to read, but I would not want to spice this up by writing about the misfortunes of people who are playing bumper cars in the bad weather.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, everybody!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nebraska snowstorm; Danica will be in NASCAR; McCool Junction awards banquet; more Officers down

Following the snowstorm last week, we went into a DEEP FREEZE! Having Monday and Tuesday off, I didn’t have to deal with the falling snow, but when I went back to work Wednesday evening, the bottom fell out of the thermometer. Of course, it could have been worse as it “only” dropped to -14 here. Thursday night it was about 0 when I went home shortly after 2 AM.

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My nephew, Charlie, is a Marine Staff Sergeant stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He posted a comment on his face book page about the bad weather they were having, with rain and weather in the 60’s. I told him I’d gladly trade places with him as long as there wasn’t a hurricane. He did not give me an answer.

In the world of NASCAR, IndyCar driver Danica Patrick has finally signed a two year contract with JR Motorsports to drive in select Nationwide series races in 2010 and 2011. The races she will drive in have not been announced yet, but it is anticipated that she will be scheduled around her IndyCar season. Patrick admits that she will have a steep learning curve, but hopes to be competitive in the #7. Patrick will be testing an ARCA car at Daytona later this month.

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On the local racing scene, The Junction Motor Speedway held their annual awards banquet on December 12th. Their tentative schedule shows the annual USMTS Spring Thaw race will be Friday and Saturday March 5th & 6th, 2010. Support classes will be open stock cars and 2-preson cruisers. Junction Motor Speedway is also planning to add limited modifieds to the schedule, but officials are still working on rules for the class. The regular season opener is scheduled for Saturday, April 17th, 2010. I’m really hoping the weather for the USMTS show is nice, as it will fall on my weekend off and I’d like to go race that weekend. However, with the snow and nasty weather we’re having now, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was still snow on the ground that first weekend of March.

Over $20,000 in track and NASCAR money was presented to the drivers in the top 10 in points in each class. I got my first ever (and probably my only) NASCAR trophy for our 10th place points finish. With fog and light freezing drizzle in the evening, our decision to stay overnight was a good one. We slept in on Sunday, then had a good breakfast and hot coffee before heading back to Beatrice.

Since the murders of four Lakewood, Washington Police Officers two weeks ago, at least 6 more officers have died in the line of duty. Two were the result of traffic accidents and four were from gunfire. I’ve mentioned this before and I can’t stress it enough, most fatal line of duty traffic accidents CAN BE AVOIDED!! For those officers reading this, PLEASE USE YOUR SEATBELTS!! The other thing I would urge is to SLOW DOWN a little. On December 3rd, Osage County, Oklahoma Deputy Sheriff Michael Mehagan, 26, was responding to back up another officer on a call when he lost control of his patrol car on an S-curve and rolled twice. Deputy Mehagan was ejected from the vehicle and sustained fatal injuries. He is survived by his wife and 11 month old daughter.


On Friday December 11th, Jefferson County, Indiana Deputy Sheriff Roy Sutton, Jr, 33, was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call involving weapons at about 11:30 PM. Deputy Sutton met a vehicle on a hilly, winding section of road when his patrol car ran off the right side of the road and down a steep embankment. His patrol car went airborne and hit a tree on the drivers’ side of the car. Deputy Sutton was wearing a seatbelt and suffered severe head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene.

On December 3rd, Pelham, Alabama Police Officer Phillip Davis, 33, was killed while making a traffic stop when the suspect opened fire and fled the scene. On December 6th, Penn Hills Police Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, was shot and killed in an ambush while responding to a call. He parked several houses away from the call, then reported that he heard shots fired. The suspect exited the house and shot Officer Crawshaw several times as he sat in his car before he was able to get out. The suspect had shot and killed the resident of the house over a drug debt. On December 8th, Martin County North Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy Charlie Brown, 38, was shot and killed as he and other officers responded to a call of a man walking on a street and firing a long gun. Officers located the man and confronted him, telling him to put the gun down. Instead, he fired and killed Deputy Brown. Other officers on the scene returned fire, killing the suspect. Finally, on December 13th, Henderson, Tennessee Police Captain Dennis Cagle, 56, died from a gunshot wound he suffered three days earlier when he responded to a robbery call at a local grocery store. Captain Cagle was the first officer on the scene and was shot once when he entered the store. He returned fire and wounded the suspect, who was taken into custody at the scene.

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It would appear that in addition to our military fighting wars overseas, our police officers are fighting a war in the United States. Three of the above suspects were captured and the fourth was killed. I would hope that none of the three is ever released from jail. Please, officers out there, don’t take any chances and come home at the end of your shift! Non-law enforcement reading this, if you are contacted by law enforcement, use common sense and everything will be OK. We are all in a heightened state of awareness, so if at times we seem short or terse with you, please understand.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nebraska Cornhuskers lose heartbreaker, Suh for Heisman, Nebraska winter storm, NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway

The Nebraska Cornhuskers lost a heartbreaker to Texas Saturday evening at Arlington, Texas. After taking a 12 - 10 lead with less than 2 minutes to play, it appeared that an incomplete pass by Texas’ quarterback ended the game as time expired. However, an official review of the play clock had the officials reset the clock with one second and Texas kicked a field goal.

Nebraska has nothing to be ashamed about in the way they played. The match-up between Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh thrust Suh into the Heisman spotlight and he will be making the trip to New York at the end of this week. Wouldn’t it be a great honor for a defensive lineman the caliber of Suh to be the Heisman recipient? His interview with the Lincoln TV station was very gracious and he said he wouldn’t even be considered for the award if it weren’t for his teammates.

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With the big game on TV and the weather being decent, we expected there to be a lot of traffic in town during the evening. However, it appeared that the parties were all at home as it was a very quiet night, even after the game was over. There was not much traffic on the street all night long.

Winter has taken aim at southeast Nebraska and after dropping about 6” of snow on us Sunday afternoon and evening, we are bracing for what forecasters are saying will be another 7” to 12” by the time it stops sometime Wednesday. So far, we haven’t had much of a wind, but the weather service says we could get 40 MPH winds in the next day, too.

Even with the nasty weather Sunday evening, there was a lot more traffic on the streets. It’s almost like some people don’t have the good sense to stay home when the weather is nasty. If I hadn’t had to work, I would not have left the house. The Sheriff’s Department was busy with two injury accidents between 6 PM and 7 PM in the Wymore area. Fortunately, none of the injuries were serious. The snow stopped before midnight and Beatrice street crews began cleaning the downtown streets.

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Of course, the snow started again on Monday evening and as of 6 PM Tuesday, we’d gotten another 9” of snow. I got the snowblower out just after noon and cleaned the driveway as I had to get the grandkids from daycare. When I got home, I wasn’t able to get the car back up the driveway. I got an area on the street cleaned so I could park the car close to the curb, not 3 feet from the curb where the street crews cleaned the snow. On the way back with the kids, I saw a sure sign of a huge storm coming in when I passed two people who are well-known to local law enforcement. They were walking along the street, each carrying two 30-packs of beer. I’m guessing they were afraid of running out of beer before the snow stops.

I remember snow storms when I was in grade school and junior high. From about the 5th grade on, Crete had students from country schools that had closed, and those were the only bus routes. If I remember correctly there were five bus routes then. The kids that lived in town usually either walked or rode their bicycles to school. It seemed like after we had bus routes we had a lot more days off for snow.

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I also remember when I was in 7th grade, in February 1965, a storm that we had. Dad worked at Cushman’s in Lincoln and went to work the morning the storm started. Dad ended up staying with his cousin in Lincoln and didn’t get home for 3 or 4 days.

I happened to check the Beatrice Speedway website last night and found that the schedule for 2010 has already been posted. Spring Nationals is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 18th, 19th & 20th. Thursday night will be an open practice for all classes. Friday night will have IMCA modifieds, IMCA sport mods, IMCA hobby stocks and factory stocks. Saturday night will be IMCA modifieds, IMCA sport mods, IMCA hobby stocks and IMCA sport compacts. The regular season is scheduled to start on Friday April 16th. I hope that the snow will be gone before Spring Nationals time is here. The R & R Racing #6 entry should be ready to race long before the practice night.

Beatrice Speedway’s car show & test & tune are scheduled for April 10th, and the regular season opener is scheduled for Friday April 16th.

I’ve attended the NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway each year since 2003. Each year, we’ve taken two days to drive each way, and spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the track. The economy has hurt the attendance as in 2009, there were a lot of empty seats in Turn 4. That is where we sat in 2003 and 2004 and except for not being able to see Turns 1 & 2, we had decent seats. The cars came out of 2 and down the back straightaway straight at us.

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We’ve enjoyed the city, the vendors, the tailgating and making new friends at Las Vegas. I keep track of what’s going on in the valley by looking at the Las Vegas Review Journal on-line several times a week. Every time we go back, there are a lot of changes on the strip from the year before.

In 2010, we plan to go to the spring Texas NASCAR weekend. It’s the same weekend as the scheduled start for Beatrice Speedway, but I’ve decided I want to do some other things in 2010 than just race. I’m hoping the weather in April is nice enough that we can take the Gold Wing when we go to Texas. Due to the economy, ticket prices have been lowered and, depending on the location at the track of the tickets, I can get Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets for $100. If I book the hotel soon enough, it looks like I can get a room for about $65 a night. I’m guessing we’d stay overnight in Oklahoma City on the way back, so all in all, it would not be as expensive as going to Las Vegas again.

This last weekend I found out that Dad gave the Veterans Day speech at Crete High School this year. He’d originally been asked to talk to a class about his experiences in WW II. Somehow, that didn’t develop, and he was asked to do the Veterans Day address. He even found one of his old uniforms to wear. Mom said he talked a little longer than he was supposed to, but everybody enjoyed it. He also got a video of it, and I want to be sure to see it soon.

As police officers, we see the best and worst of society. I’ve dealt with kids that I’ve never seen their parents and wonder why the parents had kids if they weren’t going to take responsibility for them. I’ve tried to point teens and others in their early 20’s in the right direction and hope they become respected, contributing members to society. Now I’ve come across a website honoring the heroes in our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website, gives short stories of our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen/women who are doing their jobs at a great risk to them selves. As I read through some of these stories, it struck me how young most of these heroes are. I can see that many of our younger people ARE becoming responsible citizens. These are our next generation of heroes. Thank you to our military for keeping us safe at home.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lakewood, Washington cop killer dies

Suspected Seattle cop killer Maurice Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle Police Officer in the early morning hours of Tuesday December 1st. Clemmons had a gun that belonged to one of the slain Police Officers tucked in his waistband. When the investigation into the cowardly murder of 4 Lakewood, Washington Police Officers started, Clemmons was developed as a person of interest. He soon became a suspect.

On Sunday evening, police narrowly missed capturing Clemmons as they cordoned off a neighborhood and SWAT teams began checking house after house. Clemmons had a network of family members and friends who helped hide him and provided him with money, food and cell phones. The investigation does not end with his death as several accomplices have been arrested and Law Enforcement has announced that several more will be arrested.

This was a senseless tragedy that could have been prevented if the criminal justice system worked the way is is supposed to. What I mean by that is this: this piece of human trash should not have been on the streets- not now, not EVER! In 1989, before his 18th birthday, he was sentenced to spend 95 years in prison in Arkansas for a laundry list of charges including robberies, burglaries, thefts and bringing a gun to school. However, in 2000, after spending 11 years behind bars, his sentence was commuted by then-governor Mike Huckabee. According to newspaper reports, Huckabee said that the fact that Clemmons was 17 at the time of his sentencing was a factor in his sentence. He was later arrested for violating his parole and landed in jail to serve his full term, but the charges were dropped and he was released.

He was recently charged with the rape of a child and assaulting a police officer and was released after a bail bondsman posted his $150,000 bond.

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I am sure there will be a long and drawn out investigation into this case. Where do we begin? Every was I turn, I see news about gun control and new laws. Here’s a news flash for those that want more gun control - IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR A FELON TO POSSESS A FIREARM!!! Let’s enforce the gun laws we already have instead of making new ones. Clemmons did not buy his gun at a sporting goods show.

How about early release, parole and probation? Let’s see, if you get 20 years in Nebraska and are a good boy or girl, you’re out in 10 or less. With jail overcrowding, it’s all about parole and probation. Get them out and back on the streets as soon as possible. Said Brian Wurts, The Lakewood Independent Police Guild president and Lakewood police officer, "I can't believe he was out on the street," Wurts said of the suspect. "You have 5 percent of the people out here committing 90 percent of the crime -- not against just us, but against all of you. And we've got to hold these people accountable. We've got to keep them locked up. And if they want to rehabilitate them, you can rehabilitate them, but you rehabilitate them in prison, where they're supposed to be. This guy should have never been on the street."

This is a time for healing for the families, friends and co-workers of the fallen officers. It’s my hope that something like this will never happen again, but we all know it will. Contact your lawmakers and let them know you are outraged that someone like Clemmons can be out on the street and you want the laws changed. Let those changes be the legacy of Sgt Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

NASCAR to crown 2009 Champion in Las Vegas; local IMCA and Whelan Weekly Racing series; 4 Officers ambushed and killed in Pierce County, Washington

The world of NASCAR is getting ready to formally crown the 2009 champion, Jimmy Johnson. Johnson’s week will begin on Monday with public appearances in the San Diego area, then on Tuesday in the Fontana area. The festivities will move on to Las Vegas, where there will be activities open to the public all over Las Vegas as well as at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There will be a “parade lap” on the strip by the Chase drivers, and pit stop competitions for fans using real Sprint Cup cars. These will also be held all over the city. The awards banquet will be at the Winn Vegas and for the first time, a select few members of the public will be able to attend. Even though I was pulling for Mark Martin to win the Championship, I congratulate the #48 Team on their 4th in a row. I believe that after the season Mark Martin had in 2009, he will once again be near the top of the heap in 2010. In his 2nd year with his Hendrick team, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

I’m sure that anybody spending this week in Vegas will not find a shortage of things to do if they are NASCAR fans.

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On the local racing scene, some awards banquets have already been held and others are coming up. IMCA has already posted the 2010 rules on their website. At the Beatrice Speedway Women for Racing Banquet, it was announced that there were no changes being made in the non-sanctioned factory stock class. The 2010 schedule was not announced yet. The Junction Motor Speedway awards banquet will be held on December 12th, and any changes being made at that venue will be announced at that time. Eagle Raceway located 12 miles east of Lincoln, Nebraska already has a tentative 2010 schedule, having added IMCA Sport Mods to the line-up. Eagle’s awards banquet is scheduled for January 9th, 2010.

After input from fans and participants, the Butler County Motorplex near Rising City, Nebraska will once again race on Friday nights.

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I-80 Speedway will be holding their awards banquet on January 9th. The last I checked, there was nothing out about schedules, etc for I-80 for 2010.

Dawson County Speedway at Lexington, Nebraska has announced their classes and tentative schedule for 2010, with more discussion planned at their awards banquet on December 12th.

Moving 125 miles southeast of Beatrice, new owners took over Thunderhill Speedway at Mayetta, Kansas. The track was closed before the end of the 2009 season and put up for sale. The Conkwright family from Manhattan, KS, longtime racers themselves, purchased the track and since have been working on it every waking minute they have to spare. It looks like they will keep the same classes they ran in 2009, Modifieds, Sportmods, factory stocks and hobby stocks. They will be racing on Saturday nights, but a schedule has not been set at this time. With a background in Late Models, the new owners would like to get a late model special or two on the 2010 calendar.

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At Beatrice Speedway, there are some drivers switching classes. I’ve heard that Kyle Vanover is selling his IMCA Modified and will be racing a factory stock in 2010. I haven’t talked to Kyle to verify this, but he has a ton of modified stuff for sale and yesterday I noticed a stock car body sitting next to the his garage.

Tyler Phelps will be driving a factory stock for Watts-Pope Racing out of Beatrice. That could prove interesting as Jeff Watts will still be racing. It will be interesting to see how Tyler does against his car owner. Another rumor I haven’t verified yet is that IMCA Modified driver Brent Schlake bought a factory stock. Beatrice factory stock driver Gary Laflin was in an IMCA Sport Mod at the Beatrice Octoberfest and has said he will be racing a Sport Mod in 2010. I haven’t heard where his factory stock went, or if it did go anywhere.

We got our old trailer sold last week. The SCS car is still for sale, either with a floater rear end with no gears or with a metric rear end. It looks like the block of the engine we had problems with will clean up with a de-glazing. I will have to find a new set of pistons and rings and of course the heads need to be fixed. In the meantime, I need to get the 360 out of the “new” car so I can freshen it and go over the rest of the car with a fine tooth comb so it’s ready to go come the 2010 racing season.

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Before I close, I must once again address the issue of “Officer Down.” At 8:15 AM on Sunday November 29th, four officers of the Lakewood, Washington Police Department were shot and killed as they sat in a coffeehouse working on their laptops. It isn’t clear whether the officers even had time to draw their weapons to return fire. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ed Troyer said the attack was clearly target at the officers, not a robbery gone bad. The officers’ marked police cars were parked outside and all of the officers were in uniform. PLEASE, ALL OFFICERS READING THIS - BE IN CODE RED AT ALL TIMES!! Here’s hoping that the perpetrator of this vicious crime is caught soon. Condolences go out to the family, friends and co-workers of these fallen heroes.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Las Vegas Metro Officer killed

Once more we are reminded of the dangers of police work. At this time, this incident is thought to have been a random robbery, but it’s possible that the suspects knew that their victim was a police officer. A little after midnight on November 19th, an off-duty Las Vegas police officer died after being shot in his garage by robbers. Reports from the online edition of the Las Vegas Review Journal say that 30-yr old Trevor Nettleton was a Marine Corps veteran who had been a North Las Vegas Police Officer for 3 years. Officer Nettleton was found dead of apparent gunshot wounds inside his home in the 1100 block of Emerald Stone Avenue, North Las Vegas police spokeswoman Chrissie Coon said.

Coon said the officer was gunned down in the garage of his home during an apparent robbery attempt in which there was an exchange of gunfire. Neighbors called in reports of gunfire at 12:18 a.m.

Clark County Undersheriff Rod Jett said the police officer had just arrived home after his shift with the Bolden Area Command, near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Vegas Drive. Jett said the shooting appears to be a random act. The officer was not in uniform and did not have his patrol car with him. The officer's wife, mother, a 1-year-old son and 2-month-old daughter were at home at the time of the shooting, Jett said. Heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends and co-workers of Officer Nettleton.

One follow-up story tells us that Officer Nettleton was a 2nd generation police officer. His father, Richard, is a retired Nevada State Trooper. When Trevor told his father of his plans to become a police officer, Richard tried to talk him out of it. When Trevor graduated from the police academy, his father pinned the badge on Trevor.

In another story, we learn that three suspects are in custody. At least two are gang members and one lived in the neighborhood. Kind of leads me to believe that maybe this was not a random robbery after all.

Police officers do a lot of things in their off-duty time to relieve the stress of police work. I know of guys that do carpenter work in their off-duty time. When I was with the Grand Island Police Department, several officers rode motorcycles. I’d have liked to have joined them on some rides, but at the time I didn’t have a motorcycle. Shortly after I started working in Beatrice, I bought a 1980 Kawasaki LTD 750. I rode around the southeast Nebraska area quite a bit and made several trips to Sunset Speedway in Omaha to watch the races. It wasn’t long before I realized I wanted to get a bigger motorcycle. I’d be going down the road and I’d meet Ultra Classics and Gold Wings and always thought to myself “I’ll have one of those one day.”

All told, I put about 10,000 miles on that Kawasaki while I had it. In August of 1992, I saw an ad for a farm sale north of Friend, Nebraska. They had a 1981 Gold Wing Interstate advertised on the auction with less than 19,000 miles on it. I went home with a new 11 year old Gold Wing that day. Before the riding season was over, I’d put almost 3,000 miles on it.

Right after I bought the Kawasaki, I joined the Grand Island Blue Knights Chapter. At the time, that was the only Blue Knights Chapter in Nebraska and we had 12 members. Today, Nebraska I has about 50 members and there are 4 chapters in Nebraska. Worldwide, the Blue Knights have over 20,000 members. I attended my first Midwest Regional Conference, at Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, in June 1993. At the time, that was my longest road trip on a motorcycle. It was also the first time I ever had to put on rain gear. As we were going to get on the Kansas turnpike at Wichita, there was a trooper sitting on the side of the road. He told John that there was a tornado warning for Wellington, which is about 20 miles south of Wichita. There was heavy rain, wind and hail. We pulled off the highway and went to a café a couple of blocks east and waited out the storm while drinking coffee and sampling the homemade pies. In a couple of hours, we heard the weather had cleared and took off in a very light rain. A few miles inside of Oklahoma, we stopped and put on the rain gear as the sky was getting darker. We were only back on the road for a few miles when we hit with a real gully washer. It rained so hard that we were going less than 25 miles an hour, and I had a hard time seeing the taillights on the motorcycle ahead of me. Luckily, it only lasted a few miles, and when we ran out of it, the skies almost immediately cleared. We stopped just before the Cimarron Turnpike and took the rain gear off. From there on, we had a beautiful ride.

Since then, I’ve had several different rain suits; some did a fair job and others didn’t help much at all. This particular weekend ended up being sunny and hot the rest of the trip. I made a lot of shorter trips, traveling about a total of 8,000 miles that summer, but didn’t end up using the rain gear for the rest of the season.

The 1993 MWRC Fall Conference that year was at Springfield, Missouri, but I ended up not going. Instead, Nebraska I decided to ride up to the Ft Randall dam just inside South Dakota. I asked Dad if he wanted to go, and he agreed. It had been quite a few years since he’d been on a motorcycle, but we would ride about 100 miles between stops and everything worked out great. At the last minute, the other guys who were going to make the ride backed out, but we had a good time.

I’d never been to that area so I took a camera and over the 2 days took a bunch of pictures. We took Hwy 281 north from Grand Island to Ft Randall. The next day we went back east to Yankton, South Dakota to Hwy 81 and came back south into Nebraska after a stop at Gavins Point Dam. It was well after dark when we got home. All in all, it was a great weekend of riding and sightseeing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Firearms deer season starts; NASCAR Chase for the Championship; IMCA Duel in the Desert; plan ahead for 2010's motorcycle rides

This was the first weekend of firearms deer season in our neck of the woods. Of course, the bow-and-arrow hunters have been out there for a while already. With the harvest in full swing and the deer on the move, this is the time of year to be especially alert when you’re driving. It doesn’t matter if you are on the highway, a country road, or in town, you have a chance of hitting a deer. Thursday evening, I took a call about a car-deer accident in the middle of Beatrice. The car was driving west on Hoyt St west of Runza, When a deer came out of the west ditch and ran into the right front fender. The deer kept on going. The driver checked around and could not find the deer. When I got done taking the report, I spotlighted the area on the north side of the road. I did a double-take when I saw three deer about 75 yards north of me. One of the deer was flipping me off!!!

The deer problem isn’t unique for Nebraska. I got an e-mail from the Blue Knights Yahoo Groups Sunday evening. Larry Talley, a member of Blue Knights VA XIII, hit a deer while riding his motorcycle Sunday afternoon. He was airlifted to Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina where he it was found that his right leg is broken in two places between the knee and ankle with a compound fracture.

Let’s all be careful for the next few months so we don’t end up hitting one of these critters and having the chance of being hurt ourselves.

I had to start a fire in the woodburner this afternoon so I could work in the garage. I got the engine out of the SCS car earlier in the week and took it apart yesterday while watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers on the TV. I finished doing what I wanted to get done this afternoon while watching and listening to the NASCAR race from Phoenix. As much as I’m pulling for Mark Martin to win the championship, Jimmy Johnson will take the big trophy home next week at Homestead. If Mark leads the most laps and wins, Jimmy will have to finish 26th or worse in order to not win the championship. I hate for Mark Martin to have another one slip out of his fingers. He’s finished 2nd in the standings 4 previous times in his NASCAR career.

I got the engine apart that was in the SCS car Satday afternoon, too. The head on the driver’s side has all the exhaust valves bent. The #5 piston started to melt and the #7 piston has a broken ring land. The #4 & #6 pistons also have broken ring lands. The middle cylinders on both sides look like they were running lean. I thought the carb was jetted big enough so I’m wondering if there’s a problem with the carburetor. We had to run the 350 Holley for that race, and we hadn’t run that particular carburetor in the past as it came with the car and trailer we bought at the end of the season. I’ll have to take the block in to NAPA to see if it can be saved. There weren’t any holes or cracks in it that I could see. All the bearings looked like new, even after about 30 shows on them.

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Thanks to the internet, I was able to watch the Duel in the Desert races from Las Vegas, Nevada Friday and Saturday night. The races started Thursday night with heat races and qualifying A Features There were 262 IMCA modifieds signed in representing 23 states and 3 Canadian provinces. The Saturday night A Feature paid the IMCA modifieds an IMCA record $7,777.77 to win. Beatrice regulars Johnny Saathoff, Jordan Grabouski and Chris Burk made the long tow to try to take home the winner’s share of the purse. Eagle regular and 2009 IMCA National Champion, Dylan Smith and Rising City and Junction Motor Speedway regular Shane Stutzman were also there. Last year’s winner, David Murray, Jr of Oberlin, Kansas as well as Darrick Klima of Belleville, Kansas were also there. Shane Stutzman qualified for the A Feature by winning his last chance race, passing for the lead coming to the checkered flag and beating out Randy Hall, who made the trip from New York. Murray and Grabouski both missed making the A Feature. Jeremy Payne, who has two Duel in the Desert A Feature wins, drove Jet Racing’s 96p car and made the A Feature. When the green flag dropped on the A Feature, Ricky Alvarado, who has won at Beatrice Speedway in the past, jumped to the point. On the 3rd lap, Saathoff took 2nd place and began to reel Alvarado in. After a lap 36 caution, Alvarado went high in turn 4, allowing Saathoff to get under him and make the pass. Saathoff never looked back after that and took home another Duel in the Desert trophy. Shane Stutzman finished 12th, Klima 13th, Dylan Smith 20th, Jeremy Payne 23rd and Jay Steffens of North Platte finished 24th. Twenty eight cars started the A Feature. Las Vegas officials are hoping for 300 IMCA modifieds next year.

A couple of years ago, when we were in Vegas for the NASCAR weekend, we went to the races at the dirt track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The track reminds me somewhat of I-80 but doesn’t seem as high banked. It’s a wide track and looks like it would be fun to race on. During the Duel in the Desert, they also have IMCA stock cars. Maybe some benevolent race fan out there would finance a trip for R & R Racing to next years event?? I guess not. The night we went to the dirt track, we only had to go from the Speedway to the dirt track, but no matter which way we turned, we could not get going in the right direction. That is a story for another time.

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We’re going to pass on Vegas this year. Instead, we’re planning to go to Texas for the April NASCAR weekend. If I remember correctly, all three NASCAR series are racing at the track that weekend, so I hope to get my “fix” for a few days that way. Who knows, the weather might even be good enough to make a motorcycle trip out of it.

Looks like while I’m daydreaming about taking motorcycle trips on the Gold Wing next riding season, I’d better be getting my long underwear and stocking cap out. In the meanwhile, I received another link to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation site which gives you tests on road signs and collision trap tests. I’m going to bookmark it and go to it a lot!!
Thanks, Fred, for sending it to me.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Active shooter incidents; Officer Down in Seattle

I’ve often heard it said that bad things happen “in threes.” The events of the last few days enforce this saying.

For as long as memory serves, Law Enforcement has been in the business of reacting to things that happened. Yes, there are a lot of things we can do to stem crime and bad behavior. Locally, I’ve had people tell me of an area where drivers seemingly ignore the speed limit. When I have the chance, I will run radar in that area. After making a few traffic contacts, the flow of traffic usually slows down. It’s common knowledge that stepped-up traffic enforcement causes the motoring public to be more mindful of how they drive.

In recent years, Law Enforcement everywhere has stepped up training in the area of responding to an active shooter incident. This is something we all hope we will never have to respond to but if we do, we need to be prepared to respond. Look around at your communities and see where an incident could happen. Schools, churches, malls, hospitals, offices, just anywhere a shooter can go and kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.

On Thursday afternoon, reports began to filter in over the news services about an active shooter incident at Ft Hood, Texas. How could something like this happen at, of all places, a United States military base on United States soil? Over the next days, weeks, months and even years, we will learn what happened to cause an Army major to snap and kill 13 people and wound 31. Rather than dwell on the shooter, my focus is on the first responders at the scene. In particular, the Ft Hood Police Department police officers who confronted the shooter and neutralized the threat. Sgt Kimberly Munley engaged the shooter and suffered a gunshot wound to her right wrist and was shot in each thigh. Her partner, Sgt Mark Todd, also exchanged fire with the shooter. According to news reports, Sgt Munley started her Law Enforcement career with the Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Police Department as a reserve officer. She later worked as a beach patrol officer and as an officer in the uniform patrol division. Sgt Munley is a U.S. Army veteran who joined the Ft Hood Police Department in January 2008. She is a member of the emergency response team and a department firearms instructor.

Sgt Mark Todd is a retired soldier who is a police officer with the Ft Hood Police Department. He arrived just after Sgt Munley. Sgt Todd related that seconds after he arrived on the scene, he saw a calm-looking Hasan, his gun drawn and his fingers pointing at people outside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Todd said he then saw Hasan shooting at soldiers as they attempted to flee. Sgt Todd shouted at the shooter to stop, but he turned and fired at Sgt Todd, who returned fire. The shooter then slumped down against a utility pole and fell on his back. Sgt Todd then approached the downed suspect, kicked his weapon away and handcuffed the suspect.

Both Sgt Munley and Sgt Todd are heroes who did exactly as they were trained. They located the shooter and quickly neutralized him. Because of their actions, they undoubtedly saved many lives.

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The next day word was received of an active shooter incident in Orlando, FL at an office building. One person was killed and five were injured. The shooter was a former employee who was able to leave the building before officers arrived. He was arrested without incident at his mother’s home about three hours after the shootings. He had been fired by the company in 2007 after working for the firm for a year. When a reporter outside of the Police Department asked the shooter why he did it, he replied “Because they left me to rot.”

On Sunday morning the Lincoln, Nebraska newspaper reported on a shooting in a Vail. Colorado bar. A 63-yr old Vail resident is in jail at the Eagle County Jail on a charge of first degree homicide and possibly some other charges.

Witnesses said the shooter was involved in an argument and was escorted out of the bar by staff, police said. Once outside, he began shooting, police said. He then re-entered the bar and continued shooting, police said.

The man who died in the shooting was identified as a 70-yr old man from Carbondale.

The injured victims include a 63-year-old Vail resident who sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was transported via helicopter to Denver Health with “life threatening” injuries, Sheriff Henninger said. A 29-year-old victim remains in the Vail Valley Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the arm, and a 25-year-old was released from the Vail hospital after being treated for a leg wound.

The 29-year-old was a Sandbar employee, while the other three victims, including Kitching, were patrons, Henninger said.

The shooter appears to have acted alone, and there are no other suspects, Henninger said.

The story gave no information as to where the arrest occurred or the response of Law Enforcement.

If there was never another active shooter incident, that would suit all of law enforcement just fine. But with the current social and economic conditions, it will happen again. We just need to be sure we are prepared when they happen.

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On Halloween night, two Seattle police officers had cleared a traffic stop and were sitting on the side of the street discussing the stop. A car pulled alongside the stopped patrol car and somebody inside the car opened fire on the officers without warning. Field training officer Timothy Brenton was killed and Officer Brit Sweeney was injured. Hundreds of officers from scores of agencies became involved in the investigation. Through the hard work of law enforcement and tips by citizens, a suspect was developed. When officers attempted to contact the suspect, he drew a gun and officers fired at him, wounding him. He is in a Seattle hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The Seattle Police Department has said the suspect is also suspected in the firebombing of four police vehicles a week prior to the shootings of Officers Brenton and Sweeney.

The senseless attack on the Seattle officers reminds all of us that we never can be complacent. We need to always be mindful of our surroundings. I was reading an officer survival article last summer that was written by an expert who teaches officer survival all across the United States. One comment he made stuck in my mind, and it says volumes about attacks on police officers. He said that as police officers, we should be thinking about how to survive an attack by everybody we meet. In the end, we want to always come home to our families at the end of our shifts.

Wednesday is Veterans Day. Please make an effort to honor all our veterans past and present. Remember, if you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Special Olympics Torch Run, Blue Knights trips planned for 2010 and proposed Federal laws

Sometimes I really HATE computers!! I just spent about 30 minutes typing, then one slip of a finger and I lost EVERYTHING!! I do well just to type, and have no idea how to recover what I lost, so I’m starting all over again!

After being hired by the City of Beatrice in late 1989, I found that area Law Enforcement had not yet participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, which precedes the Nebraska Special Olympics games each year. In 1990, I went back to Grand Island and participated in that leg of the Torch Run. I was also able to do some networking and in 1991, a leg of the Torch Run was run from Beatrice to Lincoln. I was able to participate in this for several years, and was even able to participate in the final few blocks of the run in Lincoln. At that time, the runners coming in from the west met the runners coming from the south a couple of blocks west of the Nebraska State Capitol . The groups merged and were joined by many Special Olympics athletes and ran the torch the last couple of blocks to the Capitol, running under a gigantic U.S. flag that was suspended over the street. This was a very emotional experience for all involved. I left the Patrol Division of the Beatrice Police Department in 1998 to work on the SEADE Task Force and got away from helping with the Torch Run. Other officers stepped up and took over for me.

The National Special Olympics Games will be held in Lincoln, Nebraska next summer, July 2010. A leg of the Torch Run will be coming through Beatrice leading up to the Games. A note from Chief Lang a week ago asked for a volunteer to help with coordinating the Torch Run with the Chamber of Commerce and other entities. After some thought about it, I left Chief Lang a note and told him I would take the responsibility. I have my first meeting at the Chamber of Commerce on November 24th.

The motorcycle riding season is almost over. We are looking forward to 2010 and I’ve already looked at the road atlas to try to decide the best way to go to the Blue Knights International Convention in Billings, MT in July. We also hope to make it to both the Spring and Fall MWRC rides which will be at St Joseph, Missouri in June and Grand Forks, North Dakota in September. The off season can be used not only for planning your trips for the upcoming year, but riders should use the time to replace worn out parts, equipment and riding gear. We need to take an inventory of our safety equipment to be sure we have what we need during our trips, whether they are only a few miles from the house, or all the way across the continent. I have taken the following from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation: Things mentioned are helmets, eye and ear protection, jacket, pants, gloves, boots, rain gear, and even high visibility gear. Late last summer, I was at the Blue Knights Fall MWRC in Lawton, Oklahoma. Ft Sill is also right there and there are some very good museums there. However, in order to legally ride on base, I had to have a high visibility vest.

Be sure your driver’s license and insurance is up to date. I carry year round insurance on our Gold Wing for those rare days during the winter that I might be able to make a day trip. During the off season, look your motorcycle over to be sure it is safe for the upcoming riding season. Change the oil and filters, be sure your tires don’t need to be replaced, drain and replace the brake fluids, be sure the brake pads aren’t worn out. Maintain proper air pressure in the tires. If you have an air suspension system, be sure to maintain the proper air pressure in it. If you will be pulling a trailer, be sure to inspect it, too and repair or replace worn parts on it, too. Be sure the lights work and the tires are good. When were the wheel bearings packed last?

I was just looking through the October issue of the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) Journal, which is put out by the National FOP. They usually highlight some of the pending Federal legislation that the FOP either lobbies for or against. I see that there are two pieces of Federal legislation being looked at right now. The first, HR 3245, the “Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act,” would remove references to “cocaine base” from the U.S. Code, thereby greatly reducing sentences of offenders convicted of offenses involving crack cocaine. The goal of this legislation is to eliminate the difference between the Federal sentences received by crack and powder cocaine offenders. The FOP opposes this legislation and maintains that the differences in sentencing should be addressed by increasing the sentences for powder cocaine offenders.

The other piece of legislation that the F.O.P. is tracking is S. 714, the “National Criminal Justice Commission Act.” This would create a national commission to examine the criminal justice system in the United States. The concern of the F.O.P. is the narrow and prescriptive nature of the commission’s recommendation - which are predicated at “solving” the problem of the high prison populations and the disparities in the racial demographics of the prison population by weakening Federal drug laws. My personal feeling is that passing these laws as they are written would further tie the hands of law enforcement and endanger the public. Maybe that’s what happens when a person works on a Drug Task Force for over 8 years.

I’ve heard time and time again that “drugs are a victimless crime.” I strongly oppose that statement. There are many victims in a drug crime. I’ve bought methamphetamine from a mother with a newborn baby. She was afraid if she sold me the meth she had, she would not be able to get more, so she took her newborn with her to get more from her source. That baby was a victim with no say in what happened. I bought meth from a guy who had a 4 yr old and a newborn in the house. He had never met me before and did not know if I might be an axe murderer. Those two little ones were victims. I bought meth in a park from a guy whose 7-yr old son sat in the back seat of the car and watched as his father sold me an “8-ball” of meth. That 7-yr old was a victim. Even after coming back to uniform, I still have no use for drug dealers.

Rehab?? Statistics show that 47% of everybody who try meth are hooked the very first time they use it. “Marijuana is harmless.” I’ve interviewed several hundred people about their drug use, and 99% say their road to meth use started with marijuana. I’m not saying that rehab does not work as I know of people it has worked for and they are doing great now. However, as many times as not, it takes more than once in rehab. They need to completely change their lifestyle, beginning with the people they hang out with.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween, winter driving, Blue Knights and getting ready for the 2010 racing season

Three more days until Halloween. For our area, it looks like we’ll still have mild, although windy, weather. In the 20 years I’ve been a Police Officer in Beatrice, I don’t recall anybody being hit by a car or any other major incident. Everybody seems to behave themselves pretty well - at least the younger ghosts and goblins do. Halloween this year also falls on the night that Daylight Savings Time ends, and that will give the older people another hour to live it up, it they so choose. For those of you who are partying that night, PLEASE find a sober designated driver!

For parents, please stay with your child while they are trick or treating. Be sure when they cross the street, they do it in a well-lit area. Dress them in costumes that are easy to see and don’t obstruct their vision. In our small town, I don’t believe we’ve ever had a problem with tainted treats, but it anything is suspected of being tampered with, throw it away. Our part of town doesn’t get many trick or treaters, but Jan usually makes pre-packaged items and puts our name in it so parents know where it came from.

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It is still awfully early, but it looks like winter will be here before we want it to be. With the weather comes people driving in an environment that they need to take some time to get acclimated to.

The first thing we usually see is frosted over windshields in the morning. This brings out what I call the “peephole” drivers. You know what I’m talking about - you’ve all seen them and we’ve all been guilty of being one. Take a few extra minutes to scrape ALL the frost off your windshield, windows and rear glass before you move the car. If it’s still dark and you meet another vehicle with it’s headlights on, you won’t be able to see anything!

Be careful of “black ice,” which you won’t be able to see until it’s too late. If you should get into it, don’t panic and gently let off the gas. Don’t jump on the brakes - as you slow down, tap them gently. When there’s actually snow and ice on the streets and highways, be sure to give yourself plenty of extra stopping room between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you, as well as coming to a stop sign or stop light.

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I once stopped a guy who was driving in a heavy snow. He had only a “peephole” cleared on his windshield and about 4” to 6” of snow on the rest of his car, including the side windows. He went through a stop sign about a half block ahead of me without even slowing down. When I stopped him, he protested the ticket for running the stop sign because “there wasn’t anything coming.” Never mind that he couldn’t SEE if there was anything coming. I guess he ended up paying his fine for the stop sign violation and obstructed vision because I didn’t have to testify against him in court. Whether he believed it or not, he was a hazard on the road. I made him clean all his windows before I let him go.

Be sure to stock your food pantry BEFORE a storm hits so you don’t have to go out in it to get groceries or other supplies. When the snow is blowing and you can’t see a block away, you should be staying safe and sound in your house.

Like I’ve mentioned in the past, with the weather getting cooler, most of my motorcycle riding will be restricted to short day rides, and planning for trips in 2010. We’re looking forward to making the Blue Knights International Convention in Billings, Montana in July 2010. I’m also looking into hosting the Spring 2011 Spring Conference in Beatrice. That will be taking up a good amount of my time. Hotel needs to be finalized as well as rates, banquet lined up and activities as well as food and drink for the hospitality room. I guess it’s time to get busy!

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In addition to that, we’re trying to get one of our race cars as well as a trailer sold. I have some engines to freshen up. I did a quick check on the engine that Jeremy ran and maybe we didn’t hurt it too bad. Looks like a valve train problem. I won’t know until I start to get it apart. I hope to get the engine out and on the engine stand in the next week or so.

Thanks for checking me out, and be sure to leave comments.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

2009 Cool McCool 100

We were able to get a decent weekend weather-wise after the snow storms the week before. Jeremy and I got the race cars loaded up early on Saturday and were on the road for McCool Junction and the Cool McCool 100 shortly before 10 AM. Pretty good considering I wanted to leave by 9:30.

The skies were cloudy when we left. I thought I even saw a couple of raindrops on the windshield as we traveled west out of Beatrice. However, there was virtually no wind and the farther west we went, the thinner the clouds were. About 15 miles from the track, the clouds started to break up and the sun was shining. We pulled up to the pit gate just before 11:30, with just 2 trailers in line ahead of us. As I got out of the truck, another Beatrice regular, Brenden Stigge, was also there.

Once the pit gates opened, we pulled in and parked on the north side of Brenden. Their enclosed trailer would serve as a good windbreak later on in the weekend. We got the cars unloaded and last minute checks done in preparation for hot laps.

Alex Humphrey pulled in with Al’s car and parked straight west of us. I talked to him a bit and learned that Al had planned to go to a race in Nevada, MO but found a potential problem with his engine, so stayed at home. Alex had some problems with his car at I-80’s Cornhusker Classic and didn’t have it ready to go, so he’d already planned to drive his dad’s car at JMS. Al came in a bit later and was around all weekend to get the car set up for Alex.

We got the call to draw our numbers for starting positions and transponders. Jeremy decided he wanted me to draw for him, too. I drew 23 for me and 36 for Jeremy. As it worked out, he would start out behind me in the same heat.

Jeremy had never even seen the track before, let alone raced on it. We looked over the track from the catwalk and I pointed out what I could to him, noting that he should be especially careful about coming out of turn 2. That corner has historically eaten up a lot of cars.

We finally got the call for hot laps. When we got on the track, it was already getting dry slick. I was still feeling my car out, and only got 1 ½ laps in when the engine quit and I dropped to the bottom of the track on the back chute. The way it sounded, I was sure I had a problem with the distributor. I had a spare on the trailer and knew it would be faster to just change it rather than try to trouble shoot it. Once back in the pits, we checked for spark and sure enough, there was none. We got the distributor changed and the timing set in a few minutes. Check tire pressures on both cars and top both fuel cells off and we’re ready for our heat race.

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I lined up on the outside of the 2nd row, and Jeremy was no the inside of the 3rd row, At the drop of the green, the pack was off. Into 1 and the car on my inside didn’t turn, hitting me in the left front. Jeremy went by me on the bottom and that was pretty much the last I saw of him. My car felt OK as when I turned the wheel, the car turned and felt like I had all my tires under me. I kept it going and finished the heat race, passing Jeremy on the last lap when he spun out in front of me. That would be the only time all weekend I finished ahead of him.

When I slowed after taking the checkers, my front end felt funny. Once in the pits, I found that the contact on the first lap ruined my left front wheel and shredded the tire. Both were brand new when I got the car 6 weeks ago.

When the line-up came out for the B Feature, I found I was on the inside of the 5th row with Jeremy starting behind me because of his spin-out. Once again, we topped off the fuel and checked air pressures. Track was smooth so we dropped the air pressures by 2 lbs. There were 15 cars scheduled to start the B Feature; the top 10 would go to the night’s A Feature. The top 6 out of that would be locked in to Sunday’s A Feature. Everybody else would have to try to qualify all over again.

By the time we got back out, the track was pretty rubbered-down and it looked like the bottom was the fast way around. But, some cars were also working about half-way up the track in the corners. It had been pretty dusty earlier, but it looked like we would at least be able to see when we got onto the track.

Once again, when the green fell, Jeremy went by me almost immediately. A few laps later and the yellow came out for an incident on the back chute, just ahead of Jeremy. Under yellow, my car didn’t feel quite right. It took a lap to figure it out, but for some reason my brakes were dragging quite a bit. I managed to finish, however, neither of us were able to finish far enough forward to make the evening’s A Feature. When the checkers fell on the B Feature, racing was over for both of us.

Sunday morning dawned brisk and windy. We had a good spot in the motel lot where we could unload and work on the cars. I changed rear calipers as those were the ones that weren’t releasing. However, once everything was done, the brakes were still hanging up. Further checking found that a plastic brake line going to the rear brakes was pinched, making it act like a valve in the line and locking the rear brakes. Once that problem was taken care of, the brakes worked fine.

Once again, Jeremy had me draw for starting positions for both of. I didn’t do a very good job of things, drawing 83 for me and 86 for Jeremy. We were once again in the same heat and starting in the back. With the brakes working right, my car was better, but even though Jeremy started behind me, he took the bottom on the drop of the green and finished ahead of me. However, only the winner went to the A Feature and everybody else had to go to the B Feature. The top 12 from the B Feature would fall in at the back of the A Feature.

The weather had warmed up nicely; however, the wind picked up pretty good. Once again the track stayed smooth, but got dry slick in a hurry. It started out dusty, but by the time we hit the track for the B Feature, it wasn’t too bad. Even starting in the back, I could see fairly well.

At the drop of the green there was a mad scramble to get to the front. Jeremy started ahead of me and I was hoping to stay with him. However, he drove a great race and once again finished ahead of me, taking 7th. I got the final transfer spot - 12th. We were both in the A Feature!

We didn’t have a lot of time to get things ready. Set out a couple of tires in case of a flat. Jeremy said he’d had a miss in the engine the last few laps and we checked over all his spark plug wires, but didn’t find anything. We’d already changed a right rear on Jeremy’s car as that tire looked almost like a slick. The dry slick track was taking its toll on tires this weekend.

JMS tries to keep the show going and usually gets each race lined up in the staging area in plenty of time. They were already calling us to come to the staging area, so we got strapped in and waited for the other cars to start to line up. Sitting where we were, I didn’t know if there were a bunch of yellows, but it was a long wait. I’d decided to get out and go to the bathroom when cars finally started to go to the staging area. Once we were lined up, the official motioned us to go to the area where we would wait for the race ahead of us to get done.

Another long wait and I could see the lap counter on the infield at 20 laps. There was a lot of dust again so they watered the track and rolled it in. I couldn’t take it any longer - out of the car and made a dash for the restrooms about 200 yards away. I got back to my car in plenty of time, as the green was just coming out to start the hobby A Feature. NOTE: Petition the track for a port-a-pot on the northwest corner of the track.

Getting strapped back into the car, I still had plenty of time to relax and think about the upcoming race. I could see there was still some dust kicking up, but as the race went on it wasn’t as bad. As we pulled onto the track, it looked like a pretty good surface. In a couple of laps we’re lined up and the lights are flashing on the back chute. Out of 4 and we’re green. Let’s go racing!!

Jeremy started a couple of rows ahead of me and when the green flew, he went to the bottom of the track in 1. There was a big group of cars there but he got through the corner and onto the back chute, picking up a couple of spots in doing so. I’m still right on the back bumper of the 15s, who started on my inside.

A few laps in and there’s a big mix-up and spin on the back chute just ahead of Jeremy. We both miss it and when things are sorted out, a couple of the cars involved are out of the race. Another pits for a tire and is back on the track, picking up the back of the field.

I’d started 22nd and as I counted back while we were under yellow, I’m thinking I’m in 18th or 19th. Jeremy is about 5 or 6 spots ahead of me already. The green waves again and we’re back to racing. Once again there’s a bunch of cars just ahead of me all running fender to fender. A lot of rubbing going on. I pass a couple of cars and there are others dropping out. The 15s and another car rub pretty hard, and on the next lap, the 15s slows with a lot of smoke. He’s done for the night.

When the checkers fall, we’ve had a decent night. Jeremy took the white flag in 6th place, but the engine had developed a miss. On the last lap, the oil light started to flicker and he lost some spots, ending up in 9th place. Jeremy shut the engine down as he crossed the finish line. I finish 10th, but was so far behind Jeremy that I didn’t catch up to him until he rolled to a stop on the back chute.

Hopefully, the weekend helped work out some bugs in the new car. Once the cars got home and unloaded, we were able to better assess what direction we’ll be headed for 2010. We have the SCS car and our old trailer up for sale - I’m just too old to keep 2 cars going to race every week. I say this every year - and sometime I will actually follow up - I really want to spend more of 2010 taking some trips on the Gold Wing. The Blue Knights International Convention is at Billings, Montana in July and that is one trip we definitely want to make.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Internet and other scams

With the advent of the internet, there are many scams coming to the general public. Being in law enforcement, our department receives at least a couple of calls a month from somebody who has either lost money or been contacted, either by phone, e-mail or snail mail, in regards to being scammed.

Being around stock car racing, one learns quickly what an expensive sport it is. One way to save some money on parts is going on the various message boards and advertising the items you are selling or trying to buy. However, you have to be careful about accepting money orders, cashier’s checks, etc for merchandise you’re selling.

Click Here for Tons of Performance Parts

A couple of years ago, I advertised my race car in the classified section of I received an email from a guy who identified himself as “Jerry Thomas.” He wanted to know if I still had the car, if I had pictures, what was the bottom dollar, etc. However, in reading through the email, I saw a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, as well as sentence structure that wasn’t quite “right.” I replied with a couple of pictures, and he answered that if I still had the car, he would buy it. I asked where he lived so we could make arrangements, but he would not answer me.

Jerry then sent me an email and told me to take the ad of the website and that he would be sending me the “funds.” He told me when I received the “funds” to deposit them. However, he told me he was sending me substantially more than what I was asking for the car. He wanted me to send the extra money by Western Union back to him so he could pay his “shipper.” By now, I knew this just had to be a scam.

In a day or two, I got a UPS envelope delivered to my door. Inside were three money orders for $890 each. Keep in mind I was asking $750 for the car. Within the hour, I received another email from Jerry, telling me to immediately cash the money orders and send the balance to him so he could get his “shipper” on the way.

The money orders looked good, but I called the number listed on the back of the check to verify that the checks were good. The security division was able to quickly tell me that two of the checks had already been cashed and the third had never been issued and was cancelled. The checks that had been cashed were both for substantially less than what the checks were made out for.

I shot “Jerry” an email back and told him I would send the money to him as soon as the money orders cleared my bank, and that it could take as long as 21 days. He said to keep in contact with him. Every couple of days he would send an e-mail asking if I had to money yet and I’d tell him the bank was still processing the money orders. In the meantime, I kept asking him where he lived, but he would never answer me.

There are free programs on the internet that allow you to find out where an e-mail has originated from. Early on, I used that to track Jerry’s e-mails and found that they were coming from three different computers located at the same address. That address was in Nigeria!!

I finally sent Jerry an e-mail back and told him the bank would not cash the money orders because my name was hand-written in instead of typed in. He told me he would “contact my client” and have “more funds” sent to me. Another couple of days and I get another Fed Ex, this time containing five American Express Travelers Checks for $500 each. The first problem had already arisen - American Express does not have $500 Travelers Checks!!

To make a long story short, I kept putting Jerry off, then I told him I would not wire money to him for his “shipper,” instead I would give the “shipper” the cash when he came to pick up the car. Jerry started whining about that, saying that wasn’t the deal. I told him that was the only way the deal was going to go, and he then demanded his money back, threatening to go to the FBI if I didn’t return his money!

I shot Jerry an email back and told him if he was going to notify the FBI, to be sure to contact the Omaha office, as that was the closest one to where I lived. I also gave him the correct number. A couple of days later, I shot him another email and asked if he’d heard anything from the FBI. I told him if I did not hear from him I’d be spending all his money on Christmas presents for my grandkids. Another day of not hearing anything and I sent another email explaining that I am a police officer and I already knew that he was actually in Nigeria. I told him he had better be watching over his shoulder because some day he would be sitting at his computer trying to scam somebody when he felt a tap on his shoulder and I would be standing there with an International Arrest Warrant.

Since the money orders weren’t cashed, there wasn’t a crime committed. If I had cashed the money orders, I’d have been the one on the hook for the money, and the scammer would have been off scott-free.

There are a lot of variations of this, including people actually getting a letter in the mail along with a check. The letter says the recipient has won a lottery and they need to cash the check and send part of it back to pay the “fees.” I’ve worked several of these and done some follow up on them. I’ve contacted the companies the checks were written on and in each case the checks were fake. The companies had been plagued with these fake checks for some time.

I currently have the SCS race car advertised on dirt Today I received an obvious scam email from “Donna Salter.” The context of email follows:

“Good Day,
I saw your advert posted am so much interested in buying your older SCS stock car and firstly i will like to know your last asking price for it and i also hope is in great condition.. so get back to me ASAP and i look forward to hear back from you.

The email address is from a United Kingdom address. I can’t believe there isn’t a race car for sale closer to the United Kingdom than Nebraska! I guess I’ll see how much I can get this scammer riled up!