Hundreds of Colorado criminals were given erroneous prison sentences, and judges and corrections officials across the state are scrambling to keep them from getting out early — or, in some cases, to return them to the prisons they just left, authorities said Tuesday.
Prison officials have alerted courts to 281 inmates whose sentences were incorrect in some way, according to Allison Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. Judges have already adjusted the sentences in 56 of those cases and are reviewing others. An unknown number of the cases involve people who have already been paroled from prison, or are in halfway houses or other community correctional facilities.
The information comes in the course of an audit ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper after it was revealed the man suspected of killing the state's corrections chief left prison four years early because the courts gave the prison system incorrect information about his proper sentence.
Only a fraction of the review has been completed. More than 2,000 more cases flagged by auditors as potentially problematic need to be reviewed by corrections officials to determine whether there are in fact more mistakes. If the 56 percent error rate holds up, it would mean more than 1,000 inmates were improperly sentenced.
The audit is looking at 8,415 offenders convicted of at least one of 13 crimes. It is only examining people still under the control of prisons, either via incarceration or parole. It will not be completed until July.
The initial results were first reported by The Denver Post.
"The audit is doing what it was supposed to do and we are working with the courts to correct any errors found," Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown said.
A new audit finds that hundreds of Colorado inmates may be serving incorrect sentences due to clerical errors.
The review is still ongoing but has already led prison officials to warn judges that 281 people might have been given sentences that are incorrect. That includes some people who have already left prison and are either on parole or in halfway houses.
Prison officials say judges have already adjusted 56 different sentences.
Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered the audit after it was revealed that a man suspected of killing Colorado's prisons director was released four years early because his sentence was incorrectly recorded by the courts.
There are still more than 2,000 cases awaiting review in the audit.
A child whose body was found in a New Jersey home following a dramatic 37-hour standoff this weekend died from stab wounds on the same day as his mother nearly three weeks earlier, authorities said Tuesday.
The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said autopsy results on 12-year-old Quavon Foster indicated his death was a homicide. Foster suffered multiple stab wounds to the chest and died less than two weeks before his birthday. Authorities initially said Foster was 13 years old.
The prosecutor's office said Monday that Foster's mother, 44-year-old Carmenlita Steven, also died of multiple stab wounds to the chest and blunt force trauma. Authorities said they died April 25.
Both mother and child were positively identified by medical examiners.
The mother initially was identified by authorities as Carmelita Stevens earlier in the week. Her death certificate has a different version of the name.
Hostage-taker Gerald Tyrone Murphy was fatally shot in the head when police stormed the home early Sunday morning. The shooting ended the standoff that started Friday afternoon, when officers found the bodies while checking on Steven.
Police said Murphy killed Steven and her son, but a motive has not been determined.
Three of Steven's children — an 18-year-old woman, a 16-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy — had been held hostage and abused during their ordeal, according to prosecutors.
Officers initially went to the home on Friday afternoon after a relative of Steven said she hadn't spoken to her in weeks and was worried about her. Authorities said they also learned her children hadn't been to school in 12 days.
Authorities found the bodies of Steven and her son in separate bedrooms. Steven's other children had been held captive in another part of the house while another sibling, a 19-year-old man, was freed from the home when police visited Friday.
Murphy had a long criminal history including convictions for aggravated and sexual assault in Pennsylvania, according to his criminal record.
Murphy was jailed on an aggravated assault charged in November 1995 and released in February 2000. He went back to prison for sexual assault from May 2001 to January 2011, according to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton.
A Saudi man was arrested at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after federal agents said he lied about why he was traveling with a pressure cooker, according to a court documents filed Monday.
Two pressure cookers were used in last month's Boston Marathon bombings.
Hussain Al Kwawahir was being held Monday in Detroit on allegations of using a passport with a missing page and lying to Customs and Border Protection agents.
A criminal complaint says Al Kwawahir arrived at the airport Saturday on a flight from Saudi Arabia via Amsterdam. The complaint says Al Kwawahir told agents he was visiting his nephew, who he said is a student at the University of Toledo in Ohio.
The complaint says Al Kwawahir originally said he brought the pressure cooker with him because pressure cookers aren't sold in America, then later said his nephew had bought one but it "was cheap" and broke after one use.
Agents said they also noticed a page was missing from Al Kwawahir's passport from Saudi Arabia. He told them he didn't how it had been removed, and said the document had been locked in a box that only he, his wife, and three children have access to in his home, according to the complaint.
Al Kwawahir was read his Miranda rights, which he said he understood, and he invoked his right to remain silent, according to the complaint.
A Monday detention hearing for Al Kwawahir was delayed and a message seeking comment about whether he has an attorney was left with a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit.
Authorities say brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev set off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs April 15 near the Boston Marathon finish line, an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.
The Albuquerque zoo says it doesn't plan to cage its peacocks but does plan to put up more warning signs in the wake of an attack on a 2-year-old girl.
Jena Dearmond says a peacock lunged at her daughter, Lexi, and jumped on her head last week.
That left the girl with blood on her face from a forehead wound requiring two stiches at a hospital.
According to television station KOAT, Dearmond says the zoo should put the peacocks in an enclosure.
Dearmond says her daughter was more than six feet away from the peacock and that the attack was unprovoked.
Zoo officials say peacocks are more aggressive during mating season. They believe they have identified the culprit are removing him from the grounds until the season is over.
Authorities say a North Texas man remains in jail on a murder charge after fatally beating his 75-year-old mother on Mother's Day.
Bond has been set at $1 million for 49-year-old Kirk Alan Heithecker. He's being held in the Wise County jail, about 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Sheriff's Lt. Brent Hamilton says Heithecker offered no plea during his arraignment Monday in the death of Nancy Heithecker.
Deputies on Sunday went to the home the Heitheckers' shared after receiving a call requesting a welfare check. The elder Heithecker's body was found and it was determined she died of blunt force trauma and strangulation.
Authorities say Kirk Heithecker admitted to the killing but added there's no clear motive.
Jail records did not indicate an attorney representing him.
A U.S. diplomat disguised in a blond wig was caught red-handed as he tried to recruit a Russian agent in Moscow, Russia's security services announced Tuesday, claiming the American was a CIA officer.
Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was carrying special technical equipment, disguises, written instructions and a large sum of money when he was detained late Monday, Russia's Federal Security Service said.
The FSB, which is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said Fogle was trying to recruit a Russian counterterrorism officer who specializes in the Caucasus, a region in southern Russia that includes Chechnya and Dagestan. The suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings are ethnic Chechen brothers and the elder brother spent six months last year in Dagestan, now the center of an Islamic insurgency.
U.S. investigators have been working with the Russians to try to determine whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev had established any contacts with the militants operating in Dagestan.
Fogle, who was handed back to U.S. Embassy officials, was declared persona non grata and ordered to leave Russia immediately, the Foreign Ministry said. He has diplomatic immunity, which protects him from arrest.
It was the first case of an American diplomat publicly accused of spying in about a decade and seemed certain to aggravate already strained relations between Russia and the U.S.
The Foreign Ministry summoned Ambassador Michael McFaul to appear Wednesday in connection with the case. McFaul, who was doing a question-and-answer session on Twitter when the detention was first announced, said he would not comment on the spying allegation.
Noting recent efforts by the two countries to improve cooperation in countering international terrorism in the wake of the Boston bombings, the Foreign Ministry said "such provocative actions in the spirit of the Cold War do nothing to strengthen mutual trust."
Despite the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States still maintain active espionage operations against each other. Last year, several Russians were convicted in separate cases of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.
Russian state television showed pictures of a man said to be Fogle, wearing a baseball cap and what appeared to be a blond wig, lying face down on the ground. The man, now without the wig, was also shown sitting at a desk in the offices of the FSB. Two wigs, a compass, a map of Moscow, a pocket knife, three pair of sunglasses and packages of 500 euro notes were among the items displayed on a table.
Russian state television also displayed a typewritten letter it described as instructions to the Russian agent who was the target of the alleged recruitment effort. The letter, written in Russian and addressed "Dear friend," offers $100,000 to "discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation" and up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation. The letter also includes instructions for opening a Gmail account to be used for communication and an address to write. It is signed "Your friends."
In Washington, the White House referred questions about the detained diplomat to the State Department. There was no immediate response from the State Department. The CIA declined to comment on the case.
Little was immediately known about Fogle. A third secretary is an entry level position in the State Department, the lowest diplomatic rank in the foreign service.
President Vladimir Putin has stoked anti-American sentiments among Russians in recent years in what is seen as an effort to bolster his support at home. He also appears to have a genuine distrust of Russian nongovernmental organizations with American funding, which he has accused of being fronts that allow the U.S. government to meddle in Russia's political affairs. Hundreds of NGOs have been searched this year as part of an ongoing crackdown.
Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University who studies the Russian security services, said the public exposure of Fogle and the pictures splashed across Russian television suggest a political purpose behind the detention. He said these kinds of spying incidents happen with some frequency but making such a big deal of it is rare.
"More often, the etiquette is that these things get dealt with quite quietly — unless they want to get a message out," Galeotti said. "If you identify an embassy staffer who is a spy for the other side, your natural impulse is to leave them be, because once you identify you can keep tabs on them, see who they talk to, and everything else. There's no reason to make a song and dance, detain them, eject them."
Russia and the United States have been at odds lately over Syria, the adoption of Russian children and U.S. sanctions against Russian officials accused of human rights abuses.
Galeotti, however, said the Fogle case was unlikely to affect the recent increased cooperation between U.S. and Russian counterintelligence agencies over the Boston Marathon bombings.
"Everyone goes into intelligence sharing knowing there's a parallel process where everyone spies on everyone else," he said.
Associated Press writer Max Seddon contributed to this report.
An Arizona State University student who passed out from drinking tequila was left in wheelchair in a hospital lobby with a Post-it note to tell doctors that he took part in a drinking competition.
Tempe police say the 19-year-old student was found early Saturday morning in the emergency room lobby of St. Luke's Hospital.
Police say a sticky note on the student's body gave his name and said he'd been drinking and needed help. Hospital staff noticed the student and helped him.
Sgt. Michael Pooley says the student consumed about 20 shots of tequila and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.47 percent, nearly six times the legal limit for driving.
Police say criminal charges could be filed against the friends who left the student.
You can't always get what you want -- unless you're a member of a Las Vegas area high school choir wanting to share the stage with the Rolling Stones.
Students from Green Valley school in Henderson will do just that Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for an encore performance of "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
Choir director Kim Ritzer told KLAS-TV she thought it was a joke when she first got the invitation in a Facebook message to sing backup for the famous rockers. She later learned a friend who teaches at the University of Southern California recommended them. They sealed the deal with an audition via Skype.
Ritzer isn't sure who's more excited -- the 24 kids or their parents.
Federal court documents show the man who killed six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was actively using the Internet to become increasingly radical in his white supremacist beliefs in the months before the shooting.
An unsealed FBI search warrant reveals that federal agents quickly collected evidence of Wade Michael Page's connections to white power groups. The documents say Page became increasingly interested in conspiracy theories and videos online. The warrant doesn't say what Page was viewing, but that it disturbed his girlfriend, Misty Cook.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/10uCGat ) reports the documents say Page was typical of others who use the Internet to become increasingly radical. The FBI eventually concluded Page acted alone in the shooting rampage. Page also injured four people before killing himself.
Two bald eagles locked together by their talons in a midair battle survived a crash landing onto a runway at a northeastern Minnesota airport.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Randy Hanzal says the adult eagles couldn't separate Sunday before slamming into the tarmac at the Duluth International Airport.
Hanzal tried to take the birds to a Duluth wildlife rehabilitation center. He covered them with blankets and jackets on the back of his pickup and held them down with webbing straps. En route, Hanzal says, he heard a ruckus and saw one bird jump out and fly away.
The Duluth News Tribune (http://bit.ly/12rDalM ) says the other eagle made it to the rehab center and is now being cared for by the University of Minnesota in St. Paul's Raptor Center.
Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthnewstribune.com
One of the first officers at the scene where three women were held captive in a Cleveland house for about a decade says the emotion of the moment was overwhelming.
Officer Anthony Espada, in response to a request from top police brass, wrote down his recollections and they were posted on a Cleveland police department blog.
Estrada says it was emotionally overwhelming when he and a partner recognized Amanda Berry approaching their patrol car. When Berry mentioned that Gina DeJesus (deh-HAY'-soos) and another women were inside the house, Estrada said it felt like a bombshell.
The officer says he replays the scene in his mind every day.
The home's owner, Ariel Castro, has been charged with kidnapping and rape.
British Prime Minister David Cameron visited an impromptu memorial that sprang up near the site of the Boston Marathon bombings, striking a combative tone Tuesday in saying that democratic and multiracial countries like the United States and Britain will never give in to terrorists who feed on "the poisonous narrative" of violence, extremism and victimhood.
Cameron was accompanied by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick when he visited the makeshift memorial that includes T-shirts, letters, running shoes and other items in the city's Copley Square. The memorial grew in the wake of the April 15 explosions at the marathon finish line that killed three people and injured more than 260.
The United Kingdom, Cameron said, has experienced that sort of terrorism in London and elsewhere and knows to stand up and say terrorists will never win.
"Obviously, what we do for the future, we have to do everything we can to work with law enforcement agencies to maintain our vigilance," Cameron said after walking through the memorial amid tight security. "But, I think, above all, we have to say very loudly, very proudly, very clearly that we are proud to live in a country — whether it is America or Britain — that is a democracy, that loves freedom, that loves diversity, that is a multiracial country and we'll never give in to terrorists."
Cameron is in Boston to offer his condolences and discuss lessons that can be learned from the bombings. The trip follows a White House visit Monday during which the prime minister met with President Barack Obama.
"One of the things we have to do is we have to challenge the poisonous narrative on which they feed, a narrative of violence, extremism, victimhood," Cameron said. "We have to challenge that narrative and that's not the work of months or years, it's the work of our generation, and I'm determined we'll do our bit to challenge it to make sure the terrorists never win and that freedom always does."
The attacks sparked one of the biggest manhunts in Massachusetts, which ended days later when one bombing suspect died after a gunbattle with police and the other, his younger brother, was arrested. The brothers also are blamed for the shooting death of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer days after the bombing.
The younger brother is recovering in a federal prison hospital.
"There is always more to do. Look, there is really a vital role for law enforcement, a really vital role for intelligence, there is a tough side to all of this that we have to get right," Cameron said. "But in the end, how do we do it? We do it by standing for the values we believe in, for freedom, for democracy, for the fact we're proud to live in an open and tolerant society.
"It is hard to believe people can do these things to countries like ours when we are freedom-loving, when we are democracies, when we do value people's rights, but these things do happen and we have to fight them and challenge them. That's what I know you are going to do right here in Boston," Cameron said before leaving the site.
Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi can be reached at www.twitter.com/ngowi
A man charged with holding three women captive for about a decade had been accused of threatening his neighbors, attacking his common-law wife and committing violations during his career as a school bus driver, according to records released Monday.
The Cleveland police reports correspond with accounts provided by relatives of suspect Ariel Castro last week that portrayed a man prone to violent outbursts, especially when it came to the mother of his children and incursions onto his property.
Castro, 52, is charged with kidnapping and rape, but prosecutors expect to file more charges. The three women whom he is accused of holding captive disappeared between August 2002 and April 2004. They were rescued last week when one of them escaped the home.
The records released Monday were produced by police officers investigating complaints against Castro. They do not track what happened to the complaints after they were taken.
Several of Castro's relatives and acquaintances have said allegations of violence are at odds with the man they knew, whom they described as polite, a "cool" bass player and a "sweet, happy person."
A veteran defense attorney now representing Castro, Craig Weintraub, did not respond to phone and email messages Monday seeking comment on the current and prior allegations. A public defender had represented Castro at his initial court appearance but said she couldn't speak to his guilt or innocence.
SEPT. 30, 1989:
Grimilda Figueroa called police and reported that Castro, her "common-law husband of nine years," attacked her after she asked him where he was going with one of his brothers. After slapping Figueroa several times, "he then grabbed her and slammed her several times against the wall and several times against the washing machine," according to the report.
Figueroa, who died of cancer last year, was treated at a hospital for a bruised right shoulder, the report said. She told police she had been assaulted by Castro several other times but didn't report it.
Figueroa was referred to the prosecutor's office, according to the report. There is no court record of any charge having been filed.
MARCH 10, 1993:
Two parents tried to board Castro's school bus because their son had been getting assaulted, records show.
The parents told police they had begun accompanying him to the bus stop in the morning. On that day, "another such incident occurred in their presence," the report said.
"At which time, they got on the bus to stop it. However were shoved by the driver," the report said. Castro claimed that the parent shoved him back into his seat.
There were no injuries reported, according to the report, which said the case was turned over to the Cleveland city schools. There's no court record of any charges.
DEC. 26, 1993:
Figueroa again reported Castro, telling police he threw her to the ground, hit her about the head and face and kicked her body. Her son then fled out the front door and Castro chased him, according to the report, which said Figueroa locked the door and Castro couldn't get back in. He ran away when police arrived, and was chased by officers through a neighboring yard and arrested, the report said.
Figueroa told police that she had brain surgery a month before the attack and was prone to seizures, but then refused medical attention.
Although Figueroa told police the next day she didn't want to pursue charges, a city prosecutor filed charges of domestic violence and disorderly conduct. Records show Castro pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Dec. 28; a grand jury declined to charge him with domestic violence, county records show.
NOV. 29, 1994:
A man was checking on rental property near Castro's house and noticed his chain-link fence was missing, according to the records. He went to Castro's home to inquire about it, and Castro became upset, the report said. Castro picked up a shovel and attempted to hit the man with it, then told him that "he was going to take care of him," according to the report.
The incident was referred to prosecutors, the report said, but there is no record of charges being filed.
MAY 16, 1996
A man who relatives have described as Figueroa's boyfriend after she left Castro was dropping her children off at school when, the man said, Castro pulled up behind him and threatened him.
Castro drove off after the man tried to get out of his car and talk to him, the man told police, adding: "He believes that named suspect would have ran him over if he did not get out of his way."
The situation, described as "an ongoing problem," was referred to prosecutors. There is no record of any charges.
AUG. 17, 1996
In a 1996 report, a woman who described Castro as her ex-neighbor told police he pulled in front of her driveway and screamed a threat before driving away.
Police referred the woman to prosecutors; there is no record of charges.
JAN. 26, 2004
Castro was arrested for abduction and child endangerment after he drove around town with a child on the bus, according to a police report.
The report says Castro told the boy, "Lay down b----," then went inside a fast-food restaurant and ate lunch, leaving the child alone on the bus. Afterward, he drove around for a while and parked the vehicle at a bus parking lot. It wasn't until about 2 p.m. that he returned the child to his home, the report said.
The child was examined at MetroHealth Hospital and released.
Castro told police he noticed the boy in his seat and took the child home after consulting with the teacher by phone, the report said.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services investigated the complaint of child abuse and neglect and found it to be "unsubstantiated."
The police investigation showed there was no criminal intent in the abandoned child case, city Safety Director Martin Flask has said. Police went to Castro's home to question him, but no one came to the door, Flask said. They later interviewed Castro elsewhere, authorities have said.
In a letter dated Oct. 9, 2012, the school district's transportation director, Ann Carlson, recommended that Castro be terminated because he left his bus unattended for four hours the month before.
"Mr. Castro's explanation was that his preschool route was cancelled that day and since he only lives two blocks away, he went home," the letter said.
Researchers at an Ohio State University greenhouse are awaiting a rare second bloom by a rainforest plant known as a corpse flower because of its unpleasant odor.
The university says the nearly 6-foot titan arum is expected to open this week, releasing another round of its rotting-flesh smell a little more than two years after it first flowered.
A second corpse flower opened briefly at the greenhouse last May.
A university spokeswoman tells The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/15FLGSU ) cultivators are lucky to have three blooms in three years. Each brief bloom attracts visitors hoping to catch a glimpse or a whiff of it.
The plant expected to bloom soon is nicknamed Woody, after Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes.
Ohio State University greenhouse updates: http://bioscigreenhouse.osu.edu/titan-arum
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
Police identified a 19-year-old man as a suspect in the shooting of nearly 20 people during a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans, saying several people had identified him as the gunman.
Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said they were looking for Akein Scott of New Orleans. He said it was too early to say whether he was the only shooter.
"We would like to remind the community and Akein Scott that the time has come for him to turn himself in," Serpas said at a news conference outside of police headquarters.
A photo of Scott hung from a podium in front of the police chief. "We know more about you than you think we know," he said.
The mass shooting showed again how far the city has to go to shake a persistent culture of violence that belies the city's festive image. Earlier, police announced a $10,000 reward and released blurry surveillance camera images, which led to several tips from the community.
"The people chose to be on the side of the young innocent children shot instead of on the side of a coward who shot into the crowd," Serpas said.
Angry residents said gun violence -- which has flared at two other city celebrations this year -- goes hand-in-hand with the city's other deeply rooted problems such as poverty and urban blight. The investigators tasked with solving Sunday's shooting work within an agency that's had its own troubles rebounding from years of corruption while trying to halt violent crime.
"The old people are scared to walk the streets. The children can't even play outside," Ronald Lewis, 61, said Monday as he sat on the front stoop of his house, about a half a block from the shooting site. His window sill has a hole from a bullet that hit it last year. Across the street sits a house marked by bullets he said were fired two weeks ago.
"The youngsters are doing all this," said Jones, who was away from home when the latest shooting broke out.
Video released early Monday shows a crowd gathered for a boisterous second-line parade suddenly scattering in all directions, with some falling to the ground. They appear to be running from a man in a white T-shirt and dark pants who turns and runs out of the picture.
Police were working to determine whether there was more than one gunman, though they initially said three people were spotted fleeing from the scene. Whoever was responsible escaped despite the presence of officers who were interspersed through the crowd as part of routine precautions for such an event.
Serpas said Scott has previously been arrested for resisting arrest, possession of a firearm and narcotics charges. It was not immediately clear whether he had been convicted on any of those.
Serpas said ballistic evidence gathered at the scene was giving them "very good leads to work on."
Witness Jarrat Pytell said he was walking with friends near the parade route when the crowd suddenly began to break up.
"I saw the guy on the corner, his arm extended, firing into the crowd," said Pytell, a medical student.
"He was obviously pointing in a specific direction; he wasn't swinging the gun wildly," Pytell said.
Pytell said he tended to one woman with a severe arm fracture -- he wasn't sure if it was from a bullet or a fall -- and to others including an apparent shooting victim who was bleeding badly.
Three gunshot victims remained in critical condition Monday, though their wounds didn't appear to be life-threatening. Most of the wounded had been released from the hospital.
It's not the first time gunfire has shattered a festive mood in the city this year. Five people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in January after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, and four were wounded in a shooting after an argument in the French Quarter in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Two teens were arrested in connection with the MLK shootings; three men were arrested and charged in the Mardi Gras shootings.
The shootings are bloody reminders of the persistence of violence in the city, despite some recent progress.
Last week, law enforcement officials touted the indictment of 15 people in gang-related crimes, including the death of a 5-year-old girl killed by stray gunfire at a birthday party a year ago.
The city's 193 homicides in 2012 are seven fewer than the previous year, while the first three months of 2013 represented an even slower pace of killing.
Leading efforts to lower the homicide rate is a police force that's faced its own internal problems and staffing issues. At about 1,200 members, the department is 300 short of its peak level.
Serpas, chief since 2010, has been working to overcome the effects of decades of scandal and community mistrust arising from what the U.S. Justice Department says has been questionable use of force and biased policing. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Serpas have instituted numerous reforms, but the city is at odds with the Justice Department over the cost and scope of more extensive changes.
Landrieu's administration initially agreed to a reform plan expected to cost tens of millions over the next several years. But Landrieu says he wants out now because Justice lawyers entered a separate agreement with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman over the violent and unsanitary New Orleans jail -- funded by the city but operated by Gusman.
The site of the Sunday shooting -- about 1.5 miles from the heart of the French Quarter -- showcases other problems facing the city. Stubborn poverty and blight are evident in the area of middle-class and low-income homes. Like other areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the area has been slower to repopulate than wealthier areas. And Landrieu's stepped up efforts to demolish or renovate blighted properties -- a pre-Katrina problem made worse by the storm -- remain too slow for some.
Frank Jones, 71, whose house is a few doors down from the shooting site, said the house across from him has been abandoned since Katrina. Squatters and drug dealers sometimes take shelter there, he said.
A city code inspector, who declined to be interviewed, was there Monday
"It's too late," Jones said. "Should have fixed it from the very beginning. A lot of people are getting fed up with the system."
Authorities say a New York police officer who went after a cat stuck in a tree got caught himself and needed a little help getting back down to the ground.
The Fire Department of New York says it happened Monday afternoon in Queens.
A call came in that a man attempting to get a cat out of a tree had gotten stuck. Fire department personnel used a bucket ladder to get the man and the cat down.
The fire department says the man is a police officer.
The New York Police Department has no comment.
A Pakistani human rights activist who founded an all-girls school said the Taliban was "more afraid of the books than bombs" as he and his 15-year-old daughter, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban late last year, were honored Monday at the memorial for Oklahoma City bombing victims.
Ziauddin Yousafzai decried political violence during a ceremony held to honor him and his daughter, Malala Yousafzai, who has been recovering in Great Britain since the shooting that garnered international attention. The annual Reflections of Hope Award is given out by the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museums in honor of the 168 people who died in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
The elder Yousafzai said Pakistani citizens are all too familiar with the kind of political extremism that led to the Oklahoma attack, as well as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings last month.
"We share the pain. We share the suffering," he said. "We have tragedies like Boston every day."
He denounced the violence inflicted by Taliban insurgents that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers over the past 30 years. He said the Islamic fundamentalists advocate an "ideology of darkness" where truth is stifled and education is discouraged.
"My part of the world is bleeding. I'm here to bring my people out of terrorism," he said.
The award began in 2005, and past recipients include the Rev. Alex Reid of Dublin, Ireland, for his life's work in the peace process in Northern Ireland, and Durga Ghimire, who co-founded a community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of marginalized people in Nepal. President Bill Clinton, who was president when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, also has been honored.
Yousafzai accepted the award on his daughter's behalf during his first trip to the United States since the Taliban's assassination attempt on Malala. In a recorded acceptance speech, she said the Oklahoma memorial's recognition served as encouragement to continue being an advocate for the right of girls worldwide to receive an education.
"It's more courage. It's more strength," said Malala, who returned to school in England in March.
Yousafzai founded the all-girls Khushal Public School 17 years ago to foster female leadership in an area where the Taliban has banned girls from attending school. His daughter also was an activist who attended the school until Oct. 9, when the Taliban shot her in the head and neck while she was riding the school bus home. The Taliban said it targeted her because she promoted girls' education and "Western thinking."
Prior to the shooting, Malala spoke out about having the right to speak and to an education. In a video clip played during the ceremony, she said: "I want every girl, every child, to be educated."
The shooting sparked outrage in Pakistan and other countries, and Malala's story captured global attention for the struggle for women's rights in her homeland. Malala was airlifted to Britain from Pakistan to receive specialized medical care and protection against further Taliban threats. She had surgery to reconstruct her skull in February.
Ziauddin Yousafzai said he was honored to be known largely as Malala's father in Pakistan's male-oriented society and dedicated the award to fathers, brothers, sons and husbands "who believe and who accept and who respect their daughters, their sisters, their mothers and their wives."
"They are individuals and they are equal to them," he said.
As he concluded, dozens of teenage girls from nearly three dozen Oklahoma communities entered the stage behind him holding signs that read: "I am Malala." He encouraged them: "We should defeat bad ideas with good ideas."
Two workers were injured Monday when highly flammable gas used in welding exploded at a West Virginia industrial site, officials say.
Fire crews were sent at about 3:20 p.m. to Airgas, a distributor of specialty gases in Poca, outside of Charleston. Putnam County emergency management director Frank Chapman said the explosion involved about 50 tanks of acetylene that were at Airgas waiting to be refilled. What caused the tanks to explode wasn't known.
Chad Jones, a firefighter with the Bancroft Volunteer Fire Department, said four cylinders continued to burn Monday evening and that crews were letting them "burn out." They were dousing other tanks with water to keep them from exploding, said Jones, whose station was one of several to respond to the scene.
The tanks were being stored in a bay behind the facility. Jones said after the first tank exploded, "it was like a chain reaction," with fireballs shooting 100 to 150 feet in the air. A nearby business evacuated, and windows were shattered in the back of the Airgas plant, Jones said.
Doug Barker, chief financial officer at nearby Clark Truck Parts, told The Associated Press over the phone that "we felt our building shake like it's never come close to shaking before from a storm or anything. It was enough to make us run."
Barker said he and another company official bolted from their offices, and he ran to the road and saw dark smoke in the air to the east. Soon afterward they heard several smaller explosions and saw fire, he said. Barker also saw three or four ambulances speed by and heard a lot of sirens.
Clark Truck Parts is about half-mile from Airgas, Barker said. He said there are some homes between the two industrial sites.
Dave Castro, manager of the TransWood trucking company about a quarter-mile from Airgas, said he also felt his building shake.
"It felt like a truck ran into the building," he said.
He said he drove toward Airgas to check on his wife, who works at another company nearby, and could see the back of the plant on fire. He said the burning area was about the size of a house, and every 15 seconds or so a black ball of smoke would rise from a tank or drum "and explode like a firework."
Acetylene is used in welding canisters. Airgas, which calls itself the largest U.S. supplier of industrial, medical and special gases, also lists on its website propane, often used in backyard grills; hydrogen, helium; and nitrous oxide, or the "laughing gas" used during certain dental procedures.
Company spokesman Doug Sherman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Jones said the company was sending a hazmat crew from Kentucky. A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration crew was at the scene.
"It's a hazardous job they do every day," Jones said of the workers who handle the gases. "Something went wrong today."
Chapman said the explosion involved residue of the gas left in the tanks. He said the blast would have been much worse if the tanks were filled. He said both workers suffered second and third-degree burns.
Chapman said the cause of the explosion is being investigated and that the blasts and fire were the first problem he knows to be reported at Airgas.
The injured workers were taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital for treatment. A hospital official did not know their conditions.
Airgas Inc. is based in Radnor, Pa., and has more than 15,000 employees at 1,110 locations including retail stores, gas fill plants and distribution centers, according to Hoover's database on companies. It is the largest distributor of packaged gases in the US, with a 25 percent market share and with sales of nearly $5 billion in fiscal 2012.
A widely touted Border Patrol initiative to send migrants back to Mexico from distant border cities to discourage them from trying again may be one of its least effective methods.
That finding comes in a study that offers a detailed assessment of how the agency's new enforcement strategies are working.
The so-called lateral repatriations aim to make it more difficult for migrants to reconnect with smugglers. The Congressional Research Service finds those migrants are among the most likely to get caught again.
The study also finds that criminal prosecutions appear to be the most effective deterrents. Meantime, a separate study by the Council on Foreign Relations, found the capture rate for the Border Patrol may be lower than the agency's own estimate, perhaps by as much as one-third.