Curses, foiled again
An armed robber entered a Pizza Hut restaurant in Statesville, N.C., and ordered worker Therman Martin to empty the safe. Martin told WSOC-TV that when he explained he couldn't open the safe because "I'm just the oven man," the robber forced him into the bathroom and tried to shoot him, but the gun misfired. Martin then bit the robber's hand until he dropped the gun and took off running. He paused, Martin said, and asked, "Please give me the gun back. It's not my gun, and I'll leave." Martin refused, and the robber fled.
Scientists investigating a large crater in Latvia, initially believed to have been caused by a meteorite, concluded it was a hoax. Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, said he and other experts agreed after visiting the site that the 27-foot-wide and 9-foot-deep hole near the Estonian border couldn't have been caused by a meteorite. It was too tidy.
Meals on wheels
Bears looking for food ransack minivans more often than any other vehicle, according to scientists at Yosemite National Park. They found that of the 908 vehicles broken into by park bears between 2001 and 2007, 29 percent were minivans, which represented just 7 percent of all the cars that visited Yosemite. The study, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, explained that minivans, which are typically driven by families with children, are virtual picnic baskets on wheels, containing plenty of snacks, drinks and well-stocked coolers.
Police arrested Erik John Batty, 40, for attacking Officer Myles J. Lawler with a pillow. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Lawler responded to a call about a medical situation at Batty's mobile home in Edgewater, Fla., but Batty ordered him out of his room and threw the pillow at him. Lawler deflected the weapon but stated in his arrest report that because Batty had several diseases, "I felt the pillow was biohazardious [sic] material and could contain hazards."
Too pious to fail
State regulators closed a six-year-old bank in Otsego, Minn., that attracted national media attention for advocating prayer in the workplace. Riverview Community Bank was an aggressive real estate lender and was hit hard by foreclosures, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The bank opened as a "Christian financial institution," with a Bible buried in the foundation and the words "In God We Trust" engraved in the cornerstone. The office wall of bank president Duane Kropuenske features a large color print of Jesus and two businessmen closing a deal. One of the bank's founders, mortgage banker Chuck Ripka, once boasted that God had actually guaranteed success for investors, claiming God personally assured him, "Chuck, if you pastor the bank, I'll take care of the bottom line."
Who needs work?
Anthony Armatys, 35, accepted a job at Avaya telecommunications firm in Somerset Township, Ill., and filled out the necessary paperwork to start but changed his mind at the last minute and kept his current position. Avaya's new computer system removed Armatys from the human resource database but not the payroll system. As a result, Armatys received Avaya paychecks from September 2002 to February 2007. After auditors uncovered the error, an investigation learned Armatys also withdrew funds from an employee retirement savings account he had been contributing to. Accused of stealing $470,995.53, Armatys pleaded guilty.
Way to go
A closing door at a paramedic station in Caldwell, Idaho, crushed Melissa R. Farris, 35. KBCI News reported that Farris, a former paramedic at the station, placed a bogus 911 call to dispatch paramedics, then tried to crawl under the door before it shut, possibly to obtain prescription medication she knew was inside. When the door trapped her, she called 911 again, saying, "Medic ... 4 ... help ... door." The dispatcher asked her location; she repeated, "Medic ... 4." "They didn't understand what she was saying or where she was," Caldwell Police Chief Chris Allgood told the Idaho Statesmen. "They knew Medic 4 was out on a call." Paramedics returning from the false alarm found Farris but couldn't revive her.
Proving a point
After Australian authorities rejected their application for asylum for the fourth time in 10 years, two gay men from Bangladesh offered to have sex in front of immigration officials to prove their homosexuality. Britain's Daily Telegraph reported the unnamed pair fled Bangladesh in 1999 after they were violently attacked for being gay. Asylum hearings by Australia's Refugee Review Tribunal repeatedly rejected their application, until a Federal Court judge declared the panels unreasonably twisted facts to deny the men were homosexual, including citing unsubstantiated claims they were brothers who had been married to women. Increasingly frustrated by the process, the couple finally notified the tribunal: "We are prepared to have an adult witness view us engaged in an act of homosexual intercourse and then attest before you to that fact."
Members of one New York City drug gang received more than $500,000 by repeatedly suing the city for civil rights violations. The Daily News reported that accused drug dealers from Brooklyn's East 21st St. Crew filed more than 20 lawsuits, all of which were settled out of court. One crew member, Shamel King, got $117,500 for six separate claims. Anthony Lawrence, who was indicted on 11 counts of drug selling and collected $40,000 in settlements, was shot multiple times in his apartment this August, apparently by gunmen trying to rob him of his latest settlement check, for $17,500.
The city defended the payouts, explaining that its policy of aggressively settling cases removes the risk of a big payout after a costly trial. Noting the city is sued 200 times a week and that claims against the police have increased, Law Department official Connie Pankratz said, "Although we are often successful at trial, it can be more expensive to defend a case than to settle it."
William Seago, 52, pleaded guilty to careless driving after running over and killing friend and co-worker Keith Warman, 55, while making a three-point turn in a 26-ton truck. BBC News reported Seago was born blind in his right eye but received his commercial driving license in 2003 by memorizing the lower two lines of an eye chart to pass the exam. When Judge Neil Ford of Bristol Crown Court heard that since the accident, Seago has lost his wife and his truck-driving job and now works at a cheese factory, he promised Seago no jail time.