News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In September Michael F. Schmitz, age 45, serving two years in the Kentucky State Reformatory for drunk driving, filed a $1.9 million lawsuit against the Lexington Police Department, complaining that officers had been too nice when they arrested him in 1996. According to the lawsuit, when police found a loaded assault rifle in his car and could not figure out how to dismantle it, they uncuffed the obviously inebriated Schmitz and had him take it apart. Schmitz said he "could have shot almost everyone standing around watching this escapade" and thus contends that the police endangered the public.

*At a September meeting of Christian Coalition leaders in Atlanta, Pat Robertson said the group should raise its political intensity by looking at the notorious machine politics of Chicago and New York's Tammany Hall as models, and that God would personally select the Republican best suited to advance the coalition's agenda in the next presidential campaign. Robertson began his remarks by noting that he assumed he was talking only "in the family" and that if anyone from the press were present, "would you please shoot yourself?" (The speech was recorded and leaked to the press.)

Compelling Explanations
*Shawn S. Warren, charged with arson in June in Anderson, Indiana, denied he actually started a fire in a garage. According to the town's chief fire investigator, Warren said, "I probably thought about the fire, and it just happened."

*Ricky Wassenaar, age 34, was convicted of assault and robbery in Tucson in July. He was apprehended after a car chase and was in possession of stolen money, guns, a ski mask, and a bulletproof vest. Wassenaar, acting as his own attorney, presented the defense that a man named Jim had slipped a "date-rape" pill into his drink at a bar, dressed him in the vest, and put him in the car. As for the chase and attempted ramming of an officer on a motorcycle, Wassenaar said he was just trying to get out of the officers' way so they could chase whomever they were after.

Police Blotter
*Lancaster (Virginia) High School marching band director Robert T. Spiers was detained and handcuffed at a parade in Warsaw, Virginia, in October after he twice ignored Sheriff Gene Sydnor's order to speed up his marchers. Sydnor said he was concerned that the gap in front of the Lancaster band was growing so large that people might think the parade was over. Spiers was released about fifteen minutes later; the Lancaster band eventually won first prize.

*Police brutality: Newport, Kentucky, detective Michael Scott was suspended in September for passing gas in the face of a DUI suspect. And in Buffalo, New York, county jail officer John Walsh was convicted by a federal jury in September of violating the civil rights of inmate Norvin Fowlks in 1991 and 1992. Fowlks accused the 392-pound Walsh of, on separate occasions, holding Fowlk's penis on the floor and on a crossbar of his cell and stomping on it with his boot.

*In July Max, a lowland gorilla housed in the Johannesburg (South Africa) Zoo, captured a fleeing burglary suspect, Isaac Mofokeng, who unwisely took a shortcut through the ape compound. Mofokeng fired two shots, hitting Max in the jaw and shoulder, but he mended quickly. Among Max's awards, he was named a constable of the local police precinct, Newsmaker of the Year by the Johannesburg Press Club, and spokesbeast for Lemombo bananas (honorarium: a one-year supply).

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd