Tourist Trade 

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Curses, Foiled Again
Brian Hardman, 22, pointed a gun at Leonard Turner, who was putting air in his tires at a Detroit gas station, and demanded his car. Turner, 47, a former middleweight boxer, grabbed Hardman’s trigger finger and shot off the gun until it was empty, then threw Hardman to the ground. “He got up,” Turner recounted, “and said, ‘Give me my gun back. I got a CCW (carry concealed weapon permit).’ Then I hit him with the gun.” At Hardman’s trial, defense attorney Jonathan Jones argued that his client shouldn’t be charged with carjacking because he didn’t have the gun on him. “The reason he didn’t have the gun on him,” Judge Shannon A. Holmes noted, “is because the defendant got his butt whipped, and Mr. Turner took the gun from him.” (Detroit News)

When Susan Cole showed up for jury duty in Denver, she was wearing curlers in her hair and mismatched shoes, according to a court affidavit. When Judge Anne Mansfield asked if any prospective jurors had a mental illness, court reporter Kelli Wessels said Cole “stated she had difficulties getting ready in the morning” and added she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Judge Mansfield excused her but four months later heard someone brag on local radio about showing up looking disheveled and faking mental illness to evade jury duty. The woman was identified as Cole, who pleaded guilty to perjury and received a two-year suspended sentence and 40 hours of community service. (The Denver Post)

Tourist Trade
New York and New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy complained their cleanup efforts are interrupted by disaster tourists, who’re drawn by curiosity to the real-life scenes of tragedy shown on television. “The gawking was amazing last week,” Staten Island resident Joanne McClenin commented. “It was kind of offensive as a homeowner, because I felt violated.” (Associated Press)

Seven years after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, tour buses continue to visit the devastated Lower Ninth Ward, charging an average of $45 per person to glimpse what some tour operators promote as the scene of “America’s Greatest Catastrophe.” After years of loosely enforcing a ban on motor coaches, police began turning back tours and fining violators. “Residents don’t like being gawked at by tourists as though they’re sideshow attractions,” city councilor Ernest F. Charbonnet declared, vowing to introduce legislation to limit buses to 30 passengers along a designated route. (The New York Times)

Litigation Nation
David Jiminez, 43, spent hours at the large crucifix outside St. Patrick’s Church in Newburgh, N.Y., praying for his wife, who was battling ovarian cancer. When she recovered, he offered to clean the crucifix in gratitude. While he was scrubbing Christ’s face, the 600-pound marble statuary toppled over and crushed his right leg, which doctors had to amputate. Even though charitable foundations covered his six-figure medical bills, Jiminez sued the church for $3 million. The church denied any responsibility. (Associated Press)

For Whom the Toll Tolls
When Washington’s Capital Beltway opened new toll express lanes in Virginia, adjacent to the free but routinely congested lanes, six accidents occurred in the first 72 hours. All were caused by drivers swerving to avoid the toll lanes or the unexpected tie-ups resulting from the accidents. Virginia State Police urged drivers who mistakenly enter the express lanes not to back up. “What we’re seeing out there is what you’d expect with a traffic shift of this magnitude,” said Jennifer Aument, an official with Transurban, the company that contracted with the state to build the variable-toll lanes. (The Washington Post)

In its first six months, Maryland’s Intercounty Connector reported racking up nearly $670,000 in unpaid tolls—four times the statewide violation rate. Vehicles that use the road without a transponder to record the trip and automatically deduct the toll from an account are photographed and their owners billed. Individual motorists accrued as much as $1,418, and one rental-car company’s debt amounted to $4,263. Officials said some people don’t pay because Maryland’s toll collectors lack enforcement authority, such as suspending vehicle registrations and referring scofflaws to the courts. State lawmakers promised to address collection methods next year. “We can’t afford to leave money on the table,” State Sen. Catherine E, Pugh said. “The ICC was a very expensive road to build.” (The Washington Post)

Second-Amendment Follies
Combat City, a shooting range in Orlando, Fla., lets its customers fire at each other to test whether they have what it takes to shoot another person if their life depends on it. Owner Dave Kaplan greets customers, searches them for concealed weapons and ammunition, and modifies their weapons to fire only a soft rubber bullet. Participants then enter the range wearing protection for their head, neck and private parts. Even so, the rubber bullets hurt, more so than being shot with a paintball. “There is supposed to be a degree of pain,” Kaplan explained, “so that you do learn from it.” (Orlando’s WKMG-TV)

An employee at the Copper County Sporting Arms gun shop in Silver City, N.M., was unloading a .45 caliber handgun when it accidentally fired, shooting a 65-year-old customer in the back. Police Chief Ed Reynolds reported the victim was listed in stable condition. (Las Cruces Sun-News)

Firearms instructor Saulius “Sonny” Puzikas was conducting a live-fire training exercise at the Texas Defensive Shooting Academy in Ferris using live ammunition to fire at targets in a house. As darkness fell, he decided to run the course himself and opened fire with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. He accidentally shot an instructor still inside the house, once in the hand and twice in the abdomen. Puzikas, whose gun did not have a light, insisted he didn’t see the victim, who was airlifted to the hospital and listed in stable condition. (The Ellis County Press)

Different-Sex Marriages
Authorities charged Frederick Hengl, 68, with murdering his wife after they found her severed head in the freezer and her body parts cooking on the stove. District Attorney Katherine Flaherty said there was no evidence of cannibalism. (Associated Press)

Police said Holly Solomon, 28, ran over her husband in Gilbert, Ariz., blaming him for President Obama’s re-election because he didn’t vote. She told police she was just trying to scare David Solomon by chasing him all over a parking lot in her Jeep, but her foot slipped on the accelerator. He was hospitalized in critical condition. (Associated Press)

Compiled from the press reports by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.

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