Lanier High student robbed at gunpoint while walking to school, officials say

A Lanier High School student was robbed at gunpoint while she was walking to school on Tuesday, according to the high school’s principal.

A man with a gun got out of a car and demanded her cell phone, Principal Ryan Hopkins said in a letter to the school’s community. When the student showed the man that she did not have a phone, he and the three other men with him left.

The student was unharmed and immediately ran to campus to report the incident, Hopkins said. Police with the Austin school district are currently investigating this.

 

 

Jury indicts Onyeri, 2 others in conspiracy to kill Judge Kocurek

Chimene Onyeri, 28, is a suspect in the shooting that injured State District Judge Julie Kocurek.
Chimene Onyeri, 28, is a suspect in the shooting that injured State District Judge Julie Kocurek.

A federal grand jury has indicted three members of what authorities describe as a conspiracy that plotted fraud and racketeering schemes and attempted to carry out the murder of State District Judge Julie Kocurek.

The indictment names Chimene Onyeri, who was named as a person of interest soon after Kocurek was shot in the driveway of her West Austin home, and 26-year-old Marcellus Antoine Burgin of Cypress, and 24-year-old Rasul Kareem Scott of Marrero, La.

According to federal authorities, the 11-count indictment charges the trio with one count of conspiracy to participate in
an enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and one count of aggravated identity theft. Onyeri is also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud; an additional count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and six additional counts of aggravated identity theft.

The indictment comes nearly 10 months after Kocurek was attacked after returning home from a high school football game. Authorities have said an assailant opened fire as the driver of her car stopped in the family’s driveway to remove a bag of trash that investigators think had been intentionally placed to obstruct Kocurek’s path.

RELATED: Kocurek returns to bench after recovering from November shooting

Kocurek was wounded and spent about two months in the hospital before returning to the bench in February, saying she felt as though “I’ve been reborn.”

District Judge Julie Kocurek, here making her first public appearance, was welcomed back to the bench Monday morning February 29, 2016 by Judges Leon Grizzard, center, and Larry Meyers, right, after spending weeks recovering from an assassination attempt in November of last year. She said she felt reborn and though she is still undergoing physical therapy for her wounds will spend only half days on the bench for now. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
District Judge Julie Kocurek returned to the bench Feb. 29 after spending weeks recovering from an assassination attempt in November 2015. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

In a later interview, she described her injuries, saying that she reflexively raised her arm to shield herself during the shooting, and she confirmed that she has lost a finger on her left hand.

“I feel very lucky that is all I lost,” she said.

Kocurek is currently presiding over the high profile murder trial of Mark Norwood, who is accused in the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in North Austin.

Before the shooting, Onyeri was wanted in Travis County after he was accused of violating a probation sentence tied to a 2012 larceny charge and likely was going to be sent to prison. The matter was before Kocurek’s court, giving what investigators say is a possible motive for him to harm her.

Onyeri’s attorney has said that he has been framed by an ex-girlfriend, and that Onyeri had no motivation to harm a judge and realizes that doing so wouldn’t have prevented him from being sent to prison.

RELATED: Murder case to be dropped against suspect in Kocurek case

Onyeri has been held in the Travis County Jail since May; He had been held in the Harris County Jail on an unrelated murder charge that prosecutors dropped this spring.

Austin police Chief Art Acevedo said soon after the shooting that police were looking into whether multiple people participated in the crime.

The indictments are the result of a joint investigation involving federal authorities, Austin police and the Travis County district attorney’s office.

RELATED: Judges fear for safety more often than reported, study finds

Timeline:

  • Nov. 6, 2015: State District Julie Kocurek is attacked by a gunman in the driveway of her home.
  • Nov. 10: Austin police identify Chimene Hamilton Onyeri, a Houston resident with a pending criminal matter in Kocurek’s court, as a person-of-interest in the shooting.
  • Nov. 11: Authorities confirm that they had received a previous threat about a possible attack on an unnamed judge.
  • Nov. 23: Chief Art Acevedo confirms police investigating possible accomplices.
  • Jan. 7, 2016: Kocurek returns to courthouse to discuss handling of threat.
  • Feb. 29: Kocurek returns to courtroom for the first time.
  • May 18: Prosecutors drop unrelated murder charge against Onyeri in Houston, and he is moved to Austin.

 

Huston-Tillotson students hold campus protest over police shootings in Charlotte, Tulsa

Students of Huston-Tillotson University held a vigil on campus Thursday night to honor the lives of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, both black men who were shot dead by police officers in different cities within four days of each other.

The event began with speeches about racism against minorities in America and ended with a candlelight vigil.

“The black community is coming together to speak out against injustice,” said Huston-Tillotson student Talia Washington, who was one of the vigil’s organizers. “We are peacefully working to get things done.”

Washington said she and a few friends were able to organize the vigil in two days.

During the candlelight vigil, attendees circled a small group of people who named black people shot dead in cases throughout the past several years:

“We can’t drive home: Samuel DuBose. We can’t run from robbers: Reynaldo Cuevas. We can’t ask for help after an accident: Jonathan Farrell. We can’t drive cars: Sandra Bland. We can’t go to the store: Mike Brown. We can’t wear hoodies: Trayvon Martin.”

Scott was fatally shot Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C. Police say Scott disregarded repeated demands to drop his gun, while neighborhood residents say he was holding a book, not a weapon, as he waited for his son to get off the school bus. Police have refused to release video of the shooting.

Crutcher was fatally shot on Sept. 16 in Tulsa, Okla. The officer who shot him has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, with police saying in court documents that the officer “reacted unreasonably.”

With information from the Associated Press.

I-35 rock-throwing suspect Patrick Johnson guilty of sexual assault of a child

johnson-patrick-eugene1:30 p.m. A jury found Patrick Johnson guilty of sexual assault of a child.

Deliberations took less than two hours in Judge David Crain’s court.

Johnson, 60, stood emotionless after the verdict was read.

Johnson, who police say is also behind a series of rock-throwing incidents on Interstate I-35, faces up to life in prison. Punishment is expected to come down later Thursday.

Key to the prosecution securing the conviction was a recorded phone called placed by the victim who asked Johnson if he could come over for oral sex “like last time.” Johnson responded, “That’s up to you.” Johnson testified that at the time of the call he was sedated from surgery.

11:30 a.m. The jury is now deliberating in Patrick Johnson’s trial for the sexual assault of a child.

Deliberations began at 11:20 a.m.

Johnson, who police say is also behind a series of rock-throwing incidents on Interstate I-35, faces up to life in prison if convicted of the sexual assault.

Johnson’s accuser, a male, was between the ages of 13 and 15 at the time he said the assaults occurred. The man, now 19, was among a group of eight or nine boys that hung out with Johnson at the mobile home community in which they all resided.

On Wednesday, Johnson testified to being something of a philanthropist for underprivileged kids of immigrant parents. He said that over the years he has taken in 25 boys and cared for them.

Johnson admitted to having sex with a friend of the accuser, but only after the friend turned 17 and was legal.

Johnson said he believes his accuser is motivated by money and that he suspects the man intends to file a civil suit against Johnson.

 

Disability rights group sues ride-hailing apps Get Me, Fare

A state disability rights group has sued the ride-hailing apps Get Me and Fare in federal court, arguing that because the apps only partially offer text-to-speech software, they are unusable for blind people and therefore in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For example, Austin resident and accessibility consultant Jeanine Lineback, who is blind, was able to set up an account but was not able to request a ride, the lawsuit says.

The National Federation of the Blind chapter in Texas is suing on behalf of Lineback and four other Austinites, arguing that they are entitled to damages as well as an injunction against the apps, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday. The injunction would require that the apps’ companies make these apps accessible to people who are blind.

Representatives with Get Me and Fare could not immediately be reached for comment.

All five plaintiffs regularly use taxis and would like to have the opportunity to use these ride-hailing apps, the suit says.

The reason ride-hailing app companies should take a particular interest in making their apps available to people who are blind should be obvious, the suit argues.

“Get Me and other similar taxi services are a critical transportation option for many blind individuals in Austin, Texas,” the suit says. “Due to distances between destinations and the limitations of public transportation and paratransit, many blind persons must use taxi services to travel from one place to another.”

The suit also argues that if these kinds of apps put traditional taxis out of business, people who are blind will have even fewer options to get around. The suit says “other competing taxi services” operating in Austin have incorporated this technology into their apps, but does not specify which ones.

Uber, which stopped operating in Austin in May after Austinites voted to keep the city’s laws regulating ride-hailing apps in place, said in a 2015 press release that its app is compatible with text-to-speech features on iPhones. The same press release said Uber has a consultant on its team to advocate for the blind and visually impaired.

Fasten, a ride-hailing app which still operates in Austin, advertises its “improvements for the visually impaired,” saying it makes “registering and adding a payment method much easier.”

The five plaintiffs and other blind individuals wrote to Get Me and Fare about this issue, “hoping to resolve this matter without litigation,” the suit says. But Get Me and Fare “failed to explain” whether they have “any concrete plans to make the software accessible.”

Text-to-speech technology is built into iPhones, the suit says.

“Companies like Apple and Google have already done part of the work to assist app developers in making their apps accessible, by publishing accessibility guidelines,” the suit says. “These show how to correctly identify and code the data fields in software applications in a way that enables the text-to-speech software to ‘read’ the information to blind users. It is not difficult for a mobile developer to properly code a mobile app so that it is accessible.”

14-year-old arrested after Manor home burglarized, police say

A 14-year-old was arrested Tuesday and charged with breaking into a Manor home, and police are still looking for two other young men who are also suspects, Manor police said.

At 12:09 a.m. Tuesday, a Bell Farms neighborhood resident reported hearing his back door shatter then seeing a hammer on his floor next to the broken glass, Manor police said. Multiple witnesses told police they saw three young men fleeing from the area.

A county deputy spotted three young men trying to cross U.S. 290 from New Katy Lane, Manor police said. The three of them ran, and one of them, a 14-year-old, was apprehended.

He was jailed at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Center, Manor police said.

 

Cesar Chavez closed after 18-wheeler clips I-35 overpass

Cesar Chavez has been shut down at interstate 35 after an 18 wheeler struck a bridge while passing under the interstate.
Cesar Chavez has been shut down at interstate 35 after an 18-wheeler struck a bridge while passing under the interstate. Photo by Mark D. Wilson/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Mark D. Wilson

Cesar Chavez Street near downtown has been completely shut down at Interstate 35 after an 18-wheeler damaged the overpass while traveling under the highway.
Austin police at the scene said iron girders sticking out from the trucks trailer hit the beams of the overpass, denting the underside of the overpass.

No injuries were reported in the crash, but authorities have stopped the rig to inspect any damage.

I-35 is still open but traffic on Cesar Chavez is backed up all the way to South Congress Avenue and all eastbound traffic is being redirected to southbound I-35. Westbound traffic is going to northbound I-35.

Mark Norwood trial: Jury hears more about Michael Morton trial

2:45 p.m. Lewis “Sonny” Wann, a former friend of Mark Norwood’s, testified about buying a .45-caliber hand gun from Norwood while the two were working together in construction.

A video of Wann’s 2012 testimony is being shown to the jury. Wann is now dead.

The gun in question belonged to Michael Morton, whose wife, Christine, was killed inside of the couple’s home in 1986. Norwood has been convicted of the murder and is serving a life sentence.

9 a.m. The jury will continue to hear testimony about Mark Norwood’s conviction in the 1986 murder of Christine Morton.

On Monday, Judge Julie Kocurek ruled the Morton trial is admissible in Norwood’s current trial for the 1988 slaying of Debra Baker.

Monday was highlighted by testimony from Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder and was released from prison after almost 25 years when new DNA evidence pinned Norwood to the killing.

Police ID woman, 32, killed in motorcycle crash on Monday in Southwest Austin

By Mark D. Wilson

A woman who died in a motorcycle crash on Monday evening has been identified as 32-year-old Jessica Port.

According to a preliminary police investigation, Port was headed east in the 6800 block of Southwest Parkway near Oak Hill around 5:45 p.m. when she slammed into a 2009 Chevrolet van that turned left in front of her onto a private drive.

Port was taken to a hospital where she died shortly after arrival, police said.

Investigators said alcohol was not a factor in the crash but authorities are still looking into the circumstances of the crash.

Port is the 52nd person to die in a crash in Austin this year, police said.

Anyone with information on the wreck is asked to call the Austin police Vehicular Homicide Unit at 512-974-5549.

Austin police arrest girl after string of weekend robberies

By Mark D. Wilson

A juvenile female faces four charges of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon on Tuesday in connection with a rash of robberies in the Austin area over the weekend.

According to Austin police, the girl targeted at least three businesses in Austin on Sept. 17 and a fourth in Pflugerville on Sept. 18.

The first robbery happened at a Walgreens at 9307 N. Lamar Blvd. around 7:19 a.m. The second was reported around 5:15 p.m. at La Michoacana at 946 Payton Gin Road. The third came about four hours later at 11:55 p.m. at another Walgreens, 12250 Metric Blvd.

The next day, the same suspect hit a third Walgreens at 1509 W. Wells Branch Parkway.

Police said the girl displayed a weapon in all four of the robberies before demanding cash, and was accompanied by a male in the robbery in Pflugerville.

Investigators are still searching for one more robber.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Austin police’s Robbery Unit Tip Line at 512-974-5092.

Austin police released video surveillance footage from the robberies.