Tuesday, September 23, 2008

09-23-08 -- Nampa man shot after standoff with police early Tuesday morning

By DAVID KENNARD - dkennard@idahostatesman.com

A Nampa man was shot by police early Tuesday morning after a short standoff at a home in the 100 block of 16th Avenue South.

Nampa police said Lance D. Warr, 24, was taken to a Boise hospital after police shot him about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Police went to the address about 11:30 p.m. Monday during an investigation of an armed robbery at a Nampa payday loan store on Monday afternoon.

When police arrived at the home they determined the suspect was inside and called Nampa’s Tactical Response Team and Crisis Negotiation Team to help.

Several people were taken out of the building, and negotiators attempted to make contact with Warr for about an hour.

After attempts to get the man to exit the home on his own, the tactical team went in using tear gas in the room where the man was thought to be hiding.

Police said the man then came out of a closet and pointed a handgun at officers. Officers fired at the suspect, hitting him several times.

“The suspect was able to then follow further commands by the officers,” Nampa Police Department deputy chief LeRoy Forsman said in a prepared statement. “He was taken into custody without further incident.”

Police said they would not release the names of the officers involved, but said no officers were hurt in the shooting.

The incident began when Nampa police responded to the EZ Money store in the 1000 block of 12th Avenue South about 4:30 p.m. Monday to investigate a report of an armed robbery.

Police said Warr was later identified as the suspect in the robbery.

They said the man was armed with a handgun, and took an undisclosed amount of cash before he fled the area in a large, black SUV.

No one was hurt in the robbery.

“As is standard procedure in a case of this nature, the Critical Incident Task Force was called in to investigate this incident,” Forsman said. “The Idaho State Police will be the lead agency in the case.”

David Kennard: 377-6436

Sunday, September 21, 2008

09-21-09 -- Golden Age Games bring vets together

Provided by Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Bob Schaney bowls in competition in the Golden Age Games that took place in August in Indianapolis.

By DAVID KENNARD — dkennard@idahostatesman.com

A team of military veterans from Boise brought home a collection of medals recently after competing in the 22nd annual Golden Age Games in Indianapolis.

And while the event focused on competition, everyone who went said the camaraderie with teammates and those from other states is what they will remember most.

Bob Schaney just missed taking home the bronze medal in horseshoes after overthrowing the stake. What appeared to be an error allowed his competitor — who is visually impaired — to take home the medal in a very close competition.

"He was so happy. He never medaled before," Schaney said. "His coach came up to me after the match and said, 'you did that on purpose, didn't you.' But I’ll tell you seeing the smile on his face, that was better than winning."

Schaney has been to the Golden Age Games almost every year since it began.

Next year the games take place in Birmingham, Ala., where several thousand competitors, coaches and family members will come together to celebrate the spirit of competition among military veterans.

Unlike the Olympic games, the Golden Age Games feature less athletic competition, although the skill levels remain high.

Bennie Yows of Boise has been shooting pool ever since he was a young boy growing up in Harlem.

His skills at Nine Ball earned him a silver medal.

"When we're playing we play to win," Yows said. "But win or lose we all get together afterward. It’s a friendly atmosphere."

Schaney and Yows were among the 13 members of the "Spudinators" that brought home 26 medals.

Coach Valerie Duffy also earned the "Coach of the Year" award at the games.

Duffy was nominated for the honor by Dewayne Vaughan, director of the games.

"She is very caring and supportive of her veterans, always keeping up with all of them to make sure they have what they need," Vaughan said. "Her veterans know they can always count on her to go above and beyond for them."

Duffy and her Spudinators have become notorious at the games, each year handing out thousands of tiny potato-shaped pins similar to Olympic games trading pins.

And when they walked through the airport in their bright orange shirts and their heavy medals jingling around their necks, they introduced others to their winning spirit.

The Spudinators conduct fundraising events through the year to help fund the nearly $1,000 expense for each veteran to compete.

Golden Age Games competitions are open to all U.S. military veterans age 55 or older who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility.

Support from local veterans groups as well as staff from the Boise VA Medical Center make the event possible, but funds are all raised locally.

Events include swimming, bicycling, bowling, croquet, air rifle, golf, shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus and shot put.

"Staying active and healthy through sports and fitness is important to all our nation’s veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "We are proud to offer the Golden Age Games as a premier sporting event for our senior veterans."

David Kennard: 377-6436

Friday, September 19, 2008

09-19-08 -- Kuna man, 20, arrested after break-in at Kuna Middle School

DAVID KENNARD - dkennard@idahostatesman.com

A Kuna man was arrested Friday in connection to several burglaries, including one at Kuna Middle School and another at Kuna High School last week.

Police arrested Derek Thomas, 20, after responding early Friday morning to an alarm at the middle school.

He was found wearing a mask and gloves and taken into custody.

Police said they believe Thomas also is one of two suspects connected to several other robberies at local churches and other public buildings.

Last week police released a surveillance video showing two men inside Kuna High School. Aldrich said Thomas is one of the men in the picture and expect to make other arrests in the case soon.

"These look like primetime burglaries," said Lt. Kody Aldrich, chief of police in Kuna. "They went after vacant buildings where nobody was around."

Aldrich said a search of Thomas's home yielded "a number of stolen items."

"We've been calling people all morning to come in," Aldrich said. He said people who believe they were victims of the burglaries should contact police at 922-5743 to recover their property.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Thursday, September 18, 2008

09-18-08 -- More than 7,000 marijuana plants uncovered in Owyhee County

- dkennard@idahostatesman.com

A three-month investigation by Idaho State Police, Owyhee County Sheriff's Office and other state and federal authorities yielded more than 7,000 mature marijuana plants Wednesday growing in a remote part of Owyhee County.

The large grow is the third major marijuana growing operation found on public land in recent months.

Wednesday's action began Monday night when Idaho State Police pulled over Jose Santoyo-Villa Monday near Marsing. He was found carrying 25 pounds of marijuana bud in his truck.

Police began investigating Santoyo-Villa three months ago. Their surveillance of his activities led to Monday's arrest.

"When we found the buds on him we knew that they were beginning to harvest," said Lt. Jack Catlin with the ISP.

Catlin said their investigation lead to a stash house in Nampa containing even more processed marijuana.

"We collected about 125 pounds of pot there," Catlin said.

Catlin said Santoyo-Villa would be charged in connection to the growing operation on state charges, but likely will face federal charges as well.

The grow was on National Forest land in a remote area off Idaho 78 near Silver City.

The only access to the area is by foot on a long trail or by helicopter.

Catlin described the growing operation as very organized, using irrigation pipes that fed off a natural spring.

"In the grow it was planted like crops, in rows," Catlin said.

He said the operation would have to have to use several people to cultivate that much marijuana. He estimated that it had been producing the drug for about three years.

Catlin said other arrests are pending.

Authorities have broken up at least three other similar operations recently.

Two in the Boise National Forest and another in Elmore County have yielded tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana plants this summer, Catlin said.

"And I'm sure now with hunting season and hunters going into the area, we'll find one or two more," Catlin said.

He said marijuana growers look for very remote areas such as the Owyhee County location.

"They'll get onto national forest land up behind some private land where nobody will be -- way back in the middle of nowhere," Catlin said.

He said two or three workers will usually tend the field for weeks or even months, while someone else brings in supplies to a drop point.

"When harvest time comes," Catlin said. "They carry it out on their backs."

Officials estimate the street value of the drugs harvested Wednesday at about $10 million.

David Kennard: 377-6436

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

09-10-08 -- Treasure Valley's cooler weather drives spiders indoors

Yellow Sac Spider

- dkennard@idahostatesman.com

Spiders are our friends.

That's the message Anju Lucas wants to get out.

They're creepy. They're crawly. They can make grown men jump. But as long as they stay where they belong, Lucas says, they can be a big help.

Still, as summer comes to a close, spiders are hard to ignore.

This is the time of year people start to notice spiders more, said Charles Baker, an entomologist and professor emeritus with the department of biology at Boise State University.

"Some are going into their breeding season now," Baker said.

And while a lot of attention is given to the three most poisonous spiders in the Valley - the hobos, black widows and yellow sacs - most spider species you'll see in your home and yard are harmless and are beneficial because they can help control pesky insects.

At home and at work at Edwards Greenhouse in Boise, Lucas has her share of run-ins with spiders.

"I live in a log house," Lucas said. "They're everywhere. But they eat insects and I leave them alone."

Spider webs in the eaves or entry of a house are common around the Treasure Valley, especially this time of year when spider families are on the move.

Wait - spiders have families?

Female hobo spiders carry their hatched young on their back, so when you smush one on your doorstep, you might notice a dozen or so tiny specks scattering in all directions.

Hobos - those are the really creepy ones you can find in your tub or crawling along the baseboards of your home - have increased in numbers in Idaho over the last 20 years, Baker said.

"In August they start making their appearance," Baker said. "The females don't usually go inside, but the males wander everywhere."

The infamous black widow spider, like the hobo, has a painful bite that can debilitate a human with nausea and headaches. The spider, with its recognizable red hourglass markings, likes cramped, dark spaces.

If you're doing any kind of yard work around woodpiles or damp areas such as inside your irrigation system box, a good pair of leather gloves is the first line of defense from these arachnids.

But perhaps the yuckiest of the batch is the yellow sac spider.

These stealthy critters are known for more bites than any other kind of venomous spider, experts say. They also have necrotic venom, which means when they bite, they actually kill skin cells.

And of Idaho's venomous trio, yellow sacs are the most comfortable living in your house and will thrive in homes with lots of insects.

Another venomous spider, the brown recluse, doesn't live in Idaho, although it can be carried in from other areas, Baker said.

"While some may get transported to the state once in a while, they don't stay here long," he said.

Jim Martin, a manager at Zamzows on State Street in Boise, said he gets lots of spider questions in August and September. He doesn't think there are any more spiders, just that people become more aware of them this time of year.

"I like most spiders," Martin said. "They catch mosquitoes and everything else."

He said people who want to keep spiders outside could use a perimeter spray outside the house or spider traps inside.

"Spider traps are good for catching hobo spiders because they prowl around a home's baseboards," Martin said.

David Kennard: 377-6436

HOBO SPIDERS Scientific name: Tegenaria agrestis

Size: About as big as the end of your thumb.

Habitat: Fields, gardens, woodpiles.

History: First appeared in the United States in the 1930s in the shipping district in Seattle.

If you are bitten: Hobos don't always inject venom. If they do, you'll know by the itching and redness. Use an ice pack to reduce swelling.

BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS Scientific name: Latrodectus mactans

Size: Can be as large as your big toe.

Habitat: Almost always in protected areas such as woodpiles or sprinkler valve boxes.

History: Native to North America.

If you're bitten: Widow bites cause severe pain at the bite and can cause cramping and body pain. Treat with ice packs at the wound and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Source: Spiderzrule.com

YELLOW SAC SPIDERS Scientific name: Chiracanthium

Size: About as big as your pinky fingernail.

Habitat: Mostly outside, but common inside houses as well.

History: First appeared in the United States in the early 20th century in the Northeast.

If you are bitten: Yellow sacs are blamed for more bites than any other spider. Their venom kills skin cells. Treat the wound with antibiotics to prevent infection.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

09-09-08 -- Boise hikers survive overnight ordeal on Mount Borah

Photo courtesy Nate Wheeler
Nate Wheeler stands next to the Idaho state flag atop Borah Peak moments before his descent.

BY DAVID KENNARD - dkennard@idahostatesman.com

A day hike to the top of Idaho's highest peak could have turned deadly for two Boise men Sunday.

Nathan Wheeler, 34, and Mike Thornton, 68, survived a frigid night on Idaho's highest mountain before walking out to anxious wives and other searchers Monday morning.

Wheeler, a Boise real estate agent, said calm attitudes helped them make it through the subfreezing night.

"Even though we're looking at the sun setting and it's getting cold - and I'm just in shorts - the power of positive thinking and prayer helped a lot," he said.

The Mount Borah trail is only 3.5 miles long, but it gains nearly 5,000 feet in elevation over very challenging terrain above the timber line.

The hike is considered one of the most challenging in the state and has claimed the lives of three hikers since 1977.

This was Thornton's third attempt at the summit. Twice before he had been forced back by poor weather on the mountain.

When the two hikers left the trailhead early Sunday morning, heavy clouds obscured the summit and for a time threatened to thwart yet another try at the peak, Wheeler said Monday.

But as the morning wore on, the clouds thinned to reveal the jagged rocks - known as Chicken-out Ridge - that would take them to their destination.

By noon, Wheeler said, they found themselves at the summit. The clouds peeled off, the sun shone down, and the two men took in the view as a stiff northwest wind blew across the broken granite boulders.

The parking area at the trailhead below is nearly visible from the top of the barren mountain, a fact that makes the hike down seem almost too easy.

But Wheeler said the return was more difficult than coming up. Loose rocks and large boulders made the trek difficult.

And the two friends decided to take an unfamiliar route down the mountain.

"Some hikers we talked to ... said that going left instead of right around Chicken-out Ridge was an easier way down," Wheeler said.

The route took them farther south than they had anticipated, and by the time they realized how far away from the trail they were, they had already lost precious elevation.

"We saw how far down we were and didn't want to climb back up (to get back on the trail)," Wheeler said.

By the time they made their way into the trees they were at least a mile away from the trail they had taken on their ascent.

Wheeler said he considered his hiking companion a much more experienced hiker and turned to him frequently for advice.

"Mike was getting tired and I began to wonder if we should stop," Wheeler said. "He suggested we stop hiking, and I said, 'You know better than me, and that's the right thing to do.' "

As night fell, the temperature began dropping, and the two men had come prepared only for a day hike up the mountain.

Asked how they kept warm, Wheeler said most of the night was spent huddled together to conserve body heat.

A member of the search-and-rescue team later estimated that the temperature reached down to the 20s Sunday night.

Both men had brought cell phones, but neither had reception.

"We thought our wives would be absolutely frantic," Wheeler said.

In fact, the families of both men reported them missing late Sunday after they failed to come home.

Wheeler said his dad and other family members arrived at the trailhead at about 5 a.m. in preparation for a hike up the mountain in search of the two men.

About four hours after the two men began hiking again Monday morning, they arrived at the parking area to learn that their ordeal had sparked a full-scale search.

"When I saw my parents' car there I knew this was serious, but we couldn't call anyone to tell them we were OK," Wheeler said. "So we both yelled out really loud."

A Custer County search team had already set out up the trail but were called back when the two men made contact with one of the searchers near the trailhead.

Wheeler said other than a few minor scratches, sore legs and mild dehydration, they felt fine.

In 1977, two climbers were swept off the face of Mount Borah by an avalanche. Another man died in 1987 when he slid on a snowy face over a rocky ledge during a descent.

David Kennard: 377-6436


- Map: GPS units are great, but there's no substitute for a USGS topographical map. You can find Mount Borah on the Borah Peak Quadrangle map.

- Compass: North declination in Idaho is about 14 degrees east.

- Flashlight or headlamp: Even if you plan to be back by nightfall, you never know.

- Extra food: A Snickers bar can help power you through a cold night.

- Extra clothes: Adding a sweatshirt under your windbreaker can help if it cools down.

- Sunglasses: Besides being cool, they'll save your eyes when you're bushwhacking or making your way across a glacier.

- First-aid kit: Complete with antibiotic ointment, sports tape and pain killers.

- Pocket knife: Anything with a decent blade is great.

- Waterproof/windproof matches: Above the timber line, you can burn a roll of toilet paper.

- Firestarter: Paraffin and sawdust are great, but even a candle is better than nothing.

- Water and water filter: Plan to drink at least a gallon per day.

- Whistle: Blowing loud and long in sets of three means, "I need help."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

09-06-08 -- Idaho jobless rate hits 4-year high

BY DAVID KENNARD - dkennard@idahostatesman.com

A rise in Idaho's jobless rate is tied directly to high fuel prices and continuing fallout from the housing slump and tight credit, experts said Friday.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to a four-year high of 4.6 percent in August, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. In Ada County, 4.3 percent of workers were unemployed, and in Canyon County 6.1 percent were jobless.

Department spokesman Bob Fick said employers like consumers alike are pumping more of their dollars into their gas tanks, and they're spending less on wages.

"When people make only so much money, they have much less to spend on other things," Fick said.

That translates into fewer goods leaving warehouse shelves.

"When people aren't buying, there is no need to move goods," Fick said.

Boise economist John Church said Friday's announcement confirms a trend suspected for some time - that the slowdown in the state's economy is accelerating.

"I think gas prices affect (the economy) across the country," Church said. "People are being squeezed by gas prices, and travel, tourism, even the trucking industry, are really getting hammered."

While jobless numbers are up in Idaho, they fall below the national average. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to a five-year high of 6.1 percent from 5.7 percent. Economists had expected it to inch up to 5.8 percent from July's 5.7 percent,

The rate is likely to go even higher in the months ahead, possibly throwing the economy into a tailspin as Americans pick a new president. So far this year, 605,000 jobs have vanished - slightly less than the population of Alaska.

The unemployment increase means many companies will feel pressure to reduce their business investments - either in capital projects or hiring - for the rest of the year, experts say.

"Mix business caution with consumer exhaustion and you have a recipe for a real recession," said Terry Connelly, dean of Golden Gate University's Ageno School of Business.

August was the 83rd straight month that Idaho has been below the national rate, but the sixth straight month unemployment has risen.

Employment in Idaho peaked during the first nine months of 2007, with the jobless rate a mere 2.7 percent.

Church said he expects Idaho unemployment to remain high but it is hard to say for how long.

He said Idaho's employment diversity helps insulate workers to some degree, but the state has become less diverse over the last few years, and that could make it more vulnerable to national economic downturns.

Although Idaho's labor force has grown substantially in the past two decades, more Idaho workers were off the job in August - 34,600 - than during any other month since August 1987, when the state was finally pulling out of the recession of the mid-1980s.

"The last time, we came out of it a little slower than the rest of the nation," Church said.

Fick said that overall, 16,400 fewer people were working in Idaho in August than in August 2007, and two of every three of that number were in the Boise-Nampa metropolitan area.

He said 29 of the 44 counties saw employment drop from the year-earlier level as total employment fell to 720,200.

Fick said manufacturing and construction job losses were the biggest contributors, with more than 4,500 each since August 2007. The service sector gained just 1,500, a fraction of its typical performance.

"The construction thing is the biggest contributor to this," Fick said. "Those guys made pretty good wages. And to lose more than 4,000 jobs is a big impact."

David Kennard: 377-6436 The Associated Press contributed.

Idaho's jobless rate increase to 4.6 percent - a four-year high - was the second time this year Idaho's unemployment rate jumped a half point, as employment continued a steady decline that begun in February.

The last half-point jump was in May, when the rate rose from 3.1 percent to 3.6 percent.

Here's why the number is so high:

- Idaho's economy failed to generate the seasonal increase in nonfarm jobs normally expected in August ahead of students returning to school.

- Decline in manufacturing came as food processors staged seasonal shutdowns in advance of the new harvest.

- Retail trade, which typically adds jobs in August, shed more than 500 jobs statewide.

- Construction added a little more than 100 jobs in August, a third of what typically occurs.

Source: Idaho Department of Labor

Tuesday, September 2, 2008