July 29, 2015

Governor, NAACP promote conference on racial disparity in prisons

Governor Terry Branstad and Betty Andrews, president of Iowa chapter of NAACP.

Governor Terry Branstad and Betty Andrews, president of Iowa chapter of NAACP.

A third annual summit on racial disparities in Iowa’s prisons, to be held next month in Ankeny, is being expanded to two days and moved to a larger facility. Iowa NAACP President Betty Andrews spoke at a statehouse news conference today to promote the summit.

“For far too long, Iowa has ranked at the top of the list of states for the over-representation of African-Americans in the criminal justice system” Andrews said. For more than a decade, Iowa has ranked number-one in the nation for the number of African-Americans per capita in the criminal justice system.

“For every one Caucasian person, there are 13.6 African-Americans in the prison system per capita here in the state of Iowa,” Andrews said. “That is more than double the national average.” African-Americans represent just over 3 percent of Iowa’s population, but they make up 26 percent of the inmates in Iowa’s prisons.

Disparities-newser-2“This is nothing short of a crisis,” Andrews said. “Does that mean that black people in Iowa are worse than (black people) in other states? We think not. The one thing we know is Iowa has to deal with this disparity from within the criminal justice system and from within the community.”

Governor Terry Branstad plans to attend next month’s summit and at today’s news conference, he claimed Iowa has made “some strides” in reducing racial disparities in prisons. “As we’ve reduced the prison population, we’ve also seen the recidivism rate go down,” Branstad said. “You might think, you increase paroles and recidivism would go up, but they’ve done a good job of identifying people who are ‘good risks’ and we’ve actually made progress.”

The Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities is scheduled for August 28-29 on the DMAAC Campus in Ankeny.


Police searching for suspect after assault at George Wyth State Park

Police car lightsAuthorities are investigating an apparent sexual assault that forced the lock-down of a state park near Waterloo on Tuesday afternoon. George Wyth State Park was shut down for nearly five hours on Tuesday after a woman was found unconscious off a trail in a wooded area near the park’s campground.

Park rangers, the Iowa State Patrol and police officers from both Waterloo and Cedar Falls responded to the call around 3 p.m. Believing the suspect was still inside the park, authorities closed all vehicle and trail entrances to George Wyth and required everyone to show identification before they were allowed to leave. Authorities used motorcycles and ATV’s to search the park, but didn’t find the man.

Waterloo police say he remains at large. They’re asking for the public’s help in identifying a white man with lighter color hair, who’s in his 20s, may have an irritation from poison ivy, and possibly scratches to his arms and facial area. The woman was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The Waterloo Police Department can be reached at 319-291-4340 extentsion 2. Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers can be reached at 855-300-TIPS (8477). Tips may also be left at www.cvcrimestop.com. A cash reward is available.

(Reporting by, Elwin Huffman, KOEL, Oelwein)

UNI campus back open after suspicious package is checked

The Waterloo Police bomb squad found a suspicious package at UNI was not dangerous.

The Waterloo Police bomb squad found a suspicious package at UNI was not dangerous.

The University of Northern Iowa campus was shut down for around two hours this morning after a suspicious package was found.

University officials say the bag in question was found around 7 a.m. on the grounds outside Maucker Student Union by UNI police walking across campus.

Once the discovery was made, UNI officials decided to notify the public of the potential threat. An alert posted on the school’s website just before 7 a.m. said Waterloo police were investigating a suspicious package found on campus and all UNI buildings and grounds would be closed to all personnel until at least 10:30 a.m.

The Waterloo police bomb squad later determined the suspicious bag was filled with audio/visual equipment and posed no threat to the public or campus. Investigators don’t know where the bag came from, but they believe it may have fallen off a cart.

Police began reopening the campus around 9:30 a.m. The university resumed normal operations about an hour later.

(Story and Photo By: Elwin Huffman, KOEL-Oelwein/Waterloo)


Second Alabama man faces sentencing in illegal deer hunts

GavelA second Alabama man is now facing sentencing for his role in illegal deer hunts. Sixty-three-year-old Kinsman Wolfe of Montgomery, Alabama was convicted of two counts of unlawful sale of wildlife and one count of conspiracy to commit the unlawful sale of wildlife.

Court records show Wolfe helped Robert Wilkins of Semmes, Alabama as a guide for hunts of white-tailed dear in Lucas County. Those involved in the hunts were not from Iowa and did not have hunting licenses or deer tags. The capes and antlers of deer taken in Iowa were illegally transported to Alabama.

Wilkins was sentenced to six months of home confinement, four years probation, and ordered to pay $12,000 in restitution. Wolfe will be sentenced October 12th.

Georgia man talks about son’s death at Iowa synthetic drug conference

Synthetic drugs come in various packages designed to attract teens.

Synthetic drugs come in various packages designed to attract teens.

A Georgia man whose son died after using synthetic marijuana was the keynote speaker Thursday at a conference on synthetic drugs in Sergeant Bluff. Lynn Dyer’s 14-year-old son Dakota took his own life three years ago.

“He tried it once. He tried it and went through what they call a psychotic break, took his handgun and shot himself in the head,” Dyer says. “He made an extremely bad decision over a very shot amount of time — and it cost him his life.” Dyer’s wife is a health care professional and he says they had no idea that K-2, Spice and other such synthetic drugs existed, or that their son knew about them.

“We’d had all the talks with our sons — the alcohol, the sex talk, the drug talk — we had them all. We didn’t know what synthetic drugs were, she didn’t and she dealt with drugs every day in the hospital. And when we found out what facilitated our son’s death, we became self-educated,” Dyer explains.

The Bremen, Georgia resident established a foundation in his son’s name and travels the country speaking about the dangers of synthetic drugs. He has three goals. “Education of our young people and parents. Two is to facilitate and help law enforcement, first responders and EMS with education, awareness and information on where this stuff is coming from. And third, is hopefully, prevent a parent from going through what we went through,” Dyer says.

He says the substances are packaged in pouches designed to appeal to teens. “They market these products strictly to our young people. You see flashy little bags, you see one that has Scooby Doo on it called Scooby Snacks, you see on that has the smiley face on it,” Dyer says. “There’s just countless different kinds and they are all in flashy little bags geared to our young people.” You can find out more about the danges of the drug at the Dakota Dyer Foundation(dakotadyerfoundation.org).

The conference on synthetic drugs wraps up at Sergeant Bluff High School today (Friday)

(Photo and story by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)

Western Iowa conference focuses on synthetic drugs

SYNTHETIC-DRUGS-A conference in Sergeant Bluff in western Iowa today and tomorrow will discuss the dangers of synthetic drugs. Lieutenant Terry Ragaller with the Sergeant Bluff Emergency Services says people from the tri-state area are attending.

“We’re going to be covering topics such as: bath salts and spice and the new drugs that are really hurting our people,” Ragaller says. He says there are sessions for law enforcement, medical personnel and the public.

“Looking at medical aspects, legal aspects, social workers, addiction and therapy, and then we are also going to have a public information session for parents or just the general public to come to. And we’ll have Heartland therapists there from 6 to 8 p.m., as well as a father whose son killed himself while he was on these drugs.”

Ragaller says he’s seen an increase in the use of synthetic drugs in his daily calls. “There are a lot of instances of people overdosing — not even just overdosing — but just the natural use of it just drives people insane. They just go crazy,” Ragaller says. “We’re seeing it more and more of it since last fall, it really has picked up steam. I also work full-time in Sioux City, and we’re seeing more and more of it.”

He says many of the synthetic drugs are made in China and aren’t regulated there. Speakers are coming in from as far away as Georgia and Michigan.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)



Police cite 20 minors after call to party in Council Bluffs

Police car lightsA call to authorities early this morning in Council Bluffs resulted in nearly two-dozen people being cited on alcohol-related charges. Police responding at around 1:15 a.m. to a disturbance at an apartment, found numerous juveniles consuming alcohol at the residence.

Twenty minors were cited for minor in possession and disorderly conduct. A woman renting the apartment, 37-year-old Angela Hughes, who is also a mother of one of the underage persons, was at the party. She was cited for having a “disorderly house.”

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)