Austin Animal Center thanks police department for work on bombing investigation

One of Austin’s animal shelters thanked police for their weeks-long serial bombing investigation as part of their weekly photo series partnering officers and adoptable pets.

On Wednesday, the Austin Animal Center posted photos of Police Chief Brian Manley with a dog named Deena and thanked the police department for their work investigating a series of bombs that killed two people and injured five others in Austin and Schertz. Police confirmed the suspect in all the incidents, Mark Conditt, died after a bomb exploded in his car early Wednesday morning.

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COMPLETE COVERAGE: Stories, videos and photos from the Austin bombings

“Their tireless work over the last three weeks put an end to the fear our beautiful city has felt. We appreciate them and their work every day, but are especially thankful for them today,” the Facebook post reads.

In the Facebook post, the center shared that the initial dog the chief posed with named Deena was adopted the night before the “#APDRescueMe” campaign launched. The chief redid the photoshoot with another dog named Chin-Chin.

The Austin Animal Center’s “#APDRescueMe” social media campaign has showcased adoptable pets posing alongside Austin police officers since February.

Review this checklist before you hit the road Memorial Day weekend

 

An estimated 2.8 million Texans are expected to be on the roads this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA Texas. The group anticipates that more than 330,000 drivers will require a roadside rescue – at least 21,500 in Texas alone – AAA Texas spokeswoman Anne O’Ryan said.

So here are some safety steps that O’Ryan says motorists should take if they’re getting on the road this weekend:

  • Have your car battery tested.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Get plenty of sleep — at least seven hours — so you can stay alert. Drowsy driving accounts for about 20 percent of all crashes, O’Ryan said.
  • “Pack your patience,” O’Ryan said, and drive defensively.
  • Build in extra time for travel.
  • The best times to travel will be early morning, as other times will be more crowded.
  • Take breaks every two hours or every 100 miles.
  • Keep your eyes open for other drivers making sudden lane changes because a lot of out-of-towners and tentative drivers will be on the road.
  • Watch out for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Don’t text and drive or hold your cell phone.
  • Put your pets on a leash or a cage, and not in the front seat.
  • Wear your seat belt
  • Never drive impaired.

Austin police said officers will be targeting impaired and distracted drivers during the holiday weekend. Under its no-refusal initiative, Austin police will make it harder for a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated to refuse providing a breath or blood sample. If the officer has evidence of impairment, police said, the officer can get a judge’s approval for a search warrant to obtain a blood sample.

The no-refusal effort will be in effect from Friday through June 12 – to include the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally – between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Police said 107 people were arrested last year during the no-refusal period for Memorial Day and ROT Rally.

Interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley recommends that if you do plan to drink, you should have a plan for a ride home. He said the Austin Transportation Department has provided a website, austintexas.gov/gethomesafe, with resources to help you get home safe, including links to Capital Metro services and designated driving programs.

The Williamson County sheriff’s office will be undertaking its own no-refusal initiative, starting Friday and ending Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. each night.

In Hays County, San Marcos police will run its no-refusal program from Friday through Sunday.

 

Austin’s emergency management office lauded, earns elite accreditation

American-Statesman file photo

A national nonprofit group lauded Austin’s emergency management efforts Friday, certifying its program meets 64 industry standards.

Austin is just one of three Texas cities, along with Dallas and Arlington, to win accreditation from the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

“Emergency management accreditation represents a significant achievement,” said EMAP Commission Chairperson Robie Robinson in a statement. “We applaud the City of Austin’s leadership and we recognize the dedication to the safety and security of the residents that it represents.”

The city’s 15-member Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, and manages grant funding to improve homeland security and public safety. The agency co-manages the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center.

 

I-35 southbound shut down north of Rundberg

Police are routing southbound traffic onto Rundberg Lane
Police are routing southbound traffic onto Rundberg Lane

The southbound lanes of Interstate 35 has been shut down north of Rundberg Lane due to a collision, according to Austin police. All southbound traffic is being rerouted to the Rundberg exit.

The Statesman will provide updates as the situation unfolds.

Austin reacts to Police Chief Art Acevedo’s new Houston gig

The news this morning that Austin’s police chief of nearly 10 years Art Acevedo would be leaving his post to fill the same position in Houston was unforeseen by many Austinites.

Austin police chief Art Acevedo, announces that Patrick Eugene Johnson, 59, is being charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for throwing rocks at moving vehicles on highways and interstates around Austin for the last two years. Acevedo is surrounded by members of the organized crime division which helped investigate the crimes and determine the suspect. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Austin police chief Art Acevedo, announces that Patrick Eugene Johnson, 59, is being charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for throwing rocks at moving vehicles on highways and interstates around Austin for the last two years. Acevedo is surrounded by members of the organized crime division which helped investigate the crimes and determine the suspect. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Many took the opportunity to wish Acevedo luck on his new endeavor and look back on memorable moments shared with the chief. Others pondered the reasons behind his decision to leave, including, “It was because they got rid of Uber, huh?”

Scroll through what people are saying below:

https://twitter.com/EvilMopacATX/status/799284563482726401

PHOTOS: Look back on Police Chief Art Acevedo’s time in Austin

READ: Police Chief Art Acevedo built résumé, community ties in Austin

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Report: Austin’s ‘Hi, How Are You’ mural vandalized

… again?

A beloved  Austin landmark has fallen victim to vandals, as KXAN reports that the “Hi, How Are You” mural at 21st and Guadalupe streets has been defaced with a red, spray-painted cross. According to the TV station, police don’t yet have any leads.

(Rodolfo Gonzalez/2010 American-Statesman file photo)
(Rodolfo Gonzalez/2010 American-Statesman file photo)

The alien frog mural, also known as “Jeremiah the Innocent,” was painted by singer songwriter Daniel Johnston in 1993. It’s a popular photo opportunity, and Jeremiah even appeared on a T-shirt that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain once wore. On Christmas Eve 2013, a woman spray-painted the mural with five F-words.

APD debuts patrol vehicle featuring rainbow LGBT pride decals

A new Austin Police Department patrol vehicle featuring rainbow colors and phrases supporting the LGBT community is parked on 8th Street at APD Headquarters Friday July 15, 2016.    (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
A new Austin Police Department patrol vehicle featuring rainbow colors and phrases supporting the LGBT community is parked on 8th Street at APD Headquarters Friday July 15, 2016. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

A vehicle featuring colorful new decals outside of the Austin Police Department’s headquarters is drawing attention. The patrol SUV features rainbow colors and phrases supporting the LGBT community. Click here to see more photos of the APD vehicle.

First reported by KVUE, the vehicle includes the words “Pride,” “Equality,” and “Peace” on the doors. A heart including “APD Pride 2016,” the police badge, as well as “APD” and “Police” are also in a rainbow color scheme.

According to a tweet by KVUE president and general manager Kristie Gonzales, the rims complete the rainbow-colored theme.

Austin Police Department hasn’t made an official press statement on the car, but did confirm to KXAN reporter Leslie Rangel on Twitter that the vehicle is new.

6 things to know about the Austin rock throwing suspect

On Thursday, Austin police arrested Patrick Eugene Johnson, 59, whom they say is responsible for more than 90 rock-throwing incidents along Interstate 35 since 2014.  He is being charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, though he may face additional charges, and is being held in Travis County Jail with bail set at $250,000.

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Courtesy of Austin Police Department

Here are a few things to know about the suspect in the rock-throwing case:

1. In July 2013, Johnson was indicted on three counts of sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. According to the affidavit, the victim was 13 years old when he first met Johnson and “stated that a friend of his had introduced him to Johnson since Johnson was known to provide marijuana, beer, cigarettes.” Johnson had been out of jail on a $20,000 bond, but his case is still pending. Read more here.

2. Johnson was in the towing business for 40 years, according to his LinkedIn. He retired in 2004 due to medical issues and formed anti-towing activist organization Texas Towing Compliance in 2006. He has since acted as president of the organization. Texas Towing Compliance purports to document illegal towing practices and advise people how to fight their tows. He is well-known to the Austin Police Department and City Hall, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo noted in Thursday’s press conference. Johnson is a frequent speaker during citizen communications time at Austin City Council meetings, railing about certain tow-truck operators and alleging that police refuse to enforce city towing regulations.

3. Johnson has a YouTube channel featuring videos of his appearances before various government panels, including the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Other videos feature him driving around and exposing what he calls predatory towing practices, scams and “organized criminal activity.”

4. Also according to his LinkedIn, Johnson claims he won a Distinguished Service Award from APD, though no details are given. Though his page says he works closely with Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, his videos on YouTube mostly criticize the agency for failing to adequately regulate tow drivers.

5. He also has a Twitter account with the username @atxniceguy. Additionally, there is a @PATJ0HNS0N Twitter account that appears to be a parody account. It was created in December 2015. The person behind the account is unknown.

https://twitter.com/atxniceguy/status/736115233089953792

6. Johnson is public about his health problems on social media and has spoken about them on several other occasions. He opened his Feb. 27, 2014, appearance before the Austin City Council by saying “I was up here yesterday visiting y’all and I collapsed because of medical issues and they had to take me to the hospital by EMS out of City Hall.”

According to his Facebook account, Johnson said he was going to “live my remaining time in Hospice.” He also mentioned that an unnamed group “is taking control of my Texas Towing Compliance effective June 23, 2016.”