Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : June 12, 2014

Police officer on administrative leave with pay

By Russell Slaton
Monitor Correspondent

MALAKOFF–The family of an Iowa man who died of a heart attack following a reckless driving incident with an off-duty Malakoff police officer filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Malakoff, April 24.
The family alleges in documents filed in federal court in Marshall, the city used “substandard and inadequate hiring and screening policies” when it hired Ernesto Fierro, who has a checkered past as a Dallas police officer.
Records obtained through a public information request made April 23 by The Monitor and obtained June 6 show that Fierro’s Malakoff employment application included his Dallas police record, which reflected his Nov. 2005 resignation while under investigation for a violation of the department’s chase policy, and 2001 termination following Class B misdemeanor criminal accusations not specified in documents, which Fierro successfully appealed down to a 20-day suspension to continue his Dallas police employment. A police officer who resigns while under investigation usually loses his or her state peace officer’s license, but Fierro successfully appealed to state officials to keep it, The Dallas Morning News reported in 2008.
Fierro’s employment file also shows two letters of recommendation from former employers, including a Dallas Police Department (DPD) colleague and the mayor pro-tem of the City of Ferris.
“I have always found Ernesto to be very reliable, truthful, ethical and very hard-working,” wrote Armando Dominguez, Jr., a senior corporal with the DPD canine squad.
“I recommend him to you without reservation,” wrote Ferris mayor pro-tem Gary Ross.
Fierro resigned from the Ferris Police Department, July 15, 2013 and was hired by the City of Malakoff, July 31, 2013.
James Livezey’s family, through Tyler and Sulphur Springs attorneys, will ask a jury to award an unspecified amount “for each element of damages that is just and fair, based on the evidence,” according to the court filing. Also filed in federal district court was an April 28 summons to Malakoff Mayor DeLois Pagitt notifying the city of the lawsuit, which names Fierro and the city of Malakoff as defendants.
Documents obtained from the public information request also show that Fierro was placed on administrative leave with pay from the city of Malakoff on Feb. 22, “pending further investigation and completion of a criminal trial,” Malakoff Police Chief Billy Mitchell wrote in a letter sent to Fierro’s Dallas address. A Navarro County grand jury indicted Fierro Feb. 19 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, official oppression and reckless driving related to a Dec. 11 incident alongside Highway 31 east of Corsicana, during which the grand jury indictment alleges that Fierro ran Livezey off the road with his motorcycle, then held him in handcuffs until Navarro County deputies arrived on the Chambers Creek bottom scene. Livezey soon fell ill and collapsed, then was sent by ambulance to Navarro Regional Hospital, where he died of a heart attack.
Jury selection for Fierro’s criminal trial is set to begin July 21 in Judge James Lagomarsino’s court in Corsicana.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : June 5, 2014

By Erik Walsh
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Monday, investigators reported that the cause of the May 29 fertilizer storage facility fire in downtown Athens is “undetermined.” Criminal intent was ruled out, due to the absence of evidence identifying an ignition source. Until Monday, the facility had been treated as a crime scene. After the findings were issued, the East Texas Ag Supply property was released to its owner.

The findings were issued by the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office in conjunction with the Athens Fire Department, Henderson County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Dallas Field Division).

“The fire originated in the northwest quadrant of the building, at ceiling level. Based on the origin of the fire, the only causes that could not be eliminated are related to an electrical failure,” Athens Fire Chief John McQueary stated in a press release.

State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy stated, “Per national guidelines and standards, the fire will be classified as undetermined because the ignition source and the first material ignited could not be determined.”

The finalization of the fire investigation report is expected in the weeks ahead.
“The city appreciates the hard work and investigation by the agencies involved in determining the final conclusion regarding this incident,” Athens Mayor Jerry Don Vaught said shortly after the findings were released Monday.

The time between the departure of the last person from the facility’s 105 Larkin St. location May 29 and it being engulfed in flames 30 minutes later, had raised suspicion of possible criminal intent. The findings also ruled out weather as a factor.

East Texas Ag Supply owner Ken McGee was the last to leave the facility at around 5:15 p.m., McQueary said during a press conference the following day. “By 5:45 p.m., the building was almost fully enveloped in flames,” McQueary said. “The timetable is highly unusual and may not have been accidental.” McGee had just received 70 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer earlier that day, he added.

The fire caused massive disruption to the downtown area sending up a column of smoke that could be seen from Mabank, leading to an evacuation zone that first included three city blocks and was later expanded to five. More than 300 residents were forced to leave their homes that evening. They were able to return Friday, after officials with the Environmental Protection Agency conducted air quality tests with negative results for toxicity. Fifty displaced residents who could not find shelter at hotels, motels, friends or family stayed at the Cain Center.

The blaze also disrupted the opening festivities to the 83rd annual Old Fiddlers Reunion. The jam session usually held the night before the competition was canceled. The competition slated for May 31, was held at the Athens Courthouse Square as planned, along with the second annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march and fundraiser. Nearby businesses and Trinity Valley Community College closed as a precaution and vehicle traffic was rerouted along Loop 7. On Friday the U.S. Post Office was inaccessible.

According to McQuery, the storage facility contained more ammonium nitrate than the one that caused the massive blast in West last year that killed 15 people. The Athens fire resulted in no injuries.
“What you had here is somewhat larger than a storage shed in the back that houses your gasoline can, fertilizer, flower seed,” McQueary said. West had a large facility that housed not only ammonium nitrate, but also anhydrous ammonia and trucks that ran on gasoline- and diesel.“They had tractor trailers and a lot of products that can contaminate,” he said.



Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 11, 2014

Courtesy Photo John Reed, 14, died by his own hand May 6, 2014, his family blames bullying at his school.

Courtesy Photo
John Reed, 14, died by his own hand May 6, 2014, his family blames bullying at his school.

Kerens eighth grader attended Eustace ISD 2007-08

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
KERENS–The family of a dead Kerens Middle School student has one message to faculty, staff and students at Kerens ISD – “Stop the bullying. Don’t let this happen to another child.”
Tuesday, John Reed (JR), 14, pressed a .22-caliber rifle under his chin and pulled the trigger. His grandmother, Linda Reed, sent JR’s big sister outside to find out what was keeping him. “We heard the screaming,” Linda said. “I performed CPR. There was so much blood. I did everything I could to save my grandson.”
Earlier that day, JR was pulled into the principal’s office, where he confessed to writing a terroristic message on the mirror and wall of one of the boys bathrooms.
“He did something stupid, but he manned up about it,” Linda told The Kerens Tribune, “He said, yes, he did it.” The message read: In three days there will be a shooting. You’ve been warned, she said.
The bullying had persisted over the past six years, Linda said. JR didn’t talk about it much with his mother or grandmother, but had several “deep conversations” about bullying with his dad, who lives in Fort Worth. Linda claimed that JR’s dad called the school several times about the problem. And his mother and grandmother told JR to report the incidents to the school.
“They (JR and his father) told several people over the years,” Linda reported. “It would stop for a day and go right back.”
Elizabeth Reed said, she was glad that her son had a close relationship with his dad. “He spent spring break with his dad and he gave his life to Christ,” she said.
The day of her son’s death, she posted to FOX 4 NEWS: “Why can’t there be more done in small towns against bullying? Why does a family have to bury their son of 14 years because HE was bullied to the point of taking HIS own life? WHY DID I LOSE MY SON TODAY BECAUSE THE F—G SCHOOL DID NOTHING TO STOP THE TORMENT?
She also posted a short message on the Kerens ISD Facebook page. While acknowledging recent postings on Facebook about the death, Kerens ISD Superintendent Kevin Stanford said Wednesday he had no comment. “I am aware of the concerns of the public about the welfare of our students. It is a very difficult situation,” he said.
At around 11 a.m. just two hours before JR ended his life, the school gave him a three-day suspension, “while they figured out what to do TO him, not FOR him,” Linda told The Kerens Tribune.
His mother brought JR home from school. Shortly after arriving to a residence outside the city, she told him to take all his electronics outside to a storage building, as a consequence of his suspension.
“He was gone too long,” Linda noted, “that’s when I sent Cerise out to get him. I knew he must feel lost.”
His sister, Cerise, graduated from Kerens ISD last year and turned 20, Wednesday. She attends welding classes at a nearby college.
JR started attending Kerens ISD in kindergarten and has been there ever since, except for one year, when his mother moved her and her children to Eustace for a year in 2007-08, when he attended Eustace ISD. They returned to Kerens after a motor vehicle accident in 2008. “It was just like he had never left (Kerens),” his mother said of their return.
Keren ISD posted a message on the district website Tuesday from Stanford: “I am very sad to inform you that we recently learned that an eighth grade student passed away at his home this afternoon. … Our focus now is to meet the needs of our students on campus. We are enlisting the assistance of area counselors and ministers to help our students to deal with this difficult situation.  Be assured that we will continue through this process to make sure all students needs are being met.”
Counselors from Region 12 as well as the Bi-County Co-op were at the school Wednesday to offer help to any student who needed to talk, he said. “Student well-being is our top priority.”
Stanford also noted that faculty and staff were “pulling together at this time.”
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner verified that his officers were investigating the incident as a suicide.
Eubank Funeral Home in Mabank is overseeing the funeral arrangements, Elizabeth said.
JR loved playing football, his sisters (including two younger half sisters) and ducks, she said.