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Saturday, March 25, 2017
Updated 3/25/17  12:20 pm


Police chief sounds alarm over rise in gun thefts:
(Danville, Va.) – Danville Police Chief Philip Broadfoot is again urging gun owners not to leave their weapons in unlocked cars.
      At a press conference Friday afternoon, he said “a significant number (of guns) are stolen from vehicles by criminals who walk through neighborhoods pulling door handles to find unlocked vehicles.”
     In 2015, 29 of the 92 firearms reported stolen were stolen from vehicles. Last year, 49 of the 115 firearms reported stolen were taken from vehicles. To date this year, 17 of the 24 firearms reported stolen have been stolen from vehicles.
      Broadfoot also presented maps that pinpointed the shifting patterns of gun theft from motor vehicles. In 2015, the majority of firearms stolen from vehicles came from the heavily populated areas in the core center of the city north and south of the river. In 2016, the thefts began to spread as the thieves moved into businesses and parking lots.
     So far in 2017, Broadfoot said there is a clear movement to the Westover Drive area.
     He said very few areas of Danville are untouched by these crimes.
     From Nov. 1 through March 23, Danville Police served 28 gang-related search warrants and seized 31 firearms during execution of these search warrants. Eight of the firearms were stolen. Seven of the eight firearms stolen were from Danville.

McAuliffe vetoes concealed guns for victims bill:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed legislation that would allow people protected under a court order to carry a hidden handgun without getting a permit.
     McAuliffe, a Democrat, said Friday that the bill "perpetuates the dangerous fiction" that domestic violence victims would be safer if they were armed. Democrats have generally opposed the bill, saying it would encourage victims of abuse to introduce guns into already dangerous situations.
     Republican supporters of said the bill would help domestic violence victims better protect themselves from their abusers. The bill would grant people protected by a protective order the temporary right to carry a concealed handgun without a license.
     McAuliffe successfully vetoed similar legislation last year. Lawmakers could try and overturn this year's veto next month.
Groundbreaking held for Mega Park:
(Pittsylvania County, Va.) -- More than eight years of work by local leaders from Danville, Pittsylvania County and the City of Eden, N.C., culminated Thursday in a groundbreaking ceremony for the phase one development at Berry Hill Industrial Park.
      The 3,500-acre park is located along Berry Hill Road in Pittsylvania County, a few miles west of the Danville city limits, and it is owned jointly by the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County through the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority (RIFA).
      “This industrial park is an essential building block in the future of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina,” RIFA board chairman Sherman Saunders said Thursday. “Today, we are here to celebrate a milestone in its development. The journey to this point has had many twists and turns, but our resolve never wavered. Let us celebrate that here today.”
     Saunders also stressed that partnerships among local, regional and state offices and agencies are imperative for projects of this magnitude.
     Saunders and other RIFA leaders were joined at Thursday’s ceremony by Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore and representatives from federal and state offices in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as representatives of two state tobacco commissions and local officials from Danville, Pittsylvania County, Eden and Rockingham County, N.C.
      Haymore called the park a testament to what years of hard work and determination can provide. “As the largest industrial park in the Commonwealth and the fifth largest on the East Coast, this site will be an incredible asset for the Danville-Pittsylvania County region and the new Virginia economy as we market the region to companies looking to relocate or expand.”
AG's office to assist members of district attorney's staff:
(Caswell County, N.C.) -- North Carolina’s attorney general’s office will provide legal assistance to members of the Person/Caswell County district attorney’s office named in a whistleblower’s lawsuit. Debra Halbrook alleges former D.A. Wallace Bradsher fired her after she reported to the SBI that he and Rockingham County D.A. Craig Blitzer hired each other’s wives to collect a combined $100,000 in annual salaries that the women didn’t earn. Blitzer resigned this month, just two days after SBI agents searched his office for evidence.

South Boston convenience store robbed at gunpoint:

(South Boston) -- South Boston Police are investigating an armed robbery. A man entered the Apple Market on Seymour Drive just after 10 p.m. Wednesday, pulled a gun and demanded money. Authorities are looking for a slender, black male. He was wearing a dark jacket and faded jeans and his head and face were covered by a white cloth with eye holes.

McAuliffe vetoes bill seeking religious protections:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed Republican-backed legislation that would bar the government from punishing anyone who refuses to participate in same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs.
     McAuliffe, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year. Republican supporters say the measure is necessary to protect religious freedom.
      But the governor said as he signed the veto Thursday while on WTOP-FM that the Constitution already protects legitimate religious freedoms and the vetoed legislation is designed to stigmatize couples. McAuliffe says if the legislation had become law, it would have been detrimental to the state's economy.
      The governor, who is often at odds with the GOP-controlled General Assembly over social issues, has now vetoed more bills than any other Virginia governor.
N.C. man charged with Danville groping incidents:
(Danville, Va.) – Danville Police have charged a North Carolina man with a series of groping incidents that happened at local department stores.
     22-year-old Jerome O'Neal Courts Jr. of Ruffin, N.C. been charged in separate incidents that happened at Wal-Mart on Mount Cross Road on Jan. 13 and Feb. 25.
      The women in each incident were inappropriately touched by a man with short dreadlocks in his 20s or 30s.
     Police suspect Counts in six incidents starting in mid-January and ending March 1 with an attack on a Danville woman in the Target parking lot on Garrison Parkway. That was one of two groping incidents at the shopping center. A sixth incident happened near the Dollar Tree store on Lowes Dr.
     In several cases, a man was seen following a woman throughout the store and into the parking lot, where the assaults occurred.
    Counts was arrested Wednesday without incident and was released after posting a $1,000 secured bond.

Bassett adding 22 jobs in Henry County:
(Henry County, Va.) -- Bassett Furniture Industries will add 22 new jobs and invest $1.5 million in new equipment at its Henry County factory.
     Bassett Furniture President and CEO Rob Spilman credited the success of the company’s Bench-Made line and the success of Bassett’s retail operations in announcing the expansion. He added that several new Bassett Home Furnishings stores will open across the country this year.
     The 22 new hires will receive an average annual pay of $45,000 and will be added to Bassett’s Plant 11 at Patriot Centre at Beaver Creek Industrial Park, the Bench-Made facility and Bassett’s corporate headquarters.
      Bassett Furniture will receive a $95,000 grant from Virginia’s Tobacco Commmission and $53,500 in Henry County Enterprise Zone grants over five years.
      Sen. Bill Stanley said the Tobacco Commission was happy to support the work Bassett is doing to provide jobs on the Southside.
Danville City Manager offers $288 million budget:
(Danville, Va.) – The budget offered by Danville City Manager Ken Larking Tuesday includes a 15 cent hike in the real estate tax rate, from 73 cents per $100 valuation to 88 cents. The blueprint also recommends a one percent increase in the meals tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. Utility rates would be unchanged.
      The proposed budget for 2018 is $288 million, about $15.2 million more than the current $273.2 million budget.
    The additional money would be earmarked for crime reduction, public schools and city growth.
       The budget blueprint also calls for an average 2-percent pay-for-performance raise for employees and major increases in costs for employee health insurance, retirement contributions due to new formulas associated with increased life expectancy and medical supplies for inmates at the Danville Jail.
      Larking is proposing an additional $1.6 million for schools, to $20.6 million. The budget proposes another $2.5 million for crime prevention, with $200,000 in additional money for projects to help grow the city.
     The final budget must be adopted by June 30.

Pick-up overturns in creek in Halifax:
(Halifax, Va.) – A truck landed upside down in a creek following a single-vehicle accident in Halifax Tuesday afternoon.
      The driver was taken by ambulance to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital. His name and condition were not available.
      The driver was traveling north on Halifax Road in a Chevrolet pick-up truck about 3 p.m. when he ran off the right side of the road and through the guardrail. The vehicle continued off an embankment, overturning in Toots Creek. The driver was able to break out one of the truck’s windows and had crawled out of the driver’s seat by the time rescue workers reached the scene.
     The cause of the accident is unknown.

Chatham jury recommends 7 life sentences following rape convictions:
(Chatham, Va.) – A Chatham jury has recommended that an Altavista man serve seven life terms for rape convictions.
      The Danville Register and Bee reports that 42-year-old Floyd Oliver Hunt Jr. was convicted of seven felonies, at the conclusion of his two-day trial in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court. The panel found Hunt guilty of three counts of rape, two counts of forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration and abduction with intent to defile.
      The victim was raped repeatedly after Hunt forced his way into a home on Gritt Road in Hurt on October 6th of last year.
      The victim told investigators Hunt bloodied her nose and threatened to kill her.
      The panel did not accept Hunt’s claims that the acts were consensual.

Lawsuit filed to keep Lee statue in Charlottesville:
(Charlottesville, Va.) (AP) - Several pro-monuments groups are filing a lawsuit against Charlottesville and its City Council in order to prevent the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from downtown.
       The Monument Fund, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and about a dozen private citizens announced the lawsuit Monday.
      The council voted 3-2 last month to remove the Lee statue out of Lee Park.
      The plaintiffs argue that the city violated a state law that protects war memorials and violated the terms of the deed in which donor Paul Goodloe McIntire granted the memorial to the city. The lawsuit will seek a temporary injunction to "freeze the status quo" in Lee and Jackson parks.
      City Attorney Craig Brown says he hasn't yet discussed with councilors whether they will attempt to prevent the temporary injunction.
Full appeals court to hear challenge to prayers at meetings:
(Richmond, Va.) (AP) -- A federal appeals court is taking another look at a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina county commission's practice of opening meetings with Christian prayer.
      The full 15-judge bench of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Rowan County prayer case on Wednesday.
      The American Civil Liberties Union sued the commission on behalf of three people who said the commission's practice of starting meetings with prayers that almost always referred to Christianity was coercive and discriminatory.
      A divided three-judge panel of the Richmond, Virginia-based court ruled last year that the practice was constitutional as long as commissioners don't pressure others to participate.
      That ruling reversed a lower court decision siding with the ACLU. That ruling is on hold until the full court weighs in.

Reidsville man charged in Ruffin home invasion:
(Reidsville, N.C.) -- A Reidsville man has been charged with cutting an elderly, wheelchair-bound man’s throat in a home invasion.
     29-year-old Andy Wayne Wilson is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, first-degree burglary and larceny of a motor vehicle.
     The Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office says Wilson knocked on a door of a Ruffin home around 8:30 Sunday night and told a couple he ran out of gas, then forced his way inside.
      Wilson demanded cash and slashed the man’s throat with an "edged weapon." He allegedly struck the victim’s wife in the face, stole her purse, and stole the victims' 2003 white Ford Windstar.
     The 78-year-old victim was treated at the hospital for serious injuries.
     Deputies found the stolen van on Guerrant Springs Road. After a brief chase, the driver turned into a large field and stopped at the wood line. He fled into the woods. Wilson was found by a K-9 unit, lying down in a creek.
     He was jailed with bail set at $250,000 on the home invasion charges, and $3,500 on outstanding warrants.

Martinsville shooter sought:
(Martinsville, Va.) -- Martinsville Police are looking for a shooting suspect described as “armed and dangerous.”
      Authorities say 20-year-old Malik Devantae Manns of Henry County shot a man March 13 in the 200 block of Moss Street in Martinsville.
     The victim suffered a single, non-life threatening gunshot wound to the torso.
     Manns is wanted for malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and discharging a firearm in a public place causing injury.
     Manns is a black male with dreadlocks. He’s 5'10," and weighs approximately 160 pounds.
Woman rescued from Dan River:
(Danville, Va.) – Danville Police rescued a woman and her dog from the Dan River Monday afternoon.
       Police say the woman was walking her bird dog along the Riverwalk Trail near the Danville Family YMCA when the dog went after some ducks and jumped into the river, pulling his owner in along with him. Both were swept downstream by the current.
     Police and members of the Danville Life Saving Crew members go the call about 1:45 and were able to pull the woman and the dog to safety.
      The dog was not injured and the woman was taken to Danville Regional Medical Center for observation.

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