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TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2007
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Pepper spray used after suicide call

ATHENS — Officers came face to face with a shotgun Sunday night after responding to an attempted suicide call and brought the gunman under control by pepper-spraying him, Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce said.

Officer Perry Gooch and Sgt. Jason White received a call that Billie James Bates, 34, of 607 First Ave., planned to shoot himself, Bruce said. When they arrived at his home, the man’s ex-wife was trying to restrain him, Bruce said.

Gooch was able to get the shotgun from Bates, he said, but when White placed one handcuff on him, Bates allegedly became combative. During the struggle, the officers sprayed Bates and arrested him.

He is out of the Limestone County Jail on $6,000 bond, charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest.

Bruce said he did not know why Bates wanted to harm himself.

- Holly Hollman

Busy week looms in Legislature

MONTGOMERY — The Legislature convenes for a three-day week Tuesday with committee meetings and House and Senate session each day.

Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said he expects the House to take up the education budget toward the end of the week.

House General Fund Appropriations Committee members and Chairman Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, are at work on the budget for all other state agencies.

Awaiting the Senate is a bill that sets up the Alabama Economic Incentive Enhancement Act of 2007. Generally termed the “steel plant bill,” the measure, which, passed the House April 26, sets up the financial incentives believed needed to lure German steel manufacturer ThyssenKrupp to the Mobile area.

- M.J. Ellington

Hartselle students place in toy contest

HARTSELLE — The sixth-grade team from Hartselle Junior High finished third overall in the TOYchallenge 2007 national competition in California.

Caitlin Beard, Robyn Gross and Nikki Harris won medals for the game they designed, which teaches middle- and high-school students how to budget.

They were second place in their division.

The competition was at the San Diego Air and Space Museum last month.

- Deangelo McDaniel

Officials investigate inmate’s death

MOULTON — Officials are trying to determine why an inmate at the Lawrence County Jail died suddenly Saturday morning.

Town Creek police arrested Mitchell Vinson Harper, 45, of Town Creek, on misdemeanor charges April 24. He remained in jail until he died Saturday at about 9 a.m.

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said no one knows at this time what caused his death.

“He didn’t fall, and nobody hit him. He was OK, and a few minutes later, he wasn’t,” said Mitchell. “There wasn’t any kind of altercation or anything like that.”

Authorities transported Harper’s body to an Alabama forensic lab for an autopsy.

- Kristen Bishop

2 arrested when robbery goes awry

ATHENS — An uncooperative clerk and broken-down car foiled a robbery attempt by two Athens men Saturday, Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce said.

Bruce identified the men as Andrew C. Hopkins, 20, of 514 N. Madison St., and Alan Lee Pugh, 20, of 507 Seventh Ave.

Bruce said Hopkins allegedly entered Bob’s Quick Mart at Brownsferry and Lucas Ferry streets at 9 p.m. with a white T-shirt tied around his face with holes cut in it for his eyes. The clerk was putting drinks in the cooler, Bruce said, when Hopkins allegedly said, “I don’t want to hurt you. I just need the money.”

The clerk told him he wasn’t handing over anything and went to the counter to call police. Hopkins allegedly ordered him to “not push any buttons” and open the register. The clerk refused and picked up the phone. Bruce said Hopkins ran to the car where Pugh allegedly was waiting, but the car wouldn’t start.

The two ran away, but officers Wesley Jarrett and Randy Vickers caught them and charged them with third-degree robbery.

The clerk didn’t know whether Hopkins had a weapon, Bruce said. Turns out the duo didn’t.

They were in the Limestone County Jail on $5,000 bond, each.

- Holly Hollman

Decatur police probe shooting

A witness found a shooting victim in his car on the roadside early Saturday, Decatur police said.

William Higgins, 26, of Decatur suffered a single, non-life-threatening wound to his thigh, police said in a report released Monday.

The witness told officers she found Higgins sitting in his car on the side of Seventh Avenue Northwest, bleeding, according to the report.

The witness offered to take Higgins to the hospital but he insisted on driving himself. Police arrived at Decatur General Hospital to find Higgins unconscious. When he awoke, he was unable to say how he was attacked or by whom, according to the report.

Detectives found a bullet hole and a bullet lodged in the driver side door of Higgins’s car.

- Seth Burkett

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