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Law enforcement seeks suspected ATM thieves

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KODAK Digital Still Camera     PHOTO COURTESY OF SAN JACINTO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE The entrance to the Timewise convenience store was damaged Feb. 23 after a group of men rammed it with a pickup truck in order to steal the ATM inside.

By Tony Farkas

SHEPHERD — San Jacinto County law enforcement officers are seeking the identification of a group of men believed responsible for the Feb. 23 break-in at the Timewise Convenience Store near Shepherd.

According to Detective Gary Sharpen of the SJ County Sheriff’s Office, police received a 911 call at about 4:30 a.m. Feb. 23 at the store, which is located at 4700 US 59.

Records show the clerk inside, who was not named, noticed a pickup truck that contained several African American males with hoodies, who then sped up and backed into the store, striking the ATM machine.

“There were five to six black males wearing masks and gloves, and not wearing COVID masks,” he said. “They knew what they were doing — they had planned this out. This wasn’t something spur of the moment.”

Sharpen said the clerk held their hands up throughout the robbery.

The suspects loaded the ATM into the truck, which was identified as a stolen Dodge Ram 1500, and took off, heading into the town of Shepherd on Pine Street, reports indicate.

Sharpen said a witness observed a bunch of debris on the roadway, and saw the pickup in the ditch, which apparently had crashed during its getaway. The witness saw males running around the vehicle, looking confused; however, the suspects had another car with them — a small dark colored 4-door vehicle — which picked up the suspects and fled the scene.

The pickup truck, as well as several sets of gloves and masks, were recovered and are being processed for evidence. Additionally, the ATM was left in the back of the truck, and was recovered and turned over to the company that owns the ATM.

Sharpen said the investigation is continuing, and anyone with information can call the Sheriff’s Office at (936) 653-4367 or the Multi-county Crime Stoppers at (936) 539-7867.

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Severe storm leaves lingering cold temperature and questions

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022521 weather 2PHOTOS COURTESY OF FRITZ FAULKNER San Jacinto County Commissioner Laddie McAnally, County Judge Fritz Faulkner, and Brandon McClendon and Mike Flynn unload pallets of drinking water to be distributed throughout the county to those affected by Winter Storm Uri.

By Tony Farkas

San Jacinto County Judge Fritz Faulkner can’t really remember a time that winter was this bad.

“It’s the worst winter weather I’ve seen in my life,” he said.

However, Faulkner said the communities in the county pulled together nicely to get through it.

“We opened up a warming center, but we didn’t have a lot of response to it, got about 14 out of the cold,” he said. “Most people prefer to stay home. The roads were in terrible shape because the highway department was overwhelmed.”

Faulkner said the power companies did an outstanding job getting power restored as well, and as of Friday, all the county now has power.

“Everyone is now at the stage of putting their water pipes back together,” he said. “In anticipation of that, I ordered a couple of truckloads of water from the state to pass out, divided between the four commissioner precincts.”

Faulker said that food pantries were delivering food Friday and Saturday to people that needed it.

Cassie Gregory, public information officer for Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD, said the district was not impacted by the weather, as it was taking the winter break.

However, Shepherd ISD did close for the week, for weather and because the city of Shepherd issued a boil water notice in response to the storm.

In a news release, Entergy Texas expected all customers who can safely take power were able to turn the lights on by the end of the business day on Friday.

At the state level, Gov. Greg Abbott, after issuing an emergency declaration for all Texas counties on Feb. 14, on Saturday announced that President Joe Biden approved a partial emergency declaration for Texas.

San Jacinto County is among the 77 counties that will be eligible to receive federal aid.

Additionally, Abbott temporarily waived regulations from the Department of Motor Vehicles to aid in the response to winter weather and power outages throughout the state.

These waivers allowed commercial vehicles to travel in Texas as long as the vehicle is registered elsewhere and doing emergency response.

These waivers are helping increase the delivery of water, food, and other supplies to Texas communities dealing with power and water outages.

“As we continue to bring power and water back online throughout the state, it is essential that we deliver the food, water, and supplies that Texans need during these challenging times,” Abbott said. “These waivers will help us provide more of these vital resources to communities across the state and ensure that Texas families have the supplies they need to stay safe as we work to overcome this emergency.”

Since the Legislature is in session this year, Abbott added a mandate for the winterization of Texas' power system to the list of emergency items the state must tackle. 

Abbott also requested a Major Disaster Declaration — which includes Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program — from the White House. This declaration will allow eligible Texans to apply for assistance to help address broken pipes and related property damage.

The state is also working to distribute food, water, generators, and additional supplies to Texas communities, and warming centers are established every day. For winter weather resources, including a map of warming centers and ways to help Texans in need, visit: https://open.texas.gov/winter

Expressing concern about financial challenges Texans will face as a result of the winter storm, Abbott will address the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market.

The meeting include committee leaders, including Sen. Robert Nichols, who represents San Jacinto County.

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees public utilities, prioritized natural gas deliveries for human needs with an emergency order on Feb. 12, and recently extended it through Tuesday.

This action helps ensure the availability of gas supplies to gas-fired generation facilities in Texas during this critical period. The Commission took this action to help protect public health and safety during this extreme weather event.

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Round Two - Winter storm dumps snow on area (GALLERY)

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SanJacSnowFeb2021 7COURTESY PHOTO Frozen Texas yard ornament.

News-Times staff

The area has been hit with record low temperatures and uncharacteristic snowfall, and San Jacinto County came to a standstill on Monday.

Schools have been closed at least through Tuesday; roads have been closed, and electric utilities have been forced to start rolling blackouts to stave off a larger blackout because of the huge demand put on the electric grid.

The possibility of a second winter storm bearing down on the region exists as well.

According to The Weather Channel, Winter Storm Uri spread brought heavy snow and damaging ice to parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast. Winter Storm Viola has already begun in the West and will be right behind #Uri, bringing significant snowfall totals to many across the country this week. It is expected to bring snow to many of the same locations currently being hit by Uri.

Area road closures include:

•Highway 190 Trinity River Bridge shut down

•Highway 59 Trinity River Bridge heavy ice over roadway

•FM 223 to Stringtown Road heavy ice over road

•FM 1514 Heavy ice over the roadway

•FM 1725 heavy ice

•East Fork San Jacinto River Bridge on FM 495 heavy ice

•FM 2025/FM 2666 to Highway 150 iced over

•FM 946 South and Highway 156 iced over.

According to the San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management, the low may lead to burst pipes, ruptured water mains and other serious damage to infrastructure.

Snow and ice that accumulates will stick around until at least mid-week with temperatures remaining below freezing for extended period of time. More wintry precipitation may fall with another system behind the current one.

TxDOT is encouraging motorists from traveling across the nine-county Lufkin District during the winter weather.

As of Monday, the Lufkin District currently had 170 employees working 12-hour shifts to monitor and address trouble spots as they arise, utilizing more than 125 pieces of equipment. Pre-treatment of roadways began on Friday.

“We want people to be aware that driving surfaces will freeze and we are doing all we can to prepare the roadways, but even with a brine mixture, if we experience the low temperatures they have predicted, roads will still freeze,” said Rhonda Oaks, public information officer. “I don’t think there is enough manpower to cover the more than 7,000 road miles in the Lufkin District with a brine mixture but we are doing our best. We have focused our attention on major roadways, state highways and farm roads, but we should remember that Mother Nature is and will always be undefeated. It is up to us to prepare our homes, our families and ourselves to stay safe.”

Crews will re-treat all major roadways as needed if conditions continue to decline, since additional moisture will re-freeze road surfaces after the initial downfall of snow and ice.

“Pre-treatment with a brine solution can reduce the temperature at which water freezes and assists with reducing the bond of ice to the roadway, but it does not guarantee that ice will not form,” Oaks said. “There will be patches of ice on local roads, even on roads that have been treated. If you must drive, motorists should reduce speed and stay alert. But because this is an unprecedented weather event, TxDOT is urging drivers to stay home and travel only if absolutely necessary.”

Visit drivetexas.org (or call 800-452-9292) for real time road conditions/closures or call 911 if you find yourself stranded or facing an emergency. For more information, call This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (936) 633-4395.

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Coldspring students excel at Black History Month projects

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003 COHS law enforcement studentsPHOTO BY CASSIE GREGORY Capt. Kim Webb's law enforcement students in front of their Black History Month project displays. Shown are (back row, from left) Adrienne Steede, I'Kra Bryd, Kynadee Benestante, Stephen Torres, Stormie Payne and Brandon Harris; and (front row, from left) Luckie Poppenhusen, Natalynn Ramirez and Webb.

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — February's Black History Month offers the Coldspring-Shepherd CISD a special opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to the nation and the world.

LJH students created bulletin boards featuring profiles of prominent African Americans throughout history in many different fields, including education and invention.

Students in B.K. Harrison's education classes conducted research and created two displays; the Child Guidance students, including Ann Bennett, Abigail Casy, Triniti William and Ashlee Trujillo, created an African American Educators bulletin board; and the Education and Training Practicum students, including Paige Barton, Kandis Martinez, Lila Stevens and Brianna Warren, created an African American Inventors board.

Students studying law enforcement under COCISD Police Capt. Kim Webb did a display on law enforcement professionals.

"To celebrate Black History Month the students wanted to go back in time and research some pioneering and inspirational events of African American officers,” Webb said. “Our class found several who have held key criminal justice positions and influenced progressive law enforcement activities.”

Student Stormie Payne said she enjoyed learning about Georgia Ann Robinson, the first Black female police officer to work for the Los Angeles Police Department, and may have been the first Black female LEO in the country.

Robinson started out as a volunteer before becoming a full-fledged officer when she was hired as a jail matron in 1919. She also worked as an investigator in juvenile and homicide cases and set up a much-needed women’s shelter in the city during her time as a cop, Payne said.

“These are individuals who paved the way during a difficult era for law enforcement and Black Americans,” Payne said. “These stories of unwavering dedication to policing serve as strong examples all LEOs can aspire to. (Robinson) had an obvious passion to help her fellow citizens.”

Black History Month began as the brainchild of Dr. Carter G. Woodson after he participated in the national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves. While there, he witnessed thousands of African Americans gathered to view exhibits showcasing the accomplishments and progress their people had made since the abolishment of slavery.

Woodson had the idea to create an organization specifically for the scientific study of Black life and history. He and four others formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or the ASALH) on Sept. 9, 1915. Eleven years later, Woodson announced "Negro History Week" in February of 1926.

Eager for the movement to gain ground, Woodson chose the month of February for Negro History Week because it coincided with celebrations already held in many African American communities to celebrate the births of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. His aim wasn't just to include it in the traditional celebrations, but to encourage these communities to use the opportunity to extend their study of Black history in general.

His goal was to change the focus of the celebrations from only two men to the greater view of the multitudes of African American men and women who had impacted history and humanity. His ultimate intention was for the study and celebration of Black history to continue not just for a week, but throughout the year.

Beginning in the 1940s, African Americans in West Virginia began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. By the late 1960s, African American college students led the charge to replace the name "Negro History" with "Black History" and to extend it to a month-long event.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued the first Black History Month proclamation. Since then, the celebration has grown to include similar observances in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands, though not always in February.

The study of Black History should not be relegated to one specific month, but should be studied year-round. It helps to teach people about the African American experience beyond stereotypes. Learning more about Black History and the unique struggles faced and overcome by African Americans, both in the past and in the present, is the bridge to understanding. Understanding is the bridge to a better future.

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Funds needed for scholarships

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chamber logochamber logo

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring Chamber of Commerce will again host its annual Best of Coldspring scholarship banquet, and some help is needed.

In 2020, the chamber gave $2,800 in scholarships to the graduating seniors of Coldspring through donations alone.

This year, the chamber again will host a silent auction, as well as seek donations from area businesses and chamber members.

Office Manager Mindy Blankemeyer said the chamber needs donations of auction items.

“We are now accepting donations from our members to auction off to help give more to our graduates than ever before,” she said. “We do have seven items that were donated last year and we were unable to auction those, so they will be added to this year's.”

Blankemeyer also said that since many residents are still leery about gathering in groups, the silent auction will be held online at coldspringtexas.org. She or Board Member Christina Mallet, chairperson for the banquet, are available to pick up donations.

She also said that those interested in giving a monetary donation can fill out a form and drop it by the chamber. Three levels are available: Gold ($1,000), Silver ($500) or Bronze ($250).

Deadline for donations is March 5.

The banquet is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, March 13.

For information, contact the chamber at (936) 653-2184.

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