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Second arrest made in burglary of business

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Benjamin Lee BrownBenjamin Lee BrownLaw enforcement has arrested another suspect in the burglary of a business last week that left one suspect dead.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 8, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting in the 10200 block of U.S. Highway 190 West in Livingston.

At that time, it was believed that the owner of a business confronted three suspects who were burglarizing the business. Joshua Read, 37, of Houston was fatally shot by the property owner. 

On Dec. 14, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office filed additional criminal charges in connection with that burglary. Detectives identified the other suspect as Benjamin Lee Brown, 31, of Conroe.

Detectives obtained a warrant on Brown for burglary of a building and he was subsequently arrested with the help of the Conroe Police Department Narcotics Division. 

Brown is also being held on unrelated charges out of Louisiana. Additional charges in the incident on Highway 190 are being considered by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and district attorney’s office, pending completion of the investigation.

At this time, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is not looking for additional suspects in this case. They request that those with information contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at 936-327-6810.

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Tribe files brief before U.S. Supreme Court

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Naskila Gaming Logo 140From Enterprise Staff

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas filed a brief late last week in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that would directly impact the viability of 700 jobs and the overall health of the East Texas economy.

The tribe filed an amicus brief in the case that Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Pueblo), a federally recognized tribe in El Paso, has brought against the State of Texas. The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case from Pueblo, which is seeking to overturn a 1994 ruling that the state has long used to try to close electronic bingo facilities operated by Pueblo and the tribe.

The Fifth Circuit ruled in 1994 that the State of Texas can stop the two tribes from offering electronic bingo on their reservations. The Pueblo case asks the Supreme Court to overrule that 1994 decision because bingo is otherwise permitted in the state.

By filing an amicus brief, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is formally registering its support for Pueblo’s case. In the brief, the tribe argues that the state does not have the authority to regulate bingo on the tribe’s reservation, and that the Fifth Circuit has misinterpreted the Restoration Act of 1987—the federal law that restored formal federal recognition to the tribes in Livingston and El Paso.

The 1994 decision “did not concern gaming activities that Texas permits and regulates (like bingo), nor did it purport to construe the Restoration Act to that end. At the time, everyone—including Texas—believed the Restoration Act barred Texas from enforcing its regulatory jurisdiction over on-reservation gaming activities that Texas allows, like bingo.”

In addition to the tribe, the National Indian Gaming Association, the National Congress of American Indians and the United South and Eastern Tribes filed amicus briefs in support of the Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe.

Naskila Gaming, the electronic bingo facility operated on the tribe’s reservation near Livingston, is the second-largest employer in Polk County and directly or indirectly responsible for 700 jobs. For years, the state’s effort to close Naskila Gaming through litigation has put those jobs in peril.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to hear this case has given us hope that the state’s effort to put our employees out of work will finally end,” Nita Battise, Chairperson of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ Tribal Council, said. “This case is vitally important to our tribe. Hundreds of jobs are at stake, as well as our long-term future and sustainability as a tribe.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the appeal is one of several encouraging developments for the tribe in recent months.

In a separate case in August 2021, the U.S. District Court in Beaumont ruled that the tribe may legally operate Naskila Gaming, saying such gaming is permissible under the tribe’s 1987 Restoration Act. The state has appealed and the matter is stayed pending the Supreme Court’s decision in the Pueblo case.

Also, earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2208 with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill would clarify that the tribe and Pueblo can offer electronic bingo under separate federal legislation—the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The legislation has not been acted upon in the U.S. Senate.

Importantly, 80 civic, business and community groups have approved resolutions voicing their support for Naskila Gaming to offer electronic bingo.

“We have strong community backing, we have bipartisan support in Washington and we have a very sound legal argument on our side,” Chairperson Battise said. “Still, our future hangs in the balance. The decisions made by Congress and the Supreme Court in this matter will make an impact that will be felt throughout East Texas.”




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New construction planned on 190 East of Livingston

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Nw Highway Construction 450A pre-construction meeting was held Thursday in the Livingston Area Office of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), signaling the beginning of a new construction project that will impact traffic in the coming months.

Crews are scheduled to begin work Jan. 3 on U.S. 190 East, from the Livingston city limits to 4 miles west of FM 1276. Work will include intersection improvements with the addition of a right/left turn lane. Barricades will be set before the end of December warning motorists of pending construction.

Vulcan Materials Asphalt and Construction LLC of Conroe will serve as contractor for the $27.5 million construction project that is set to be completed in April 2025, weather permitting. As this work begins, motorists are urged to reduce speed and obey all traffic control in the area.

“This is a highly traveled section of U.S. 190,” TxDOT Public Information Officer Rhonda Oaks said. “This project will end just east of Greet Road, which is approximately 6.3 miles west of the main entrance to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation and Naskila Gaming. Motorists should prepare to slow down and allow for extra time through this work zone.”

Motorists can expect intermittent lane closures as work progresses. Be prepared to stop and stay alert for moving equipment and workers through this work zone. The construction project was approved by Texas Transportation Commissioners earlier this year and was designed to enhance safety.

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Burglar shot, killed

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Shooting GraphicAn apparent burglary of a business Wednesday morning has left one dead and two others at large. 

In the early morning hours of Dec. 8, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting in the 10200 block of U.S. Highway 190 West in Livingston.

Deputies and detectives arrived and located the property owner and a deceased male subject on the property. 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives spent most of the day processing the scene to determine what had occurred between the property owner and the deceased. 

The deceased, 37-year-old Joshua Read, of Houston, was fatally shot by the property owner. The property owner confronted three subjects who were burglarizing his business. The other two remain at large. There are few details of the two subjects who fled the scene, with one possibly Hispanic and the other described as wearing a white jacket.

At this time, details of the incident still remain under investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

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Four arrested on drug charges

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four arrested on drug chargesTwo law enforcement agencies contributed to an investigation that led to the arrest of four individuals for charges that included drugs, weapons and stolen property last week on the south end of Polk County.

On Dec. 1, the narcotics division of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Liberty County Sheriff’s Office began looking into tips received in reference to the possession of illegal narcotics, at an address located in the 300 block of Swick Trail in Big Thicket Lake Estates.

Investigators from both agencies arrived at the residence, making contact with Levi Eugene Weatherford, 41, Thomas Clint McKelvey, 44, and Lori Ann Howe, 40, all of Livingston, and Blake Allen McCreight, 17, of Cleveland. 

The investigation led to law enforcement obtaining a search warrant for the property, where a large amount of methamphetamine and over 35 firearms was seized. After further investigation, numerous items of stolen property were also recovered. All subjects were subsequently arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail without incident. 

Weatherford was charged with a first-degree felony of manufacture/delivery of methamphetamine and two charges of prohibited weapon, a third-degree felony. Howe had the same charges, along with a third-degree felony of unlawful possession of a firearm by felon and second-degree felony of unlawful carrying of a weapon by a felon. 

McKelvey was charged with a third-degree felony of possession of methamphetamine and had a pardon and parole warrant. McCreight’s charge was a state-jail felony of possession of methamphetamine.

All charges have been filed in Polk County. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division is actively attempting to locate and identify owners of the recovered stolen property. 

Those with information on cases in Polk County are asked to submit a tip at p3tips.com, (the P3 App), or call Polk County Crime Stoppers at 936-327-STOP. Tipsters can remain anonymous and may collect a cash reward for information leading to an arrest. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division may also be contacted directly to speak with a detective at 936-327-6810.

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