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Conservationists, Texas Department of Transportation Announce Public Meeting on Big Thicket Protections

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BEAUMONT, Texas -- Today, a coalition of local, state and national conservation groups including the National Parks Conservation Association, Big Thicket Association, Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, The Big Thicket Biosphere Reserve and Texas Conservation Alliance, are proud to announce a public meeting with the Texas Department of Transportation regarding protections for the Big Thicket National Preserve Parkway amid highway expansion.

For months, Big Thicket advocates have participated in productive conversations with the Texas Department of Transportation on how to limit the impacts of highway expansion adjacent to this national park site, surrounding communities and along the scenic Big Thicket National Preserve Parkway which thousands of park visitors and community members use every year.

We are encouraged by our progress and TxDOT’s willingness to make changes. TxDOT agreed to hold a public meeting to inform communities of potential positive changes to the highway expansion plan and listen to concerns and receive comments.

TxDOT will speak on new changes to the US 69 Gateway to the Big Thicket Project, such as decreases in tree removal acreage and minimized impacts of highway expansion, including planting native plants in areas where tree removal is necessary.

Earlier this year, TxDOT officials in Beaumont revealed plans to remove up to more than an additional one hundred acres of trees along the Big Thicket National Preserve Parkway (part of US Highway 69). This was a significant departure from previous versions of the highway expansion, alarming conservationists and community members who were not consulted on the decision. The changes, made to improve road safety for motorists, would have substantial impacts to the area.

Now, thanks to the advocacy of friends and neighbors in the Thicket, TxDOT has had an opportunity to work with conservationists to improve the plans. The National Parks Conservation Association and partners look forward to robust community engagement at the following meeting:

September 26th at 5:30PM

Hardin County Courthouse

300 West Monroe Street Kountze, Texas

Statement of Erika Pelletier, Texas Associate Director for the National Parks Conservation Association:

 Texans show up for their national parks and communities. This promising news from TxDOT is a testament to the grit and fortitude of advocates and neighbors who raised their voices for the national park site in their backyard, Big Thicket National Preserve.

“We are encouraged by our conversations with leaders at the Texas Department of Transportation and we are grateful for their perspective. We know that their number one priority is creating a safer Big Thicket region for all and we share that vision. We know there is still so much more work to be done, and we encourage anyone with concerns about the project to bring them to this public meeting. No concern is too small.

“There is only one Big Thicket, but our one Big Thicket is so many things to so many people. It’s a biological crossroads, a natural wonder of the world. It’s a scenic drive, a hiker’s paradise, and a local jewel that friends and neighbors have worked to protect for generations. If we want the next generation to enjoy this national park site just as much as we have, we have to keep showing up for the Thicket every single time.”

 Statement of Ellen Buchanan, President of Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust:

 “We are thankful for citizens who appreciate the Big Thicket and the rural character, nature, and biodiversity of our region and who spoke up to protect these resources. We are equally thankful for Congressman Babin, Senator Nichols, Representative Bailes and Representative Ashby for listening to us and bringing us to the table with TxDOT. We look forward to a productive relationship with TxDOT to highlight and protect our Big Thicket resources while providing safe roadways for the public.

Statement of Mary Bernard, Executive Director, Big Thicket Biosphere Reserve:

 “For years, our coalition of Southeast Texas conservationists and volunteers have urged the Texas Department of Transportation not to clearcut miles of trees along the Big Thicket National Preserve Parkway in the name of highway expansion. The state agency’s recent announcement that they would reduce the number of trees chopped down and plant native grasses in the project area gives us hope for the future of the Big Thicket. The Biosphere looks forward to seeing more affirmative steps towards conserving this invaluable natural resource as project planning continues.”

 Statement of Diane Thompson, Executive Director, Big Thicket Association:

Big Thicket Association is pleased with the cooperation from TxDOT to save the trees on Highway 69, plant native plants where tree removal is necessary, and to finally hold a public meeting to review changes and hear the public’s comments on this project. We look forward with great anticipation to this upcoming public meeting.

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Officer shot during incident - Suspect killed

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Investigators from multiple agencies worked the area where the shootings occurred on Sunday morning.  DONNA HAMMER | TCBInvestigators from multiple agencies worked the area where the shootings occurred on Sunday morning. DONNA HAMMER | TCB

By Chris Edwards
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WOODVILLE – An officer with the Woodville Police Department was shot and wounded during an incident that occurred on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 17.

According to Woodville Chief of Police Mike McCulley, officer Troy Costello was shot by a suspect, identified as 41-year-old Reginal “Reggie” Owens, of Hemphill, who was later shot and killed by officer following a pursuit. Costello responded to a call on the 200 block of Shivers Drive in reference to a suspicious male subject causing a disturbance.

When Costello attempted to make contact with the male subject, whom he observed in a white pickup truck parked on the street, the man ignored his verbal commands to stop and drove away.

According to McCulley, Costello pursued the vehicle for several blocks down Shivers and onto MLK Drive, and radioed for assistance, while in pursuit, before blocking the subject into a private driveway.

The suspect, Owens, continued to evade by driving in reverse, and when Costello was finally able to approach the driver side of the vehicle, he was shot, and the suspect left the scene.

When the suspect’s vehicle was reported to be back at the Shivers location a while later, deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office arrived to assist. Some witnesses observed Owens flee, on foot, into a wooded area south of Shivers Drive, and several TCSO deputies and Woodville PD officers set up a search perimeter. McCulley said that at approximately 8:24 a.m., deputies saw the suspect exit the wooded area, with a handgun in his waistband. The deputies ordered him to stop and lie down, with arms extended, which he ignored.

“The suspect was non-compliant and hostile toward the officers, and made an aggressive movement toward the handgun,” McCulley said.

Multiple officers fired on the suspect, and he was pronounced dead at the scene by Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Tina Self.

Costello, a five-year veteran of the Woodville PD, was airlifted to a Houston area hospital where he has been undergoing surgeries. According to a public social media update from his wife, the bullet missed his spine and “every vital structure,” but hit his jaw and got stuck within the soft tissues of his neck.

The Texas Rangers are currently investigating both of the shootings. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, three TCSO deputies were involved in trying to apprehend Owens, and are currently on administrative leave, which is standard procedure following an officer-involved shooting.

In the wake of the events of Sunday morning, an outpouring of public support has blanketed the city of Woodville for Costello and the Woodville PD. Support for Costello on social media channels has also been strong, with many Facebook users in the area changing their profile avatars to an image of Costello’s badge number (389), or of an image with a blue line calling on the public to pray for him.

“Our department asks the public to keep Officer Costello and his family in your prayers,” McCulley said.

At press time, donations were being collected for Costello and his family, and we will have more information on how the public can help, as well as any updates via the Booster Facebook page and through East Texas News dot com.

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Teenager dies after incident at store

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By Chris Edwards
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WARREN – An incident at a convenience store in Warren ended tragically last Friday, according to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford.

Weatherford said that a call came in that afternoon, at approximately 3:40 p.m., from 911, requesting EMS for an unresponsive individual at the Exxpress Mart. The individual was already being administered CPR, and responders from the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, Allegiance Ambulance, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Warren ISD police officers responded to the scene.

The individual, a 16-year-old male, was transported via ambulance to Tyler County Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased by Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Ken Jobe.

Jobe ordered an autopsy on the boy, which will be conducted in Beaumont. TCSO is not releasing the name of the deceased, due to juvenile status.

Weatherford said that deputies spoke with several on-scene witnesses and discovered a small amount of marijuana on a 21-year-old subject, Devon Yeagin, of Warren. He was taken into custody and transported to the Tyler County Jail, charged with possession of marijuana. Jobe set Yeagin’s bond at $1,000, and Weatherford said that the marijuana confiscated from Yeagin will be sent to a DPS testing lab for a complete analysis. Yeagin has since bonded out of jail, records show.

The deceased juvenile was a student at Warren High School, and on Monday, the school district released a statement concerning his death.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share the devastating news of the loss of one of our own students. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to the young man’s family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Warren ISD referred to him as one whose “presence brought joy and warmth to our halls.”

The district noted that it will have counselors and pastors available throughout its campuses to provide grief counseling.

Weatherford said that as the investigation into the death continues, the investigators will collect evidence, and are awaiting autopsy results. Also, TCSO is working closely with Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin on the investigation, Weatherford said.

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Three from 10 Most Wanted back in custody

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ThreeMostWanted TCB

Special to the Booster

AUSTIN – Three of Texas’ 10 Most Wanted offenders are back in custody following their recent arrests. Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offender Shane Burleigh was arrested August 18. Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives Terran Green and Daniel Noble were each arrested August 17. A Texas Crime Stoppers reward will not be paid in any of the arrests.

Shane Brett Burleigh, 49, was arrested in Bloomington, Ind. by members of the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force with coordination from the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force in Waco, including Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Special Agents. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (Indiana) assisted in the multi-agency fugitive investigation. In 2003, Burleigh was convicted in Indiana of indecency with a child by sexual contact following an incident with a 14-year-old girl. Burleigh also has a history of failing to register as a sex offender and has been convicted multiple times for battery resulting in bodily injury.

Burleigh had been wanted since February 2023, when the Texas DPS Criminal Investigations Division in Waco issued a warrant for his arrest for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements. The following month, an additional warrant for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements was issued out of McLennan County. For more information, view Burleigh’s captured bulletin.

Terran Dorval Green, 34, was arrested in Humble by members of the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Fugitive Task Force, including Texas DPS Special Agents. Multiple local, county, state and federal agencies assisted in the fugitive investigation. Green is identified as the suspect in the shooting of a Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy that prompted a Blue Alert on Aug. 16, 2023.

Green had been wanted since March 2023, when multiple warrants were issued out of Hays County for his arrest including unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, carrying a prohibited weapon, unlawful use of a criminal instrument, theft of property, theft of a firearm and criminal mischief. In June 2023, a warrant was also issued out of Harris County for his arrest for aggravated assault of a family member with a firearm. For more information, view Green’s captured bulletin.

Daniel Ryan Noble, 40, was arrested in Lexington, Ky. by members of the U.S. Marshals Central Kentucky Fugitive Task Force with coordination from the U.S. Marshals Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force in Beaumont. Texas DPS Special Agents assisted in the multi-agency fugitive investigation. In April 2022, Noble was arrested by the Groves Police Department and charged with indecency with a child by sexual contact. He subsequently bonded out.

Noble had been wanted since February 2023, when warrants were issued out of Jefferson County for his arrest for four counts of sexual assault of a child, one count of indecency with a child and one count of driving while intoxicated. For more information, view Noble’s captured bulletin.

Texas Crime Stoppers, which the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division funds, offers cash rewards to any person who provides information that leads to the arrest of one of Texas’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives or Sex Offenders. So far in 2023, DPS and other agencies have arrested 29 Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and Sex Offenders. In addition, $85,000 in rewards has been paid for tips that yielded arrests.

To be eligible for cash rewards, tipsters MUST provide information to authorities using one of the following three methods:

Call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477).

Submit a web tip through the DPS website by selecting the fugitive you have information about then clicking on the link under their picture.

Submit a Facebook tip by clicking the “SUBMIT A TIP” link (under the “About” section).

All tips are anonymous — regardless of how they are submitted — and tipsters will be provided a tip number instead of using a name.

DPS investigators work with local law enforcement agencies to select fugitives for the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and Sex Offenders Lists. You can find the current lists — with photos — on the DPS website.

Do not attempt to apprehend these fugitives; they are considered armed and dangerous.

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Officials stress safety during wildfire season

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Fire Safety Graphic

By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – The extreme heat of the summer season coupled with drought conditions have, at press time, put 213 of Texas’s 254 counties under burn bans. Tyler County is one of those counties.

Last week, firefighters from several regional volunteer fire departments, along with the Texas Forest Service were dispatched to a location on County Road 3900, off of Recreational Road 255 on Tuesday, to battle a blaze, right after a wildfire had affected more than 3,000 acres in the same area, breaking out the prior week.

During the battling of the blaze, aircraft were called in and began dropping water on the fire. In the efforts, outgoing Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe said around 300 firefighters helped put out the blaze, which affected about 207.4 acres.

County Judge Milton Powers thanked the many agencies that assisted, and the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, which handled the evacuation protocol for the area.

As of Tuesday, the preceding wildfire, the Shearwood Creek Fire, which began in the Ebenezer Community and eventually crossed the county line into Tyler County, was 95% contained, having affected 3,562 acres.

To date, it is the second most destructive wildfire of this season in the state. A game preserve fire in Walker County, which was 70% contained, affected 4,428 acres.

Despite reported rainfall on Sunday, the county is still under a burn ban. Jobe said in order for the county’s burn ban to be lifted, rainfall would have to be one to two inches per day for two or three days, countywide.

The county’s Emergency Management Office goes by the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) Scale, which is utilized as a standard by the U.S. Forest Service to measure drought conditions.

It references the dryness of the soil and duff layers, and increases for each day without rainfall, but decreases with rainfall.

A news release from the state’s Forest Service stated that on Monday, the Forest Service responded to 15 new requests for assistance on wildfires, which burned up 3,192 acres, statewide.

Actions such as parking or idling in tall, dry grass can spark a fire, as catalytic converters can ignite the grass under the vehicle. Additionally, TFS warns that many outdoor activities, including welding, grinding and mowing can produce sparks that might ignite nearby, dry vegetation.

The Forest Service urges all Texans at this time to protect Texas and prevent wildfires. TFS encourages all Texans to follow these tips to keep safe during wildfire season:
• Monitor local burn bans and other restrictions.

• Monitor local weather conditions and fire activity. Heed warnings from local emergency officials.

• Build “GO” kits with the five “P’s”: People and pet supplies; prescriptions; papers; personal needs; priceless items.

• Create defensible space to help your home survive a wildfire, and to provide safer access for firefighters.

• Report any fires or suspicious activity you see, by calling 9-1-1. Early detection is critical and can help firefighters respond quicker.

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