Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2006

North Pole students return to school

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ANCHORAGE - A police officer will be patrolling the halls of North Pole Middle School on Monday, after six seventh-grade boys suspected of planning an elaborate school killing were arrested over the weekend.

Nine other seventh-graders, all boys, were suspended in possible connection with the plot to kill faculty and classmates using guns and knives, according to officials.

The boys had planned to disable North Pole Middle School's power and telephone systems, giving them time to kill their victims and leave town, police said.

The students, whose identities were not released, are at the Fairbanks Youth Facility in Fairbanks.

The police presence is intended to help students and parents feel safe about returning to the school, where about 500 sixth- through eighth-graders have four weeks until summer vacation.

"We're going to have school," said principal Ernie Manzie. "We feel that all the students involved are not at school, so we feel it's safe."

Still, parents who feel more comfortable keeping their kids at home should do so, said Manzie.

The arrests marked the second jolt this year for students. In March, a student accidentally killed himself while playing a strangulation game, according to Mayor Jeffrey Jacobson.

Authorities said the students could face charges of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.

The community of 1,600 lies between Eielson Air Force Base and the Army's Fort Wainwright and is home to many military families. The arrests come as the parents of many students are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Gunman shoots at officers, then self

SEATTLE - A gunman killed himself with a shot to the head Sunday after injuring a police officer while shooting at police and homes in a north Seattle neighborhood Sunday morning.

Neighbors reported hearing shots fired around 9:50 a.m., said a police dispatcher who refused to give her name.

Seattle police and a SWAT team were called to a home near North Seattle Community College. Investigators say there was no one else in the house, that the man was acting alone, said Debra Brown, a police spokeswoman.

The first officers at the scene were fired upon by a man who was randomly firing a handgun at other houses, Brown said.

"That first round narrowly missed the officer. He was struck by some shrapnel. He's in satisfactory condition" at Harborview Medical Center, Brown said.

After firing at officers for several moments, the shooter "then turned the gun on himself," she said.

"We don't know what precipitated this event," Brown said.

Police were not releasing the man's name.

Several blocks around the area were shut down as police went house to house to ensure there weren't any other suspects at large or any victims, Brown said.

Sunday's shooting was the latest in a series of shootings around Seattle.

The most prominent was the March tragedy at a house party on Capital Hill, where Aaron Kyle Huff, 28, killed six people and wounded two others before taking his own life.

On Saturday, a 23-year-old man was shot and killed and two other men were wounded when a two men exchanged gunfire in the city's Pioneer Square district. The King County medical examiner's office identified the dead man as Francisco Green, who matched the description of one the shooters.

A triple shooting occurred last weekend at Mr. Lucky Lounge and Grill on lower Queen Anne.

Scientists study dying steelhead

BUCKLEY, Wash. - It was simple surgery, done in four minutes from a makeshift operating room floating on the Puyallup River.

Biologist Andrew Berger sliced open a young steelhead and tucked a vitamin-sized transmitter into the folds of its belly.

As a colleague pumped water into the fish's gasping mouth, Berger quickly stitched the wound closed so the 8-inch smolt could continue its journey out to sea.

Berger and other biologists with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians hope the delicate operation on this and dozens of other young fish will yield answers to some pressing questions: Where, exactly, do steelhead go when they leave the rivers that flow to Puget Sound? And why are so many dying?

Steelhead populations around Puget Sound have plummeted dramatically enough that the federal government has proposed listing them for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Steelhead, which are similar to rainbow trout but spend much of their lives in the ocean and return to rivers to spawn, have such complex life cycles that unraveling the mystery of their decline is difficult.

"The ocean is like this black box," said Brodie Antipa, a hatchery manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "We just don't know what's going on out there. Is it global warming? Is it pollution? Predators?"

Doctors can practice despite complaints

SEATTLE - Hundreds of doctors and counselors in Washington state have been allowed to keep working despite complaints from patients of sexual misconduct, according to a newspaper report.

The Seattle Times investigation found the state Department of Health repeatedly failed to adequately investigate and penalize offenders - including doctors, nurses, chiropractors and counselors.

Since 1995, the department has dismissed 461 sexual-misconduct complaints - about a third of the nearly 1,500 received - without making an inquiry. Fewer than 1 percent of all health-care providers have been disciplined for sexual misconduct over the past decade.

"This is a big, big problem," said psychologist Scott Stacy of Kansas-based Acumen Assessments, who has treated 600 practitioners accused of sexual transgressions. "It's much larger than most of us realize, and it's getting worse."

The Health Department licenses 57 kinds of health-care practitioners, most regulated by governor-appointed boards and commissions.

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission, which regulates the state's 20,000 physicians, meets about seven times a year. Board members frequently wait until disciplinary hearings are under way to read the thick investigative files, leaving scant time for meaningful examination.

Following the newspaper's findings, the Health Department said it has moved toward reform. Last month, it issued eight emergency suspensions for health-care professionals charged with sexual misconduct. That compares to a total of seven in 2005.

Hunter injured in bear attack

FORKS, Wash. - A black bear attacked and seriously injured a hunter on a road just outside Olympic National Park late Saturday, authorities said.

A second hunter shot and killed the bear before summoning help, said Larry Evans, a shift supervisor for the Washington State Patrol's office in Bremerton, on the Kitsap Peninsula between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula.

The injured hunter was rushed to Forks Hospital with a compound fracture to the arm, a broken hand and several bite marks, Evans said.

The man lost a significant amount of blood, but was expected to survive, Evans said.

The attack was reported to the state patrol around 9 p.m., and aid workers arrived about 15 minutes later.

The bear had apparently dragged the man away from the site of the attack before being shot, Evans said.

Troopers said they receive occasional reports of cougar attacks in the area, but that bear attacks are relatively rare.

Forks is a small town near the northwest edge of Olympic National Park, one of Washington state's most popular attractions for hunters, anglers and other nature lovers.

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