Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in January 2014

Local man leaps for burn survivors

McKINNEY – A Crosby man took a giant leap to benefit survivors of burns recently.

Gerald Blankenship teamed with Sons of The Flag, a legacy skydiving organization dedicated to raise money to benefit veterans, first responders and civilian that have been burned over the weekend of Veterans’ Day last year.

The U.S. Army Golden Knights Legacy Jump Team members help be the backup for Sons of the Flag and is the same group that enabled former President George H. W. Bush to make a parachute jump on his 70th birthday, part of his bucket list, a few years ago.

The Sons of the Flag is a nonprofit organization that raises money by charging $25,000 to make the jump with veterans in a commitment to benefit burn survivors by providing funding for innovative research.

According to Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, founder, president and C.E.O. of sons of the Flag a 501C3, “We bring together passionate community leaders, pioneering physicians, experience military leaders, experienced military service members, dedicated first responders and purposeful civilians to complete our missions for burn survivors.”

Gerald Blaknenship, U.S. Navy Submarine veteran, jumped 7,500 feet to land at Collins County Regional Airport with a pocket full of Medal of Honor Coins made in memory of David H. McNerney, a Medal of Honor recipient that lived much of his later life in Crosby and a friend of Blankenship. In fact, Army Ranger Mike Elliott that jumped behind Blankenship has now twice jumped with George H.W. Bush.

The jumpers are chosen by their contributions, collected from varied sources then attached to experienced and expert parachutists and the leap from the airplane at five second intervals. Blankenship was fourth out of the plane that day.

At the time he said, “This is fantastic,” as he leaped from the perfectly good airplane and went into free-fall at about 130 miles per hour.

Once out of the plane, they would travel a total of about five miles to hit the point of landing exactly.

“They were very professional, I felt at ease during and before the jump, really without a fear.”

“Free fall was wonderful,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship was very pleased that groups had enabled him to raise funding to pay for the jump experience. He credits Major Richard Agnew, retired, for involving him in the fund-raising. Major Richard Agnew raised $7,000,000 for Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides housing for veteran’s families close to the hospital while the veteran is hospitalized due to an illness, disease or injury.

During the jump however, once the chute opened, he volunteered for one experiment was not to his liking and that was making the loop de loop. Blankenship recalls falling for about 30 seconds. When he was about fifty feet from the ground, his escort pulled the parachute strappes and they slid into a stop on the ground and simply walked off.

Sons of the Flag has launched other campaigns to raise more funding for burn survivors, visit, www.sonsoftheflag.org for more information.

Crosby Fire Fighters earn recognition for 956 calls

KEMAH – In a gala celebration of the individuals that volunteer to save lives and property the Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. held their Annual Banquet at Landry’s Restaurant here, last Saturday.

Consider that Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. was called on for services 956 times last year and 808 were within the fire district and one comes to understand the importance of these volunteers standing between their community and mayhem.

Awards for Firefighter of the Year, Officer of the Year, service awards, Most Response awards and a new Safety/Mentor Award were bestowed upon those elected to receive them by their comrades. It was a great natured celebration attended by the Board of the local Emergency Service District and special guest of Emergency Service District #4 board and HCESD#5 Coordinator, Christy Graves.

In addition to the awards ceremony a buffett surf and turf dinner. Following the awards, Rodney Reed poked fun at some of the more humorous incidents and individuals involved in those incidents in the prior year.

This year the Firefighter of the Year went to Thomas Jett, to his surprise. He indicated that he did the same as the rest and was honored by the recognition of his fellow firefighters.

Kevin Pipes, a Fire Marshal and active volunteer was selected as Officer of the Year and that token is said by his peers to represent lots of devotion. When asked why he got the award he simply responded that “The membership thought I did the best job of the seven of us.”

But when further pressed Pipes admitted “I did not expect to receive this award, so many other officers contribute so much to the department. I spent a lot of time and hours at the fire department I feel like the membership saw my contribution more than others’ efforts, but it was certainly worth it to get the award.”

Chris Reed, father to Rodney Reed, husband of Chairperson of the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce, Wendy Reed, was the first to receive the Safety Award, really for being mentor to other firefighters. He is credited taught the most skills and concepts to other firefighters.

Isaac Pinson was awarded for 10 years of service to the department. He is also a member of the executive board of officers.

Sam Parker and Clay Budd were recognized for the number of calls they responded to within the year.

The Executive Staff Officers this year are Isaac Pinson, Mike Sims, Rodney Reed, Chief Alan Kulak, Russell White, Ruben Leal, and Kevin Pipes.

Sampson Lodge awards D. Roberts

HIGHLANDS – Sampson Masonic Lodge #231 presented their prestigious Community Builders Award for 2013 to Denny Roberts, a well-known, long-time resident of Highlands.

On hand were family, friends from the community and his church, Highlands United Methodist, Masons, and past recipients of the award.

Conducting the ceremony in the lodge hall were Grand Master Jerry Odon, and Past Grand Master Joe Carothers.

Denny Roberts was praised by Carothers and others, for his hard work for others in the community, always busy helping with home repairs, building wheelchair ramps, cooking for Meals on Wheels, feeding vets at the VA Hospital, and distributing toys and gifts to children at Christmas at the Childrens Hospital.

One comment that was voiced by an admirer, “God has put an Angel on Earth.”

Denny was seen as a roll model, a person that encouraged others in Christ.

As his friend and fellow Mason describes Denny:

“Denny Roberts is one of those unsung heroes, as he is a very active member of the Highlands UM Church. Every other Saturday finds him at the Church, preparing food and delivering meals to shut-ins.

Denny works for months to gather toys for children who spend the Christmas holidays in the Shriners’ Childrens Hospital. He passes out toys and food to the families of each child.

Denny also spends hhis Christmas day at the Veterans Center in Houston doing what he can to help.

Building wheelchair ramps and home repairs for those people in need plus many other projects are what he does best.”

Since 2001, the Community Builder’s Award has been presented to the following:

Gilbert Hoffman

Harvey Little

Joe Hausberger

Maurice & Jenny Robbins

Wanda Asbeck

Highlands Volunteer Fire Department

Pilot Club

Raymond Gonzalez

Henderson Cooking Team

Highlands Rotary Club

Betty Brewer

Bobby & Claudia Birdsong

Kyle Little named Firefighter of the Year by Highlands Fire Department

HIGHLANDS– The Volunteer Fire Department held their 2014 Installation Banquet and Awards ceremony last Saturday night at the Monument Inn. Named to the top award as Firefighter of the Year by popular vote of the firemen, was Station 1 Captain Kyle Little. Little was honored earlier in the evening, as top responder with 362 calls answered, almost 100 more than the next fireman.

This award is given in honor of Cecil Kelly, who volunteered with the Highlands VFD for over 42 years before retiring in 1996. The recipient chosen by vote of the membership is a firefighter who performed above and beyond the call of duty.

A large crowd of firemen and families, friends, community supporters, and board members attended the dinner. Fire Chief Harvey Little emceed the ceremony, introducing awards, guests, and honorees.

Chief Little also reviewed the department accomplishments and history of service calls for 2013. Highlights included ordering a new Dodge Diesel ambulance, and two new identical engines to replace E17 and E27. The vehicles will go into service in March and September, respectively. The department also installed a new flag pole at station 17, and new security cameras. A wheelchair life was installed at station 17 to reach the second floor.

Glenn Chisholm reported on accomplishments in the training of new members, and training and certification of existing firefighters. He mentioned that the department is using the Houston Fire Department training field to help members improve their skills in structural firefighting and vehicle extrications. ESD#14 purchased a DVD training program, and as a result 8 firefighters received or upgraded their certification level.

Nick Matula reported on EMS accomplishments for 2013. The department has a new Lucas mechanical CPR device. This department now has 17 part time paid crew. In the last year, they had 3 CPR incidents to full recovery.

Chief Little reviewed the history of the department for 2013. He noted that there were 1985 calls for service: 1559 EMS calls of which 873 required transport to a hospital, and 377 fire calls. Life Flight was called 14 times. The department responded to 130 Motor Vehicle Accidents. Little noted that the totals were all down slightly from previous years, and attributed some of this to fire and life safety instruction that students get at school.

Membership in the HVFD stands at 68: 43 regular, 5 apprentices, 1 juniors, 17 retirees (not in the total), 1 EMS, 17 EMS part-time, and 1 regular out of district firefighters.

Little mentioned that one of the goals of the department in 2014 will be to remodel or rebuild Station 27.

Highlands: 500 Citizens seek Crime answers, Sheriff questioned at meeting

HIGHLANDS – After experiencing a high number of murders in this community last year, the citizens of Highlands decided that something more had to be done to put a stop to the killings. Five killings have happened since last January 2013, and two remain unsolved.

As a first step, they asked their local law enforcement officers to meet with the public, and this forum, organized by Highlands resident Mike James, was the result. James is deeply involved because one of the victims of murder this year was his father.

Otis James was murdered in his house on 4th Street, allegedly by a neighbor, Randy Segura, who has been charged with the crime. Otis James pickup truck was stolen after the murder.

The meeting, billed as a “Crime Watch” session, was held last Thursday evening at 7:00 pm at the First Baptist Church on Magnolia Street. The sanctuary of the church was filled to capacity, with at least 500 persons in attendance.

Also attending were Sheriff Adrian Garcia, and from his staff Major Stephen Marino and Capt. Joel Inocencio. Pct. 3 Constable Ken Jones was present, and from his staff were Chief Deputy David Franklin, and Capt. Jasen Rabalais. Throughout the audience were other officers, including Capt. John Moore and Lt. T. J. Gainey.

The evening started with welcoming remarks from pastor Tim Edwards, and then moderator Mike James introduced the speakers from the Sheriff’s office and the Constable’s office. He also asked that everyone present sign registration cards, so that they could be included in future meetings and crime fighting actions.

Sheriff Garcia spoke first, and outlined the history of his governance of the department since 2009. He mentioned budgets and staffing, pointing out that until 2011 the county had a hiring freeze, and he lost many deputies. Now he is able to hire, and has added over 100 deputies through cadet classes and transferring jailers to patrol and other duties. Also he said there are over 83 new deputies in training at the present time.

In response to questions and criticisms about the effectiveness of his department, he pointed out that due to a large number of calls for service, the HCSO must prioritize incoming calls, and answer the most serious and life threatening calls first. He suggested that many burglary calls and similar crimes could be reported online on the sebsite, without the need for an onsite deputy’s call.

The Sheriff also pointed out that he has a youth program, the Explorers, that is introducing young boys and girls age 14 to 21 to the procedures of a sheriff’s department. The goal is to help them avoid criminal actities, and to hire some of them as deputies in the future.

Constable Jones reported that his department, in conjunction with the Sheriff’s office, had formed a “Task Force” to proactively respond and investigate crimes. It is staffed by 3 constables and 8 sheriff’s deputies, he said. In Highlands alone, he pointed out that in the last 45 days they have made 18 felony arrests, suggesting that this would seriously reduce the incident of crime. He suggested the importance of the public informing authorities through tips, including using Facebook.

At this point, the floor was opened for questions or comments from the public.

Several persons asked how to set up a Crime Watch program. It was noted that this meeting was promoted as a learning session for this purpose, but instead it consisted mainly of comments from both sides of the crime subject. However, the authorities offered to help set up small Crime Watch groups in any neighborhood that was interested, and said that the Constable’s office, through Lt. T.J. Gainey, would come out to instruct citizens on the process.

A question was whether Highlands could get a sheriff’s substation back, as it had several years ago. The Sheriff was somewhat evasive on the answer, noting legal problems that no one seemed to want to resolve. However, a location in Woodforest Bank was mentioned. The Sheriff said one of the benefits of a storefront would be a visible sign on Main Street, as a deterant to criminals.

A citizen complained about a recent burglary, where the two juveniles had been identified, but not prosecuted. Deputy Rabalais stated that Texas law made it more difficult to prosecute juveniles than adults, and that the district attorney’s office sometimes advised against it.

Pastor Phillip Morris said that the power of prayer would help the crime situation in the community, and urged the community to embrace that idea. His church, Restoration Church on Jones Road, will hold prayer sessions this month with that goal.

The question was asked how many deputies are staffed to watch the Highlands area. Captain Inocencio explained that this is District 3, Section B (not A or C), and that it covers Highlands, Crosby, Baytown, and Lynchburg. For that areas, there are usually 2 to 4 patrol deputies assigned at any one time. However, there are other Sheriff’s specialized deputies working the area at the same time, including task force, crime control unit, high risk officers, undercover, and others.

Major Marino added that 5 new deputies are being added to those assigned to this area. Also, a helicopter has just become available, he said.

Capt. Rabalais said that since February of last year, his Task Force has made 300 arrests.

Speakers from the audience, and from the platform, differed on the facts on whether crime was down, or increased.

Jones and Garcia argued that a large number of arrests are being made, indicating effective policing.

Citizens, including Jutta Mayfield of Pig Supply, differed vehemently. She noted that her business had been burglaried 3 times in the last year, without arrests.

Carl Cooper and Calvin Hobbs complained about known drug activities and derelict houses occupied by non-tenants, in the Clear Lake and San Jacinto Street neighborhoods, and no police action on these. The Sheriff said “tell us the details and we will act,” so these two cited addresses of the problem houses.

It has been announced by Mike James that there will be a follow-up meeting scheduled in the near future, to further deal with these problems but also to help neighbors set up the Crime Watch programs near them.

It was noted that Crosby’s Newport subdivision is also having a crime watch meeting, on Wednesday, January 8th. This meeting will introduce the use of Nextdoor.com, a social networking program on the internet, as a means to implement neighborhood crime watch programs in an effective method. See the article above on this page.

Interviews in the days after the meeting with Highlands residents indicated to the Star-Courier that they were not satisfied with the results of this meeting, believing that authorities did not listen and did not have the motivation to act to reduce crime.

Rep. Smith to lead widening FM 2100, infrastructure plans

CROSBY – Representative Wayne Smith, R. 128 when addressing the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 18 mentioned proposing a widening of FM 2100.

It was the most controversial moment of his address that drew almost unanimous acceptance of his history last year when he penned the Texas House bill to pose law enforcement capability for restricting illegal gambling houses in Harris County, supporting the Merry Christmas House Bill 308 that mandates no punishment for calling a Christmas Tree a Christmas Tree and plans for the next session to “require the school districts to test kids for heart conditions if they are going to be athletes,”

The latter a reference to the Cody Stephens “Go Big or Go Home” Memorial Foundation initiated by Cody Stephen’s father Scott Stephens. The foundation that has thus far enabled the discovery of heart conditions in 32 at risk students.

The question was asked of Smith that since Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman stated that he knew of “no efforts to widen FM 2100 at present and that no funds are currently available to undertake that project.” how could Smith say he was looking into efforts to widen FM 2100 all the way to Huffman and beyond?

Smith answered, “Well, I intend to ask him if he could find the money, at least some money to purchase the right of way if the State can afford most of the work.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the executor of the County, told a Houston audience in December “A lot of what we intend to do in Harris County is focused on transportation.” Emmett then went on to explain that the Port of Houston is sitting poised to be the “gateway for North America,” but “if we don’t provide the transportation infrastructure, they are going to go somewhere else and we will stagnate economically.”

Representatives like Wayne Smith will be voting on the hard hammered transportation bill later this year to determine what funding the state will be able to make available to prepare for this expansion.

Smith’s engineering background has enabled him to understand the technical aspects of roadway needs and to explain the governor’s initiative for the Texas Water Act, passed last November by voters.

Currently demands upon Harris County to be ready for future development are manifold and including a directive from oil interests to hurry construction of Toll Road 99, the Grand Parkway from its western location to the Woodlands. The Woodlands to be the site of new development for a large oil company and then develop the Grand Parkway around to locations where new oil will be pumped from northern locations. Expansion near the Petrochemical Corridor near Highway 6 on Interstate 10 is already evident from the mammoth expansion of Highway 290.

The necessity then for FM 2100, already a traffic jam in the mornings and afternoon traffic to be expanded is becoming more obvious.

HIGHLANDS REACTS TO HIGH CRIME WITH “CRIME WATCH” MEETING

HIGHLANDS – Finally, locals have had enough of violence and theft in their area and are proposing to take action against it.

Thursday night January 2nd beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Highlands, there is to be a “Crime Watch” Town Hall Meeting to discuss methods of coping with the high crime problem in this area.

Representatives from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are to be there to provide information about establishing an effective crime watch program for Highlands and answer questions. Pizza will be available at 6:30 and the meeting will start at 7 in the Church’s auditorium. The entire community is welcome.

The Sheriff’s Office’s Media Relations Division says that Major Steven Marino is to attend the meeting. Major Marino works in the Patrol Division.

The Neighborhood Crime Watch concept is outlined by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as mutual assistance among neighbors aimed at reducing crime at the grass roots level of looking out for one another’s interests. One important criterion is to have a minimum of 60% residential participation.

When formulating a crime control strategy, one must consider which course is more effective and less costly: hundreds of law enforcement personnel in every neighborhood and a guard at very door or adequate lighting, secure homes and watchful neighbors. It would appear that crime prevention is the most logical and most economical approach to take in crime control, according to the HCSO.

Neighborhood Crime Watch provides a means of reducing the opportunity for crime to occur, through the active participation of citizens in crime prevention.

Citizens are taught how to make their homes less of an attractive target for thieves, how to participate in Operation Identification, making their property less desirable to thieves, and how to be alert to suspicious activity in the neighborhood. The Crime Watch must also encourage residents to come forward as witnesses. Help elderly citizens and children to protect themselves against being a victim of a criminal and push for additional projects to protect these special groups of persons whenever necessary.

As most crimes occur due to opportunity, opportunities are divided into two categories:

(a.) opportunity created by the victim through carelessness, lack of attention to security and failure to cooperate with neighbors,

(b.) opportunity created by the criminal, by his skill, ruthlessness, and daring.

The appointment of the proper Chairperson can determine the success of the program. This person should have prestige within the community, an ability to communicate, and some free time. He would also develop block captains and facilitate communication with them and the Crime Prevention Unit officer from law enforcement. There are a long list of communications duties for the Chairperson.

Retired Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Rusty Mayfield was approached by a crime victim that lost a family member last calendar year in one of the five murders that occurred here then. He has been a burglary victim five times, he indicates. Only three of those homicides were solved.

Mayfield himself was a crime victim lately, his store Pig Supply Inc. was broken into on Black Friday, Nov. 29, and firearms were stolen by the two well photographed burglars. Mayfield has taken extra precautions now beyond the camera surveillance. He enlisted the services of retired Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Smith, also of Highlands, owner of Quality Construction & Fence to construct some extra security features against burglars for his store.

Reactions based on violent crime

A look about Highlands will find windows broken and replaced by board, and vacant houses have begun to appear but that may be the result of normative attrition. But what is now being talked about is the appearance of known gangs tagging crime scenes, two unsolved murders, about 90% of the local thefts have been unsolved. One neighbor said, “Highlands has become the Las Vegas of northeast Harris County, it is not just that they are illegal, it is the fact that like the one across from the water office it was robbed in broad daylight.”

Sheriff’s Deputies know of locations where crystal methamphetamine is sold such as on Clear Lake Road, the scene of a murder in December in which a beloved local great-grandmother was killed in her home and the house set ablaze to cover the evidence. Then there is the super secret homicide on the north end of Highlands that was now known to be bestowed by two shots from a high powered rifle on November 18.

The frequency of arrests have not slowed, on Dec. 19 Precinct 3 Deputies arrested a known drug dealer in the Highlands area with an automatic rifle, drug paraphernalia and felony possession of crystal methamphetamine. A sting of drug arrests have been made that indicate the largess of the trade locally and generally by those that are new in town.

The the day after Christmas, Deputies with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office were called to a Highlands Vol. Fire Dept. service area, McNair early Thursday morning after a man’s body was found on the shoulder of Harrison Street near Perry Street around 2 a.m. Deputies said the man’s body appeared to be dumped at the location. No further information was immediately available, but deputies said more details would be released later in the day.

According to Mayfield there have been instances when Precinct 3 Constable Deputies made local arrests but the then District Attorney would not take charges against the suspect.

Ranch attacked by local Pit Bulls, eight horses and a donkey mauled

HIGHLANDS– A local rancher warns of three dogs that have viciously ravaged eight of her horses and a donkey resulting in their deaths.

Jeanne McClanahan took this reporter on a tour of her ranch where three pit bulls or mixes attacked her livestock since Thanksgiving, Christmas, last Friday and Saturday. The bucolic setting with miniature horses, Shetland ponies, donkeys and cattle was upset by the attacks such that many of her animals fear to venture much beyond the security of her house.

McClanahan has been in touch with neighbors and she is not the only one to have trouble from the dogs. It is her hope to alert the neighborhood before the animals can target children and to possibly prevent inflicting further harm by having neighbors report the band of dogs.

McClanahan actually had occasion to see two of the three dogs as they scampered away. She describes them looking like pit bulls, one is grey and the other reddish brown. The third was just beyond eyesight in the brush. The grey dog appeared to have a collar, or something around its neck.

She contacted Harris County Animal Control, or now called Harris County Veterinary Public Health Division. She indicates her Christmas present this year was to find one of her horses mauled to death and that two days later a humane trap was placed at the location of the bodies of her livestock by the Division. Neighbors are asked to help catch these ravaging dogs by reporting them if seen by calling (281) 999-3191. She likewise contacted the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and deputies made a report due to the value of livestock lost to the attacks. It is important to other ranchers and parents to be on the alert for the dogs and to report them if seen.

She has narrowed the area where the dogs must be coming from as near Fig Orchard Road or the nearby subdivision.

The dogs appear irregularly and only at intervals. McClanahan’s heartbreak at losing the animals is evident and it seems to bother her that she must always keep a firearm at hand just to work on her ranch.