OPINION COLUMNS

Abbott orders flags to half-staff to honor slain officer

By Ed Sterling | Published Wednesday, September 9, 2015
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Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas flags across the state be lowered to half-staff in honor of slain Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth on Sept. 4.

Abbott also asked that law enforcement officers turn on their patrol vehicles’ red and blue flashing lights for one minute at 11 a.m. on Sept. 4, the start time for Deputy Goforth’s funeral.

Goforth, 47, reportedly was targeted for wearing a uniform. He was gunned down Aug. 28 while refueling his vehicle at a convenience store in the Houston suburb of Cypress. Surveillance video helped law enforcement trace, capture and arrest a suspect, Shannon J. Miles, 30. Investigators retrieved a .40 caliber handgun at the suspect’s residence. Ballistics testing matched the handgun to ammunition used in the shooting. The suspect has been charged with capital murder.

2 HONORED POSTHUMOUSLY

Gov. Abbott in an Aug. 26 ceremony at the governor’s mansion posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the state or federal military forces by the State of Texas, to two Texans: U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess.

Kyle’s medal was presented to his wife, Taya Kyle. Dyess’s medal was presented to his sister, Elizabeth Denman.

Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL from 1999 to 2009, served four tours in Iraq and earned many prestigious medals for his service as an elite sniper. After returning to civilian life, Kyle wrote a best-selling book, “American Sniper,” recounting his service experiences.

A fellow military veteran shot and killed Kyle and a friend, Chad Littlefield, at a shooting range in Erath County on Feb. 2, 2013. Kyle, 38, was buried with honors and ceremonies in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin on Feb. 12, 2013.

Dyess was a fighter pilot and later an infantry officer in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He was captured by Japanese forces in the Philippines in 1942 and survived the Bataan Death March.

He and other prisoners escaped a penal colony on the island of Mindanao and, aided by Filipino guerrillas, boarded a U.S. submarine in mid-1943. He was returned to the states.

He resumed flying and in December 1943 died attempting an emergency landing in a P-38 Lockheed Lightning fighter plane in California. He was 27. Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene is named in his honor.

DPS RELEASES GANG REPORT

A Texas law requires an annual report bringing together information from multiple law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to be submitted to the governor and the state Legislature assessing the threat posed by statewide criminal gangs.

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Aug. 31 announced the release of its 2015 Texas Gang Threat Assessment, an overview of gang activity in this state.

DPS Director Steven McCraw said the document, 57 pages in length and posted online at txdps.state.tx.us, “delivers valuable information about the gangs operating in our state and is a proven tool in law enforcement’s fight against these dangerous groups.”

According to the report, current gang membership across the state may exceed 100,000 individuals.

“These organizations were involved in and profited from the recent influx of illegal aliens crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley in 2014. Gang members involved in human trafficking, including commercial sex trafficking and compelling prostitution of adults and minors, exploit their victims through force, fraud or coercion, including recruiting and grooming them with false promises of affection, employment or a better life,” according to McCraw’s news release.

ENERGY AGENCY GOES SOCIAL

Texas Railroad Commission on Sept. 1 announced its launch of social media accounts “to increase transparency and more effectively communicate with the public and stakeholders about the activities and responsibilities” of the agency.

Those social media accounts include Twitter (#TxRCC) and Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

BLUE BELL RETURNS TO CAPITOL

Gov. Abbott on Aug. 31 announced the return of Blue Bell ice cream at the state Capitol, the day the popular, Brenham-based brand was made available in select markets after a multi-month shutdown.

“On behalf of all Texans, I want to welcome Blue Bell back and wish them luck as they continue to ramp up production,” Abbott said.

Blue Bell stopped operations in the spring, after four deaths in Kansas were attributed to listeria-contaminated ice cream.

Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association.

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