Category Archives: Local

Woman with criminal history accused of setting Galveston man on fire turns herself in

A woman accused of setting a man on fire in Galveston was arrested and charged Monday.

Nancy Allen, 50, turned herself in to Galveston County officials around 8 p.m. Monday.

A man called the Galveston Police Department on the morning of Nov. 28, saying someone had just lit him on fire, officers said.

Officials received the 911 call just before 6 a.m. from a man in the 500 block of 21st Street, according to a news release from police.

Authorities from the Galveston Fire Department and Galveston EMS found the man with burns on his hands and face. Some of this clothing was still on fire, police said.

The victim, whose identity has not been released, was taken to the John Sealy Emergency Room.

He expected to survive, officers said.

Police said they pursued “a solid lead” and knew Allen to be a suspect.

She is in Galveston County jail, charged with aggravated family assault with a weapon, a first-degree felony offense.

Allen’s bond is set at $250,000.

If convicted, she could face five to 99 years in prison and be ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, police said.

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Man’s body found near Seabrook highway

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Officer kills burglary suspect in shootout in La Marque

A La Marque police officer was involved in a deadly shooting Sunday while responding to burglary, officials said.

According to investigators, an armed person threatened a resident just after 10 p.m. inside a home in the 800 block of Retama and ran.

The officer found the gunman in building near the victim’s home and gunfire was exchanged, investigators said.

The suspect was shot at least once and killed.

The shooting is being investigated by the sheriff’s office and the Galveston County district attorney’s office.

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Gorilla escapes barrier into hog exhibit at Houston Zoo, officials say

A Houston Zoo gorilla escaped Saturday into a hog exhibit area, zoo officials said.

The incident was reported around 1 p.m.

Zoo officials said a 28-year-old adult female western lowland gorilla crossed into the Red River hogs area.

The gorillas share a habitat with the hogs, but they are separated by a barrier. Officials have not said how the gorilla go out.

The gorilla was never in a public area, but officials cleared the boardwalk area out of an abundance of caution.

No animals were hurt and officials were able to contain the animal without using a tranquilizer.

The area is back open to the public, except the boardwalk as they continue to move animals around.

The Houston Zoo released the following statement:

A 28-year-old adult female western lowland gorilla became curious about the red river hogs that share the exhibit and moved into an area that was unusual for the gorillas to explore. The gorilla was never outside animal containment, and guests we not in danger at any time. Out of an abundance of caution, the zoo closed the entire African Forest section of the zoo so the response team could to safely reunite her with her troop.

The Houston Zoo’s staff regularly trains for scenarios like this, and acted in accordance with all protocols for a safe and quick resolution.

The gorilla family troop is fully reunited and an investigation is underway to ensure this does not happen in the future.

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Meet the man who took his daughter out of school early for deer season

It’s deer season in Texas, and one local hunter isn’t letting a simple thing like school get in the way of the time-honored tradition.

“I’m always in a good mood and I always want to make people smile,” Jeff Pavlock said.

Pavlock, who lives in Rosenberg, sees himself as just a small-town guy who likes to stay under the radar.

But he has a penchant for social media.

“I would always post a bunch of funny stuff on Facebook. I kept telling everybody: ‘One day, I’m going to make it big,'” Pavlock said.

Mission accomplished!

When Pavlock took his 12-year-old daughter, Kinsley, out of school early this week to go deer hunting, what he wrote on the sheet at school has now gone viral.

“I put down headed to go put the smack down on a monster buck … That’s the way we do it here in Texas,” Pavlock said.

Since he posted it on Facebook, it’s been shared more than 60,000 times!

“I’ve got people from Canada and people messaging me from all over the United States, so I am just living in the moment and enjoying it. I just enjoy making people laugh. My wife is laughing. My whole family is laughing. We think it’s hilarious. I never thought in my life it would blow up on Facebook,” Pavlock said.

Pavlock is sharing the spotlight with his daughter, who takes the sport of deer hunting very seriously.

“She’s a hunting little bugger. She’s made about nine hunts with me so far. We are just waiting on the big one to come out of the woods,” Pavlock said.

 

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Man exposes himself at tanning salon, League City police search for his identity

A man walked right into a tanning salon, exposed himself to an employee and walked right back out.

The flashing happened off South Egret Bay Boulevard in League City last Monday.

Police have released a surveillance photo of the man.

He’s described as a Hispanic man, between 5-foot ten inches to 6-feet tall, with dark, curly hair.

He was wearing glasses at the time.

If you recognize him, call League City police.

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Free Press Summer Festival is changing its name to this

The Free Press Summer Festival is getting a remix.

Festival organizers announced the festival will change its name to the In Bloom Music Festival. The date will change as well.

The In Bloom Music Fest will take place March 24-25, 2018, in Eleanor Tinsley Park with more than 50 music performances on four stages.

“As we enter the 10th anniversary of this incredible festival that our dedicated fans have made their annual Houston tradition, we are excited to announce a new name and a new time of year, while returning to our incredible location, Eleanor Tinsley Park,” founding partner Jagi Katial said. “We are always looking to improve the experience for the fans, and after the last few years of challenges with Mother Nature, moving our dates to the spring made sense.”

General admission and VIP pre-sale tickets are available now ahead of the lineup release next month.

Visit www.inbloomfestival.com for more information.

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Harris County man wanted for 2006 murder arrested in Mexico

A Harris County man at the top of the U.S. Marshal’s most-wanted list has been arrested.

Officials say William Greer, now 51, killed his girlfriend, Tammy Esquivel, on Dec. 19, 2006, after an argument.

Three days after her murder, Cleveland police found Greer wandering in the streets.

He confessed to the murder, but at that time police had no evidence that a murder had actually happened, so Greer was released.

After that, Greer fled the country, investigators said.

But investigators never stopped looking for him.

This week, Greer was arrested in Mexico, ending an 11-year manhunt.

Officials with the U.S. Marshal’s Office said Greer will be extradited to the United States as soon as possible.

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Members of street gang linked to series of burglaries of Apple products, police say

Authorities said through an extensive investigation, they have identified 15 members of the criminal street gang “Hot Boyz” as being responsible for up to 26 burglaries in which Apple products were stolen.

Police said they became aware of a series of burglaries in the Montrose area in which the businesses were cased prior to the burglaries, and only Apple iMac computers were stolen.

Officers said they learned of an additional 114 burglaries that fit the same description in the Heights area.

Through surveillance videos from the businesses, authorities said they found that even though most of the thieves broke into the businesses wearing masks, or with their faces covered, some of them wore the same clothing during the crime as when they cased the business hours earlier.

Police said they observed as many as seven suspects involved in one burglary and multiple vehicles that served as lookouts.

The Houston Police Department Robbery Division, Central Tactical Unit, Precinct 1 Constables, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI jointly investigated and identified 15 members of the gang Hot Boyz believed to be responsible for the crimes.

Officials said the Central Tactical unit has charged four of the alleged gang members and the Precinct 1 Constables Office has charged four of the alleged gang members related to the burglaries and organized criminal activity.

Those charged were identified as Keltrin Stephens, 20, Tyrique Davis, 19, Devonta Smith, 20, Le’Trell Stephens, 19, Gregory Sutton, Janorris Black and Marquez Carroll.

Police said it was discovered during interrogations that the stolen iMacs were sold for approximately $500 to $1,000 to an unidentified Middle Eastern man in an organized crime ring.

Police said in total, the suspects have been linked to 26 burglaries, three aggravated robberies and a theft in the Houston Heights, Montrose and Upper Kirby area.

Officials said the cases are still being investigated.

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Arrest expected soon after Galveston man set on fire, police say

A man called the Galveston Police Department on Tuesday morning, saying someone had just lit him on fire, officers said.

Officials received the 911 call just before 6 a.m., from a man in the 500 block of 21st Street, according to a news release from police.

When authorities from the Galveston Fire Department and Galveston EMS arrived, they found the man with burns on his hands and face. Some of this clothing was still on fire, police said.
The victim was taken to the John Sealy Emergency Room. The man is expected to survive, officers said.

Police are pursuing what they called “a solid lead,” and they know the person who will soon face charges, officers said.

“The most likely charge in this case would be aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, a first-degree felony in the state of Texas, which carries a punishment of five to 99 years in prison with a $10,000 fine,” police said in the release.

Officers expect to release more information once charges are handed down.

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Man accused of killing teen with whom he had inappropriate relationship appears in court

A man was arrested in connection with the shooting death of a 14-year-old Harris County girl.

Anthony Valle, 43, is behind bars at Harris County jail four months after Layla Ramos’ untimely death.

Investigators said the two were having an inappropriate relationship that involved drugs and sexual misconduct.

“She began threatening to expose him days before she was killed,” prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

VIDEO: Family of young woman killed in northeast Harris County home speaks

Investigators said they found inconsistencies in Valle’s story after he shot Ramos in July inside his home in Humble. They said Valle first claimed he thought Ramos was an intruder, shot her once and then the gun accidentally went off again when he tripped over her body.

Prosecutor said that according to phone records, Valle and Ramos were together the morning she died. Valle’s phones also uncovered other disturbing evidence.

“These cellphones show he enjoyed looking at simulated father daughter pornography,” prosecutors said.

Valle maintains the shooting was an accident.

There was no record of Valle having a criminal history in Harris County.

His bond is set at $200,000.

 

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Here’s what’s happening in Harris County now that the sheriff issues bail bonds

The Harris Co. Sheriff's Office and Detention Facility in Houston.

When a federal judge ruled this year that Harris County wrongfully held poor misdemeanor defendants in jail while awaiting trial, she placed the responsibility of issuing her mandated bail orders in the unpracticed hands of the county sheriff’s office.

The county courts, which usually make bail decisions, were largely untargeted in the order, and have focused their efforts on reforms they implemented a month after the judge’s ruling took effect.

That combination has led to confusion within the state’s largest pretrial system, and the blame for any failure shifts, depending on who’s talking. One thing is clear, though — more than 40 percent of the defendants released by the sheriff under the court-mandated bonds aren’t showing up to their hearings, new data shows.

In an injunction that went into effect in June, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal mandated that virtually all those in Harris County accused of misdemeanor offenses — which include shoplifting and driving with an invalid license — must be released from jail within 24 hours of their arrest, regardless of their financial ability to post bond. She sided with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state’s most populous county, saying its bail system unfairly detained poor people while releasing similar defendants who could afford to pay their bonds.

The order, under review by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was complicated by the county’s own reforms. In July, the county switched to a nationally accredited risk-based bail system where low-risk defendants — those deemed likely to stay out of trouble and go to their court hearings — are usually released on a no-cost “personal bond,” whether they have money or not. Other, higher-risk defendants must generally pay a bond amount for their release or stay in jail.

But Rosenthal has required the release of those higher-risk defendants, too. So while the county courts focus on low-risk arrestees, it has fallen on Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to ensure Harris County is following the federal order, releasing higher-risk defendants who can’t afford their bond within a day of their arrest. Under the injunction, his department has issued about 6,000 unsecured bonds — where no money is due upfront.

“It gets complicated,” said Major Greg Summerlin of the sheriff’s department, who oversees processing at the Harris County Jail. “There’s a big process that’s brand new to the sheriff’s office, so we had to create a new policy, our own forms.”

County reports on misdemeanor bonds show the people released on these sheriff-issued bonds are less likely to show up to court. From June to October, 45 percent of those bonds were forfeited or revoked, almost always because the higher-risk defendants did not show up for court hearings. That’s compared with a 26 percent failure rate of judicially set personal bonds for those deemed low-risk.

Elizabeth Rossi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said those numbers should be taken “with a huge grain of salt” because of complications in setting up the new release system and a criminal justice system that has been scattered after Hurricane Harvey.

“Many people released were told wrong court dates,” she said. “With the hurricane, people have gone to different court rooms — it’s a huge mess.”

Still, county officials have pointed to the high failure rates for sheriff-issued bonds as proof that a risk-based bail system works better than a financial one.

Supporters of the lawsuit argue that blame lies on the judges and magistrates resisting the court order and focusing on the risk-based bail system, leaving execution of Rosenthal’s order to the sheriff’s office, which has never previously issued bonds and has no system in place to monitor released defendants.

Melissa Spinks, an attorney representing the county in the lawsuit, said the county is committed to its new risk-based system, which was endorsed by all criminal justice officials in the county and cost millions of dollars. Judges and magistrates are making bail decisions based on risk with this new tool, called the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), not based solely on a defendant’s finances, she said.

Converging reforms

The implementation of the PSA has garnered praise from most reform advocates and even Rosenthal. Data shows it has led to the release of more low-risk defendants on judicially ordered personal bonds. But Judge Darrell Jordan, the county’s lone Democratic misdemeanor judge among 15 Republicans, said it doesn’t address the lawsuit.

“They’re talking about a risk assessment tool, but we’re being sued for jailing poor people and letting rich people go,” he said.

Since Rosenthal’s order relies largely on the sheriff to ensure defendants are released within 24 hours, magistrates have been particularly hands off. Alex Bunin, the county’s chief public defender, said that even though judicial officers often know the defendant will not be able to afford their bond amount, they stick to the risk assessment and leave it to the sheriff to carry out the court order.

“I’ve never heard a magistrate say, ‘I have to release you based on the court order,’” Bunin said.

He said he doesn’t think that the “passive resistance” by magistrates is ill-intentioned, but rather because they believe the risk system is a better reform than the court order.

“We think a risk-based assessment tool is far better than just saying, ‘Can you afford to pay this or not?’” Spinks said.

The federal appellate court also appeared to take issue with some of Rosenthal’s order. In an October hearing, judges seemed skeptical of the injunction’s 24-hour deadline, especially because defendants sometimes have not yet seen a magistrate before that time. It is unknown when the court will issue a decision on the ruling, and the merits of the lawsuit have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

But since high-risk defendants are having money bail set for them by judicial officers, the ones who don’t pay their bonds are being released by the sheriff’s office at no cost. And that means fewer services to help them get back in court.

Defendants who are ordered for no-cost release by a judge or magistrate are entered into the county’s Pretrial Services department, which works to ensure those out on personal bonds know the date of their next court appearance and can provide additional conditions like drug testing, mental health services or GPS ankle bracelets. Those released by the sheriff aren’t monitored once they leave the jail, Summerlin said.

“The Sheriff’s Office is not really set up to do that,” Bunin said.“The best way to do it is to have a magistrate issue the conditions and have Pretrial [Services] implement them and monitor them. When you have the sheriff just having to release them, you kind of skip those services that are set up specifically for that.”

Jordan, the county’s only misdemeanor judge who has voiced support of the order, likens the actions of the magistrates and his fellow judges to those of Republicans in Congress weakening the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s like when you want something to fail, then you’re not going to be as likely or as willing to have a clear plan or to work to fix something,” Jordan said.

Spinks said the politics that have gotten involved over the PSA and the court order has made reform efforts awkward because “all the people are trying to do the right thing.”

Not only that — it’s also complicated any future analysis of how reform efforts are going, Bunin said.

“What role do you give the new risk assessment? What role do you give the effect of the lawsuit?” Bunin asked. “There are so many things going on that I can’t really tell you which is affecting things most and which is not.”

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Houston church threatened by gunman at Sunday’s service

A 20-year-old Houston man is in jail after investigators say he used a pistol to threaten church members worshipping in the 5th Ward.

Officers charged Keanu Randolph with carrying a weapon after a disturbance at the Greater Sunrise Missionary Baptist Church on Bringhurst Street near Highway 59 and Liberty Road.

A church deacon who didn’t want his name used was one of the first people to confront Randolph after he was asked to leave yesterday for cursing and being disrespectful to the church’s pastor. Little did they know Randolph had a handgun and a butcher knife inside a backpack he had brought into the church.

Witnesses said he pulled out the gun while standing on the street after he was forced to leave the church.

“He really could have gone off at any time and we have a lot of elders there,” the deacon said. “There was kids there. Someone really could’ve gotten hurt.”

The deacon called 911 and followed Randolph in a truck for several blocks until police arrived and chased down the suspect.

In light of high-profile church shootings — including the shooting in Sutherland Springs a few weeks ago in which a gunman killed 26 people — this church’s pastor is considering new security measures, including the arming of his staff.

“I’m thinking of that,” the pastor John Horton, said. “I hate to do it, but something has got to happen.”

Police also charged Randolph with evading arrest and retaliation. He is in Harris County Jail on a $7,000 bond.

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13-year-old robbery suspect shot in the head by apartment tenant, police say

A teen accused of attempted robbery, is in critical condition after he was shot in the head by an apartment tenant, Houston police said.

The shooting happened just after 2 a.m. in the 300 block of North Vista Drive in north Houston.

When officials arrived on scene, they found a 13-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Police said a woman was home alone when she heard someone breaking into her residence and grabbed her gun. Police said she walked into her living room, where she found people in her home.

She fired at the intruders with a small-caliber handgun, striking the 13-year-old boy.

Police said the teen was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital.

Police are not releasing the number of people involved in the burglary until after the investigation, officials said.

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Coyote attacks increasing: What you should know

Scared, stapled and badly shaken, 10 year-old Penny is lucky to be alive after being viciously attacked by a coyote.

“She quit barking. hen I heard her yelping, like she was hurt,” the dog’s owner said.

The owner asked to not be identified.

The attack happened Monday night, at dusk, in a Fulshear community off Buffalo Hills Lane while Penny’s owner briefly let her out in the backyard.

She didn’t expect a coyote to get over a nearly 8-foot-tall fence.

“I opened the back door and a huge coyote was standing over her and has her pinned to the ground,” said her owner.

The homeowner said she scared the coyote away and then helped Penny, who was severely injured and bleeding, before rushing her to the vet.

“She has two lacerations about an inch and a half on one side of her neck and four puncture wounds on the other side,” Penny’s owner said.

As it turns out, this wasn’t the first time coyotes had been spotted in the neighborhood or in the wooded area just behind them.

“I felt like he could’ve killed me last night. He was a huge, huge coyote,” the dog’s owner said.

Now, the homeowner is warning other neighbors.

She’s asking them to be on the lookout, because she said she’s now living in fear every day when the sun goes down.

“Something needs to be done about the coyotes out here because I don’t feel safe in my own backyard anymore,” said the homeowner.

Here are some things to know about coyotes:

What are precautions to take to manage coyotes?

Do not feed coyotes
Keep pet food and water inside.
Keep garbage securely stored, especially if it has to be put on the curb for collection; use tight-locking trash cans or wrap the cans with bungee cords t make sure they cannot be easily opened.
Keep compost piles securely covered; correct composting never includes animal matter such as bones or fat, which can draw coyotes even more quickly than decomposing vegetable matter.
Keep pets inside, confined securely in a kennel or covered exercise yard, or within the close presence of an adult.

What should you do when you encounter a coyote?

Make noise and do other things to scare the coyote.
Portable air horns, motor vehicle horns, propane cannons, starter pistols, low-powered pellet guns, slingshots and thrown rocks can be effective.
Check with local authorities regarding noise and firearms ordinances.

How do coyotes become an issue in communities?

Urban and suburban coyotes, like urban deer, are symptoms of a broader problem.
People continue to expand housing subdivisions and other human development into what used to be open range wildlife habitat, especially on the expanding fringes of large metropolitan areas.
This is increasing the potential for encounters and conflicts between people and wildlife.

Who can help out with the problem of coyotes?

Texas Wildlife Services, in partnership with local governments, provides nuisance coyote control services in some urban areas.
In some cities, such as Austin, the Texas Cooperative Extension assists by coordinating nuisance coyote control and public education.
Call the main Texas Wildlife Services office in San Antonio at 210-472-5451 to get the number of the local office nearest you.

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Postal worker accused of kidnapping, choking and fatally shooting co-worker girlfriend

A Houston man is facing kidnapping charges after authorities said he shot the mother of his children in the head on Sept. 11.

Don Gaines is accused of taking the woman, who was an employee with the U.S. Postal Service, from Texas to Louisiana for the purpose of killing her or disposing of her body, according to authorities.

Gaines worked at the same location as the woman at the time of the crime, officials said.

Officials said Gaines choked the woman in her car and thought she was dead. While he was driving her, she regained consciousness, authorities said. Gaines stopped the car on the feeder road of I-10, took the woman to the woods and shot her in the head, according to federal officials.

He abandoned her body, authorities said.

If convicted, Gaines could face the death penalty.

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Harris County deputy suspended after striking handcuffed man after chase

A veteran Harris County Sheriffs Office Deputy will face disciplinary action and re-training after an incident that happened while a suspect was in custody.

Deputy Tu Tran, currently assigned to the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force, will face a three-day unpaid suspension because of his actions following a multi-agency police pursuit Oct. 12 that covered 85 miles and ended with the suspect’s arrest in Jefferson County.

WATCH: East Freeway suspect apparently punched in throat

“Deputy Tran also has been ordered to undergo additional training and he is on a 90-day probationary status,” wrote Harris County Sheriff’s Office Senior Deputy Thomas Gilliland.

On video captured by Sky 2, Tran appears to strike the handcuffed suspect, Mohmed Abu-Shlieba, 25, in the throat as he is places him into an unmarked police vehicle.

“Obviously, my thoughts are the officer overreached his boundaries. It wasn’t necessary. The man was in custody and handcuffs,” Brian Coyne, Abu-Shlieba’s defense attorney, said by phone.

Tran has not been charged with a crime, and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges, according to Gilliland.

Abu-Shlieba, who has prior criminal convictions, is most recently charged with evading arrest.

Tran shot and killed a man with a gun outside a Houston nightclub in July 2015.

A friend of the man said at the scene that Juan Adolfo Ibarra, 24, was trying to leave the scene and should not have been shot.

A Harris County Grand Jury declined to indict Tran in March 2016.

 

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Woman with F-Trump sticker adds Sheriff Troy Nehls to display on truck

The driver of a truck featuring a sticker with an expletive directed toward President Donald Trump made some new adjustements by adding, “F*** Troy Nehls and F*** You for Voting for Him” after being arrested on an unrelated, outstanding charge.

Karen Fonseca, 46, walked out of the Fort Bend County Jail with her husband Thursday night after she was taken into custody just an hour after KPRC spoke with her Thursday.

She was released on a $1,500 bond.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds and Fonseca will be holding a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss the injustice against Fonseca at the Fort Bend County Justice Center.

‘We have to protect people’s First Amendment Right to Free Speech,” Reynolds said. “A difference in political views does not give Sheriff Nehls the right to target citizens. These actions by Sheriff Nehls could be an abuse of his law enforcement authority.”

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said he was “not surprised” by the sticker, and “thinks it’s disgusting.”

Fonseca’s truck was pictured in a post on Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls’ Facebook page. Nehls posted a photo of the back of a white pickup truck with a tinted back window and a large sticker that reads, “F*** Trump, and f*** you for voting for him.”

Here was Nehls’ caption of the photo:

“I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck as it is often seen along FM 359. If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you. Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”

WATCH: Fort Bend County sheriff speaks about Facebook post on anti-Trump sticker

The post went viral, gaining more than 10,000 shares within hours.

Just a day after the post was made Thursday, Nehls had deleted the post. His office issued this statement:

“The Sheriff made the post on his Personal page. The objective of the post was to find the owner/driver of the truck and have a conversation with them in order to prevent a potential altercation between the truck driver and those offended by the message. Since the owner of the truck has been identified, the Sheriff took down the post. Due to the hate messages he has been receiving towards his wife and children, the Sheriff will not be commenting on the matter further.”

WATCH: Full interview of truck owner with F Trump sticker

Fonseca said in the 11 months that she has had the sticker on the truck she has had no problems.

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Abbott calls White House’s latest disaster aid request “completely inadequate”

President Donald J. Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday panned the White House’s latest disaster aid request, calling it “completely inadequate” for Texas’ needs in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Unveiled earlier Friday, the request seeks $44 billion from Congress to assist with the Harvey aftermath, as well as the recoveries from other recent hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While not final, the number is far less than the $61 billion proposal that Abbott had submitted for Texas alone to Congress last month.

“What was offered up by Mick Mulvaney and [his Office of Management and Budget] is completely inadequate for the needs of the state of Texas and I believe does not live up to what the president wants to achieve,” Abbott said at a Capitol news conference called to unveil a $5 billion grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The president has told me privately what he’s said publicly, and that is that he wants to be the builder president,” Abbott added. “The president has said that he wants this to be the best recovery from a disaster ever.”

Abbott said the $44 billion request is less than what was offered in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — which hit the East Coast in 2012 and was “half the storm of what Hurricane Harvey was.” If Trump wants to see through the “biggest and best recovery ever,” Abbott added, the effort is “going to necessitate both more funding but also better strategies.”

Abbott was joined at the news conference by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who also made clear he was less than pleased with the White House’s latest disaster aid request. Asked whether he was ready to free up a top OMB nominee whose confirmation he has been blocking as leverage to secure more Harvey aid, he replied: “I’m not satisfied. We have to have further conversation.”

At the press conference, Pam Patenaude, Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced that the department will award Texas $5 billion for Harvey recovery. The money will be used to rebuild hard-hit areas throughout the state and be overseen by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Apart from the new grant, Bush’s General Land Office is currently managing six other community development block grants that total about $4 billion.

Bush said the preliminary plan of action for the $5 billion HUD grant is complete. As of now, the money is planned to go toward temporary housing and fixing damaged homes.

“We are now tasked with the largest housing recovery in American history,” Bush said.

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Former United Airlines pilot pleads guilty to running prostitution ring

Former United Airlines pilot Bruce Wayne Wallis appeared before Harris County Judge Jim Wallace to plead guilty to running a prostitution ring.

The judge gave Wallis five years’ probation. He could have faced up to 20 years in prison if found guilty at trial.

“Even though what you did is certainly despicable, you didn’t endanger, as far as I know, anyone’s lives. You didn’t force anyone to do anything that they didn’t want to do,” Wallace said.

As part of the agreement, Wallis agreed not to ask that his commercial pilot’s license be reinstated while he is on probation.

He also must complete 150 hours of community service and pay a $2,000 fine.

The judge allowed him to keep his flight school open. If he successfully completes the probation, he will avoid a criminal conviction.

“I think that he recognized that while there was a crime committed, that Mr. Wallis should have an opportunity to make a living and contribute, so we’re happy with the result, absolutely happy with it,” defense attorney Dan Cogdell said.

Wallis was arrested in 2016 in one of the 17 raids across Houston in connection to a prostitution ring. Prosecutors said the ring involved 20 female prostitutes at more than six brothels.

“We’re hopeful that he will learn his lesson and that he’ll move on from there. It’s been a long road to get us to this point. There’s been a lot of work and difficulties and there’s been a lot of harm that’s taken place. I’m glad we’re getting to an ending point,” prosecutor Lester Blizzard said.

 

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