LAPD: No arrests yet in Northridge abduction of 10-year-old girl
by Eric Hartley
Police spent Friday continuing to investigate the kidnapping of a 10-year-old Northridge girl, but the identity of the two men she described as her abductors remained a mystery.
Investigators said little new Friday and planned no public statement on the case, said Officer Norma Eisenman, a Los Angeles police spokeswoman.
The girl's mother last saw her in bed about 1 a.m. Wednesday. Police said the mother woke to a noise about 3:30 a.m., checked on her daughter and discovered her missing. A child living nearby told his mother he heard a door slam about that time.
The girl later told police she was abducted by two men, put in several vehicles and taken to a vacant home and a warehouse.
They dropped her off at Kaiser Permanente's Woodland Hills Medical Center, and she was spotted shortly before 3 p.m. wandering shoeless around a Woodland Hills strip mall.
She had "facial bruising and lacerations," police said. After being evaluated at a hospital, she went home to her family.
She described one of her abductors as a white man about 18 and didn't have a description of the other.
Police said they didn't know the motivation for the crime. The LAPD's Robbery Homicide Division, which includes detectives who handle kidnappings, was leading the investigation, with the FBI assisting.
The Daily News has identified the girl in previous reports because police released her name when she was missing. But her name is not being reprinted at the request of police and because of reports that the girl was the victim of a sexual assault.
Police did not publicly discuss sexual assault, but referred to "indignities" and said her parents also had requested her name not be used further. The Los Angeles Times cited law enforcement sources saying the girl was sexually assaulted.
Adults more likely than teens to text and drive, study says
by Hayley Tsukayama
Many of the campaigns to stop texting and driving have been aimed at hyper-connected teens, but a new survey from AT&T shows adults are more likely to be driving distracted.
Nearly half of adults surveyed, 49 percent, said they text and drive — even though nearly all of them say they know the habit is dangerous. Ninety-eight percent of adult drivers surveyed said they know that distracted driving isn't safe. But the trend actually appears to be on the rise, AT&T said, as six out of 10 drivers said they never texted behind the wheel just three years ago.
The top reasons that adults gave for their behavior were that sending a text while driving has become second nature, they feel it makes them more productive and it helps them feel connected.
While the survey showed adults were more likely to engage in the bad habit, 43 percent of teens also said they were sending messages while behind the wheel.
The survey on teens provided a bit more data on why young people choose to text and drive. One reason is that most text-message users, the survey said, expect a reply within five minutes or less — 48 percent of teens said they expect a response right away once they fire off a text message.
Parents' behavior, teens said, has a big influence on their own actions. AT&T found that not having a parental rule against texting and driving is among the greatest predictors that a teen will send messages while driving. Other factors included whether a teen had a full- or part-time job, owned a smartphone or usually sent over 100 text messages per day.
AT&T used the results to talk about its "Texting and Driving . . . It Can Wait" campaign, which encourages drivers to take a pledge not to use text messaging behind the wheel.
When it comes to deterring the practice, AT&T found that the threat of a suspended license appears to be the most effective deterrent, followed by the possibility of a $500 ticket.
Many states have tried to take on the problem of texting and driving. Texting-while-driving legislation in Virginia, for example, would make it a primary offense — meaning that law enforcement officials could pull people over just for sending messages from behind the wheel, rather than adding it on to another traffic offense.
On Monday, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed an amendment to that legislation, saying that he supported that change but suggesting that fines for distracted driving be comparable to those for drunken and reckless driving.
After 40 years, Vietnam memories are still strong
by DAVID DISHNEAU and JAY REEVES
The last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam 40 years ago Friday, and the date holds great meaning for many who fought the war, protested it or otherwise lived it.
While the fall of Saigon two years later is remembered as the final day of the Vietnam War, many had already seen their involvement in the war finished - and their lives altered - by March 29, 1973.
U.S. soldiers leaving the country feared angry protesters at home. North Vietnamese soldiers took heart from their foes' departure, and South Vietnamese who had helped the Americans feared for the future.
Many veterans are encouraged by changes they see. The U.S. has a volunteer military these days, not a draft, and the troops coming home aren't derided for their service. People know what PTSD stands for, and they're insisting that the government takes care of soldiers suffering from it and other injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Below are the stories of a few of the people who experienced a part of the Vietnam War firsthand.
'PATRIOTISM NEEDS TO BE CELEBRATED'
Jan Scruggs served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, and he conceived the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a tribute to the warriors, not the war.
Today, he wants to help ensure that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan aren't forgotten, either.
His Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is raising funds for the Education Center at the Wall. It would display mementos left at the black granite wall and photographs of the 58,282 whose names are engraved there, as well as photos of fallen fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"All their patriotism needs to be celebrated. Just like with Vietnam, we have to separate the war form the warrior," Scruggs said in a telephone interview.
An Army veteran, Scruggs said visitors to the center will be asked to perform some community service when they return home to reinforce the importance of self-sacrifice.
"The whole thing about service to the country was something that was very much turned on its head during the Vietnam War," Scruggs said.
He said some returning soldiers were told to change into civilian clothes before stepping into public view to avoid the scorn of those who opposed the war.
"What people seemed to forget was that none of us who fought in Vietnam had anything to do with starting that war," Scruggs said. "Our purpose was merely to do what our country asked of us. And I think we did it pretty well."
'MORE INTERESTED IN GETTING BACK'
Dave Simmons of West Virginia was a corporal in the U.S. Army who came back from Vietnam in the summer of 1970. He said he didn't have specific memories about the final days of the war because it was something he was trying to put behind him.
"We were more interested in getting back, getting settled into the community, getting married and getting jobs," Simmons said.
He said he was proud to serve and would again if asked. But rather than proudly proclaim his service when he returned from Vietnam, the Army ordered him to get into civilian clothes as soon as he arrived in the U.S. The idea was to avoid confrontations with protestors.
"When we landed, they told us to get some civilian clothes, which you had to realize we didn't have, so we had to go in airport gift shops and buy what we could find," Simmons said.
Simmons noted that when the troops return today, they are often greeted with great fanfare in their local communities, and he's glad to see it.
"I think that's what the general public has learned - not to treat our troops the way they treated us," Simmons said.
Simmons is now helping organize a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day in Charleston that will take place Saturday.
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another. We stick with that," said Simmons, president of the state council of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "We go to the airport. ... We're there when they leave. We're there when they come home. We support their families when they're gone. I'm not saying that did not happen to the Vietnam vet, but it wasn't as much. There was really no support for us."
A RISING PANIC
Tony Lam was 36 on the day the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam. He was a young husband and father, but most importantly, he was a businessman and U.S. contractor furnishing dehydrated rice to South Vietnamese troops. He also ran a fish meal plant and a refrigerated shipping business that exported shrimp.
As Lam, now 76, watched American forces dwindle and then disappear, he felt a rising panic. His close association with the Americans was well-known and he needed to get out - and get his family out - or risk being tagged as a spy and thrown into a Communist prison. He watched as South Vietnamese commanders fled, leaving whole battalions without a leader.
"We had no chance of surviving under the Communist invasion there. We were very much worried about the safety of our family, the safety of other people," he said this week from his adopted home in Westminster, Calif.
But Lam wouldn't leave for nearly two more years after the last U.S. combat troops, driven to stay by his love of his country and his belief that Vietnam and its economy would recover.
When Lam did leave, on April 21, 1975, it was aboard a packed C-130 that departed just as Saigon was about to fall. He had already worked for 24 hours at the airport to get others out after seeing his wife and two young children off to safety in the Philippines.
"My associate told me, 'You'd better go. It's critical. You don't want to end up as a Communist prisoner.' He pushed me on the flight out. I got tears in my eyes once the flight took off and I looked down from the plane for the last time," Lam recalled. "No one talked to each other about how critical it was, but we all knew it."
Now, Lam lives in Southern California's Little Saigon, the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam.
In 1992, Lam made history by becoming the first Vietnamese-American to elected to public office in the U.S. and he went on to serve on the Westminster City Council for 10 years.
Looking back over four decades, Lam says he doesn't regret being forced out of his country and forging a new, American, life.
"I went from being an industrialist to pumping gas at a service station," said Lam, who now works as a consultant and owns a Lee's Sandwich franchise, a well-known Vietnamese chain.
"But thank God I am safe and sound and settled here with my six children and 15 grandchildren," he said. "I'm a happy man."
Wayne Reynolds' nightmares got worse this week with the approach of the anniversary of the U.S. troop withdrawal.
Reynolds, 66, spent a year working as an Army medic on an evacuation helicopter in 1968 and 1969. On days when the fighting was worst, his chopper would make four or five landings in combat zones to rush wounded troops to emergency hospitals.
The terror of those missions comes back to him at night, along with images of the blood that was everywhere. The dreams are worst when he spends the most time thinking about Vietnam, like around anniversaries.
"I saw a lot of people die," Reynolds said.
Today, Reynolds lives in Athens, Ala., after a career that included stints as a public school superintendent and, most recently, a registered nurse. He is serving his 13th year as the Alabama president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and he also has served on the group's national board as treasurer.
Like many who came home from the war, Reynolds is haunted by the fact he survived Vietnam when thousands more didn't. Encountering war protesters after returning home made the readjustment to civilian life more difficult.
"I was literally spat on in Chicago in the airport," he said. "No one spoke out in my favor."
Reynolds said the lingering survivor's guilt and the rude reception back home are the main reasons he spends much of his time now working with veteran's groups to help others obtain medical benefits. He also acts as an advocate on veterans' issues, a role that landed him a spot on the program at a 40th anniversary ceremony planned for Friday in Huntsville, Ala.
It took a long time for Reynolds to acknowledge his past, though. For years after the war, Reynolds said, he didn't include his Vietnam service on his resume and rarely discussed it with anyone.
"A lot of that I blocked out of my memory. I almost never talk about my Vietnam experience other than to say, 'I was there,' even to my family," he said.
NO ILL WILL
A former North Vietnamese soldier, Ho Van Minh heard about the American combat troop withdrawal during a weekly meeting with his commanders in the battlefields of southern Vietnam.
The news gave the northern forces fresh hope of victory, but the worst of the war was still to come for Minh: The 77-year-old lost his right leg to a land mine while advancing on Saigon, just a month before that city fell.
"The news of the withdrawal gave us more strength to fight," Minh said Thursday, after touring a museum in the capital, Hanoi, devoted to the Vietnamese victory and home to captured American tanks and destroyed aircraft.
"The U.S. left behind a weak South Vietnam army. Our spirits was so high and we all believed that Saigon would be liberated soon," he said.
Minh, who was on a two-week tour of northern Vietnam with other veterans, said he bears no ill will to the American soldiers even though much of the country was destroyed and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese died.
If he met an American veteran now he says, "I would not feel angry; instead I would extend my sympathy to them because they were sent to fight in Vietnam against their will."
But on his actions, he has no regrets. "If someone comes to destroy your house, you have to stand up to fight."
A POW'S REFLECTION
Two weeks before the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, Marine Corps Capt. James H. Warner was freed from North Vietnamese confinement after nearly 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war. He said those years of forced labor and interrogation reinforced his conviction that the United States was right to confront the spread of communism.
The past 40 years have proven that free enterprise is the key to prosperity, Warner said in an interview Thursday at a coffee shop near his home in Rohrersville, Md., about 60 miles from Washington. He said American ideals ultimately prevailed, even if the methods weren't as effective as they could have been.
"China has ditched socialism and gone in favor of improving their economy, and the same with Vietnam. The Berlin Wall is gone. So essentially, we won," he said. "We could have won faster if we had been a little more aggressive about pushing our ideas instead of just fighting."
Warner, 72, was the avionics officer in a Marine Corps attack squadron when his fighter plane was shot down north of the Demilitarized Zone in October 1967.
He said the communist-made goods he was issued as a prisoner, including razor blades and East German-made shovels, were inferior products that bolstered his resolve.
"It was worth it," he said.
A native of Ypsilanti, Mich., Warner went on to a career in law in government service. He is a member of the Republican Central Committee of Washington County, Md.
A DIFFERENT RESPONSE
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Duane Johnson, who served in Afghanistan and is a full-time logistics and ordnance specialist with the South Carolina National Guard, said many Vietnam veterans became his mentors when he donned a uniform 35 years ago.
"I often took the time, when I heard that they served in Vietnam, to thank them for their service. And I remember them telling me that was the first time anyone said that to them," said Johnson, of Gaston, S.C.
"My biggest wish is that those veterans could have gotten a better welcome home," the 56-year-old said Thursday.
Johnson said he's taken aback by the outpouring of support expressed for military members today, compared to those who served in Vietnam.
"It's a bit embarrassing, really," said Johnson. "Many of those guys were drafted. They didn't skip the country, they went and they served. That should be honored."
John Sinclair said he felt "great relief" when he heard about the U.S. troop pull-out. Protesting the war was a passion for the counter-culture figure who inspired the John Lennon song, "John Sinclair." The Michigan native drew a 10-year prison sentence after a small-time pot bust but was released after 2 ½ years - a few days after Lennon, Stevie Wonder and others performed at a 1971 concert to free him.
"There wasn't any truth about Vietnam - from the very beginning," said Sinclair by phone from New Orleans, where he spends time when he isn't in Detroit or his home base of Amsterdam.
"In those times we considered ourselves revolutionaries," said Sinclair, a co-founder of the White Panther Party who is a poet and performance artist and runs an Amsterdam-based online radio station. "We wanted equal distribution of wealth. We didn't want 1 percent of the rich running everything. Of course, we lost."
The Vietnam War also shaped the life of retired Vermont businessman John Snell, 64, by helping to instill a lifetime commitment to anti-war activism. He is now a regular at a weekly anti-war protest in front of the Montpelier federal building that has been going on since long before the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Haslett, Mich., native graduated from high school in 1966 and later received conscientious objector status. He never had to do the required alternative service because a foot deformity led him to being listed as unfit to serve.
"They were pretty formative times in our lives and we saw incredible damage being done, it was the first war to really show up on television. I remember looking in the newspaper and seeing the names of people I went to school with as being dead and injured every single week," said Snell, who attended Michigan State University before moving to Vermont in 1977.
"Things were crazy. I remember sitting down in the student lounge watching the numbers being drawn on TV, there were probably 200 people sitting in this lounge watching as numbers came up, the guys were quite depressed by the numbers that were being drawn," he said. "There certainly were people who volunteered and went with some patriotic fervor, but by '67 or'68 there were a lot of people who just didn't want to have anything to do with it."
2 fifth-grade boys competent to stand trial on murder conspiracy charge
COLVILLE, Wash. — A northeast Washington judge has found two boys, ages 10 and 11, competent to stand trial in juvenile court on a murder conspiracy charge.
Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen says the fifth-graders had a handwritten plan listing seven steps leading up to the planned killing of a female classmate. That list was submitted as evidence at their mental capacity hearing Friday.
A county judge ruled that the boys understood the nature and consequences of their actions. They pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, witness tampering and juvenile possession of a firearm.
The boys were arrested Feb. 7 at Fort Colville Elementary School after a fourth-grader saw one playing with a knife on a school bus and told a school employee. A backpack search also turned up a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and ammunition.
The Spokesman Review reports (http://is.gd/MiK1al) the boys are being held on $100,000 bond each. Both a defense psychiatrist and a state psychologist say they present a danger to the community.
Community policing credited for curbing crime in Park DuValle, Parkland
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two Louisville neighborhoods -- Park DuValle and Parkland -- are cleaning up on crime.
In the last several months, police in the Louisville Metro Police's second division have seen a significant decrease in residential and business break-ins -- and they believe it has everything to do with their new form of community policing.
Four years ago, burglars cleaned out Dwight Sweeney's home in the Parkland neighborhood.
"In my case...they stole everything out of my house, including the washing machine and dryer," said Sweeney. "It was very frustrating...to come in and all your stuff is gone, and they know how to disarm the alarm."
But these days, crime in Parkland and neighboring Park DuValle is down.
"So far in the first quarter of this year, we've seen almost a 20 percent decrease in residential and business burglaries," said Det. Sgt. Jason Grissom of LMPD.
Metro Police say there's a reason for the decrease in crime.
"It basically boils down to go old fashioned police work," Grissom said.
And that "old fashioned" police work starts with 2nd Division officers like William Vogt and Vadim Dale.
"Actually, Vadim is on the phone," Vogt said. "There's a guy who is wanted for murder."
The officers don't find their murder suspect, but just a few minutes into the ride, and they come across something else.
"Basically anybody that we see in an alleyway out here, we try to figure out what are they doing," said Vogt. "Under the circumstances...he's actually breaking the law."
One man was caught urinating in an alleyway and police soon learned he has felony warrants.
"Turns out that he has got two warrants on him," Vogt said.
Officers Vogt and Dale are part of a newly formed Impact Unit that focuses on break-ins.
"Their sole purpose is to look for specific people that we as detectives tell them to go look for," Grissom said. "And they bring 'em back to us."
The officers also back up patrolmen at possible break-ins, like one where two men working inside a home suspect someone else is in the house. There was no one in the home, but everyone agrees, it's better to be safe than sorry.
And police say the new impact unit is now a permanent part of the police department.
NYPD chief: Community, police must work together
NEW YORK — The new highest-ranking uniformed officer at the New York Police Department said Friday the community must work together with police to keep the city safe.
Philip Banks III was named the chief of department this week, replacing Joseph Esposito, who retired after more than a decade in the post. Banks was previously in charge of community affairs, and said his years there have helped him understand the city and its needs.
"We have to keep this city safe. And when I say we, I don't mean just the New York City police department. It's not just an 'us' job. It's everybody in New York City," he said.
Banks, 50, whose father was also a police officer, joined the nation's largest police department in July 1986 in Brooklyn and worked his way up the ranks. He takes over as third in command behind Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro during a challenging time for the NYPD.
Crime is at historic lows, but there has been a steady increase of criticism over some of the department's tactics. An ongoing trial in federal court is challenging the constitutionality of some of the nearly 5 million street stops made by police in the past decade. And last week, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said broad support had been reached to create an inspector general post following an outcry over street stops, and surveillance of Muslims as revealed in stories by The Associated Press.
Banks, who opposes the inspector general idea as does the police commissioner and mayor, said he believes there is widespread support for the police department.
"I think by and large that the overwhelming majority of New York City supports the police department. I think they respect the police department. I think that they like the way we are handing our role doing policing," he said.
Banks said he believes that stop, question and frisk is a useful tool when used correctly. He has been stopped himself once by police — as a college student. He said people come to him and say they don't necessarily have a problem with being stopped, but they wished police would be more polite. Lawyers for men who sued say the department unfairly targets black and Hispanic men — they are the majority of those stopped by police.
Banks would not comment directly on the trial because it is ongoing.
"We certainly, in the police department, don't want to have any strategy that alienates us with the communities that we do serve," said Banks, the second black man to be appointed to the position in the department's history. "I don't believe that it's a total alienation."
Kelly said Banks has proven himself time and again to be an outstanding field commander and "consummate builder of community relations."
Banks was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Queens with his wife and three children. Banks said the historic drop in crime doesn't mean the city can rest. He said the city must continue to drive crime down further. Last year, the city saw the fewest number of murders since comparable record-keeping began in the 1960s.
"We just need to continue, together, as one, to say, 'How do we continue to make a little improvement today, a little improvement the next day? To keep moving in the right direction," he said.