National Roundup


Lack of evidence led to suspected killer’s release 
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The man suspected of a crime spree last week that left a Northern California sheriff’s deputy dead had been jailed in Oregon two weeks earlier but was released for lack of evidence and manpower in the local district attorney’s office.
Authorities believe Ricardo Antonio Chaney killed a man in Eugene, Ore., on Wednesday, carjacked a vehicle and drove to Mendocino County, Calif., where he fatally shot Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino before being killed in a shootout with a Fort Bragg, Calif., police officer.
Chaney, 32, had been arrested March 6 by Eugene police, who suspected he had a stolen cellphone and stopped his car for traffic violations. They found several guns in the vehicle, including a rifle that appeared to be illegally modified. They also found body armor and methamphetamine, so they arrested him.
Despite the suspicious circumstances and a criminal record that included misdemeanor convictions for third-degree escape and disorderly conduct, Chaney was released the same day.
“The March 6 charges against Chaney were not filed because they fell below the current triage standards and involved no violence or threat of violence,” Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner said in a statement.
Prosecutors were not ready to charge him with a firearms crime because the modified weapon had been sent to an Oregon State Police crime lab for further testing, apparently to check for illegal modifications, Chief Deputy District Attorney Patty Perlow said.
Officials in the district attorney’s office repeated last week what they have said many times — that they do not have funding to employ enough prosecutors to pursue the simplest drug possession cases, The Register-Guard reported. Because of budget cuts, the office has had to establish priorities and standards that determine which crimes to prosecute.
It’s unknown what led to Wednesday’s spree.
Police believe Chaney likely shot George Bundy Wasson, 79, a retired University of Oregon anthropology instructor and Coquille Tribe elder. His body was found in his burning house. Chaney knew Wasson’s family, said Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin.
Less than an hour after the fire was discovered, police say Chaney forced two men into the trunk of their BMW. The men held up outside their home managed to escape in a parking lot and called 911.
About 10 hours after the carjacking, Chaney exchanged gunfire with a worker at a California tourist attraction along Highway 101, about 180 miles north of San Francisco.
After he fled, a deputy spotted him about an hour later but he got away during a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph.
Chaney encountered Del Fiorentino in Cleone, a rural area with a mix of homes, forest and open fields, and sprayed the deputy’s car with rifle bullets, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said.
Fort Bragg police Lt. John Naulty, who was searching for Chaney nearby, heard the gunfire and found Chaney going through the deputy’s vehicle, the sheriff said.
Chaney fired six or seven rounds at Naulty, who returned fire, Allman said. Chaney was later found dead.
2 are sentenced in sl­ain Oakland photog shooting 
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Two men convicted in the shooting death of an ex-Oakland Tribune freelance photographer who was hit by a stray bullet have been each sentenced to 72 years to life in prison.
The Oakland Tribune reports Donel Posten and Joe McNeely each stood up in court Friday and apologized to the family of Lionel Fluker.
In February jurors found the 37-year-old Posten and the 38-year-old McNeely guilty of second-degree murder.
Poston and McNeely were also found guilty of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a handgun.
The 54-year-old Fluker was a passerby caught in the felons’ crossfire when he was struck while driving home in East Oakland in April 5, 2013.
Investigators determined the bullet that killed Fluker came from the gun of McNeely.
Fluker took freelance photos for the Tribune from 1995 to 2007.
Man jailed in alleged murder-for-hire plot 
CREEKSIDE, Pa. (AP) — State police have arrested a western Pennsylvania man in an alleged murder-for-hire plot targeting the suspect’s estranged girlfriend.
Online court records don’t list an attorney for 26-year-old Kevin Peterman, of Indiana, Pa.
Troopers say he was arrested Saturday, though they didn’t release Peterman’s name until Sunday so they could first notify the alleged victim — a 29-year-old Homer City woman.
An informant told police that Peterman wanted to hire him the informant to kill the woman. So police arranged for the informant to meet with Peterman at a home in Rayne Township, that’s about 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
That’s where police set up surveillance and arrested Peterman about 2 p.m. Saturday.
Appeals court to hear case over prison visits 
EDDYVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals court is set to hear a case brought by Kentucky death row inmates challenging the rules governing how and when pastors may visit them at the Kentucky State Penitentiary.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has scheduled oral arguments in the case for May 9 in Cincinnati.
Five death row inmates sued the Department of Corrections in 2011 accusing the Corrections Department and prison of violating their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion. The prison system changed its policy in 2010 requiring inmates to place pastors on one of three slots on an inmate’s visitation list to meet with them one-on-one.
U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell dismissed the inmate’s lawsuit a year ago.
Bystander sues over camera grab by police officer  
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A bystander who was filming police officers making an arrest on an Orlando street has filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested for refusing to turn over his cellphone camera to an officer.
Alberto Troche filed the lawsuit against the officer and the City of Orlando last week in federal court.
Troche says he was standing more than 10 feet away from the arrest scene. He says he started recording on his cell phone because he felt officers were using excessive force.
He says the officer attempted to grab the phone away from him but Troche refused to turn it over, believing he was doing nothing wrong. Troche was then arrested on a charge of resisting arrest without violence.
Prosecutors later dropped the charge.