State Roundup

Asian carp DNA found in the Kalamazoo River

ALLEGAN, Mich. (AP) - Genetic material from Asian carp has been found in the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan, but there's no indication the invasive fish have become established in the river, officials said Tuesday.

DNA from silver carp was detected in one of 200 water samples taken in July from the river in Allegan County, this one from below the Caulkins Dam about 24 miles from Lake Michigan, the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

The discovery marks the first time so-called environmental DNA for silver carp has been found in Michigan's Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie.

Silver carp is one of the Asian species threatening to invade the Great Lakes and compete with native fish for food.

The discovery of genetic markers doesn't necessarily prove the presence of live carp, as fish deposit their DNA when shedding scales, excrement or mucous. But scientists say it could come from other sources, such as fishing gear or bird droppings.

"While we don't have evidence of a live fish in the water, we treat this finding very seriously," Michigan DNR senior water policy adviser Tammy Newcombe said.

The agency has requested assistance from the Fish and Wildlife Service for additional surveillance on the lower Kalamazoo River, and authorities planned to begin collecting an additional 200 samples Tuesday. Results should be available within a month.

Also, the DNR will boost presence of its staff along the river, which is popular for recreational activities such as fishing and boating, to ask anglers to report any Asian carp sightings. The agency plans to place information in local bait shops to heighten public awareness.

Schauer takes aim at tax on pensions in TV ad

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer says in his second TV ad that he'd get rid of Gov. Rick Snyder's tax on pension income and crack down on businesses that outsource jobs overseas.

The ad released Tuesday is Schauer's first to air in five weeks. He highlights one of his biggest criticisms of the Republican governor - a decision to change how retirement income is taxed.

Schauer says he'd end the unfair "Snyder pension tax." Snyder and Republican legislators say their tax overhaul leveled the playing field regardless of whether people have government pensions or 401(k) distributions.

The tax increase generally affects people born after 1945 and with least $20,000 in individual or $40,000 in joint retirement income.

Key hearing next month in alleged case of road rage

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - A 69-year-old man charged with killing another motorist in what Michigan authorities say was a case of road rage is scheduled for a key hearing next month.

A judge on Tuesday scheduled a preliminary examination Nov. 21 for Martin Zale in Howell District Court to determine if the case goes to trial.

Zale is charged with an open count of murder in the Sept. 2 shooting of 43-year-old Derek Flemming.

Flemming's wife, Amy Flemming, has said her husband was shot in the head after getting out of his vehicle to ask why Zale was driving aggressively.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell reports Zale's family issued a statement, saying they "have faith in the legal process to work through the details of this tragic case."

Racial profiling study prompts police to change

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has made police and procedural changes in an effort to address the findings of a year-old racial profiling study, Police Chief Jeff Hadley told the city commission Monday.

Hadley said officers have received training on consent-to-search, implicit bias and police legitimacy, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported. They have also been encouraged to connect with members of the community by going door-to-door.

The study, released by a consulting firm September 2013, determined black motorists were more than twice as likely to be pulled over in Kalamazoo as white motorists. Although the study also found black motorists are less likely to be given a citation, it found they are more likely to be asked by an officer to exit their vehicles and to be searched, handcuffed and arrested.

"I think a lot of hard work has gone into addressing the results of the traffic stop data analysis," Hadley said. "We have a lot of work to do, let's be honest."

Kalamazoo crime has dropped by 6 percent overall, throughout every category except for aggravated assaults and car thefts. Traffic stops have been reduced by 41 percent, the police chief said.

Hadley said he thinks the department has become smarter about the way it polices the community.

Going forward, the department plans to better track searches, review the field training officer program and focus on strengthening its relationship with the community.

"There's a lot of work to do," Hadley said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you there isn't because there is."

Traverse City
Contractor to pay $300,000 for river damage

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The contractor hired to remove a northern Michigan dam will pay $300,000 to resolve a lawsuit and restore a river that was damaged when the dam failed.

Traverse City commissioners approved the settlement agreement Monday, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. Molon Excavating Inc. will pay $120,000 to Boardman River property owners to cover costs from the October 2012 breach of the Brown Bridge Dam. The company will pay $180,000 to a River Settlement Fund to help restore about 10 miles of river.

Molon designed and constructed a dewatering structure that was supposed to slowly lower the 170-acre Brown Bridge pond. The structure eventually failed, draining the pond within several hours and flooding over 50 properties.

After the breach, a handful of property owners sued the city, which owns the dam, the Boardman River Dams Settlement Agreement Implementation Team and firms involved in the removal of the dam.

The $120,000 settlement will be divided between six or seven property owners who will use the money to remove arsenic contaminated soils from their yards, according to Karen Ferguson, an attorney who represented the 12 families involved in the lawsuit. The property owners will also have a say in the restoration work that will be done.

"We are very pleased that we will be able to assist them and finally get some work on the river and restore the health of the river," Ferguson said. "We know this will take a long, long time but we are hoping this will help speed up the process."

Mayor Michael Estes said the city is pleased with the settlement. Property owners argued Traverse City should be liable for damaging floods and erosion after the dam's removal.

"It has been resolved to our satisfaction and the city is off the hook," Estes said.

Officials plan to support environmental projects through the River Settlement Fund instead of paying fines to the state.

Man found with stolen gun gets 8 years in prison

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Rapids man who said he purchased a stolen rifle that belonged to a state trooper has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Grand Rapids Press reports 34-year-old Todd Jeffrey Simmons was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo.

Simmons pleaded guilty to a being a felon in possession of a firearm. Court records show his criminal history includes convictions of assault with intent to commit murder and first-degree home invasion.

The Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team raided his home in February, looking for drugs and weapons, and recovered the rifle.

The gun was taken from an off-duty trooper's truck while it was parked at a hotel in Grandville in August 2012. Simmons says he bought the weapon for $1,000 and never fired it.

Ann Arbor
Prosecutor says student's killer indifferent to life

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A prosecutor says a 22-year-old man had an "indifference to human life" when he fatally shot a University of Michigan medical student in his off-campus medical fraternity house.

Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Blaine Longsworth made the comment to jurors Monday as the trial of Daejeon Franklin got underway in Ann Arbor.

Franklin is charged with an open count of murder and home invasion. The court has scheduled a Jan 14. trial start for his co-defendants, 21-year-old Joei Jordan and 22-year-old Shaquille Jones.

Prosecutors say Franklin fired the bullet that killed 25-year-old Paul DeWolf in July 2013.

Defense lawyer Walter White says it's no mystery that someone murdered DeWolf but says it's unclear that Franklin was directly involved. White says that the co-defendants' statements blaming Franklin aren't credible.