After pulling over William Bethel Jr. in April for driving a station wagon with an expired inspection certificate, police in Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania, noticed a gurney in back and asked him what it was for. Bethel, 24, told them he usually used the wagon to deliver bodies for a mortuary transport service, but since his own car was in the shop, that afternoon he was using it to deliver pizza for Domino's. Though state and county health departments agreed later that in itself this broke no laws, Bethel soon quit Domino's and was fired by the transport company.
The War on Drugs
In February Richard Paey, a 47-year-old lawyer confined to a wheelchair by a severe spinal injury, petitioned a Florida appeals court for a new trial on the drug charges that in 2004 landed him in prison--charges, several national columnists later pointed out, similar to those recently faced in Florida by Rush Limbaugh. Each was accused of illegally obtaining large quantities of prescription painkillers, apparently for his own use--in Paey's case, to relieve him of the intense pain he's endured since undergoing several unsuccessful back surgeries (he also has multiple sclerosis). But while Limbaugh struck a deal in May under which all charges will be dropped if he completes 18 months of drug treatment, Paey--who told 60 Minutes he turned down a plea bargain partly on principle and partly because it would have effectively denied him further access to pain medication--is currently serving 25 years.
The Associated Press reported in February that Beijing, hoping to get its citizens to stop spitting in the street before it hosts the 2008 Summer Olympics, has deployed squads of volunteers, wearing orange uniforms with the Chinese character for "mucus" on the back, to hand out bags for people to spit in. And in March the government of India presented its Clean Village awards for 2006, honoring villages where all residents have access to a toilet and thus no longer defecate outdoors. India has vowed to become "open-defecation free" by 2012, but the International Herald Tribune pointed out that just over 800 villages have been certified as clean so far, leaving about 229,000 that haven't.
People Different From Us
Early one morning in February 35-year-old Frank Feldmann, dressed in a tiger suit and carrying a large flag, barricaded himself inside a lighthouse in Saint Augustine, Florida, climbed to the top, and tied himself to the lightning rod. A note left downstairs named no demands but threatened damage to the lighthouse if police interfered. Officers spent about three hours talking him down; communication was apparently made difficult by high winds and the muffling effect of the tiger suit's head. Though Feldmann's Web site details a history of stunts intended to promote his unpublished novels for kids, he told police after surrendering that he'd climbed the lighthouse to protest child pornography on the Internet.
America's latest flying-cow accident took place in March near Seguin, Texas, when five or six cows fell out of a cattle trailer on Interstate 10, causing several collisions and blocking the highway. According to the San Antonio Express-News, state troopers were trying to haul off the dead cows and round up the survivors when one officer directing traffic was nearly hit by a pickup truck, reported stolen in Houston, that sped through the accident scene. When the truck's occupants got out and fled on foot, Seguin police in pursuit left their two squad cars along the highway and ran after them; having caught the suspects, officers returned to find both police cars destroyed by fire after the heat of their engines set the roadside grass ablaze.
In April an Oklahoma City SWAT team became the latest police unit to surround a residence and engage in a lengthy standoff (seven hours in this case) before determining there was no one home.
Least Competent Criminals
What Part of "Getaway" Don't You Understand? In April Brian Williams, 21, was arrested for robbing a supermarket in Glasgow, Kentucky, when police arriving at the scene found him filling up his tank at the gas station across the street. In March 25-year-old Nathan Myles was sentenced to three-plus years in jail for assorted charges relating to a police chase in Thunder Bay, Ontario, that had ended after he stopped to get a haircut. And shortly after his alleged robbery of a bank in Croydon, Pennsylvania, in May, 26-year-old Mario Caracoza was arrested in a diner down the block, where he'd just ordered a stack of pancakes. (According to the Bucks County Courier Times, the server at the diner suspected something was wrong because the seemingly preoccupied Caracoza kept pointing to the kids' menu while ordering.)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time: In March 48-year-old Konoshin Kawabata was arrested for burglarizing a building on the grounds of a temple in Osaka, Japan. Finding a door unlocked, he had entered the darkened building and was allegedly rummaging around when he was surrounded and detained by sumo wrestlers who were living and training on the premises. And an unidentified 34-year-old man was apprehended about 15 minutes after allegedly breaking into a house in suburban Melbourne, Australia, scuffling with the elderly man who lived there, then fleeing; police were confident they had the right person because the victim--for decades a well-known caricaturist at an Australian newspaper--was able to provide an unusually helpful drawing of the intruder's face.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Chuck Shepherd.