<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Dallas-Fort Worth News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC+5-KXAS+Logo+for+Google+News.png NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth http://www.nbcdfw.comen-usThu, 25 May 2017 19:11:56 -0500Thu, 25 May 2017 19:11:56 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Firefighters Called to Rescue Man Trapped Near Trinity River]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 18:39:43 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/204*120/search052517.JPG

Dallas Fire-Rescue firefighters and Dallas police officers were called Thursday to rescue a man who was lost and trapped in thick brush along the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.

Officials say the man called 911 for help at about 4:40 p.m. after he became dehydrated and trapped in the area near the Luna Golf Course in northwest Dallas.

The search team located the man with the assistance of Air 1, and a DFR boat was summoned to help transport the man to shore to be evaluated for minor injuries.

Additional information was not immediately available.

Check back and refresh this page for the latest update. As this story is developing, elements may change.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Pension Deal Heads to Governor's Desk]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 19:09:58 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/DALLAS+POLICE+FIRE+PENSION2.jpg

A deal to fix the Dallas Police and Fire Pension crisis has been given final approval and is on the way to the Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

The bill spearheaded by State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) and State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) was passed by the house unanimously on Thursday. It will now await the governor's signature.

The crisis in the pension system was blamed on overly generous benefits, investments that failed to produce the needed return and deception about the true value of fund assets.

As part of the plan, employees are said to pay more and receive less in benefits.

Some of the differences in the current pension plan and the bill headed to the governor's desk, include:

  • Raising the retiring age to 58 (previously 50 or 55 depending on start date)
  • Retirees would receive 90 percent of their computation pay under the new plan compared to 96 percent currently.
  • No interest on DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) which allows employees to continue working while claiming retired status. Under current plan, those who stayed on were able to have five to six percent interest in their retirement funds.
  • The compromise also increases the numbers on the pension board to six appointed by the mayor and council, one police representative, one fire representative and three appointed by nominations committee. It also requires a two-thirds vote on major decisions from the board.

Taxpayers will also pay more to fix the system, but the amount of that contribution is not yet known.

As a result of the crisis, Dallas lost hundreds of officers and saw other departments recruiting Dallas officers away from the department.

Mayor Mike Rawlings said when the deal was reached the city needs to look at restoring confidence.

"We've got to attract and retain our police and fire in order for us to continue the growth. Dallas is going to grow in the next 20 years. We are going to be a great city, but it won't be that way if we don't solve this issue," Rawlings said.

<![CDATA[DART Plans Fare Hike of More Than 17 Percent]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 17:45:45 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dart+train2.jpg

Dallas Area Rapid Transit riders would pay 17.5-percent higher fares under a proposed set of new fares.

The transit agency will hold public meetings around the area to hear comments from riders. The first two meetings are Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. in Rowlett and Addison.

This link includes details on all the proposed fare changes and meeting locations.

DART plans to change fares gradually over the next year. Daily $5 fares would increase to $6 with a switch to peak-hour pricing and $3 tickets for each direction of a daily commute. Midday fares would be $2. And monthly fares would increase from $80 to $96.

The DART smartphone app Go Pass and new smart cards to be offered soon will be able to track individual fare purchases. Riders will be able to cap monthly expense at $96, no matter how many tickets they purchase.

Nothing is final yet, and there is still time for public comment on the proposed changes.

The DART board is scheduled to vote on the plans this summer after public meetings.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Ability to Text to 911 Varies Across North Texas]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 17:01:31 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Generic+911+smart+phone.jpg

A chase through four North Texas counties Thursday morning started with a text to 911, but the ability to reach emergency dispatchers varies in cities across North Texas.

Arlington police said Hunt County Sheriff’s deputies received a 911 text from a 33-year-old woman who said she was inside the RV and had been shot.

It started simply with the text "Help."

She responded that she was on I-30 westbound in an RV, she was able to relay that she was shot three times. When the dispatcher sought clarification of a typo, the woman responded "kidnap us."

While the Hunt County Sheriff's Office can receive calls for help via text, not all North Texas counties or cities can. NBC 5 compiled this list of counties and cities that do have the ability to accept 911 texts:

Dallas County:

  • Balch Springs Police Department
  • Cockrell Hill Police Department
  • Sachse Police Department
  • Seagoville Police Department
  • Wilmer Police Department

Tarrant County:

  • None

Collin County:

  • Collin County Sheriff's Office
  • Frisco Police Department
  • Prosper Police Department

Rockwall County:

  • Rockwall Police Department
  • Rockwall Sheriff's Office

Denton County:

  • Carrollton Police Department
  • Denton Police Department
  • Denton County Sheriff's Office
  • Flower Mound Police Department
  • Highland Village Police Department
  • Lake Dallas Police Department
  • Lewisville Police Department
  • Roanoke Police Department
  • Texas Woman's University Dept of Public Safety
  • The Colony Police Department
  • Trophy Club Police Department
  • University of North Texas Police Department

Hunt County:

  • Greenville Police Department
  • Hunt County Sheriff's Office

Wise County:

  • Wise County Sheriff's Office

Johnson County:

  • Johnson County ESD
  • Johnson County Sheriff's Office

Erath County:

  • Dublin Police Department
  • Erath County Sheriff's Office
  • Stephenville Police Department

Parker County:

  • Parker County Sheriff's Office
  • Springtown Police Department
  • Weatherford Police Department

Ellis County:

  • Ellis County Sheriff's Office
  • Ennis Police Department
  • Red Oak Police Department

Somervell County:

  • Somervell County Sheriff's Office

Navarro County:

  • Navarro County Sheriff's Office

Palo Pinto County:

  • Palo Pinto Sheriff's Office

Photo Credit: Vladimir Koletic, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Richardson Man Battles for Replacement Scooter]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 14:53:12 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/scooter+problems.jpg

A Richardson man battling Parkinson's Disease can't get around without his electric scooter. 

When the brand new device broke down, while under warranty, he still couldn't get it fixed for months.  

Sitting down talking to Tony Romero, you'd have a hard time knowing he was sick at all. But when he stands up, it's clear his legs aren't working properly.

Parkinson's Disease has slowed him down.

"I sit everyday looking at the yard, watching the grass grow as they say," Romero said.

But he was able to get more mobile when his wife bought him a Pride Mobility Scooter.

"We can go to casinos, to malls, we can go where we want to go," said Romero.

That's until one day at the mall when the scooter stopped scooting. It started beeping and then went dead. Romero's wife, Gwynn, had to push the dead scooter to the car with him on it.

The Romero's replaced the batteries, but that didn't do it. Pride sent out a tech who said he'd be back in touch, but the Romero’s say that didn't happen, either.

"I kept asking for manager after manager and 'we'll call you back', but no one called us back," said Romero.

The scooter was under warranty, but they couldn't get help.

Romero says his wife was on the phone with the company every day.

"Not a day would pass that she wasn't talking to them trying to get something done. She was more frustrated everyday."

The issue lasted months. The scooter broke down in December, and she finally called NBC 5 Responds for help this month. 

We got to work and Pride Mobility immediately apologized saying:

"We continue looking into how the unacceptable service issues occurred, and appreciated the opportunity to help resolve the situation."

Soon after, a brand new scooter was delivered to their doorstep.

Now the Romeros are ready to get back on the road to the casino and the mall.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Abbott: 'Way Premature' to Speculate on Special Session]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 17:51:56 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/gov+abbott+052517.jpg

The Texas legislative session ends Monday, and there are still several bills working their way through the House and Senate that have the support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Still, Abbott told NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine on Thursday it's too early to know whether he will call a special session.

"Again, this is way premature. We got so much time left in this. This is like the last two minutes of a football game. The whole game can change in the last two minutes, and I think we will take care of business," Abbott said.

Last week, the governor said he wanted the legislature to pass a privacy bill. And lawmakers have yet to come to agreement on a so-called "bathroom bill." The Senate version says people must use the bathroom that matches their gender on their birth certificates. The House bill pertains to public K-12 schools.

"It's a matter of putting down personal feelings on both the House and the Senate side, and making sure they take care of the business for the people of the state of Texas and come up with a law that everybody can agree on," Abbott said.

One bill that is already headed to the governor's desk is a ban on texting and driving. Abbott says he has not made a decision yet on the bill.

"Well, it is clear that texting while driving has become deadly dangerous. Something must be done about it. I am looking forward to digging into the details of the bill. One thing that I wanted was to have a texting while driving ban that preempted the patchwork quilt of local regulations across the state of Texas. I am going to be looking forward to digging into this bill to find out exactly what it provides and what it amends," Abbott said.

On Thursday, Abbott signed into law a crackdown on inappropriate relationships between teachers and students.

Senate Bill 7 requires principals and superintendents to report inappropriate teacher-student relationships or face jail time and fines up to $10,000. The teacher's family could also lose access to the teacher's pension.

It further mandates that a teacher automatically lose his or her license if he or she has to register as a sex offender.

Teachers would also get training on how to properly handle personal boundaries and relationships with students.

Abbott signed the bill during a ceremony in his office at the state Capitol saying, "Texas will protect its children from sexual predators in our classrooms."

"We needed to pass a law that cracked down on this inappropriate conduct between teachers and students, where teachers were assaulting students. This is disgusting, and even more disgusting is the fact that principals and administrators, and the state was doing nothing about it," he added.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Grand Prairie Boys and Girls Club Celebrate Red Nose Day]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 10:27:31 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/red-nose-day-gp.jpg

Children at the Grand Prairie Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas are ready for Red Nose Day.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks CB Sherman Considered Cowboys Amid Trade Rumors]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 09:38:48 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-615045710.jpg

As trade rumors swirled during the NFL off-season, Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman reportedly thought about life as a Dallas Cowboy.

According to a story by ESPN's Seth Wickersham, Sherman told friends he allowed himself to imagine playing for the Cowboys.

The Seahawks were rumored to be open to trading the All-Pro cornerback — who was open to being traded — ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft in April.

The move would have made sense for the Cowboys. Sherman is an ideal fit in the coverage schemes most used by Dallas and the team had needs throughout the secondary after losing Brandon Carr, Mo Claiborne, J.J Wilcox and Barry Church to free agency.

Dallas, though, chose to address the unit by selecting three cornerbacks and a safety in the draft.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[RV Chase Witness: 'Never Seen Anything Like This']]> Thu, 25 May 2017 11:00:33 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/RV_Chase-BR-052517.gif

Karen Sinwald of Lone Oak, in Hunt County, says she was on her way to work when she became stuck behind the police chase with an RV on Interstate 30 heading for Dallas County. After 16 years of commuting to work in west Fort Worth, Sinwald said she has never seen anything like this before.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Website Allows Easy Access to Personal Information]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 12:03:13 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/231*120/true+people+search.JPG

A website might be broadcasting your personal information for everyone to see for free.

True People Search is making headlines for making people's personal information easily accessible to anyone with access to the internet.

With just a name, and possibly a few more tidbits of information, you can find out someone's current and past addresses, phone numbers, and even names of relatives or business associates.

One way the the website obtains a person's information is by pulling data from social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.

If you want to avoid having your information falling into the wrong hands, make sure to check the privacy policies of each such site to determine how your personal information is being used or make your page private.

The website does allow individuals to remove their own records. They note that removal of public records may not be effective immediately and that they "reserve the right to require verification of identity and reject opt-out requests in our sole discretion."

You can request your information be removed by clicking here.

Photo Credit: truepeoplesearch.com]]>
<![CDATA[Police Chase Man in RV With Kids Inside After Shooting]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 18:57:37 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/rv-chase-fire1.gif

Police said a man is dead after leading authorities on a chase through four North Texas counties in a recreational vehicle with two children inside after shooting a woman early Thursday.

Arlington police said Hunt County Sheriff’s deputies received a 911 text from 33-year-old Candie Crystal Price who said she was inside the RV and had been shot. She added that she had been kidnapped and that her two children were inside, as well.

A Caddo Mills police officer spotted the RV near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 1903 and Interstate 30 just before 3 a.m., according to police. Authorities said Price jumped out of the RV, which was traveling nearly 90 mph, when she saw the police car.

Price was transported to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas for treatment for gunshot wounds. Hunt County Sheriff's deputies said she is out of surgery and remains in critical condition.

The RV continued west on I-30 through Rockwall and Dallas counties during the next 30 minutes as multiple police departments joined the pursuit. Police said they used spike strips, damaging the RV's tires and slowing the pursuit to about 20 mph as the driver, identified as Tony Kelly, Sr., approached Tarrant County.

The pursuit continued on westbound I-30 into Arlington until Kelly stopped near Cooper Street at about 4:40 a.m. Police said officers approached the RV, opened the door and let out two children described as a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old.

As officers grabbed the children, police said they reported hearing a single gunshot. The vehicle then caught fire.

Arlington Police Department spokesman Lt. Chris Cook confirmed Kelly was found deceased in the RV.

Officers were seen escorting the children to an ambulance and transported to Arlington Memorial Hospital. Their conditions were not released.

Hunt County Sheriff’s Office and Rockwall police are investigating the shooting of the woman, according to authorities. Arlington police are investigating Kelly's death.

All westbound lanes of I-30 were closed until about 10 a.m. Various eastbound lanes of the interstate were closed until about 7 a.m. 

Karen Sinwald told NBC DFW she was driving from Greenville to her workplace in West Fort Worth when she caught up with the chase.

"I've been driving this route for 16 years and I've seen it all," she said. "I'm scared for the kids, not knowing what they went through at the beginning and to the end. They must've been terrified."

NBC 5's Holley Ford contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Low-Income Landlord Speaks Out About Change of Heart]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 04:10:02 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/kraish+kraish+talks.jpg

For the last eight months Khraish Khraish has been battling Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas over new minimum housing standards.

Hundreds of tenants were caught in the middle when Khraish announced late last year that instead of bringing his properties up to code he was taking them off the rental market.

That left hundreds of families facing eviction and homelessness, until everything changed Monday.

"I'm here to announce a comprehensive solution that the community and I have determined best. I'm offering my 130 remaining families, who are in good standing, an opportunity to buy their homes," Khraish told a crowd of tenants gathered outside the West Dallas home one of his tenants had just purchased.

Khraish said his change of heart came after a conversation with community leaders in west Dallas.

"They just kept reiterating that the solution was in my hands, that we weren't going to have any help from the city," he said. "I think I was able to hear their voices a little more clearly. They were coming from an outside perspective."

The decision has some of his tenants wondering if Khraish has ulterior motives.

He's selling each home for $65,000, which is well above their appraised value.

He's turned his leasing company into a private lender meaning he'll collect mortgage payments instead of rent.

As homeowners, those tenants are now responsible for paying for repairs to their homes. As the lender, Khraish has the authority to foreclose on the homes, though he was adamant that his goal is to not take any homes back from owners who fall behind on payments.

"This is a great deal for my tenants. These properties will only get more valuable. I am making my tenants not just homeowners, but I'm making them winners, financially, for the long run," he said."I designed this mortgage to make it accessible for everyone and I think I've been successful at doing that. If I didn't have hassle from the city I could have gone on renting indefinitely. I am creating homeowners who will own a very valuable asset ,and I think home ownership is a first step to wealth."

Khraish pledged to help new homeowners find the resources to make repairs, and fight rising property taxes.

"My attorney claims that I am the largest property tax litigant in the city. I know how to do it. I know how to do it effectively, and I've offered my services for free to my homeowners," he said.

Despite a heated relationship with the city and some in the West Dallas community Khraish said HMK Mortgage, LLC is staying in West Dallas. He said the city is responsible for putting his tenants in this position.

"The mayor takes credit for his own High Impact Landlord Initiative, so I believe the fault lies with him. It was not my choice to attack my company," Khraish said. "We were attacked because our property stands in a very desirable place now. I'm not responsible for that, but I did have the responsibility of defending the neighborhood and these families."

Photo Credit: Kraish Kraish Talks]]>
<![CDATA[United, American Planes Collide At Austin Airport ]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 00:22:05 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ATX+PLANE+AX.jpg

A United Airlines plane collided with an American Airlines plane at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Wednesday night near the terminal gates. 

The American Airlines plane was stationary at the time, waiting to taxi to the gate, when the wing of a United plane clipped the aircraft.

No crew members or passengers aboard American Airlines flight 2675 were injured, according to a spokesperson for American Airlines. 

United Airlines flight 898 was traveling from Austin to Houston at the time. 

All customers were deplaned via air stairs and returned to the terminal. Passengers have been re-booked on United flight 630 and are scheduled to depart Austin later tonight, said a spokesperson for United Airlines.

No crew members or passengers on the United flight were injured during the incident. 

Photo Credit: Ashton Ainsworth]]>
<![CDATA[A Home for Pierre]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 23:01:11 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/home+for+pierre.jpg

An elderly Dallas woman is looking for a good home for her aging dog, Pierre.

"He's about like me with the old age," Willie Wells joked. "He's my only family."

Wells, who is 73-years old, has a few health issues.

"My eyes are blurry all the time. They say I got dementia and arthritis and I can't stoop or bend," Wells said. "If my health was good you wouldn't be sitting here!"

Wells says she can't care for her 12-year old Cockapoo, Pierre, anymore the way she should.

"I'm sorry," she cooed to the dog as he sat on her lap Wednesday evening. "It's hard, but I got to do what's right for him." 

A neighbor told Stephanie Timko with the Southern Dallas Animal Initiative that Wells wanted her help.

"That's what makes Miss Wells extraordinary," Timko said. "Because this is all about Pierre and his well-being."

Timko reached out to Dallas Dogrrr, a rescue group, to help get Pierre adopted by a good family.

"Oh, it's going to be tougher than I thought," said Wells tearfully. "I want 'em just to love and take care of him and let him know he is loved."

If you are interested in adopting Pierre, you can find more information here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Fort Worth ISD Considering Three Options To Ease Overcrowded School]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 04:10:43 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/tanglewood+school.jpg

Voters in Fort Worth may be asked to approve a multi-million dollar bond package to solve the severe overcrowding at Tanglewood Elementary.

The school was built for just 590 students in 1960 which in three years will have 1,000.

At a town hall meeting Wednesday night, Superintendent Kent Scribner outlined three options –

Building a new school, construct another school and split classes between the two, or expand the current school building.

“Even if this solution lasts for 10 years, we will be back to speak with you”, Scribner said, “no one I’ve spoken to believes there will be fewer people living in Fort Worth in the future than there are today”.

Expanding the current building would involve adding floors, but would still be the least expensive option that would cost the district somewhere between $11 million and $13 million.

The Superintendent noted that there is some money left from the successful 2013 bond election which could jump start that project.

Parents with children at Tanglewood Elementary are divided.

“I think these three options could be viable”, said Tanglewood parent Clif Wiegard, “there’s probably a couple that would be better for me personally, but I think it is to the education of all the children there, keeping us within the boundaries is where they really looked for a solution, I like that”.

“I feel that these options are not viable”, said Tanglewood parent Katie Stadler, “and that they are not innovative practices for early childhood education and that they don’t solve the problem”.

The Superintendent took a fourth possible option off the table, saying he would not recommend converting the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center into a neighborhood school.

That brought cheers from parents of children at that school, who fought to keep it.

“We’re really glad that the district listened to our concerns and what we saw as the practical problems to re-purposing Alice Carlson” said Alice Carlson parent Jody Sanders, “we’re proud of our program and hopes it continues to be a success in its current home”.

The superintendent said he will recommend one of the three options to school board members in June.

Any one of the options would require voters to approve a bond package, which could be on the ballot as early as this fall.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Investigation Launched Into Miss Black Texas Arrest]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 18:52:38 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/carmen-ponder-cuffs.jpg

The winner of Miss Black Texas 2016 says she was harassed and berated by a North Texas police chief who she said called her a "black b----," and then was unlawfully detained and arrested. 

In an interview with NBC 5, Carmen Ponder recounted her alleged interaction with Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews.

The City of Commerce says statements about the incident do not align with statements from Crews and the responding officer. The city manager says Crews has been placed on leave during the investigation into the matter.

In her account, Ponder said that she was driving to a Wal-Mart in Commerce Saturday when a black truck cut in front of her car and began driving erratically, braking and accelerating. Ponder said she turned on her blinker, pulled around to pass the truck and then drove into the Wal-Mart parking lot.

According to Ponder, the black truck followed her and pulled up next to her car. She said the passenger, who she believes to be Crews, exited the truck and yelled that he was teaching his 14-year-old daughter how to drive and that she should not have passed his truck. 

Ponder said she ignored the man at first but eventually told him that that was illegal before she walked into the store.

"I finally got annoyed with him trying to justify the fact that a 14-year-old was illegally driving on the road, so I turned around and I screamed, 'It's illegal,' and that’s when it was, 'Oh, whatever you black b----," she said.

After making a purchase at the store, Ponder said when she walked out of the store she was charged by several other officers in plain clothes.

“One of them shoved his badge in her face, told her that she ‘Better apologize to the police chief,’ but my client declined to do so,” Ponder's attorney Lee Merritt said. “One of the officers grabbed her, pulled her back into Wal-Mart, and told her she was being detained. When other officers arrived she walked back to her car to explain what happened. An officer grabbed her and demanded she be arrested for resisting arrest. She has bruises on her arms from where she was grabbed.”

Ponder was handcuffed, booked into jail and charged with evading arrest or detention. She spent 24 hours in jail.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, authorities said Crews was placed on administrative leave while an outside organization hired by the City of Commerce conducts an investigation:

"On May 20, 2017, the Commerce Police Department responded to a call about a dispute between two motorists entering the Walmart parking lot. Though not on duty and present only as a customer, Police Chief Kerry Crews became engaged in the incident after being approached by one of the parties. Chief Crews made contact with the other party, but she failed to comply with his requests. As a result, she was arrested for evading arrest or detention with the responding officer arrived. She was then taken to the Hunt County Jail.

Since the incident there have been a number of statements made about the details of the incident, and many of these details do not align with the statements provided by Chief Crews and the responding officer. As such, the City is engaging an outside entity to conduct an investigation into the incident to objectively review and determine the facts.

For the benefit of the investigation, and in keeping with common practice, Chief Crews will be placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. This is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing and should not be perceived as a disciplinary action. The work of the Commerce Police Department is essential to the community, and it is beneficial to both Chief Crews, the officers, and the City to allow him to serve without the distraction of an investigation clouding his day-to-day management of the department. Disciplinary action, if warranted, cannot be taken until after the investigation has concluded.

At this time, the City of Commerce will hold all additional comments until the investigation has progressed."

Crews declined to comment on the allegations, telling NBC 5 his attorneys advised him not to speak at this time.

Ponder is calling for police accountability and has launched a crowdfunding page to raise money for attorney's fees to fight the charges. She writes in her youcaring.com post that she refuses to take a plea deal and is "more than willing" to go to trial. 

"My only crime...the color of my skin," she said.

Ponder is the former Miss Black Texas U.S. Ambassador. She is also a Dean’s List student at Texas A&M University-Commerce and an intern with the Hunt County District Attorney, according to her You Caring page.

Commerce City Manager Darrek Ferrell says the city will hire a private firm to conduct an investigation, a matter the city council was expected to discuss Wednesday evening.

An interim police chief told NBC 5 Crews has been with the Commerce Police Department for more than 25 years.

Photo Credit: Attorney Lee Merritt/Getty
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<![CDATA[Police Investigate Multiple Sexual Assaults Near UNT Campus]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 00:24:38 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/denton+sexual+assault.jpg

Denton Police are investigating multiple sexual assaults near the University of North Texas campus.

The attacks span the course of months, said Denton Police spokesman Shane Kizer, but the latest attack was reported May 16.

The suspect description is vague -- a man standing taller than 6’ and with a large build.

Kizer said attacks are occurring at apartment complexes in an area just northwest of the UNT campus.

The attacker is gaining access either through an open window or unlocked door, or in some cases, may be posing as a delivery person.

“The biggest thing that we can really push is -- don’t open the door at night to anyone when you don’t know who they are. You don’t want to fall for any scams where someone is there to deliver a package that you haven’t ordered,” Kizer added.

Kizer said the attacks are rare in the college town because they are stranger on stranger. None of the victims, females in their early 20s, know the man.

“Normally when we have sexual assaults, it comes into play with people knowing each other,” Kizer added.

Police believe the cases are linked, but it is possible there may be more than one attacker.

The campus is fairly quiet, only summer classes or “mini-mesters,” are currently in session.

None of the assaults occurred on campus, but UNT did send out an “off-campus crime alert” to students, warning them to be aware of their surroundings.

For senior Joe Kurilla, that was a lesson taught by dad years ago.

“I always think of what could happen and have a plan,” Kurilla said. “Anyone can be taken advantage of, even men, so not only am I looking out for other people, I have to look out for myself.”

Senior Scarlett Jones said the alert will make her more alert – paying closer attention to her surroundings and thinking about protection.

“I don’t have anything like pepper spray or a knife or anything, but maybe I should,” Jones added.

Denton Police said their major crimes unit is following all leads and catching the man is a priority. Anyone with information should contact Denton Police at 940-349-7960.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Childhood Home of Former First Lady Laura Bush For Sale]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 04:11:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/new-bush-house-one.jpg The childhood home of former first lady Laura Bush in Midland Texas recently hit the market for $410,000.

Photo Credit: Caroline Earles / Realtor]]>
<![CDATA[Big Buses, Bigger Problems: The $25M DCS Land Deal]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 21:00:13 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/20011283-FSFin-Big-Buses-Bigger-Problems-v2.jpg

NBC 5 produced a special in-depth investigative report revealing the latest developments in the ongoing investigation into Dallas County Schools, the taxpayer-funded agency responsible for the daily transportation of 75,000 North Texas students. NBC 5 anchors Brian Curtis and Meredith Land and Senior Investigative Reporter Scott Friedman explained the latest findings.

The special report can be seen above -- it will also be rebroadcast Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on NBC 5.

NBC 5 Investigates has learned as school bus provider Dallas County Schools began to sink into financial trouble, the agency sold taxpayer-owned land to get fast cash. But the agency still needed the land -- and entered into a lease deal that obligates taxpayers to cover millions of dollars in payments over the next two decades.

The Characters

DCS board president Larry Duncan did not want to discuss the real estate transaction with NBC 5. There are questions about who profited from the deal and whether campaign contributions made to Duncan played any role in who cashed in.

DCS is the taxpayer-supported school bus agency that serves a dozen school districts in three North Texas counties, including the Dallas, Cedar Hill and Irving ISDs, among others.

Over the last six months, NBC 5 Investigates has uncovered serious safety lapses and misuse of taxpayer money inside the agency. Our reporting has revealed a dramatic increase in school bus crashes, millions spent to settle school bus accident claims, and a scandal involving taxpayer money used to pay traffic tickets for hundreds of bus drivers who ran red lights. Earlier this year DCS ended up $42 million behind budget and is millions more in debt. Some state lawmakers are now pushing legislation that calls for the agency to be abolished.

Watch the Special Report: The $25M DCS Land Deal

The Connection

So, how are they all connected? To understand what led up to the land deal, flashback first to 2012.

That’s when DCS started spending millions on school bus camera systems; security cameras were mounted inside the buses but also along the exterior where they were designed to record drivers ignoring the bus’s extended stop-arm – a safety device intended to alert drivers to school children crossing the road.

In addition to purchasing camera systems for its entire fleet, DCS decided to launch a business venture with Force Multiplier Solutions, the camera company that provided the equipment for the agency’s school buses. Financial records show DCS has paid Force Multiplier Solutions about $75 million for equipment and services.

DCS’ business venture with Force Multiplier Solutions was supposed to work like this:

  • DCS would buy cameras from Force Multiplier Solutions and then give them to school districts for free.
  • DCS hoped to cover the cost of the cameras and eventually profit from the deal by collecting a portion of the fines from tickets issued to drivers caught on camera running past extended school bus stop signs.

But it didn't work out the way DCS leaders hoped. Signing up large school districts to participate in the program was tough and many drivers who got caught running the stop signs never paid the tickets. In some cases DCS failed to convince local officials to pass ordinances that would give DCS the authority to levy a fine.

By 2014 records show DCS was millions of dollars in debt and borrowing from its own general fund to cover losses on the camera business.

In April 2014, bond rating agency Moody's lowered DCS's credit rating citing concerns about, “significant risk related to the stop-arm enterprise.” Moody’s followed with two additional downgrades in December 2014 and January 2015, expressing concerns about cash flows at DCS and saying the camera program had “underperformed the district’s projection.”

With DCS struggling financially, the agency sold taxpayer-owned land in a deal that provided capital.

New records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates raise questions about who orchestrated and profited from the land deal and about campaign contributions made to the politician who heads board that approved the deal.

In February 2015, the DCS board approved the sale. It’s a deal DCS Board of Directors President Larry Duncan does not want to discuss publicly.

We wanted to know how a man whose family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Duncan’s campaign ended up profiting from the land deal. When asked about the deal in person, Duncan declined every opportunity to answer questions. In an email he later said details of the transaction were left up to the DCS administration.

Former DCS Superintendent Rick Sorrells has also declined to answer questions from NBC 5.

First, let’s explain the land deal and how it will cost Dallas County taxpayers millions over the next 20 years.

The Sale-Leaseback Deal

If you pay taxes in Dallas County, the property in question once belonged to you. In fact, taxpayers owned all four massive lots where DCS services its school buses.

In February 2015, DCS decided to sell the four service center properties in a deal called a sale-leaseback – where they sold the land and received cash, but immediately leased it back from the new owner for a monthly fee.

The deal provided an instant source of cash and at least temporarily improved the agency’s balance sheet.

Joseph Cahoon, Director of the Folsom Institute for Real Estate at Southern Methodist University, said sale-leaseback deals are extremely common in commercial real estate and that DCS basically went from being an owner to a renter.

DCS received about $25 million in cash for the lots, $7 million more than the appraised value of the land. However, the deal came with a significant long-term cost. Taxpayers are now obligated to make more than $47 million in lease payments over the next 20 years.

That’s $47 million owed on land taxpayers owned free and clear just over two years ago.

“They got cash in exchange for a long-term rent liability,” Cahoon said.

Denise Hickman, former executive director of business at DCS when the deal was made, said her boss, then Superintendent Rick Sorrels, didn’t involve her in the deal. When Hickman learned of the land sale she said she had huge concerns about the long-term expense.

That wasn’t all.

“After we did the sale-leaseback, I got a request for $80,000 to repair the driveway and I was saying, ‘Why am I repairing a driveway on property I don't own?” Hickman said.

Hickman said she was also surprised to receive property tax bills, bills she was obligated to pay, on the land which DCS no longer owned.

As it turns out, the deal DCS cut is what's called a triple-net sale-leaseback, a common practice in sale-leasebacks where the renter is responsible for the property maintenance, taxes and insurance even though they don’t own the property.

Before the sale, DCS never had to pay property taxes because government agencies are tax exempt. But a copy of the land purchase agreement provided by DCS said the agency is now obligated to pay the taxes on the property which went back on the tax rolls after it was bought by a private leasing company.

Dallas County property records show the yearly taxes on the land were more than $380,000 in 2016. That’s a new $380,000 expense as a result of the sale-leaseback that the agency never had to cover before -- in addition to the new monthly rent payments.

Denise Hickman's concerns only grew when she saw the paperwork for the sale-leaseback.

“So, in the paperwork, I remembered seeing similar names, just remembered seeing similar names in the sale document that are part of the Force Multiplier Solutions staff. And that was surprising to me,” Hickman said.

Land Deal, Camera Vendor Connection

NBC 5 Investigates obtained a copy of the purchase agreement from DCS. It said a man named Slater Swartwood from Anroc Realty was the “seller's broker,” representing DCS on the land deal.

We've learned Swartwood's son, Slater Swartwood Jr., was a vice president at Force Multiplier Solutions -- the company DCS partnered with on the camera program that was straining the finances at the agency.

“That was the first thing that I was like, ‘This is not right,” Hickman said.

While the purchase agreement describes Swartwood Sr. as the broker for DCS -- it said the company that bought the land was supposed to pay Swartwood Sr. a “Seller’s Broker Fee” of $555,000.

But the final closing documents told a different story.

In the end, a copy of the final settlement statement provided by DCS shows Swartwood actually made $750,000, $555,000 of that from the buyer as agreed to, plus an additional $195,000 paid by DCS -- money that belonged to taxpayers.

So how did that happen? And who is Slater Swartwood? NBC 5 Investigates hit the road to find out.

The trail took us from Dallas all the way to Louisiana where we found Swartwood's company, Anroc Realty, registered to a building in a suburb of New Orleans.

We discovered that same building also houses the Louisiana office of Force Multiplier Solutions. In fact, the company was once headquartered there before opening another office in downtown Dallas.

Louisiana and Texas records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates also show Force Multiplier Solutions’ CEO Robert Leonard has relied on Swartwood for decades as a real estate consultant. In a statement to NBC 5, Leonard identified Swartwood as, “…my personal real estate consultant for over 40 years.”

When we caught up with Swartwood in New Orleans, he said it was Leonard who brought him in on the DCS land deal because of his background as a consultant for him.

Swartwood left before we could ask him about records that showed his family, and a business registered to his home in New Orleans, have donated more than $32,000 to DCS board President Larry Duncan's campaign since 2012 – the same year DCS launched the bus camera program.

That money was just part of $245,000 in donations Duncan has received from people with connections to Force Multiplier Solutions.

In an email, Slater Swartwood later told us his family's contributions were "legally made and reported … my contribution was based on my support of the candidate I believed could benefit the interests of public education and child safety."

Swartwood also said he never acted as a broker for DCS, that he only worked as a consultant for the buyer and that he had no idea DCS ended up paying almost $200,000 of his fees.

"At all times during this transaction I acted as a consultant for (the buyer) and upon the successful completion of this $25 million transaction, I was paid a consulting fee of $750,000. The entire fee was wired into my account without any indication as to the source of the payment," Swartwood said.

Swartwood said he only recently learned the buyer negotiated with DCS to pay a portion of his fees, which he said is not expected but happens on occasion.

‘I Already Made a Statement’

Months ago, DCS Board of Directors President Larry Duncan insisted donations made to his campaign by people tied to Force Multiplier Solutions were legal when first questioned about them by NBC 5 Investigates.

“Every penny is legal, honest, open and ethical. The state legislature set up this system so that people like me could hold office and run for office,” said Duncan.

But since that interview, new records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates raise more questions about the timing of those campaign contributions.

We now know some of the donations were made the same week the DCS board approved the land deal.

  • On Feb. 24, 2015 – Duncan’s campaign finance records show Slater Swartwood's daughter donates $5,000.
  • That same day, Robert Leonard and another Force Multiplier Solutions employee also make two $5,000 donations.
  • On Feb. 26, 2015 - the day the DCS board approved the land deal - records show a "Slater Swartwood" donated another $5,000.
  • It's unclear if that donation was from Swartwood senior or his son. Duncan’s campaign records do not indicate whether it was Swartwood junior or senior. The donation was sent from an address connected to Swartwood Jr., but neither Swartwood would answer questions about who made the donation when asked by NBC 5 Investigates.

We wanted to ask Larry Duncan how Slater Swartwood Sr., whose family donated so much to Duncan's campaign, ended up making nearly $200,000 from DCS.

For several weeks Duncan did not respond to messages, so we approached him at DCS headquarters and asked him how Swartwood became involved in the land deal.

“I've already made a statement,” Duncan told NBC 5 Investigates.

We asked to see the statement, which he had not provided at that time and asked why he wouldn’t respond to questions multiple times, and each time Duncan uttered the same phrase.

“I already sent a statement,” Duncan answered, repeatedly.

When asked if he took campaign contributions in exchange for actions on contracts, he replied, “I already sent a statement.” When told taxpayers deserved answers to the questions and NBC 5 again asked what was in the statement, Duncan was silent.

After that meeting, Duncan did send a statement that said, "The board approved the final sale-leaseback transaction, but the details were left up to the administration."

What Sale-Leaseback Deal?

At the time of the sale-leaseback deal the DCS administration was run by Superintendent Rick Sorrells. Sorrells did not respond to our phone calls, so we approached him in person and said we’d been trying to reach him.

“Scott, I’m not interested in talking with you,” Sorrells said.

We said we had questions about the sale-leaseback deal and he again said he wasn’t interested in speaking with us. We said we were trying to understand how someone with connections to Force Multiplier Solutions profited from the sale-leaseback and Sorrells referred us to interim Superintendent Leatha Mullins who took over when he stepped down amidst questions about the agency’s finances.

Mullins told NBC 5 Investigates she was unaware of any details of the sale-leaseback until we asked her about it.

“This was brought to my attention by you, so I'm looking into it,” Mullins said.

On Tuesday, a day after NBC 5 Investigates first published this report, Mullins issued the following statement:

"This transaction happened in 2015. I have no knowledge of how it was done or why it was done. We met with the previous state auditor and are working on a plan to make sure that it never happens again. This agency is in turnaround mode and we deserve the chance to do what we do best — taking children to and from school every day. We hope the legislators will give us a chance to do that.”

Campaign Donations, Timing Questioned

NBC 5 consultant Don Southerland, a former FBI agent and forensic auditor who investigates Texas school districts, said after reviewing records related to the deal he was very concerned about the timing of the campaign donations and about why businesses and individuals from Louisiana are making contributions to a local Dallas politician.

Out-of-state donors are allowed to contribute, but Southerland said the question becomes whether any donations were made in exchange for business – a practice that’s not allowed.

“There can't be a tit for tat. There can't be, ‘I'll give you a campaign donation if you use my company to provide services,” Southerland said.

While Duncan received $245,000 in campaign donations from people connected to Force Multiplier Solutions, he ran unopposed in the last election.

In a statement, Force Multiplier Solutions CEO Robert Leonard said his donations to Duncan had nothing to do with business his company received from DCS.

“We felt it was our responsibility to politically support the program in Dallas and throughout the state. Larry Duncan had a history of supporting child safety and public education. When he asked for contributions and we donated, never for any other reason nor expected anything in return," Leonard said.

In his statement to NBC 5 Investigates, Leonard also acknowledged he had a hand in bringing together the key players involved in the sale-leaseback deal. He said he connected Slater Swartwood with an Illinois leasing company that bought DCS’s bus lots.

Leonard said he knew that company’s CEO from prior business deals and that company even financed some of the bus camera purchases for DCS.

NBC 5 Investigates tried to reach the CEO of that leasing company, but he has not yet responded to our questions.

In his statement Leonard also said that Swartwood first met DCS officials when the camera program began years ago as Swartwood was involved in negotiating another lease deal with the agency. In the early days of the camera program Force Multiplier leased office space in Dallas from DCS.

After that, Leonard said Swartwood saw potential for other business with DCS.

“It is my understanding that he observed some opportunities for DCS to capitalize on assets that he felt might benefit the agency, if reorganized. Independently he worked for over a year looking through different models and created a sale leaseback package that he shopped with multiple financial markets hypothetically without disclosure of any specific client,” Leonard said.

According to Leonard, Swartwood took the proposal to then Superintendent Sorrels who started an RFP (Request for Proposal) process, “without any contractual commitment” to Swartwood.

DCS records show the agency ultimately obtained two bids for the land. NBC 5 Investigates requested copies of both bid proposals from DCS. The Office of the Texas Attorney General recently ruled that DCS must release those records. But DCS has not yet provided the documents to NBC 5.

Consulting Pays

NBC 5 Investigates has learned the land deal wasn't the only time a member of the Swartwood family ended up making money from DCS. Just weeks after the land deal closed in June 2015, Swartwood's son, Slater Swartwood Jr., landed a consulting deal with DCS that paid him more than $160,000.

A contract said DCS paid Swartwood $10,000 a month to consult with DCS on the development and implementation of the school bus camera program.

Swartwood Jr., who used to be a vice president at Force Multiplier Solutions, declined to speak to NBC 5 Investigates on camera. But, in an email, he said: “My responsibility was to educate school districts about the benefits of the much-needed safety program. I am proud that this program has helped make our state safer for school children. From North and Central Texas to San Antonio, school children in Texas are safer because of our efforts."

In an email Duncan said he had no idea Swartwood Jr. was being paid by DCS and said, "The consulting contract was handled by staff and did not require board approval, so we did not know about that contract."

Beyond that statement, Duncan refuses to answer questions and fell back on his previous statement.

“I already sent a statement,” Duncan said.

“Larry, a statement doesn't suffice here. We've got questions, why won't you answer the questions?” NBC 5 asked.

“I already sent a statement,” Duncan said.

After the Deal: More Spending at DCS

While DCS business manager Denise Hickman questioned the wisdom of the sale-leaseback deal, she at least hoped the $25 million in cash DCS received in June 2015 would provide a temporary fix to the agency’s cash flow situation.

But Hickman said to her surprise her bosses kept on spending, purchasing $30 million of new school buses and more bus camera equipment from Force Multiplier Solutions.

Within days of the land deal closing, DCS records show the agency wired another $2.6 million to Force Multiplier Solutions; we have been unable to determine payment was for. NBC 5 Investigates has made an open records request for invoices connected to that wire transfer but DCS has not yet provided the records.

“It concerned me. It really concerned me given the fact that we did not stop our spending,” said Hickman, who added that camera orders kept coming across her desk even after she'd discovered DCS had a warehouse full of cameras on one of the bus lots.

Force Multiplier Solutions said DCS kept buying cameras because they believed they were on the verge of getting more school districts to join the stop-arm camera program.

At a recent hearing with the Texas House Committee on Public Education, a new financial consultant DCS hired acknowledged the agency did not use the sale-leaseback proceeds to pay down debt and instead spent the money on day-to-day operational expenses.

Hickman was pushed out of DCS in the fall of 2016 in the wake of a school bus driver ticket scandal first reported by NBC 5 Investigates. Hundreds of DCS school bus drivers ran red lights and the agency used more than $85,000 of taxpayer money to pay the tickets. The drivers were not punished until NBC 5 Investigates questioned why.

DCS accused Hickman of failing to perform her job duties, an allegation Hickman believes her superiors manufactured in order to make her a scapegoat for the agency’s problems.

DCS later reinstated Hickman and allowed her to retire after she filed what her attorney describes as a whistleblower claim.

Hickman said decisions about how money was spent were made by Sorrels and she only paid bills at his direction.

When Hickman arrived at DCS to work in the accounting department in 2007, she remembers the agency had little debt and millions in the bank.

Just last week, the bond rating agency Moody’s said DCS now has $130.7 million in debt. Moody’s downgraded DCS’ bond rating to a level that is considered “junk bond” status. Moody’s said DCS “will likely default” on some debt payments due on June 1 unless the agency can restructure some of its debts. Moody’s said the issues at DCS were due in part to, “…considerable financial challenges posed by the nonessential school bus stop-arm camera enterprise.”

In January, DCS also revealed it had a $42 million budget deficit because of a revenue shortfall. The agency laid-off about 100 employees and announced it would no longer operate the bus camera program outside of Dallas County.

Internal Investigation

In February, DCS hired former FBI agent Dennis Brady to conduct an internal investigation into whether financial crimes contributed to the money troubles at DCS.

NBC 5 Investigates obtained a copy of an initial report Brady issued earlier this spring.

In the report he writes, “It is likely that this matter, which has received extensive media attention, has already been referred to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office for potential further investigation.”

The Dallas County DA’s office has declined to comment on the matter.

Brady said his own investigation was ongoing, “but to date has failed to develop evidence of criminal conduct substantial enough to cause DCS a financial problem of this scale.”

At the time, Brady said his investigation going forward would partly focus on, “transactions involving Force Multiplier Solutions.”

NBC 5 Investigates has learned Brady recently submitted an updated investigative report to DCS interim Superintendent Leatha Mullins. However Mullins has declined to release that report, even to her own board members. She maintains the report is in a draft format and that it would not be appropriate to make the findings public.

Force Multiplier Solutions CEO Robert Leonard insists his firm is not to blame for any of the financial problems at DCS. Instead he said the camera program suffered from negative publicity after some state lawmakers questioned DCS spending on the camera program in 2016.

Leonard also told NBC 5 that he believes DCS had a harder time making a run at the camera business because it is a government agency.

“The reason I believe DCS had such a difficult time was that they did not realize that what they thought was an advantage was an albatross at the end of the day. Entrepreneurial companies can give incentives and bonuses over time and have a broader rule book to play from” (than government agencies), Leonard said.

In the fall of 2015, the DCS board implemented a new ethics policy after NBC 5 Investigates first reported that board president Duncan had received more than $245,000 in campaign contributions from people tied to Force Multiplier Solutions.

Duncan Steps Down, Replaced as President

On May 17, two days after this report was first published, longtime Dallas County Schools Board of Trustees President Larry Duncan announced during a scheduled board meeting that he was not seeking reelection as president.

"Obviously, our organization has had a rough six months, and it’s been difficult for many of us. We are so very fortunate to have Leatha Mullins fighting for DCS in Austin. She has been tireless in that effort and she has instituted changes that will make us stronger. It is clear to me now, that we have to make a full commitment to the future because there’s nothing we can do to repair the past. I love this organization with all my heart but I have made a decision not to run for re-election as its president. There is a lot of work to do. I am truly hopeful this will redirect the focus to the work that lies ahead," Duncan said in a statement.

Though he stepped down as president, Duncan remains on the board as a trustee. Following his announcement, the DCS board immediately elected at-large trustee Gloria Levario who then thanked Duncan for his years of service.

That same day, the DCS board also announced that they had secured bond refinancing that will allow them to continue operations.

Texas Lawmakers React

Some Texas lawmakers said Monday the deal raises significant concerns about how DCS has been managing taxpayers' money.

"You know, when I first heard about it I basically said, 'Now why in the world would you do something stupid like that?' Of course the reason it was done is that the agency was in dire straits," said State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).

"Now you hear about this land deal and it's just one more thing to be concerned about," said State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas).

Anchia said May 15 he believed a majority of lawmakers from the Dallas area are now determined to do something about the problems at DCS in the next two weeks, either by passing that bill or by some other means.

Texas Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Dist. 4) pressed Mullins for answers the day after this report was first published and suggested she contact law enforcement about what NBC 5 Investigates uncovered.

"I would pick up the phone, maybe tomorrow, and call other law enforcement folks tomorrow and ask them to come and do a quick audit ... because this article is very serious and I just can't impress upon that enough," Gooden said.

Mullins responded to questions about the land deal saying, "It is very concerning to us as well. We were not a part of those decision-making processes and the people who were are no longer with our organization.

A day later, NBC 5 Investigates caught up with Mullins who said she did plan to ask for a criminal investigation but had not yet determined who she'd call for help. Mullins has since said she has made a call but has not divulged which agency.

A proposal that could shut down DCS is still working its way through the Texas legislature. If it passes, voters would decide whether to keep DCS open or close the agency, pay off their debts and give the buses to local school districts that could then either run their own transportation programs or contract with another provider.

Since NBC 5 Investigates first looked into DCS in the fall of 2016, nearly the entire management team has been replaced -- including Superintendent Rick Sorrells and Board of Trustees President Larry Duncan (though he remains a trustee). The board has also passed a new ethics policy where trustees must recuse themselves from votes if they received more than $500 from a vendor in that calendar year.

At one recent meeting, since the new policy took effect, Duncan left the meeting when Force Multiplier Solutions was discussed.

DCS: Legislation Will Create Chaos, Cost Increases for Districts

Interim Superintendent Leatha Mullins said in a prepared statement Wednesday that if proposed legislation to dissolve the agency passes it will cost the school districts money while creating chaos for the families who depend on them to get their children to and from school.

In a statement, Mullins said if the agency is shuttered it would cost school districts in Dallas County more than $262 million to provide their own or alternate transportation. Citing a RFP (Request for Proposal) obtained by the Cedar Hill ISD, one of DCS’ smaller clients, it would cost them an additional $900,000 per year for equivalent service from another provider.

Mullins reiterated her frustration with state legislators and the media who continue to investigate the agency's history and financial dealings while saying the agency has truly transformed from what it was just months ago.

“We have met every single demand from the legislature. We have completed an audit, refinanced the bonds, reorganized procedures and there’s a complete team of new leadership including the Board of Trustees. We’ve truly transformed DCS and are moving forward," said Mullins. “We accomplished the impossible with this new team and did everything we were asked to do but we can’t seem to be heard over this runaway freight train.”

Mullins added that she's contacted law enforcement to investigate all of DCS' operations, past and present, and has invited former state auditor John Keel to implement a corrective action plan that includes new policies and procedures to strengthen the operating control environment. Mullins said she's also ordered a forensic audit trail of stop-arm camera contracts and the sale-leaseback of select real estate, the subject of an NBC 5 Investigates special report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[DCS Legislation Will Bring Chaos, Cost Increases: Mullins]]> Thu, 25 May 2017 04:17:16 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Leatha+Mullins.jpg

Dallas County Schools Interim Superintendent Leatha Mullins says if proposed legislation to dissolve the agency passes it will create chaos for the families of 76,000 students who depend on them each day to get to and from school.

In a statement released to the media Wednesday, Mullins said if the agency is shuttered "it would cost school districts in Dallas County over $262 million to provide their own transportation and that the legislation will make efficient, effective transportation unfeasible."

As evidence of the claim, Mullins said one of DCS' smaller clients, the Cedar Hill Independent School District, recently requested bids from for-profit bus providers and learned that it would cost them an additional $900,000 per year for equivalent service.

“To put that in perspective, that would be like forcing that ISD to sacrifice about 18 classroom teachers and never be able to have a way to bring in enough money to replace them," Mullins said.

Meanwhile, Mullins argued the agency has truly transformed from what it was just months ago, while reiterating her frustration with state legislators and the media who continue to investigate the agency's history and financial dealings.

“We have met every single demand from the legislature. We have completed an audit, refinanced the bonds, reorganized procedures and there’s a complete team of new leadership including the Board of Trustees. We’ve truly transformed DCS and are moving forward," said Mullins. “We accomplished the impossible with this new team and did everything we were asked to do but we can’t seem to be heard over this runaway freight train.”

Mullins expressed concern the proposed legislation, which would call for a November general election vote on the future of the agency, may cause a staffing shortage if drivers and other employees leave for other opportunities.

“Even though we have fixed the problems and we have reached out to law enforcement officials regarding some previous operational issues, no one is listening to us or thinking about the children," Mullins said.

Mullins added that she's contacted law enforcement to investigate all of DCS' operations, past and present, and has invited former state auditor John Keel to implement a corrective action plan that includes new policies and procedures to strengthen the operating control environment.

Mullins said she's also ordered a forensic audit trail of stop-arm camera contracts and the sale-leaseback of select real estate, the subject of an NBC 5 Investigates special report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Mistrial in Fort Worth Police Officer Shooting Trial]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 17:45:39 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fwpd+officer+courtney+johnson1.jpg

The trial of a Fort Worth police officer accused of shooting a man while on duty has been declared a mistrial.

After more than a day of deliberations the jury was deadlocked 7 to 5 and could not reach a verdict, the judge said Wednesday. It’s not clear if the split weighed more toward acquittal or conviction.

In a statement, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson says she will consider the lack of a verdict along with the evidence at trial to determine whether to retry the case.

"In our constitutional system of justice, we trust juries to make decisions in every trial based on the law and the evidence in each individual case," Wilson said. "The jury carefully considered this case and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. We will consider the jury's inability to reach a verdict and the evidence presented at trial to decide whether a retrial is justified."

Officer Courtney Johnson was hustled out of the courtroom, flanked by officers and with no resolution to his case.

"It's good to know that the jury, who are citizens of Tarrant County, almost half or more than half believe he should have been acquitted," said defense attorney Tim Choy.

Officer Johnson faced a charge of assault by a public servant for shooting Craigory Adams in the arm, back in 2015. He was responding to a call of someone banging on a neighbor's door with a knife and encountered Adams holding what turned out to be a large barbecue fork.

Adams had dropped the fork at his feet and dropped to one knee, when Officer Johnson says he accidentally shot him.

"When Courtney kept saying my finger wasn't on the trigger, he doesn't believe his finger was on the trigger," defense attorney Jim Lane said.

Experts testified that Officer Johnson did pull the trigger as a "sympathetic reflex" when he racked the shotgun in warning with his other hand.

"You didn't intentionally shoot this man did you?" Lane asked during testimony. "No sir, I did not," Officer Johnson replied, his voice breaking with emotion.

But in his own testimony, Craigory Adams said that Officer Johnson used a racial slur before shooting him.

Adams, who has a mental impairment, wasn't in court on Wednesday but activists, including Jacqueline Craig, were. She had her own high-profile incident with Fort Worth police.

"I'm really hurt right now because I have to accept the fact that we as African Americans, our tax dollars are actually paying the police officers to murder and brutalize us," Craig said.

Her cousin Rod Smith added, “We don’t know what to tell our children, if he made all of these wrong decisions and there are no consequences to those decisions.”

Johnson's attorneys said the slur allegation didn't come out until the grand jury. They firmly dismissed any racial motivation.

"I’m old enough to know what it looks like and smells like and feels like, racism," Lane said. "Courtney Johnson is not a racist and that's why the black officers came in here and I had 100 other officers, black officers, willing to come and say that's silly."

NBC 5 spoke to Craigory Adams' uncle by phone but the family is too upset to comment yet.

Officer Johnson remains on desk duty with the Fort Worth Police Department until he finds out if he's going back on trial.

On Tuesday, Johnson took the stand in his own defense for a second day before the defense rested. Both sides then delivered their closing arguments, and the jury was given the case just before 2 p.m.

The jury deliberated until about 6:30 p.m. and returned Wednesday morning to continue deliberations.

While on the stand Tuesday, Johnson admitted the shooting was not justified and there was no immediate threat to his life. Prior to the shooting Adams had been holding a large barbecue fork, but he dropped it when prompted by the officer.

Johnson's lawyers call the shooting an accidental discharge.

Prosecutors questioned why the officer disobeyed training by disengaging the safety and "half-racking" the shotgun. Johnson said he had not made a conscious decision to shoot.

The defense asked jurors to put themselves in the officer's shoes. They told jurors it is difficult to recreate the amount of stress police officers encounter when they think they are in danger.

Sending a message became a theme in closing arguments. The prosecution told jurors to send a message to officers that these types of incidents are not permitted. The defense team countered with a warning to jurors to be careful with what message is actually sent.

This is the first time in at least 15 years a police officer has stood trial for shooting someone while on duty in Tarrant County.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Dallas Kicks Panhandling Program to The Curb]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 18:47:53 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas+panhandling1.jpg

Dallas city leaders Wednesday rejected a program intended to provide alternatives to panhandling by arranging day labor and other services for homeless people.

The program had been in the works ever since the city closed the first of several homeless tent camps last year.

A census in January counted nearly 3,800 people homeless in Dallas and Collin Counties, more than 1,000 of them unsheltered. As a result, panhandling is common around the city of Dallas.

At the corner of Inwood Road and North Stemmons Freeway it is unusual not to see someone asking for money. Four were there Wednesday afternoon.

At the corner gas station customer Ron Brown said panhandlers who’ve approached him could be put to work.

“You can find something or create something. I do believe that,” Brown said.

The program was to provide $100,000 to service provider Way Back House to place homeless people in day jobs, housing and social services.

“I think we’ve got a great program,” said Councilman Rickey Callahan. “I do however want to make sure we’re not going to burn up a bunch of money on staff and administrative. I don’t think we need to do that.”

City Council Members at first discussed delaying the plan for more discussion by a committee.

“I think the idea of the majority of this being administration fee is not necessarily what we intended it to be,” said Councilman Erik Wilson.

Instead, the City Council voted to reject the plan and seek new proposals from outside groups.

“I’m not interested in throwing $100,000 to the wind and seeing what happens. Let’s put something together that’s actually going to work, that has some metrics, that has some thought behind it,” said Councilman Adam McGough.

The city can ticket panhandlers and even put them in jail, but they rarely pay fines. City officials do not want to directly hire panhandlers and give them city benefits. The plan is only to offer day labor as a transition to permanent housing and jobs through an outside vendor or agency.

Customer Sensea Jefferson at Inwood and Stemmons urged the city to take action.

“You never know who you’re going to help. Even if it’s 10 or 15 percent, it’s worth a try,” she said.

After working on the idea for a year, there is more delay for now as officials come up with a new plan.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[McKinney Councilman Accused of Violating Tree Ordinance]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 18:23:48 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mckinney+water+tower1.jpg

A McKinney city councilman is accused of chopping down more than a dozen trees illegally on his own property.

The city says it happened at the site of a new brewery near El Dorado, and Councilman Don Day vows to fight a hefty fine.

He faces a $44,000 in fines and mitigation fees for 18 "quality" trees the city says he cut down.

Day, who owns the property, insists he did nothing wrong and says the city is overreacting.

The lot is filled with wild flowers, trees and brush so thick you need four-wheel drive to access it.

Day wants to build a brewery, restaurant and equestrian center on it.

His company began clearing the land last year until the city issued a stop-work order claiming he violated the city's tree ordinance by cutting down the trees without a permit.

"I think they're wrong, and I'm going to fight until I prove they're wrong," Day said.

"I was shocked," said Jill Alcantara, who lives near the site.

Alcantara says she isn't against the project, but questions how the councilman is going about getting it done.

"The city residents wants this tree ordinance enforced," she said.

The city's ordinance says trees six-inches or smaller in diameter at four-feet, six-inches above the ground are not considered "quality" trees. Instead, Day says the city is measuring at the base.

"There's a huge difference," he said. "Trees are about twice as large at the base as they are at 4.5 feet."

Day says some of the trees in question were small enough to be cut without a permit.

The rest, he says, were already dead.

"There are people in McKinney who are opposed to development. This is a commercial development. There's certain people who do what they can to block commercial development. That's what it's about," he said.

Day says he's done his own tree measurements and plans to appeal the alleged violation to the city next week.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[New Obesity Treatment Now in North Texas]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 17:43:31 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/weight+loss+tube.jpg

A new obesity treatment is now being offered in North Texas.

The FDA-approved device uses a surgically-placed tube to drain a portion of the stomach contents after every meal.

Dr. Sachin S. Kukreja, general and bariatric surgeon at Minimally Invasive Surgical Associates/Texas Weight Loss Docs, is one of the first North Texas doctors to offer the tube to his bariatric treatment patients.

"There are different strokes for different folks. Some people are not comfortable with having part of their stomach removed, or they're not comfortable having their intestines rerouted, and this is just another tool in our tool box," Kukreja said.

The weight loss device, called AspireAssist, is meant for people who are moderately to severely obese.

The less invasive method removes 30 percent of food from the stomach, before the calories are absorbed into the body.

Here's how it works: a port is placed on the skin, which is secured to a tube inside the stomach.

About 30 minutes after most meals, the patient opens the port, connects the device and siphons the undigested food from the stomach into the toilet.

The process takes about 10 minutes and is less invasive than bariatric surgery.

Mike Cederhag had the device implanted five years ago in Sweden and says he lost 100 pounds in the first year.

"If I chew my food, if I flush three times a day, I know statistically that I will lose between one and three pounds a week. Guaranteed weight loss, if you do what you're supposed to do," Cederhag said.

The key, he says, is chewing food well enough so that it can pass through the tube.

"Get an apple, chew it and you have to chew it fine enough to be able to put it through a straw, and that's how much you have to chew your food for it come out of the Aspire device," Kukreja said.

MORE: For more information, visit: www.aspirebariatrics.com.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[DPD: Social Media May Be Fueling Gang Related Shootings]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 17:34:48 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/gang+shootings.jpg

The Dallas Police Department says social media may be fueling gang activity on the streets.

Interim Police Chief David Pughes says drive-by shootings are up nearly 150% compared to this time last year. The chief says he's concerned about the spike in numbers and now actively devising a plan to combat it.

The President of the Dolphin Heights Neighborhood Association Anna Hill shared a recent encounter with an alleged drug dealer with us.

"I say good morning, I know you're selling drugs could you take them somewhere else?" said Hill.

Hill says it's a conversation she's had with people in her neighborhood for decades.

"It's heart breaking and I approached a couple of young men and I got the calling, the name calling of my life that I didn't know what I was talking about and they were doing it because they wanted to and that's the way it was going to be," she said.

Hill works closely with Dallas police who are now combating gangs reportedly facing off on social media.

Interim Chief David Pughes addressed the problem during a public safety meeting this week and said as a result of the social media fighting, drive-by shootings have spiked considerably.  

"There's sort of a gang-war that takes place on social media where one gang is challenging another that ultimately ends up in a drive-by shooting at one the places," he said.

"A lot of guys get with gangs they're looking for a family, you know moms not at home, moms teaching them the wrong thing," Quincy Guinyard, who now is a youth outreach counselor in South Dallas but says he spent years associated with a gang and is now witness to how dangerous social media wars have become.

"I'm scared for my daughters, I have daughters that live over here I don't want them to get shot by being an innocent bystander, I want my kids to be able to walk around South Dallas," Guinyard said.

"You can't just sit on your front porch and stay inside and say okay I didn't see that, " said Hill. "If you don't say anything, it gets worse, and if you don't report it to police they don't know," she said.

Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings issued the following statement to NBC 5:

“As I noted in my annual GrowSouth presentation last night, violent crime is a concern and DPD has committed to doing several things to combat the uptick in aggravated assaults. That includes training more gang liaison officers for each substation, monitoring social media to offset these activities and utilizing our fugitive unit to better track and arrest offenders with active warrants. We also cannot rely exclusively on police officers to solve these problems. As we enter the summer months, it’s important to remember that young people in our city need more job opportunities and recreational activities.”

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Make Money By Renting Out Your Newly Purchased Belongings]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 18:34:12 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/make+money+renting.jpg

If you have your eye on a new car or maybe a pricey new handbag and can't quite afford it, there's an app for that. There are multiple services out there that let you buy items new and make money off of them, if you're willing to share.

Many of the things we want or need sit around for hours on end and aren't used at all. Why not buy that new car or boat, and let someone pay to use it when you're not?

Boat Bound is like an AirBnB for your boat. You list your nice new boat and people pay to use it when you're not. The company says just two rentals a month would pay for all the pricey expenses that come with owning a boat. If you rent it out a little bit more you could help pay the boat off using the money from renters.

It's not just big things that are up for rent.

Style Lend lets you rent out the clothes in your closet. You can send off several outfits, and the company will send them to renters for you. You can get them back when you're ready to wear them again. The company splits the profits with you, but if you have designer clothes you could make hundreds of dollars a week just by sharing.

If your backyard is pretty enough for a wedding, you can rent it out, too, using The Hitch. You're making money and often helping others solve their problems at a fraction of the cost of buying something outright.

If you have a lot of space on your property, you can rent out your land to people to camp on, using GlampingHub.

And if you want to save someone a trip to the post office, you can make money by delivering their packages using CitizenShipper or Roadie.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[FWPD Officer Injured in Rear-End Collision Near Stockyards]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 16:09:53 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fort+worth+police+car+closeup.jpg

Fort Worth police say an officer was injured in a chain-reaction collision Wednesday while working at the scene of a previous crash.

The crashes happened just after noon at the intersection of Northeast 28th and North Commerce streets, near the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Police say the officer's cruiser was rear-ended, pushing the cruiser into the vehicle in front of it. At least two other vehicles then collided into the rear vehicle.

The officer suffered a seizure as a result of the crash, police said.

MedStar transported two people, including the officer, to the hospital with what were classified as minor injuries.

Police continue to investigate the crashes, and additional information was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Family Behind the Iconic El Fenix Mexican Restaurant]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 18:39:10 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/El-Fenix-flagship-091313.jpg

The El Fenix Mexican restaurant in Dallas started with humble roots and blossomed into a history-making business.

The Martinez family opened the first El Fenix where Woodall Rodgers Freeway now sits.

"Dallas wasn't jumping like it is today," Alfred Martinez joked.

Alfred Martinez is the last surviving sibling in his family, which started the famed restaurant. His dad opened the business back in 1918.

"It was a small, poor little neighborhood," Martinez recalled. "Old houses and so forth. It was called Little Mexico back in the old days."

He doesn't visit the restaurant as much as he used to, and at his age, no one can really blame him.

"In another month I'll be 93," he said.

In 1964 the Martinez family paid about $7,000 to buy the land to build what locals now call the original location, on McKinney Avenue.

"All of us – Mama, Papa, all the brothers and sisters – grew up working in the restaurant," Alfred Martinez said.

Their hard work eventually paid off. El Fenix is now the oldest Mexican restaurant chain in the United States. Alfred Martinez can't help but think of his parents.

"They would be proud and happy," he said.

In 2008, the Martinez family sold all 15 of their restaurants to Mike Karns and his Firebird Restaurant Group, though no one will say for how much.

"He paid us well," Alfred Martinez said.

He'll always be welcome at the restaurant to keep sharing his stories.

"We have customers who have been coming here for years and years, and their kids grow up in here, you know," he said. "Maybe that's why we're still in business."

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA['Feed Oak Cliff' Fights for Grocery Store in South Dallas]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 13:38:01 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/oak-cliff-food-desert.jpg

It has been more than a year since the Dallas council members officially offered a $3 million incentive to a full-service, quality grocery store chain to build in southern Dallas.

As of May 24, the city has yet to receive any substantial proposals.

Meanwhile, 700,000 people continue to seek out alternative means for healthy food choice options while living in a food desert.

Members of “Feed Oak Cliff,” a non-profit organization focused on bringing quality grocery stores to the Oak Cliff community, have been reaching out to grocers for more than a year.

“We’ve called, we’ve emailed, I’ve written letters,” said Anga Sanders, Feed Oak Cliff’s founder.

“I’ve received the several excuses from grocery store chains. Some say, well there aren’t enough people in the area. Others say the income in the area isn’t high enough. I even had one HEB public relations representative say, ‘don’t hold your breath,’ and so its been frustrating," said Sanders.

"For the people who say ‘there’s not enough income’ that doesn’t make much sense, because everybody has to eat," Sanders explained. "That’s a commonality among human beings. So, who is to say that a mother with a small child would not rather feed her child carrots than Cheetos? The problem is, you don’t have access to the carrots."

Sanders, with the help of Feed Oak Cliff members and sponsors, organizes the “Dallas VegFest,” which is an annual free food and health festival celebrating healthy living. Last year the attendance doubled, and Sanders expects that trend to continue this year.

After months of fighting the need for a grocery store remains. Members of Feed Oak Cliff are now seeking other alternatives.

“We are still pushing for other grocery store chains to come in, but we need something now,” said Sanders.

The group traveled to Waco and took a tour of the “Jubilee Market,” which is a grocery store developed and purchased by the community.

“They even grow and sale their own food! I thought, well we can do that!” said Sanders.

Currently, members of Feed Oak Cliff are looking into ways they can adopt the same model in Waco.

Meanwhile, the city of Dallas is scheduled to vote Wednesday whether Bonton Farms will receive $100,000 to finish building their healthy food market. Bonton Farms is an urban farm in the south Dallas neighborhood of Bonton.

If approved by the city council, the $100,000 will come out of the South Dallas-Fair Park Trust Fund.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[TX Senate Revives Full Bathroom Bill With Late-Night Move]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 17:10:11 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Texas+state+capitol.jpg

Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature is tying itself in knots over a transgender "bathroom bill."

The state Senate voted 21-10 vote after 1 a.m. Wednesday to attach rules requiring transgender Texans to use public restrooms corresponding to their birth-certificate gender onto an otherwise unrelated proposal on county governments.

A full bill doing the same thing cleared the Senate in March but stalled in the House, which instead passed a scaled-back version on Sunday applying only to public schools.

The late-night maneuver brings the wider bill back for now -- but it's on a bill by a Democrat who won't accept the changes.

Meanwhile, the House's bathroom bill rules were attached to a separate Senate bill whose author is rejecting them as too watered-down.

Compromise must be reached before Texas' legislative session ends Monday.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Man Arrested After Striking Train During Chase in Garland]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 05:03:40 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/garland-crash-train.jpg

Police said they arrested a man who crashed into a train during a chase in Garland Tuesday night.

Garland police said they were pursuing a sedan on Santa Anna Avenue when the driver went past a railroad crossing arm and struck a freight train near Garland Road at about 9:45 p.m.

The driver ran across Garland Road and into a neighborhood near the intersection of Mayfair Boulevard and Flamingo Lane, according to authorities.

Police said Dallas officers and a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter assisted in the search for the driver, who was found hiding near some bushes.

Authorities said the vehicle the man was driving had no license plate and was possibly stolen.

Photo Credit: Metro]]>
<![CDATA[Sales Tax Holiday is Memorial Day Weekend]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 12:11:03 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dfw-generic-energy-star-01.jpg

If you're in the market for a new appliance or water efficient products, you could save money if you buy during Memorial Day weekend.

The state's annual ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 27 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 29.

A number of energy-efficient appliances qualify, from air conditioners to dishwashers and there is no limit to the number of appliances that can be purchased during the holiday.

While some items may be rated as Energy Star appliances, only the following appliances and household equipment are eligible:

  • Air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less
  • Refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less
  • Ceiling fans
  • Incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs
  • Clothes washers
  • Dishwashers
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Programmable Thermostats*

But it is not just appliances. Once again, you can also purchase, tax free, certain water efficient landscape plants. The Texas Department of Agriculture says these plants use less water and can be identified by the EPA WaterSense tag. Timers, soaker-hoses and mulch also qualify.

Products inside the home also qualify, including toilets, showerheads and bathroom faucets.

    In previous years, the Texas Comptroller's office expected Texas shoppers to save an estimated $3.8 million in state and local sales tax during the annual Memorial Day weekend sales tax holiday.

    More: Texas Comptroller's Website Texas AgriLife Website EPA WaterSense Products

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Social Worker Helps Weatherford Student Succeed ]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 13:26:59 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Ali+English.jpg

    Wednesday is the last day of the school year for Weatherford ISD students, and graduation is all that separates seniors at Weatherford High School from reality.

    Ali English, 18, got a glimpse of that real world, and it almost put her on a path to nowhere.

    "I was a mess," she told NBC 5. "I used other resources to feel better, like drugs and alcohol, and stuff which wasn't good."

    English came to Weatherford from Bracketville, Texas, three years ago. Her mom had died from an aneurysm following a stroke. Her dad was not in the picture. So, she moved in with her half-sister and her husband and their small daughter.

    She was also starting a new high school. English, for the most part, was alone.

    "The school system here is a lot different than from where I came from. Everyone knew each other, and all the teachers knew all the students by name," she said. "I came here, and it was like, I was lost with everyone else in here."

    English slowly found connections with classmates and teachers, but during her senior year she had a bit of break down.

    "I went to a teacher. I was crying and she was like, 'Go to CIS,'" English said.

    "'What is that?' she asked.

    "And she said, 'Social worker.' And, I heard 'social worker,' and I freaked out. I was like, 'I don't want to go." English recalled. "'What do you mean a social worker? I don't need a social worker.'"

    "She was panicking about some Medicaid information. And I did what I could to help her apply," said Morgan Eary, the social worker. "She really needed to go to the doctor because she hadn't been for several years. We were able to take her to doctor's appointments and dentist appointments."

    Eary is the Communities in Schools (CIS) program manager at Weatherford High School. CIS is a nonprofit in Tarrant County with a 25-year record of getting kids on the edge back on track.

    "We target academics, attendance and behavior to keep kids in school, keep them graduated and help them meet their goals," Eary said.

    "It's been a great partnership, like they've always been here taking care of our kids," said Weatherford principal Kristy Dowd.

    CIS started working at the high school this year and supports about 80 to 90 students dealing with various issues that threaten to keep them out of class.

    Dowd said school counselors are a "strong support system, but Communities in Schools can do things they simply cannot do, like transportation, extra home visits, taking kids to college trips and visits. It's been outstanding."

    "I was able to connect with teachers and form some really good bonds with people," English said. "And they've helped me along the way to become a very successful student."

    She stayed focused on school as the social worker helped with emotional support, medical appointments and financial aid forms for college.

    "She was angry and didn't know what to do with her grief," Eary said. "And if people don't talk about it, they tuck it away and use other coping skills like drugs and alcohol. She was able to pull herself out of it."

    "I was finally able to pull myself out of that because it wasn't the life I wanted, and my mom wouldn't have wanted that either," English said. "She never finished high school or college, so college and high school is very important to me."

    English came to Weatherford High School with plenty of grit. Principal Dowd says she now leaves with "confidence and knowing that she has a chance and a path and a vision of what she can be."

    "I'm always amazed at the resiliency of teenagers," Eary said. "It always makes my heart so happy to see how far they've come and knowing how far they're gonna go."

    English will attend Weatherford College in the fall with the goal of becoming a trauma nurse. It's another connection to her mom.

    "My mom had the stroke in front of me, and I panicked. I screamed. I felt useless and didn't know what to do. And I want to help people," she said.

    First, though, English had to recognize she needed help and accept it.

    "I couldn't have done it myself if I didn't have help along the way," she said.


    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[More Than 25K Graco Car Seats Recalled]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 17:34:23 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Graco+My+Raide+Recall+Products.jpg

    Graco is recalling more than 25,000 car seats because the child restraints failed in crash tests.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, certain models of Graco Children's Products My Ride 65 convertible child restraints failed federal motor vehicle safety standards.

    Affected cars seat webbing may tear during a crash, posing a danger to the child, the NHTSA said.

    Graco was first notified of a failed test on March 29, 2016, according to NHTSA documents. Graco decided to issue a precautionary recall after another test failure earlier this year, the NHTSA said.

    Affected model numbers include 1871689, 1908152, 1813074, 1872691, 1853478, 1877535, 1813015, and 1794334. The seats were made on July 22, 2014 and have a code of 2014/06 on a tag that's on the webbing.

    The NHTSA said Graco is working on making free harness webbing replacement kits. Car seat dealers will be notified beginning June 1, and customers who bought the car seats were be issued notices beginning July 17.

    Owners may contact Graco customer service at 1-800-345-4109.

    Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236, or go to www.safercar.gov.

    Photo Credit: Courtesy Graco]]>
    <![CDATA[Big Night for Boys & Girls Club Seniors]]> Wed, 24 May 2017 06:57:55 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/boys-girls-club.jpg

    The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas awarded $120,000 in college scholarships to high school seniors moving on to the next step in their careers.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>