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Report: Accused in fire attack had doused victim before

The woman charged with setting a Galveston man on fire had been accused of harassing and threatening the victim for months and even of dousing him once before with lighter fluid, according to police records.

Nancy Ruth Allen, 50, was arrested Monday after she called police about turning herself in on a charge of aggravated assault with a weapon, Galveston Police Capt. Joshua Schirard said.

Police arrested Allen near the intersection of 20th Street and Avenue M 1/2, Schirard said. She was booked into the Galveston County jail on a bond of $250,000, Schirard said.

Galveston police Thursday said they were looking for Allen in connection with a Nov. 28 incident during which a man was set afire.

Emergency responders were called about 6 a.m. to the 500 block of 21st Street by a person who said he had just been set ablaze.

The man told police that he had been in his apartment when the electricity had gone out and that when he went outside to check the circuit breaker, Allen threw fire on him, according to a probable cause affidavit released Tuesday.

The man told police several times he was on fire and in pain during the 911 call, according to the affidavit.

Responders found a man with burns on his hands and face. His clothes were still aflame.

Police accuse Allen of throwing a flammable material on the man and setting him on fire, Schirard said.

Officers found a fuel-soaked rag, burned clothing and a charred and broken lighter at the scene, according to the affidavit.

Allen and the 46-year-old victim had dated about six years ago, but broke up after less than a year together, according to the affidavit.

The two had been arguing earlier in the evening before the man’s electricity was shut off, according to the affidavit.

Police also found several recent police reports regarding previous incidents between the man and Allen, according to the affidavit.

The circuit breaker at the man’s apartment had been switched off three times on May 7. When he went outside to check on it for the third time, Allen assaulted him, according to the affidavit.

Allen subsequently pleaded no contest to a charge of assault causing bodily injury to a family member for that incident and was sentenced June 9 to 94 days in county jail, court records show.

Another police report noted that Allen had poured lighter fluid on the man and said, “I’m going to douse you” during a previous argument, according to the affidavit.

Court records list Allen as a transient.

Allen has a lengthy criminal history in Galveston County.

The man was taken to a University of Texas Medical Branch hospital with serious, but not life-threatening, second- and third-degree burns on his hands and face, officials said.

The man has since been released and is recovering, Schirard said.


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Islander joined with others to stop gang violence

A visitor to the Galveston African-American Museum will find no reference to segregation, discrimination or such horrors as the lynching of Chester Sawyer a century ago this past June.

The museum’s founder, Galveston native James Josey, had a different reference in mind: to highlight accomplished, island-born African-Americans.

“The museum is all about positive role models,” Josey said of the center at 902 35th St., on Galveston’s historically African-American north side of Broadway. “The whole purpose is to help young African-Americans be proud of their culture.”

Josey, 70, bought the two-story building and renovated it — from his own pocket — to honor African-Americans who succeeded both for themselves and for the community at large.

The Galveston African-American Museum opened its doors in 1999.

“I was thinking young people need a place to find out about their local history, not Martin Luther King, not Harriet Tubman, but local people, some of them people still alive who they could meet and talk to, shake their hand,” Josey said.

The building’s exterior, covered with portraits painted by two local artists, the late Jepter Lee Stephney, a Galveston-born commercial artist better known as Febo, and Emanuel Herron.

“I went to them, and I told him whose pictures I wanted on the building,” Josey said. “The people on the front are all BOIs. I tell young people, ‘One day you could be right there, you could be on the wall.’”

A ROUNDABOUT ROUTE

Josey’s path to creating the museum was decidedly circuitous.

After graduating from Central High School in the days when the island’s public schools remained segregated, Josey was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam, where he was injured during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

“Over there, I gained a new appreciation of people, that the bottom line is, we’re all the same,” he said inside the museum, surrounded by portraits of politicians and performers, pugilists and preachers. “What I found was, we may be different colors, but we all bleed the same.”

Coming home, Josey was hired on as a machinist with Todd Shipyards Corp.’s Galveston Division, where he worked the next two decades — and had expected to do so until he retired.

Todd Shipyards, though, began laying off employees at its Galveston facilities in the late 1970s, a precursor to the corporation’s August 1987 filing for bankruptcy protection. Todd shuttered its Galveston yard in 1990.

Josey had, in 1979, accepted an invitation to move to Southern California, where Todd’s Los Angeles yard was still doing well.

“I was working as a machinist at Todd Shipyards and had a wife and three kids,” Josey recounted, referring to his wife of 47 years, the former Pearlie Goins, and their three daughters at the time. “They started laying people off in Galveston. I had an uncle, Fred Conley, who was a machinist at Todd’s San Pedro shipyard. He told me, ‘I can get you on.’ So I went out there and got a job.”

Josey soon bought a home in nearby Compton, a middle-class, blue-collar city that came to be known as the home of the seminal rap band NWA, whose album “Straight Outta Compton” inspired an award-winning film of the same name — and for gang violence.

COMING HOME

Josey returned to Galveston in 1991.

“My wife’s parents owned quite a few homes here on Galveston Island, and both had taken sick,” he said. “My wife had to help care for her mother, and that’s why we came back.”

He was shocked to see that the gang violence he thought he had left behind in Compton had taken root on the island.

“These kids were doing the same thing as they were doing in Compton, Bloods and Crips,” he said. “When I came here, it was going on strongly.”

Josey in response launched a program, Unity Within the Community, to refocus wayward youth, while also earning a bachelor’s degree in social work at Texas Southern University.

He soon found out he wasn’t alone in working to end the violence.

“I met Mr. Josey shortly after he returned from California,” said Sue Johnson, an African-American community activist. “In the early 1990s, there was an epidemic of youth violence around the nation and here in Galveston. The headlines were always talking about the violence. Something had to be done.

“Mr. Josey at the time was doing things like Unity Within the Community, which created an opportunity to find a different path.

“We pulled together and found people who knew about gangs and others who had been affected by the violence,” Johnson said. “People who worked with the youth and who had ideas on how to curb the violence.”

A COMBINED EFFORT

Unity Within the Community had begun simply enough with lumber and nails.

“The first thing I did, I saw a vacant lot at 38th and Ball and built a stage there,” Josey said. “One way to get through to kids is to have a festival with music and motivational speakers talking against drugs and gang violence.”

Other programs launched during the pivotal 1990s included Youth of Nia, which recognized young strivers and achievers, and Transformation Girls’ Rites of Passage, a womanhood training program. Holistic Community Development Corporation at the same time founded a similar program for boys.

“We realized we could affect change in the youth but that also had to involve the parents, so in 1997 we also founded the Family Strengthening and Empowerment program and offered support groups,” Johnson said.

The now-late Rev. James Thomas organized Midnight Basketball, which kept gangbangers and would-be gangbangers off the streets at the witching hour.

Youth Build, started by former Galveston Housing Authority Director Walter Norris, gave dropouts and gang members seeking a new direction job skills and employment renovating housing projects.

RAPPING VERSUS FIGHTING

Alfreda Houston, the late, former director of the St. Vincent Episcopal House, paid the rent for another Josey initiative: Jimmy’s Music Hall.

“Instead of fighting against each other over colors, we got them rapping against each other and dancing in competitions,” Josey said. “Kids were coming from all over the mainland to Galveston. They started looking forward to performing on Friday nights. The so-called Bloods and Crips were getting on stage and competing in rapping and dancing, and that made them able to talk to one another.

“Today, some of those kids have wives and kids of their own and I get joy when they introduce them to me, saying, ‘Mr. Josey, I want you to meet my wife, and these are my children.’”

The combined efforts paid off as gang-related violence on the island abated.

“When Mr. Josey came back to Galveston, he hit the ground running,” said Galveston County Constable Terry Petteway, whose law enforcement career began in the 1980s.

“It’s because of him and the others that a lot of the problems we were dealing with then, we’re not dealing with now.”


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Disaster recovery tops economic development summit

GALVESTON

Government and business representatives talked about lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey — and Ike in 2008 — and what’s important for moving forward and rebuilding in an annual economic development summit Tuesday.

After Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008, Galveston was able to use federal recovery dollars to rebuild and jumpstart new projects, City Manager Brian Maxwell said at the summit held by the Galveston Economic Development Partnership.

But Maxwell cautioned that getting to that point did take time — and other panelists highlighted how communities are still waiting to see what kind of assistance will be available.

At the 90-day mark — about the point where communities struggling with Harvey are — people were still out of homes and planners were taking the recovery process week by week, Maxwell said.

Maxwell’s comments were offered as support for communities hit hard by Hurricane Harvey still early in recovery, particularly Rockport, whose chamber of commerce president attended Tuesday’s summit.

“Every single structure has something wrong with it,” said Diane Probst, president of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

That community is still facing the difficulties of cleaning up debris, addressing housing for residents and doing business in a tourist community with tourism at a standstill, Probst said.

“It does get better,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell, along with Probst and representatives of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the International Economic Development Council, headlined the Galveston Economic Development Summit where they discussed best practices for rebuilding businesses and communities after a storm.

A big part of the ability to recover comes down to how much money Congress allocates for hurricane disaster aid, said Jeffrey Finkle of the International Economic Development Council.

It’s not yet clear how much Texas will receive for Hurricane Harvey recovery, Finkle said. Congress is working on a Dec. 8 deadline to approve a federal spending bill for 2018 and avoid a government shutdown.

Budget talks have stalled, which Mick Mulvaney, budget director for the Trump administration, has indicated is because of opposition to federal spending from the tea party faction of the Republican Party and lawmakers from coastal states who want to see more aid for hurricane relief, Finkle said.

Local leaders and residents should be lobbying their representatives to ensure federal aid for the state is adequate, Finkle said.

“There’s no magic formula that says you get this much — it’s all political,” Finkle said. “The community can only recover with that support.”


Coming Thursday

Hitchcock officials are concerned about city finances as sales tax revenues sharply decline.


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Five deputies disciplined for cheating on courses

GALVESTON

Five Galveston County Sheriff’s Office deputies were reprimanded earlier this year after state investigators determined they cheated in 2015 while taking state-required training courses, including one on law enforcement ethics, according to a state agency.

The deputies — Belinda Scott, Guadalupe Mendez, Barney Jones, Kenneth Hogan and Cedric Banks — violated the Texas Administrative Code by completing tests “by deceitful means” in August and September of 2015, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

All of the deputies worked in the Galveston County jail at the time. Sheriff’s office officials said four of them still work there, and were disciplined after the cheating incident was revealed.

Peace officers in Texas, including jail officers, are required to complete at least 40 hours of continuing education training over a two-year period.

The cheating was uncovered by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which received a complaint about the matter in January 2017. The punishments were handed down in August, according to documents obtained by The Daily News.

A person — identified in investigation documents as Scott’s ex-husband — told the commission in January that Scott was completing tests for other deputies, and implied that she was taking a fee for doing so, according to the document.

Investigators reviewed computer records and identified an IP address that Scott used while accessing an online training site. They also identified other deputies who accessed the testing site from the same IP address.

The investigators spoke to six deputies about tests that were taken from suspicious IP addresses. Four of them in the group that was disciplined admitted to allowing Scott to use their login information and take tests for them, according to the document.

Scott took tests relating to cultural diversity, human trafficking, crisis communication and one named “Ethics for Law Enforcement.”

When confronted with the investigation, Scott admitted to taking tests for others, the report states.

“Scott states she did not think about it being wrong and she just wanted to help people,” the report said.

She told investigators that she believed the revelation would be an “embarrassment” to the department.

All five of the deputies received written reprimands over the test taking; a letter noting the cheating was put in their permanent files.

The sheriff’s office did not reveal the cheating publicly. The case files for the investigation were obtained by The Daily News through an open records request.

Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mary Johnson said that four of the five deputies, including Scott, were still employed. Jones has retired from the department.

Johnson said that the sheriff’s office disciplined the deputies beyond the punishments handed down by the law enforcement commission — but said she could not reveal what those punishments were.

“They all received disciplinary action,” Johnson said. “The sheriff’s office takes this very seriously.”

While the sheriff’s office offers training courses to deputies and jail officers for free, people are also allowed to take the courses on their own. The sheriffs office audits who has completed their training, according to state records, and employees who have not completed all their course work are not allowed to work, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Johnson said she believed the people involved in this incident procrastinated in completing their required coursework, and waited until the last minute to complete their testing. The incidents cited in the commission’s reports all occurred between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6, 2015.

Sheriff’s office officials said they believe that all their employees are now taking their own tests.