Lead Story

When 20-year-old Andres Vasquez of Verona, Kentucky, called 911 late one night in May, he told the dispatcher he was trapped beneath a car someone had thrown on him; only later did he allegedly acknowledge that he might have been drunk and caused the crash himself. One crucial part of Vasquez’s story, however, remained consistent throughout the two-and-a-half-hour call: every time frustrated operators asked him where he was, his response (as quoted in the Kentucky Enquirer) was always simply “I’m under the [expletive] truck.” It wasn’t until another driver came upon the wreck and called 911 herself that rescuers were able to locate him.

Compelling Explanations

Charged with second-degree sex abuse, 16-year-old Jonathan Powell of Iowa City, Iowa, chose to take the stand in May to insist he’d had no sexual contact with the woman on whom his blood and saliva had allegedly been found. He said he’d merely bumped into her while jogging, gotten his foot stuck between her legs, and become so “entangled” with her that it took about 45 minutes to get free. He was convicted. Meanwhile, in an April trial in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 34-year-old Donald Duncan Jr. was found guilty of invasion of privacy but not guilty of child sexual abuse. According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, he argued that he hadn’t intended to film two teenage girls disrobing in his house; he’d set up a hidden camera in the room only because he wanted to capture images of ghosts or “people doing silly things.”

The Belgian newspaper De Standaard reported in June on a 53-year-old Nigerian-born man who had tried to apply for a job at a wrought-iron company but was turned away at the gate by the white owner. Answering subsequent charges of racial discrimination, the owner insisted he’d rejected the applicant because the company’s guard dog was prone to biting nonwhites: “My dog is racist. Not me.”

The best policy: According to a March Reuters report, a man in Kyoto, Japan, told police the reason he had fired about a dozen rifle rounds at an 11-story condominium building near his house was that it was blocking his sunlight and he was angry about it.

Government in Action

In June the UK’s Telegraph reported that local government in the Scottish county of Midlothian had spent about $6,000 since 2004 to leave timer-controlled lights on in an empty, boarded-up high school building so that trespassers would be less likely to fall and hurt themselves. Representatives from the Green and Conservative parties joined in condemning the policy as wasteful, but a spokesperson said that until the building could be sold, the government was obligated to protect possible intruders under the Occupier’s Liability Act of 1960.

A spokesperson for Poland’s military announced in June that the 1,200 Polish troops sent to Afghanistan to help NATO patrol the Pakistani border might not be combat-ready until several weeks later than planned, as the spare keys to all their vehicles had been stolen.

The Continuing Crisis

In April 29-year-old Tiffany Weaver of Reisterstown, Maryland, pleaded guilty to identity theft, admitting that she’d impersonated an Annapolis lawyer so she could rendezvous with her boyfriend in attorney-client meeting rooms at the Baltimore prison where he was being held. The lawyer whose identity Weaver assumed was on maternity leave at the time; she learned of the theft only after her firm received notice that she had been caught having sex with an inmate and was henceforth barred from the facility. But Weaver’s lawyer told the court his client and her boyfriend never actually had intercourse during their meetings: “There was no thrusting whatsoever.”

Gas, Brake, Whatever

More accidents in which elderly drivers apparently stepped on the wrong pedal: Man, 91, drove through garage wall into laundry room, hitting wife and rupturing gas line; wife injured (East Meadow, New York, March). Man, 88 (a scientist who’d worked on WWII’s Manhattan Project), drove through wall of Marin County Civic Center after serving on grand jury; no injuries (San Rafael, California, June). Woman, 84, drove golf cart over 79-year-old friend who’d just teed off on third hole; friend killed (Medford, Oregon, April). Woman, 84, plowed through wall and 100 feet into elementary school cafeteria; one student killed, two injured (Shiloh, Illinois, January). Woman, 84, lurched into sign, telephone pole, print shop, and finally pharmacy while on way to pick up prescription; no injuries (DeLand, Florida, December). Man, 80, drove through hospital facade and into reception area; reportedly explained, “I’ve come to visit my wife”; no injuries (Eastbourne, England, June).

Small-Town Life

Traffic was disrupted in Rayville, Louisiana, in June when an eight-foot snake turned up in the middle of a highway. By the time deputy Terry Thompson arrived at the scene, several witnesses were trying to protect the snake from one driver who was reportedly threatening to shoot it or run it over. Judging it to be nonvenomous, Thompson picked the snake up, then realized he’d seen it before: resident Chad Foote had brought it by the sheriff’s office last year, where he explained he’d gotten it at a discount because it was missing an eye. Thompson returned the snake, a boa, to Foote, who hadn’t seen it since March and was thrilled to get it back.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration by Shawn Belshwender.