Lead Stories

The Mexican government has announced that on June 15 it will begin distributing survival kits to citizens crossing the border illegally into California and Arizona because they face such a rugged journey. Included in the kits are bandages, aspirin, drugs for snake and scorpion bites, dry meat, granola, condoms or birth-control pills, and antidiarrhea medicine. Said a Mexican official, “Those who’ve gone to the U.S. have told us [what] they need.”

A golden retriever, Boomer, is the plaintiff on a petition filed in common pleas court in Dayton, Ohio, in May. According to the Associated Press, the dog’s guardians, Andrew and Alyce Pacher, are suing the Invisible Fence Company for $25,000 because the electrical charge to Boomer’s collar, triggered when he attempted to leave the Pachers’ yard, caused him second-degree burns and “severe emotional distress.” Scott Oxley, attorney for the fence company, told the AP, “It’s my opinion that it’s clear dogs cannot sue under Ohio law.”

The Litter of the Law

In March the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that an unarmed man who had disguised his face, ordered a convenience store clerk to give him “the money,” taken $110, and told the clerk to lie on the floor had committed theft but not “robbery” because the clerk was never in “immediate, serious” danger….And in April a judge in Brooklyn, New York, ruled that police had no legal cause to stop a man just because they saw him running from a building and holding his hand at his hip as if he had a gun (which, in fact, he did).

Omnipotent and Omnipresent

In April, Judge David M. Lawson tossed out a lawsuit filed in Bay City, Michigan, against Standish Prison and several other defendants by prison inmate Chad Gabriel DeKoven. The plaintiff insists that he is the “Messiah-God” and that, because his name is Chad, the many thousands of punch-card votes cast in November 2000 make him the duly elected president of the United States. The judge did, however, compliment Koven’s typing and his “disciplined effort” in assembling his 125-page brief, with numerical analysis and secret codes proving that he’s the deity.

God has been implicated in a number of recent crimes: in February a 34-year-old man in Chickasha, Oklahoma, was stabbed to death, allegedly by his mother-in-law, who had been commanded to kill him by God and a Ouija board….That same month a convenience store clerk in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, was hacked to death with a machete, allegedly by a man who was ordered into action and praised for his good work by God….And a 39-year-old man in Vinco, Pennsylvania, was arrested for allegedly torching a theater in which 12 mentally retarded adults were watching a movie, also at the behest of God, who told the man that He would represent him in court.

Reverend Richard C. Weaver, 55, the Sacramento preacher who penetrated the Secret Service detail to shake President Bush’s hand on Inauguration Day, says that God got him into the restricted area. The Secret Service was especially embarrassed by the incident, because Weaver had infiltrated President Clinton’s inaugural in 1997 and told agents he’d be back in 2001….After a truck overturned on a Houston freeway in March, spilling 46,000 pounds of processed chicken, Ray Hutcherson filled his car with boxes of chicken and told TV station KTRK, “Anytime you get anything free, it’s got to be the work of God.”

Shipment of Fools

Three thousand tons of incinerated ash from Philadelphia, loaded onto a barge in 1986, are still looking for a home. Originally part of a cargo five times that amount, the ash was refused by seven countries; after the captain lied about the nature of his cargo, he unloaded 3,000 tons in Haiti, and after the truth emerged he managed to outrun the Haitian military. The remainder of the ash was probably dumped at sea, the captain and crew have long since moved on, and the barge has been recommissioned. But the 3,000 tons remained on a Haitian beach until April 2000, when the firm Waste Management, Inc. was hired to bury it. The ash was loaded onto another barge, but the states of Georgia, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida have since rejected the waste; this April the owner of the barge sued Waste Management for $490,000 in storage fees.

Toilets in the News

In February, 32-year-old Swiss citizen Roger Weisskopf won a lifetime supply of toilet paper after taking part in a stunt on German TV in which he donned a blindfold and identified several brands of TP by their feel and taste….In December, Cambodian university lecturer Pok Leakreasy introduced a line of toilets whose bowls are emblazoned on the side with facial likenesses of Khmer Rouge leaders….And in February, Hong Kong jeweler Lam Sai-wing unveiled his solid-gold bathroom, with a gold washbasin and two gold toilets. Lam, who constructed the bathroom as a rejoinder to Lenin’s critique of capitalist waste, told reporters that he had dreamed all his life of having enough money to build a gold toilet.

People Different From Us

“This is perversion at its lowest,” said a prosecutor in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, regarding the invasion of privacy charges lodged against Christopher Simms. The father of two small children, Simms allegedly rigged a hidden camera in his workplace to photograph new mothers as they pumped breast milk for their infants. As one of Simms’s neighbors commented to the Philadelphia Daily News, “You would think he’s seen enough of that at home.”

Least Competent People

On March 24, two policemen in East Orange, New Jersey, fired 38 shots at two unarmed teenagers, ages 14 and 18, who were sitting in a stolen car. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, a subsequent investigation has revealed that as the officers approached the car, one accidentally shot himself in the thigh. “I’m hit,” he said. The other officer assumed that the teenagers had shot him and emptied his gun at them; a detective who’d arrived on the scene fired 25 more shots. The boys sustained eight bullet wounds between them but survived.

In the Last Month

Tye Thomas, 22, resigned as mayor of Gun Barrel City, Texas, a week after having telephoned police to insist that they arrest him because he was intoxicated in public….In Johnson, Vermont, a college student threw a pair of cow eyeballs at a writing professor who had undervalued her essay on the horrors of slaughterhouses….And in Santa Rosa, California, a 21-year-old man answering a charge of illegal skateboarding had to be subdued after he threatened a judge and climbed onto a table, screaming, “You’ll never take me alive!”

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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