The Range


BANK ROBBERY GOES BAD: Bank robber Leon Traig Williams, 22, is just finishing a holdup of an eastside Chase Bank when he gets spooked by an investigator from the Pima County Attorney's Office and takes everyone in the bank hostage, according to police.

Once the bank is surrounded by TPD officers, a SWAT team, a police helicopter and special agents from the FBI, the suspect, who "appeared irrational and terminated communication" with hostage negotiators, shoots himself in the head, according to a TPD report.


WALL NUTS: Remember that big ol' fence along U.S.-Mexico border that the federal government was supposed to have done by the end of 2008? Turns out it's gonna cost an extra $400 million and won't be done by the end of the year, according to an Associated Press report.

The project faces deadline problems, because the government has run into problems acquiring all of the land needed for construction of the barrier.

"Since 2006, Congress has appropriated $2.7 billion for the fence," the AP notes. "But there's no estimate on how much the entire system--the physical fence and technology--will cost to build, let alone maintain."

WARM RELATIONS: The Tucson City Council moves forward with an ordinance that would prohibit parents and caretakers from leaving children unattended in cars. The ordinance, pushed by Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, would sock anyone who leaves a young'un alone in a car with a $1,000 fine, which could be waived if the offender agrees to take a parenting class. Assistant Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor says police already can act in cases where children are in danger under state law, but Trasoff says the new ordinance removes any "gray area."


SEX FOR OIL: Bet you didn't know that the U.S. Interior Department had its own oil company! And if you did, we'll bet you didn't know it was filled with bid-rigging crooks, tail-chasing cokeheads and hot chicks who found themselves literally in bed with the very oil company executives they were supposed to be overseeing.

In a report released today, Interior Department Inspector General Earl E. Devaney criticizes current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service's Royalty-in-Kind program, which manages the exchange of oil and gas in lieu of cash for drilling on public lands, for "effectively opting out of the Ethics in Government Act" while steering contracts to former employees and getting themselves on the payroll of oil companies.

Delivering a very long but juicy quote, Devaney notes that his staff "discovered a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity in the RIK program--both within the program, including a supervisor, Greg Smith, who engaged in illegal drug use and had sexual relations with subordinates, and in consort with industry. Internally, several staff admitted to illegal drug use as well as illicit sexual encounters. Alcohol abuse appears to have been a problem when RIK staff socialized with industry. For example, two RIK staff accepted lodging from industry after industry events because they were too intoxicated to drive home or to their hotel. These same RIK marketers also engaged in brief sexual relationships with industry contacts. Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length."

Oh, and at one point, they considered simply rewriting ethic rules that were hamstringing their fun and games.

Did we mention that this is the office that would be overseeing those offshore oil-drilling contracts that Republicans are so eager to move forward with?

Congressman Raúl Grijalva complains: "The report released today is emblematic of the Bush administration habit of working for the benefit of big oil companies and corporations and forgetting about the middle and working class in the country. Instead of working hard to defend the interests of the American taxpayers, the Minerals Management Service under President Bush has a culture of corruption which employees used to benefit themselves and the industry they are supposed to watchdog."


BAD ROOMMATE: It's the first day in the trial of Galareka Harrison, who is accused of stabbing her roommate at a UA dorm to death in September 2007. Prosecutors say Harrison stabbed Mia Henderson after Henderson told police that Harrison had stolen money from her.


IN NEWS FROM MARS: We check in with the Phoenix Mars Lander, which is racing to complete its mission before Mars gets too cold. This week, scientists working with the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory have delivered the last sample to the onboard wet-chemistry lab and photographed dust devils--which may possess some sort of consciousness*--on the horizon. The LPL team plans to use the final cells in the lander's Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer in the near future.

*Just to be clear, LPL scientists said nothing about sentient dust devils, which is purely speculative on our part. Doesn't it seem like it would be really, really cool?


WATCH THE WILDCATS WILT: The UA football team's plan for quick three wins to open the season hits a snag when the New Mexico Lobos beat the Wildcats, 36-28, in Albuquerque. The Wildcats, now 2-1, must take on the UCLA Bruins at high noon in Pasadena this Saturday, Sept. 20.


PACKING UP: Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel sits down to write his final edition of The Range. The column, not yet 5 years old, is entering retirement. Tune in next week for our special new ScrambleWatch '08 column that will cover election news through November.