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News Quirks 

Published February 16, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

After breaking into the same house he’d broken into eight months earlier, John Finch, 44, found himself trapped, according to police in New Castle County, Del., because the homeowner had changed the locks in the meantime so that a key was required to open the door, even from the inside. Finch entered through a rear window and helped himself to liquor but couldn’t let himself out the door without the key and was too drunk to climb back out the window. So he called 911 for help and was arrested. (Associated Press)

Leonard Baskerville, 29, tried to carjack a van stopped at an intersection in Adelanto, Calif., but was arrested by the driver, a uniformed San Bernadino County sheriff’s deputy. (Victorville’s Daily Press)

Improbable Causes

Fire investigators concluded that a house fire, which caused $30,000 worth of damage in Portland, Ore., was started by tenants using a hole in the floor as an ashtray. “That’s not careless smoking,” fire official Paul Corah said, “that’s stupid smoking.” (Portland’s KPTV-TV)

Workers at a landfill in Summit County, Colo., tried to start a tractor-trailer in below-zero weather by putting a pan with lit charcoal under the tractor’s oil pan to warm the engine. The tractor caught fire. “They clearly didn’t mean to torch the truck,” fire official Steve Lipsher said, noting that firefighters needed an hour to extinguish the blaze. (The Denver Post)

Authorities arrested Gary Lee Albertson, 33, for causing at least four fires in McClain County, Okla., while towing a truck without any tires. Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Huff said the metal on the road sparked the fires, which burned about 60 acres, heavily damaged one home and damaged several other structures. (Oklahoma City’s KWTV-TV)

A van exploded in Bellevue, Wash., when the three people inside tried to keep the motor running by pouring gasoline directly into the carburetor while driving. One of them told police they’d bought two gallons of gas from a station minutes earlier but didn’t have a gas can, so they kept it in an open bucket. After removing the engine cowling, located between the two front seats, they used a water bottle to transfer gas from the bucket to the carburetor. The explosion occurred after the vehicle stalled and the driver tried to restart it. All three were on fire when they jumped from the van but survived. (Bellevue Reporter)

Static-Cling Art

Laura Bell created a 14-by-4-foot replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” out of laundry lint. Bell, of Roscommon, Mich., said she spent 800 hours doing enough laundry to get the lint — buying towels of the colors she wanted and washing them separately to get the right shades of lint — and another 200 hours to reproduce the Italian Renaissance painter’s masterpiece. (Associated Press)

Second-Amendment Follies

While shooting at a bird in the rafters of a cookie factory in River Falls, Wis., the 29-year-old plant manager missed the bird but accidentally shot an employee in the back of the head. The manager didn’t realize he’d hit anyone and went about his business. Meanwhile, the injured employee, a 28-year-old man who’d just started working at the Best Maid Cookie plant, said he remained at his workstation for almost another hour after he was shot because he wasn’t allowed to leave the cookie machine unattended. He waited until his scheduled break to drive to the police station and report the incident. (River Falls Journal)

Fool for a Client

Representing himself against first-degree murder charges in DuPage County, Ill., Joshua Matthews, 25, threatened to turn over courtroom tables and became involved in a physical altercation that resulted in his being Tasered before the jury entered. Insisting on wearing a bright orange prisoner outfit with the legs rolled up to his knees, a pair of white socks and metal shackles around his ankles, Matthews stammered and swore throughout his 45-minute opening statement, at one point shouting to the jury, “Y’all must think I’m crazy.” He told the jurors he intended to prove “everyone they [prosecutors] put on the stand is lying,” adding, “They ain’t got [expletive] on me.” (Suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald)

Ancestry-Community Follies

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission said it would review a policy by Waikiki restaurant Keoni by Keo’s that adds a mandatory 15 percent tip to the checks of customers who don’t speak English. A restaurant representative explained that its many international visitors customarily don’t tip, so it’s merely trying to help its wait staff. The workers not only rely on tips for income, but also must pay taxes on a percentage of the restaurant’s total sales that Internal Revenue Service rules consider to be tips, even if they aren’t. Bill Hoshijo, executive director of the Civil Rights Commission, acknowledged the commission hasn’t received any complaints, but said it’s looking into the restaurant’s practice anyway because “discrimination based on language is ancestry discrimination.” (Honolulu’s KITV-TV)

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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