The latest local news

St. Ambrose internship program for students with disabilities helps them secure jobs after high school

WQAD News -

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A program that helps Davenport high school students with disabilities find work is coming up on its first graduating class.

The program, Project Search, gives the students real-world work experience that will translate into a job.

Project Search is an international program that came to Davenport a year ago.

There are five students in the program that's run right here at St. Ambrose University. One year ago, these special education students started the program that would change their lives.

Students work at three different internships at St. Ambrose, rotating every ten weeks. They can work at places like the cafeteria, library, and the children's campus. These opportunities show them hard work it takes to succeed.

"Many people with disabilities have been told that they're less than and that the disability is a barrier. But I think with this program and what we try and make sure that we encourage is that it just means that you learn different," said Ryan Saddler, a business liaison for the program.

The internships give them the experience to later find a job.

"It's nice because they learn the skills and now I get to see them gain employment. Especially when they start to get paid and they get that first paycheck it's really cool," said Steve Claeys, a Project Search instructor.

At the beginning of each day, students work with instructors to learn basic life skills.

"I do like it a lot and I think it's a big experience to go into," said Madison Wright, one of the students.

With two internships under her belt, Madison will soon be bringing in a paycheck from her new job at a local retirement home.

The program is still growing. Next year, they have seven students signed up. Their goal is to have between six and twelve students.

The current class will graduate at the end of next month.

A teen made a promposal with a joke about blacks ‘picking cotton.’ People aren’t laughing

WQAD News -

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Creative “promposals” are all the rage these days among high schoolers. But this one didn’t go so well.

A senior at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida, recently decided to ask a girl to the prom by holding up a sign.

It read, “If I was black I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white so I’m picking u 4 Prom?”

A picture of the unidentified student holding the sign was posted to social media — where people love to have nuanced conversations on race — over the weekend. It immediately sparked outrage, with someone on Snapchat asking, “Whooo said this was OK?”

The school didn’t think it was OK. Acting principal Kathy Wilks sent a letter to parents Monday saying the school is investigating and “absolutely does not condone or support the message conveyed in this post,” according to CNN affiliate WFLA.

The Sarasota County School District weighed in too. It sent in counselors to Riverview High School in case students wanted to talk about the controversy and said it would work with civil rights groups such as the NAACP to develop a roundtable forum to talk about race.

“Many who saw the post … are understandably upset with its contents and commentary,” the school district said in a statement. “This incident remains an ongoing investigation and any disciplinary action and recommendation will be made accordingly.

“Although this message is one student’s opinion, we take the matter of racial relations and school safety seriously, and we look forward to working with our students and these outside groups to have a meaningful and informative dialogue and expanded curriculum related to this important national topic.”

The promposal sign also caught the attention of the local NAACP chapter, which condemned its message.

“A strong statement needs to be made to their student body that this type of behavior will not be tolerated on any of our campuses throughout the school district, and, if so, there are going to be severe consequences,” Trevor Harvey, president of the NAACP’s Sarasota chapter, told WFLA.

The student who made the promposal sign has since posted an apology on social media, according to WFLA.

Riverview High School’s prom is scheduled for May 5.

Riverview student Erin Williams, who posted a photo of the sign to Facebook, felt the promposal was a joke that went too far.

“I think it was something that he thought was gonna be funny, but its not,” Williams, who is black, told WFLA. “So this is a good thing to talk about, because you have to recognize something to change it, and then you have to keep it that way,” she added.

Fire breaks out at barn behind Wapsi Willy’s in Long Grove

WQAD News -

LONG GROVE, Iowa -- A fire broke out at a barn near Wapsi Willy's restaurant in Long Grove around midday on Wednesday, April 25th.

Fire crews from Dewitt, McCausland, and Long Grove were still battling heavy smoke around 11 a.m.

No one was inside the barn at the time, but injuries cannot be confirmed at this time.

A woman passerby told WQAD that she knows the owners of the barn, who live next door. She said that they had to build a new home after their previous one flooded a few years ago.

This is a developing story. More information will be added as it becomes available.

Charges reduced in Clinton antique shop pickaxe attack

WQAD News -

CLINTON, Iowa -- Cassandra Doran, the Clinton woman accused of attacking an antique store owner with a pickaxe and putting him in critical condition, is no longer facing attempted murder charges after entering a guilty plea in Clinton County district court on Tuesday, April 24.

Doran - who entered Gazebo Antiques and Collectibles on Feb. 10, 2017, grabbed a pickaxe on display and attacked store owner Bill Conley after he told her to let go of it while she was swinging it around wildly - pleaded guilty to willful injury causing serious injury, use of a dangerous weapon and three counts of criminal mischief.

The attack left Conley in critical condition with head wounds, a broken jaw and six or seven stab wounds and his wife, Becky, suffered a minor heart attack in the altercation.

Watch an interview with attack victim Bill Conley here:

Both Conleys recovered and re-opened the store - which suffered extensive damage - on May 4 of last year.

Yesterday's news from court was bittersweet for Bill, who said he believes attempted murder charges are warranted, but understands why the plea deal was made.

"The charge was well-founded, because she was going to kill me," Conley said Wednesday, while filling out his victim impact statement. "However, being able to prove what was in her mind would be difficult."

Conley said both he and his wife have "good days and not-so-good days."

" I have a hand that is numb all of the time. I have a life sentence with that," he said. "Becky had a stress-induced heart attack and now she seems to be getting along fairly well, although both of us relive it on an intermittent basis. It's something that never goes away."

Conley said he and his wife will be present for Doran's sentencing on May 31. He thanked Clinton County Assistant D.A. Ross Barlow for keeping he and Becky in the loop on the case and seeking their input on the plea agreement.

"We have no intention of missing (the sentencing)," he said. "This way, there is justice."


Bow-legged rescue puppy gets new lease on life with special family

WQAD News -

SAN DIEGO - A German Shepherd-mix puppy who was so badly bow-legged that he couldn't walk has come a long way since veterinarians began treating him at a California animal shelter, and now he has a permanent home.

Antilles the rescue dog has definitely had his share of trials, but his luck changed when he was brought to the Helen Woodward Animal Center on March 1st, according to KSWB.  A birth defect and possible overfeeding left his furry little legs extremely bowed. They could barely support his body weight. 

The vets at the Helen Woodward center monitored him and fitted him with special splints. Those splints were removed last month.

“First 30 minutes that the news story went out nationally, we just started getting calls from all over,” said Helen Woodward Animal Center spokeswoman Jessica Gercke. The Otsuka family sent in an application that stood out and even included a PowerPoint presentation, Gercke said.  Their daughter Cassidy has some health challenges of her own and Helen Woodward officials decided that she and Antilles would be a perfect match.

“We’re super excited and happy haha,” said Cassidy's mother, Desiree Otsuka. "I’m so happy I could do my happy dance.”

Otsuka says she is grateful that Antilles is now part of their special family. She says the dog is a reminder that trials that don’t break us make us stronger.

“Everyone has their challenges and my own daughter, she actually suffers from absence epilepsy, which is a very unique condition," Otsuka said. "She’s a little bit different, and she knows what it’s like to be a little bit different. And because of that, that really drew her to Antilles too, because he’s a little bit different.”

The news about Antilles went viral, and when the Blue Buffalo Dog Food company heard about him, they sent his new family a year's supply of dog food.

“I think he’s going to live a very happy life and be able to run around like other puppies,”  Gercke said.

Think you can bake the best pie? ‘Whiteside County Relay For Life’ is looking for you

WQAD News -

STERLING, Illinois- Leaders in Whiteside County are looking for the best pie baker around, and it is all for a good cause.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Whiteside County is holding a “Celebrity” Pie Auction Friday, April 27, and they’re looking for you to take part.

All you have to do is “bake or purchase the best pie Whiteside County and take bids on your creation.” You’re also asked to do a 15 minute segment live on WSDR A.M. radio Friday morning. The station is located at 3101 Freeport Road in Sterling.

The auction starts at 6:15 a.m. and goes until around noon. To reserve a time, you’re asked to call 815-441-1086. To make a pledge to Relay For Life of Whiteside County, benefiting the American Cancer Society, call 815-625-3400 during Friday’s event. I will be there live Friday during WQAD News 8 at 11 raising money for the group. To donate online, click here.

The Relay For Life Walk is taking place Saturday, June 2. It starts at 5 p.m. at Hinders Field in Rock Falls. To join the relay, click here.

Man who disarmed Waffle House shooter hailed by lawmakers

WQAD News -

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The man who snatched an AR-15 rifle away from a gunman at a Nashville restaurant told Tennessee lawmakers Tuesday he faced "the true test of a man," drawing a standing ovation during his brief address.

As the House hailed him as a hero, James Shaw Jr. said he acted to save his own life early Sunday at a Waffle House, and saved others in the process.

"I never thought I'd be in a room with all the eyes on me, but you know, I'm very grateful to be here," Shaw told House members. The 29-year-old said he has since gone to see some of the shooting victims in the hospital and they all remembered him. He apologized to the people whose loved ones died in the attack.

The Senate also honored Shaw on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the co-owner of a Colorado crane company where Travis Reinking once worked says she urged federal officials to keep Reinking in custody after he was arrested at the White House last July.

Darlene Sustrich said: "We told them, 'Hang onto him if you can. Help him if you can.'"

Federal officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said Tuesday that Reinking, 29, has been "compliant" and "cooperative" since he was transferred to the jail late Monday after he was captured near the apartment where he lived. Reinking is wearing a vest known informally as a "suicide smock" and will remain under close observation at a maximum-security facility in Nashville.

Also on Tuesday, a Nashville judge revoked the shooting suspect's bond.

Court records show that a judge struck Reinking's $2 million bond until a hearing can be held in May.

An attorney listed as Reinking's lawyer did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Reinking has been charged with four counts of criminal homicide. And a tweet from the Metro Nashville Police Department said he also faces four counts of attempted murder and one count of unlawful possession in the commission of a violent felony.

Police say he opened fire outside the Waffle House with an AR-15 rifle and then stormed the restaurant, wearing only a green jacket. Four other people were wounded in the shooting.

Reinking escaped on foot from the restaurant and shed his only item of clothing. By the time he was captured in the woods nearby, police had searched his apartment, and found the key fob to a stolen BMW they had recovered in the parking lot days earlier. The BMW theft had not initially been tied to Reinking.

Police seized multiple items from his apartment including: a Remington rifle with a magazine, cartridges for different calibers of guns, two rifle scopes and gun cleaning equipment. Police also found three books on patents in the apartment, along with a sketchbook, two iPhones and a number of pieces of computer equipment, court records show.

Nashville Police Department Lt. Carlos Lara told reporters Reinking was arrested Monday after detectives were tipped to the suspect's presence by some construction workers. He carried a black backpack with a silver semi-automatic weapon and .45-caliber ammunition.

The arrest ended a 24-hour manhunt involving more than 160 law enforcement officers, but it left troubling unanswered questions about official responses to months of bizarre behavior before the restaurant attack, including encounters with police in Illinois and Colorado and an arrest at the White House that raised red flags.

Darlene Sustrich, Reinking's former boss, described him as appearing paranoid and delusional at times. A former co-worker told a Salida, Colorado, police detective Reinking was infatuated with Taylor Swift and claimed to be a sovereign citizen.

Last July, Reinking was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service after he entered a restricted area near the White House and refused to leave, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.

The suspect told Washington, D.C., police he was a sovereign citizen and had a right to inspect the grounds, according to an incident report.

Reinking was not armed at the time, but at the FBI's request, Illinois police revoked his state firearms card. Four guns, including the AR-15 used in the shootings, were transferred to his father, a procedure allowed under Illinois law.

Tazewell County Sheriff Robert Huston said Jeffrey Reinking pledged he would "keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis." Don Aaron, a Nashville Police spokesman, said Reinking's father "has now acknowledged giving them back" to his son.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special Agent Marcus Watson said Monday that his father's action is "potentially a violation of federal law."

Phone calls to a number listed for the father went unanswered.

4th death reported in Illinois linked to synthetic marijuana

WQAD News -

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois public health officials say a fourth person has died after using synthetic marijuana.The Illinois Department of Public Health said Tuesday afternoon that the most recent victim was a woman in her 30s from central Illinois. Her death comes as the state deals with an outbreak of people experiencing severe bleeding after using synthetic marijuana. More than 150 people in Illinois in 13 counties have been sickened and three others have died. Those include a Chicago-area man in his 20s and two central Illinois men, one in his 20s and the other in his 40s.

State health officials say the products are deadly and urge people not to use them. Those who have become sick have reported coughing up blood, severe bloody noses and internal bleeding.


Even with weekend warm-up, conditions still dangerous for boaters

WQAD News -

A nice, mild weekend may make us think about getting out on the water, but it may be a week too soon. This morning, Mississippi River water temperatures are only in the lower 50s. They are running cooler than normal, thanks to a quick snow melt across Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

While that's way too cold to go swimming, most boaters don't think about it since fishing and pleasure boating will keep people out of the water.

But what happens if there's a worse-case scenario where someone ends up on the river? There's actually a rule of thumb called the "Boaters' Safety Rule," that determines when its safe to be out on the water. If the air temperature (in Fahrenheit), added to the temperature of the water (in Fahrenheit) doesn't surpass 120, it's unsafe to be on the water without a wet or dry suit. Case in point, if you're in the middle of the river and fall in, you will receive hypothermia before you're able to swim to shore. 

This weekend's projected temperatures of 70 degrees with water temperatures in the 50s barely meet that criteria. It's best to wait another week when a fall into the river will still be dangerous, but not deadly.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen



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