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High water still isolates some rural Rock County residents


Kathy Schultz had to walk gingerly over ice in a neighbor’s yard to get to a car that was parked on a rural road north of Milton on Thursday.

She and her neighbors can’t drive their cars in or out of the cul-de-sac where they live because of deep water and ice at the intersection of Oakview Drive and Serns Road.

Schultz and her 15 neighbors are some of the rural Rock County residents dealing with floodwaters in places where flooding hasn’t happened before.

Schultz said she has a neighbor who has lived on Oakview Drive since 2000 and has seen water rise along Serns Road—but never high enough to block it.

Another stranded subdivision is along Sable Drive, off Kennedy Road between Janesville and Milton, where Charla Piper said her kids had to hike over a hill to get to a dry spot, where they were picked up, in order to get to school.

“Everybody’s just trapped in here,” she said of the approximately 12 flood-isolated homes.

Piper said no signs were placed to warn of the high water. She was told the county ran out of signs.

“If someone hits that water tonight, they’re going to go under,” Piper said. “They’re going to be under water before they know it.”

The county sent a plow through the water just before noon Thursday, breaking up the ice that had crusted over the top, but the water rushed back across the road.

Water was still flowing into Piper’s basement Thursday, two days after the rain stopped. A neighbor loaned her a pump, and a plumber hiked over the hill to install a stronger sump pump, she said.

It’s inconvenient, Schultz and Piper said, but they’re managing.

“It’ll be OK unless I need to get my mom out for an emergency,” Piper said.

Piper called the Rock County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management Bureau, asking if sandbags could be delivered to her house. “No,” she was told.

“I said, ‘Is somebody working on a plan?’ and they said, ‘Yeah,’ but that’s all they would say,” Piper said.

Emergency management officials were at a conference and couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

The Gazette tried to get a list of roads closed by flooding. Sheriff’s office officials referred the question to the 911 center, which suggested the Rock County Public Works Department.

Public works did not return calls.

Battalion Chief Ryan Murphy of the Janesville Fire Department said he hasn’t heard of any flooded area that is too deep for fire engines.

The department has a brush truck that can handle high water, and if worse comes to worst, firefighters can use their boats, Murphy said.

Vincent Street on the west side of Milton is also closed by a pond that has formed on both sides of the street. The water is so high that only the word “high” can be seen on a warning sign that says “high water.” Other signs and barricades indicate the road is closed, however.

Another iced-over pond covers East Rotamer Road near the intersection with Tarrant Road southeast of Milton. A lone driver went into that water Wednesday night. Milton firefighters were called to rescue him. No one was injured.

In Edgerton, Highway 51 remained closed at Swift Street on Thursday, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Janesville reported Wednesday that all the streets closed for flooding had reopened.

Basketball with Billy Graham: Janesville resident recalls his time with famous evangelist


Imagine needing a note from the Rev. Billy Graham to get back into your college dorm.

Or Graham turning to you and saying, “Let me borrow your ballcap.”

For the Rev. Forrest Williams, 91, of Janesville, those memories are a part of his life history.

Williams attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the 1940s, when Graham was president there.

“I remember he was just eight years older than me,” Williams said. “He was the youngest college president in the country.”

Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99, would go on from the University of Northwestern to become the best known and most admired evangelist of the past century. He was a friend and adviser to several U.S. presidents, and he was often asked for words of wisdom during national crises, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“He was really a great guy,” Williams said in an interview. “Everybody liked him.”

Someone once referred to Graham as a “16-piston personality,” and that about summed it up, Williams said.

Williams participated in student government and got to know Graham that way. At the time, the University of Northwestern was a small college with only about 1,000 students.

Graham called Williams by his college nickname, “Jiggs.”

Williams also was part of the cheerleading squad in college. During halftime at a basketball game, Graham approached Williams and said, “Jiggs, why don’t you get a couple of guys together and we’ll play basketball later?”

After the gym and stands emptied out, the guys took the court with the college president.

“He was a pretty good athlete,” Williams said of Graham.

They played until midnight that night. It was past curfew, so Graham had to write an excuse note to get back Williams back into his dorm.

Williams has photos of Graham from that era. In one, Graham is speaking to the Preacher Boys Club while Williams sits on the stage behind him, smiling.

In another, Graham is sitting on the lawn, a baseball cap tilted over his face.

“Nobody would know it, but that’s my baseball cap,” Williams said. “He came up to me at a school picnic and asked to borrow it. I guess he didn’t want to get a sunburn.”

After graduating in 1950, Williams took a job at the college.

Graham left Northwestern in 1952 to spend more time on his evangelical work, which came to be known as the Billy Graham Crusades.

“I remember the last thing he said to me,” Williams said. “He stuck his head in my office and said, ‘Jiggs, I thought I told you to keep your desk clean.’”

Williams eventually went on his own “crusade” and became a pastor at a church in Racine. In later years, he served as interim pastor at Bethel Baptist in Janesville and at a church in Rockford, Illinois.

Sheriff: School officer never went inside to confront gunman


The armed officer on duty at the Florida school where a shooter killed 17 people never went inside to engage the gunman and is under investigation, officials announced Thursday.

The Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a gunman armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by President Donald Trump and others to designate more people—including trained teachers—to carry arms on school grounds. Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, have redoubled their push to ban assault rifles.

The school resource officer at the high school took up a position viewing the western entrance of the building that was under attack for more than four minutes, but “he never went in,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Thursday news conference. The shooting lasted about six minutes.

The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under investigation, then chose to resign, Israel said. When asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said the deputy should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.”

A telephone message left by The Associated Press at a listing for Peterson wasn’t immediately returned.

The sheriff said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children. ... I’ve been to the funerals. ... I’ve been to the vigils. It’s just, ah, there are no words.”

There was also a communication issue between the person reviewing the school’s security system footage and officers who responded to the school.

Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said during a Thursday news conference that the footage being reviewed was 20 minutes old, so the responding officers were hearing that the shooter was in a certain place while officers already in that location were saying that wasn’t the case.

“There was nothing wrong with their equipment. Their equipment works,” Pustizzi said. “It’s just that when the person was reviewing the tape from 20 minutes earlier, somehow that wasn’t communicated to the officers that it was a 20-minute delay.”

Pustizzi said the confusion didn’t put anyone in danger.

Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder and has admitted to the attack. He owned a collection of weapons. Defense attorneys, state records and people who knew him indicate he displayed behavioral troubles for years.

Broward County incident reports show that unidentified callers contacted authorities with concerns about Cruz in February 2016 and November 2017.

The first caller said they had third-hand information that Cruz planned to shoot up the school. The information was forwarded to the Stoneman Douglas resource officer. The second caller said Cruz was collecting guns and knives and believed “he could be a school shooter in the making.”

Also in November 2017, Cruz was involved in a fight with the adult son of a woman he was staying with shortly after his mother died, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report. On Nov. 28, a 22-year-old man at the Lake Worth home told the responding deputy the he tried to calm down Cruz, who had been punching holes in walls and breaking objects, but Cruz hit him in the jaw, and the man hit Cruz back.

The deputy found Cruz a short time later at a nearby park. Cruz told the deputy he had been angry because he misplaced a photo of his recently deceased mother, and he apologized for losing his temper.

The other man told the deputy he didn’t want Cruz arrested. He just wanted Cruz to calm down before coming home.

Politicians under pressure to tighten gun laws in response to the mass shooting floated various plans Thursday, but most fell short of reforms demanded by student activists who converged Wednesday on Florida’s Capitol.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Thursday night that his chamber is going to recommend creating a special commission to investigate the “abject breakdown at all levels” that led to the shooting deaths.

The Republican said the commission, likely to be led by a parent of one of the slain children, would have subpoena power.

Corcoran also said the news about the resource officer’s failure to respond did not dissuade him from moving ahead with what he was calling the “marshal” plan to let local law-enforcement officials train and deputize someone at the school who would be authorized to carry a gun.

“He’s not indicative of the law enforcement community; that’s not going to change our behavior at all,” Corcoran said.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, who is helping craft a bill in response to the shooting deaths, insisted the idea is not the same as arming teachers. He said the program would be optional and the deputized person would have to be trained by local law-enforcement agencies.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said a visit to Stoneman Douglas prompted him to change his stance on large capacity magazines. The Republican insisted he is willing to rethink his past opposition on gun proposals if there is information the policies would prevent mass shootings.

“If we are going to infringe on the Second Amendment, it has to be a policy that will work,” Rubio said in an interview Thursday with AP.

A day after an emotional meeting with survivors and their families, Trump tweeted his strongest stance yet on gun control. He said he would endorse strengthening background checks, banning “bump stock” style devices and raising the minimum age to 21 for buying certain rifles.

At a conference of conservative activists Thursday near Washington, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration would make school safety “our top national priority” after the Parkland shooting.

Calling school shootings “evil in our time,” Pence exhorted those in positions of authority “to find a way to come together with American solutions.”

It was a markedly different tone than that deployed on stage minutes earlier by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who delivered an unbowed defense of gun ownership and lashed out at Democrats—saying they are using the tragedy for “political gain.”

NRA accuses gun-control advocates of exploiting FL shooting


Leaders of the National Rifle Association accused gun control advocates Thursday of exploiting the deadly Florida school shooting, striking a defiant tone amid a renewed debate over guns and school safety.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in his first public comments since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, said NRA members mourn for the Florida victims but at the same time issued a searing indictment of opponents of gun rights for attempting to “exploit tragedy for political gain.”

“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near the nation’s capital.

LaPierre addressed the conservative activists shortly before President Donald Trump held a listening session with state and local leaders on gun safety at the White House.

The president said he had spoken to NRA leaders and expressed optimism that the nation’s most prominent gun-owners organization would support his calls for raising the federal minimum age for buying or possessing certain weapons, enhancing background checks, addressing mental illness, and banning the sale of bump stock devices.

NRA leaders did not address whether the federal government should raise the age limit for young adults to buy weapons. A day earlier, the organization issued a statement saying it opposes raising the age limit.

“Evil walks among us, and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre said. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”

LaPierre said Democrats such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut were eagerly blaming the NRA. He also assailed the FBI for failing to follow up on warnings about the school shooter.

“Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free,” LaPierre said of gun control advocates. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”

The longtime face of the NRA was preceded on stage by the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, a prominent conservative radio host. She accused media outlets of focusing heavily on school shootings involving white and affluent neighborhoods instead of those occurring in inner cities.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings; you guys love it,” Loesch said. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

Gazette at a Glance for Feb. 23, 2018

Local • 3A

What will survey say?

The Evansville School District plans to distribute a survey to residents with the goal of determining whether a referendum could pass to pay for school facility improvements. The survey includes referendum options of varying costs, all of which would be paid off over 20 years.

State • 2A

Tax proposals pass Assembly

Assembly representatives passed Gov. Scott Walker’s $100 child tax credit and sales tax holiday proposals during Thursday’s session. The state Senate, which has been less enthusiastic about the measures, will now consider whether to OK them and pass them along for Walker’s signature.

Nation/World • 6B-7B

New charges for Manafort

Special counsel Robert Mueller filed additional criminal charges Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s aide Rick Gates. The filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud and significantly increases the legal jeopardy for Manafort.