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Two dead, one injured in Darien incident

DARIEN

A man and woman were found dead in a Darien residence Monday night, Delavan police said Tuesday morning.

Another man was found with a gunshot wound to the shoulder and was reported in stable condition Tuesday at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, according a news release from Delavan police.

Delavan Police Chief Jim Hansen said he did not expect any arrests in the case. He would not say how the incident happened, how the people died or what the motivation might be.

Jeff Connerty 

A law enforcement officer is shown at the scene of a Darien residence where two people were found dead Monday night.

In a news release, police said there was “no further danger to the community.”

Hansen said he plans to wait until his officers’ reports and those of the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office were completed before releasing details.

The wounded man is “fine,” and police planned to talk to him sometime Tuesday, Hansen said.

The incident occurred at 452 Buckingham Court. The Walworth County Dispatch Center received a 911 call shortly after 6 p.m. Monday that someone had been shot there, according to the release.

Neighbors in the cul-de-sac told a Gazette reporter a woman in her mid to late 20s lived in the house. They described her as a nice person.

Jim Stirmel, a neighbor, said he last saw her Sunday as she mowed her lawn. He called the incident “extremely rare” for the quiet neighborhood.

“It’s just a really super neighborhood,” Stirmel said. “…This is really strange.”

A delivery box was on the porch of the residence Tuesday morning. No one answered the door.

A man who said he attended Delavan-Darien High School with a person he believes is the woman involved said she was “smart, sarcastic and funny.”

Danielle Palms told The Gazette she believes she is a friend of the man who died. She said the man and woman had dated but had broken up.

Palms said she was shocked by the incident.

“He was an amazing person,” Palms said of the man. “Amazing soul. Huge heart. Loves a lot.

“This is a really upsetting situation for this whole town. Really upsetting.”

Jeff Connerty 

Authorities gather at the scene of a Darien residence where two people were found dead Monday.

Hansen said he would release no names until autopsies were completed Tuesday and Wednesday and families notified.

SWAT teams from the sheriff’s offices in Kenosha, Rock and Walworth counties were among the law enforcement units called to the scene.

Among other responders were the FBI, detectives from Rock and Walworth counties, the state Division of Criminal Investigation and medical response units.

The bodies were found after “several hours of attempted negotiations and investigative leads” and after SWAT officers breached a door to the residence, according to the release.

Officers obtained a search warrant and searched the house, releasing the scene at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the release.

Jeff Connerty 

A law enforcement vehicle is shown at the scene of a Darien residence where two people were found dead Monday.

The incident had ties to the nearby village of Sharon, according to a Sharon police Facebook post.

Sharon Police Chief Brad Buchholz posted this statement in response to what he said were many people asking why he issued an alert to residents Monday night urging them to shelter in their homes and report suspicious activity.

“In reply to the many who asked why there was not more information released about the call, I will answer with this statement. It is the policy of this department NOT TO RELEASE INFORMATION IMMEDIATELY when our department is not directly involved in a crime scene,” Buchholz wrote. “I simply put out a safety notice because this incident did have ties to our community. I will state that the department was aware of certain aspects of the case and did take extra measures to ensure the safety of those that may have been connected with this tragic event.”

Jeff Connerty 

The Walworth County Sheriff Department's Mobile Command is shown at the scene of a Darien residence where two people were found dead Monday night.

The incident was the second in six months in which two people were shot in a Darien residence.

In a Dec. 2 incident, Steven W. Kohs, 34, shot and killed William Swift, 48, and wounded Kohs’ estranged wife, Rebecca L. Kohs, 39.

Kohs then took his own life.

All three were village of Walworth residents.

Hansen said in March that a case of this kind was rare for the village of 1,600 people.

Gazette photographer Angela Major contributed to this report.


Local
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‘I'm not going to stop': Church's GED class helps local Spanish speakers

JANESVILLE

On paper, it’s hard to quantify the success of Faith Lutheran Church’s program that helps Spanish speakers earn their high school equivalency degrees.

The program has lost students since it first started in 2013.

Most of them leave before finishing because of family or job situations.

Right now, only three people regularly attend the church’s weekly Tuesday classes, said program leader Barb Becker.

But the program’s value is evident on the face of Daniela Sanchez. She’s determined to complete her General Education Degree, or GED, which would help her family and give her a sought-after educational accomplishment.

Angela Major 

Barb Becker sits on the floor with Daniela Sanchez's 3-year-old son Lazaro Sanchez as he plays with blocks Tuesday at Faith Lutheran Church in Janesville.

As Sanchez studied language arts on a laptop inside the church Tuesday, her 3-year-old son, Lazaro, played with blocks and toy animals nearby.

Known as Faith Literacy, the church’s GED classes are part of a larger network of resources serving Rock County’s Spanish speakers. Local leaders say those resources can encourage students to become more involved and strengthen the entire community.

GED classes at Faith Lutheran originally started in 2013 as a partnership between the church and The Literacy Connection, a Janesville nonprofit that closed in 2016. When the nonprofit shut down, the church decided to continue the classes as a form of outreach, Becker said.

Sanchez was one of the original students. The program has always functioned as one-on-one lessons rather than a traditional class.

Work changes and her pregnancy with Lazaro forced her to leave the class, but now she’s back and striving toward a GED.

Angela Major 

Daniela Sanchez gets her 3-year-old son Lazaro Sanchez a snack Tuesday at Faith Lutheran Church in Janesville.

A Chicago native who grew up in Mexico, Sanchez struggled with academics and dropped out in middle school to work. But her husband recently earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology, which has inspired her to continue studying.

“I told Barb I’m not going to stop this time. I’m going to do it,” Sanchez said. “I need to do something different, for me and my kids, to be a good example. I have to keep going.”

She would like to go to college eventually and score a job working with kids. She currently works as a custodian for a local day care, and the labor has started to take a toll, she said.

Besides the GED classes, other nonprofits in Janesville and Beloit offer English language classes or citizenship training. Stateline Literacy Council in Beloit offers all three.

The resources are essential to building unity at a time when racism and other hostilities toward Spanish speakers have become commonplace.

Rene Bue, chairwoman of the Janesville Police Department’s Latino Liaison Advisory Committee, said Faith Literacy’s declining enrollment is not an unusual story. Many programs or services geared toward Spanish speakers have seen fewer people in recent years.

A lot of that is due to fear—fear of being pulled over without a valid driver’s license, for example, and the unknown repercussions that come with that, Bue said.

But time is also an issue. Learning English and being an adult student are not easy tasks or commitments.

“It’s easy for language speakers who only speak English to say, ‘Oh, well, they should just learn English,’” Bue said. “It’s time-consuming and difficult to fit in with all the other things you have going on in the natural course of life.”

Becker said even if people start her class and have to leave, any education is worth something. They at least have more knowledge than what they started with.

Only a few of the several dozen students Becker has taught have actually completed their GEDs. Still, the skills and support system will help them whether they earn a diploma or not, she said.

“It’s not about quantity,” Becker said. “It’s more about, particularly in this political and social climate, I feel like we need to make sure that this population of people knows there are people out here who are on their side, who are willing to support them.”


Bryan Wegter 

Janesville Craig's Savanna Dare sprints toward goal in the first half of a Big Eight Conference match against Madison West on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at Craig High.


Obituaries and death notices for May 15, 2019

Brent A. Burdick

Patrick “Patter” Collins

Romana Harris

Eugene “Gene” McQuade Jr.

The Rev. David G. Pease

Rita Ann Roherty

Bette Mae Shaw

Brock J. Swartwout


AP
Global worries flare over whether US sliding toward Iran war

WASHINGTON

International worries that the Trump administration is sliding toward war with Iran flared into the open Tuesday amid skepticism about American claims that the Islamic Republic poses a growing threat to the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf and beyond.

The U.S. military disputed doubts expressed by a British general about such a threat. President Donald Trump denied a report that the administration has updated plans to send more than 100,000 troops to counter Iran if necessary. But Trump then stirred the controversy further by saying: “Would I do that? Absolutely.”

The general’s remarks exposed international skepticism over the American military build-up in the Middle East, a legacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was predicated on false intelligence. U.S. officials have not yet provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat even as an ally general took the extraordinary step of publicly challenging the Trump administration.

“No, there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the U.S.-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Ghika, speaking in a video conference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that the coalition monitors the presence of Iranian-backed forces “along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in.”

But he added, “There are a substantial number of militia groups in Iraq and Syria, and we don’t see any increased threat from any of them at this stage.”

Late in the day, in a rare public rebuttal of an allied military officer, U.S. Central Command said Ghika’s remarks “run counter to the identified credible threats” from Iranian-backed forces in the Mideast. In a written statement, Central Command said the coalition in Baghdad has increased the alert level for all service members in Iraq and Syria.

“As a result, (the coalition) is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq,” the statement said.

At the White House, Trump, who has repeatedly argued for avoiding long-term conflicts in the Mideast, discounted a New York Times report that the U.S. has updated plans that could send up to 120,000 troops to counter Iran if it attacked American forces.

“Would I do that? Absolutely,” he told reporters. “But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

Reinforcing Trump’s denial, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a joint news conference in Sochi with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “We fundamentally do not seek war with Iran.”

A Trump administration official said a recent small meeting of national security officials was not focused on a military response to Iran but instead concentrated on a range of other policy options, including diplomacy and economic sanctions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Lavrov said Pompeo told him that a potential deployment of 120,000 U.S. troops to the Mideast was only a “rumor.” Lavrov said the international community needs to focus on diplomacy with Iran, including on the potentially explosive issue of Iran’s nuclear program, which is constrained by a U.S.-brokered deal in 2015 that Trump has abandoned.

U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook told reporters traveling with Pompeo in Brussels that the secretary of state shared intelligence on Iran with allies since “Europe shares our concerns about stability in the Gulf and the Middle East.” What the Europeans do not share, however, is Washington’s more aggressive approach to Iran.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels.

“What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking,” Hunt said.

Last week, U.S. officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on U.S. forces and interests in the Mideast, but Washington has not spelled out that threat.

The U.S. has about 5,000 troops in Iraq and about 2,000 in Syria as part of the coalition campaign to defeat the Islamic State group there. It also has long had a variety of air and naval forces stationed in Bahrain, Qatar and elsewhere in the Gulf, partly to support military operations against IS and partly as a counter to Iranian influence.

Gen. Ghika’s comments came amid dramatically heightened tensions in the Middle East. The U.S. in recent days has ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf region, plus four B-52 bombers. It also is moving a Patriot air-defense missile battery to an undisclosed country in the area. As of Tuesday, the Lincoln and its strike group had passed through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea, but officials would not disclose their exact location.

Tensions rose another notch with reports Sunday that four commercial vessels anchored off the United Arab Emirates had been damaged by sabotage.

A U.S. military team was sent to the UAE to investigate, and one U.S. official said the initial assessment is that each ship has a 5- to 10-foot hole in it, near or just below the water line. The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation, said the early interpretation is that the holes were caused by explosive charges.

The official on Tuesday acknowledged seeing some photographs of the damage to the ships, but those images have not been made public. The official also said that the team is continuing to conduct forensic testing on the ship damage and that U.S. leaders are still awaiting the final report. The team’s initial assessment is that the damage was done by Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies, but they are still going through the evidence and have not yet reached a final conclusion, the official said.


AP
Analysis: Persian Gulf tensions, unclear threats raise risks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

Murky claims of sabotage to oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. A drone attack on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group steaming toward an unspecified threat.

The events roiling the Persian Gulf in recent days have the potential to affect everything from the price of a gallon of gas to the fate of nations.

And for those feeling confused by it all, don’t worry: Everyone else seems to be puzzled too, only raising the possibility of a miscalculation.

Just as what sparked the rapid series of market-moving events remains unclear; so does the reason for the White House deploying warships and B-52 bombers to the region.

Days later, Iran marked the anniversary of President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it also would begin backing away from the accord. It set a 60-day deadline for Europe to offer it a better deal before it would begin enriching uranium to higher levels that the West fears could allow it to obtain atomic bombs.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said recently.

The main threat Hunt referred to was any confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. This has been brewing ever since Trump, who campaigned on tearing up Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, came to office.

After pulling out of the deal last year, the U.S. began a maximalist pressure campaign against Iran. It re-imposed sanctions, created new ones, named a part of a country’s armed forces a terrorist organization for the first time and squeezed Iran by threatening sanctions on any nation importing its crude oil.

For a year, Iran negotiated with European signatories to the deal to find a way to allow it to continue its trading. Those efforts have yet to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who gave paid speeches to an Iranian exile group promising Iran’s government would be overthrown, issued the statement announcing the aircraft carrier would be deployed.

The deployment is intended to send “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” Bolton said.

Iran announced May 8 it would back away from the nuclear deal. Four days later, on Sunday, everything suddenly changed.

A pro-Iran Lebanese satellite channel falsely claimed the Emirati port of Fujairah was ablaze after explosions, reports quickly carried by Iranian state media and semi-official outlets. Hours later, the United Arab Emirates issued a vague statement alleging four ships “were subjected to sabotage operations.”

By Monday, it was clear something happened. One of the four oil tankers affected, a Norwegian-flagged ship, clearly had a hole punched through its hull. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the other three did as well.

But Emirati and U.S. officials refused to speak on record to journalists. Satellite images obtained by The Associated Press later showed no visible major damage to the vessels, which included two Saudi tankers and an Emirati vessel.

On Tuesday, there still were no clear answers but many questions. Where did the Lebanese channel get its information about the explosions? What damaged the ships? And why won’t anyone identify suspects involved in the alleged sabotage?

Suspicion, but not publicly verifiable evidence, has fallen on nearby Iran. The Shiite power has an incredibly tense relationship with Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Trump told reporters he would “absolutely” be willing to send troops to the Middle East, but that he has not planned for that and that he hopes he won’t have to. In Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned: “Neither we, nor them, is seeking war. They know that it is not to their benefit.”

Still, Iran has been threatening to close off the Strait of Hormuz if it can’t sell its own oil on the global market. The strait is the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded at sea passes. Additionally, more than 30% of the world’s liquefied natural gas trade also travels through it.

The UAE is developing Fujairah with an eye to possibly avoid having to send crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Now, Fujairah is a target.

On Tuesday, a pipeline in Saudi Arabia that allows it to likewise avoid the strait became a target, as well. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with whom Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been fighting a bloody war since March 2015, launched a drone attack on the East-West pipeline, which carries nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil a day to the Red Sea. The kingdom shut down the pipeline in response, causing a spike in global oil prices.

Such attacks routinely cause higher global oil prices, which mean profits for producers and higher prices for consumers. But threats to the global oil market in the Persian Gulf also have been a U.S. national security priority since 1980.

The U.S. fought the Gulf War in 1991 to push Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait, a major OPEC member. That war gave birth to the vast network of military bases the U.S. now has around the Persian Gulf, bases that Iran regards warily as the USS Abraham Lincoln heads toward the Strait of Hormuz. B-52 bombers from Louisiana already are flying missions in the region.

“Iran could actually view some of this as being a potential buildup for some type of offensive action,” said Becca Wasser, a Washington-based RAND Corp. analyst specializing in Gulf security. “It raises the risk of accidental escalation. ... Because the U.S. and Iran don’t have clear lines of communication at the moment, everything can be perceived in a very different light than one side is intending.”

She added: “Something that would usually be a smaller issue could bloom into something much larger and much more serious.”

Jon Gambrell is the news director for the Gulf and Iran for The Associated Press, has reported from each of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Iran and other locations across the world since joining the AP in 2006.