Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2003," Dec. 13, 2003

Keystone criminal, I

Suspected mugger Tony Spencer apparently didn't do his homework. Mr. Spencer allegedly tried to pull a stickup at a Chicago ATM last month, but he chose the wrong area (near a Fraternal Order of Police building), the wrong ATM (belonging to the Chicago Patrolmen's Federal Credit Union), and the wrong target (an on-duty Chicago police officer making a withdrawal). The officer announced who he was and, he told the Chicago Sun-Times, "was able to push the offender aside before Spencer took off running." Police quickly chased down the hapless suspect and charged him with armed robbery and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.

Keystone criminal, II

Many thieves who rob ATMs try to scurry away unnoticed, but New Hampshire teenager Tyler Counter's quick getaway on Nov. 24 may have been hampered by the bulk of his loot: He allegedly took the 200-pound machine itself from a rural convenience store. Police arriving on the scene didn't have a difficult time finding their man: Mr. Counter was fleeing the scene with the machine (and a dolly from the store) in the back of his pickup truck.

Petite power

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A petite Sonya Thomas took on men four times her size and won-in an eating contest. Ms. Thomas, who weighs 106 pounds, last month defeated 400-pound runners-up Ed "Cookie" Jarvis and Eric "Badlands" Booker in New York's Thanksgiving Invitational by downing 7-3/4 pounds of holiday food in 12 minutes. After the event, Ms. Thomas said she had always been a fast eater: "I'm full, but I could eat more."

Wrongful discharge?

Canadian George Pavlovsky wants his job back, and his union promises to fight for him. But first he has to get out of jail. The Reuters news service reports that Mr. Pavlovsky was fired and given a two-year prison term for arriving at his job as a city worker for Moncton, New Brunswick, drunk, angry, and carrying a loaded, sawed-off shotgun. He said he was looking for his bosses, who had not given him a promotion that he wanted. A court last month convicted Mr. Pavlovsky on weapons-related charges and sent him to jail, but his union says the city's firing of him was too harsh. Steven MacKinnon, spokesman for the city of Moncton, thinks the city has a pretty good case: "We're going to contest this vigorously."

Dutiful mother

If parents who don't discipline their children hate them (Proverbs 13:24), then no one can accuse Calvin Walker's mother of lacking love. Recognizing her son in photographs of a Rochester, N.Y., bank robbery on the evening news last month, she confronted Mr. Walker and then called police. Authorities then arrested Mr. Walker and charged him with robbing an HSBC bank.

Cockney Hoosier

Tiffany Roberts has never stepped foot on British soil, but the 61-year-old Indiana native has an English accent that she can't shake. Ms. Roberts picked up the accent as she learned to talk again after a stroke. Doctors refer to the phenomenon as "foreign accent syndrome," a rare side effect of brain injury that alters inflection, creating sounds that resemble foreign dialects. The BBC described her speech as "a mixture of English cockney and West Country." Ms. Roberts struggled for two years to get her Americanisms back and failed. She even considered moving across the Atlantic before finally deciding to accept the new voice. "God let me come out of the stroke," she told the Daily Telegraph. "I am not going to sit and cry about the accent."

The last Samurai?

Elderly women usually don't frighten burglars, but then most elderly women don't brandish ceremonial swords. Authorities in Poole, southern England, say 80-year-old Jean Freke confronted two teenage burglars last month, wrestled with one of them, and then chased both away with a pre-World War I army officer's dress sword that she keeps on display. The sword belonged to her late father-in-law.

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