• UT wide receiver Cayleb Jones has felony charge reduced to misdemeanor

    UT wide receiver Cayleb Jones’ felony charge was dismissed and will be reduced to a misdemeanor to be tried by the county attorney according to Nick Valdez, an official at the District Attorney’s office.

    Corby Holcomb, assistant director for the trial division at the County attorney’s office, said the county attorney will examine the case and decide whether to prosecute after the case is filed. As of now, the case has not been filed. Holcomb said “nothing will happen for a while.” 

    According to police, Jones punched UT tennis player Joseph Swaysland on Feb. 22 outside a downtown nightclub after confronting Swaysland and UT volleyball player Katherine Bell. The blow fractured Swaysland’s jaw. Jones was charged with an an “aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury" on March 12 – a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

    Bell told police she had previously been in a relationship with Jones, who had threatened Swaysland before and was jealous of Bell seeing other men – specifically Swaysland. 

    Rickey Durante Jones – Jones’s attorney – could not be reached for comment. 

  • President Obama, First Lady to attend West memorial service in Waco on Thursday

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend a memorial service in Waco on Thursday for victims of the fertilizer explosion in West, according to The White House.

    The explosion killed 14 people — including 10 first responders  injured more than 200 people and demolished several neighboring buildings. Obama authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security to provide aid to the region Friday.

    The memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Ferrell Center at Baylor University.

    The president was already scheduled to headline a Democratic fundraiser in Dallas on Wednesday and attend the formal opening of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Thursday.

  • Officials backtrack on fatality count in fertilizer explosion in West

    WEST — Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Jason Reyes backtracked on previous statements at an afternoon press conference Thursday regarding the number of fatalities of the fertilizer plant's explosion in West, a small town about 20 miles north of Waco.

    Previously, officials had said they believed 5-15 were dead as the result of an explosion that happened Wesnesday night. Reyes is now saying he cannot comment on how many died, just that there are fatalities.

    The explosion destroyed 50 to 70 homes, an apartment with 50 complexities, a nursing home and a nursing school. People as far as 45 miles away claimed they could hear the explosion.

    The next press conference is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.

  • Gov. Perry declares Waco area disaster zone after fertilizer plant explosion

    Gov. Rick Perry declared McLennan County a disaster area and said he will seek a federal emergency declaration after a fertilizer plant exploded Wednesday night.

    The current death toll from the explosion in West — a town about 20 miles north of Waco — is an estimated 5 to 15 people. The blast injured over 100 people and damaged at least 75 homes and one school, and Perry said some homes had been blown off their foundations completely. Search teams are still going through the remains of the plant in search of survivors.

    At a press conference Thursday, Perry spoke to the scope of the incident and confirmed he would request a federal emergency declaration from President Barack Obama.

    “It’s been a tragic, difficult 16 hours for all of us, all of our friends and all of our loved ones,” Perry said. “Last night was truly a nightmare scenario for that community.”

    Perry said multiple state agencies are responding to the situation in West: the Texas Department of Public Safety is supplying law enforcement personnel, Texas Task Forces 1 and 2 are conducting search and rescue operations, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is conducting air quality tests and the Texas Department of Transportation is directing traffic.

    Zak Covar, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, confirmed the fertilizer  plant had not been inspected since 2006, when a complaint was filed about an “ammonia odor” emanating from the plant. Covar said generally plants are only inspected when a complaint is filed.

    Perry said he did not know if funding for volunteer fire departments has fluctuated in the last few years but said it was a major consideration for him when he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives in the late 1980s.

    “I found substantial resources for volunteer fire departments,” Perry said. “I understand [their] importance.”

    Perry said he was not prepared to say what the economic impact on the community would be and did not know how significant of a presence the plant had as an employer in the town.

    "West is a really small community and just a few thousand people ... they know that this tragedy has most likely hit every family," Perry said. "It’s touched practically everyone in that town.”

    Perry emphasized a need for community support and recommended that citizens donate blood to their local blood bank.

    “There will be immediate need for blood,” Perry said. “I would direct you to the American Red Cross.”

    To schedule a blood donation appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org or visit the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas at www.inyourhands.org. 

  • West works to rebuild, recover

    WEST - The weather and mood of West is grim on Thursday, but residents say the town will come together.

    Following last night's explosion of the fertilizer plant, many business owners are making repairs and boarding broken windows. Rain is off-and-on and the temperature is in the 50s with a steady breeze. But multiple residents describe the town as "close knit" and believe in recovery.

    Still, many residents are reacting to what they call last night's tragic experience. 

    Lori Nors, who owns Nors Sausage and Burger House with her husband, said her grandson and son-in-law had their ceiling collapse on them following the explosion. 

    "They only got scratches and cuts, thanks God," Nors said. 

    Nors said her business only lost a few windows and ceiling tiles to the explosion. Nors Sausage and Burger House won't be open today.

    "It's too chaotic ... too heartbreaking," Nors said.

    When requested for an interview, the local Cernosek Insurance had to decline.

    "We're not being rude, we're just being real," a worker in the shop said politely.

    But Nors is confident in the town's ability to come together.

    "We'll bond together," Nors said. "We're all intertwined. We're one big family."