Northwest briefly: Seattle police to boost patrols in downtown

SEATTLE – The streets of downtown Seattle, which are being called increasingly unsafe by some of its citizens, are going to have an increased police presence.

The city plans to spend $500,000 in overtime to bolster police protection near Westlake Center and Pike Place Market following a rash of shootings and drug dealing in the city’s shopping district.

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said crime in the city is at its lowest in almost 30 years, but “if people don’t feel safe, they don’t care about crime numbers.”

Under Kerlikowske’s plan, an extra sergeant and eight additional officers will be on duty downtown during afternoons and evenings.

Construction project bogs down I-5 traffic

The Department of Transportation says the traffic crunch it has been expecting at the I-5 construction project in Seattle has arrived.

Traffic backed up nearly two miles, almost to Boeing Field, and it took drivers about a half hour to move through the clog during Friday’s morning rush hour.

Spokeswoman Laura Johnson says traffic has been heavier each day since the work began a week ago. Congestion increased after workers restricted the road to two lanes.

Crews are replacing expansion joints on a mile-long stretch of I-5. The work is ahead of schedule and expected to wrap up in another week.

Richland: Wildfire now mostly contained

A wildfire that had briefly threatened the Hanford nuclear reservation a day earlier was 80 percent contained Friday, after burning more than 104 square miles of dry grass and sagebrush in south-central Washington.

In Western Washington, four homes were threatened Friday by a wildfire burning near Highway 16 in Kitsap County.

Three of the homes were evacuated and firefighters were working to protect the structures, said Theresa MacLennan, a spokeswoman for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

The cause of the fire, which started Friday afternoon and had burned across more than five acres by evening, was not immediately known.

In Benton County, firefighters expected full containment of the Wautoma Fire today. The fire has blackened 67,000 acres, down from an earlier estimate of 72,000 acres, fire information officer Roland Emetaz said.

Idaho: Duncan fails to respond to lawsuit

Convicted murderer and sex offender Joseph Duncan III failed to reply in time to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the father of the children Duncan is accused of killing or kidnapping, according to a finding entered into federal court Friday.

Duncan was found in default of the lawsuit filed by Steven Groene. The finding, entered by a clerk in U.S. District Court here at Groene’s request, allows Groene to ask Judge B. Lynn Winmill to rule in his favor in the civil suit without hearing from Duncan.

Groene filed the lawsuit last October, alleging Duncan was responsible for the 2005 deaths of 13-year-old Slade Groene, 9-year-old Dylan Groene and their mother, Brenda Groene. Steven Groene also claimed Duncan caused intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery against Shasta Groene, then 8.

In the lawsuit, Groene asked the judge to prevent Duncan from profiting from the crimes by writing books, providing television or movie content or any other activities. He also asked for a jury trial and monetary damages in an amount to be proven in court.

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