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Denver man faces theft charges

WATERLOO – A Denver man was arrested after authorities allegedly found loot from at least three Bremer County burglaries in his storage unit.

Aaron Michael Thurm, 29, was arrested Thursday night for two counts each of first- and second-degree theft. He was also arrested on weapons and prescription drug charges.

He was taken to the Black Hawk County Jail, and his bond was set at $35,000.

The theft charges stem from burglaries and thefts in Bremer County earlier this month.

On Feb. 3, a Polaris Ranger vehicle valued at $12,000 was stolen from an address on 275th Street in Janesville. Also taken were numerous tools and a power washer.

On Feb. 5 deputies began investigating a burglary on Midway Avenue in Tripoli where a John Deere power washer, tools and a grain moisture tester were taken. The loss was estimated at $50,000, court records state.

Finally on Feb. 9, a John Deere riding mower valued at $11,000 and other equipment was stolen from a Denver address on 270th Street.

The Ranger was initially found in a wooded area off of Airline Highway and U.S. Highway 63 in Waterloo, and the person who found the vehicle notified the owner. But when they returned, the vehicle was gone.

Further investigation led deputies to a home at 2814 Logan Ave., less than a mile from where the Ranger had been seen. On Feb. 10, deputies searched the home and a storage unit Thurm had rented on Diagonal Drive in Waterloo. Investigators found the Ranger, power washers and numerous tools at the storage unit, court records state.

Court records allege Thurm had been to some of the Bremer County properties as part of construction jobs.

The drug and weapons charges stem from a stun gun and other items found when he was detained Thursday at the Cedar Falls Wal-Mart.

Meth lab found in backpack

CHARLES CITY — Police in Charles City are searching for the owner of a backpack containing items used to make methamphetamine.

A resident spotted the abandoned backpack and called police about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Police Chief Hugh Anderson said it was off the Charley Western trail in a wooded area behind Charles Street.

“Basically a discarded meth lab,” Anderson said.

No arrests have been made.

In May, a backpack containing similar items was found stashed along a tree line in the 1400 block of Gilbert Street.

The Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement took possession of items in both instances. The incidents were both reported by local residents.

Anderson said it’s important residents call police when they find containers, jars or bottles laying around.

All of those things could contain chemicals used in meth labs. And, those chemicals may still cause harm even after the lab is abandoned and the items are thrown away.

Man arrested in bar, business burglaries

WATERLOO – A Waterloo man has been arrested in connection with break-ins at a meat shop and two bars, including a burglary where an ATM was stolen.

Authorities allege Gavin Dale James Eastman, 21, helped take items from businesses in Raymond and rural Cedar Falls in January, and investigators found items taken from an Urbana bar when searching a home that same month.

Eastman is charged with second-degree theft, second-degree burglary and third-degree burglary and remains in the Black Hawk County Jail.

One of the break-ins was discovered Jan. 18 at Tipsy’z Bar and Grill, 309 W. Third St., in Raymond. Someone had pried open a window, and an ATM machine, liquor and snacks had been removed. Footage from a security video showed two men loading property from the bar into a 2005 Ford Escape.

Then on Jan. 25, authorities were sent to investigate a burglary at Steege’s Meat Market, 9502 W. First St., Cedar Falls. Missing items included a Remington .22-caliber rifle, a laptop computer and a drill.

That same night, someone had attempted to pry open the door to a bar in New Hartford and had entered T&L Pizza in Parkersburg through a window and stole quarters from a gumball machine. Shoe prints at both scenes were similar to those left in the Tipsy’s and Steege’s crimes, records state.

Black Hawk County deputies found the Escape at a home at 2018 Lafayette St. on Jan. 26, and witnesses told police Eastman and another person had unloaded a 55-inch TV, liquor bottles, snacks, pool league paperwork and other items at the residence and then left. The property — about $1,437 worth — corresponded with items taken in a recent burglary to the O-Zone bar on Wood Street in Urbana, court records state.

On Jan. 30, deputies searched a home at 1286 St. Andrews Ave. in Waterloo where Eastman had been staying and found the drill and lap top from the meat shop, court records state. Also located were several bottles of alcohol. Deputies also found numerous bottles of alcohol and broken ATM parts in the apartment.

The rest of the ATM was discovered in a nearby ditch, court records state.

Witnesses told investigators Eastman had been seen in an Escape during the timeframe of the Raymond burglary, and his shoes matched prints found at scene of the Raymond and Cedar Falls break-ins, court records state.

Man pleads to reduced charges in shooting death case

WATERLOO – One person pleaded guilty to reduced charges in the July shooting death of a Waterloo man.

Jacques Dominique Williamson, 25, had been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for his alleged role in the Logan Avenue drive-by shooting that killed 21-year-old Otavious Brown and injured Dewon Campbell Jr. and Aundrey Roberts Jr. on July 17.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence without parole under Iowa law.

On Friday, Williamson pleaded guilty to a single count of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Assistant County Attorney James Katcher said the plea is based on allegations Williamson helped others in the shooting.

“The defendant aided and abetted another in threatening to shoot or discharge a dangerous weapon within an assembly of people,” Katcher said.

Under the agreement, Williamson will be sentenced to 10 years in prison and will have the option of requesting a reconsideration, Katcher said. Sentencing will be at a later date.

Others arrested in the case include Shavondes Martin, 20, Armand Isavia Anthony Rollins, 17, and Doncorrion Deangelo Spates, 15.

Court records describe Williamson as the driver, and defense attorney Christopher Kragnes said he had explored possible defenses for Williamson, who was allegedly threatened during the incident.

“He was himself placed in fear by threat of being shot, having a weapon brandished, put in his face, and he was told to drive to this location,” Kragnes said. He said he recommended Williamson accept the plea bargain.

Trial for the other defendants is tentatively scheduled for April.

Court records show after the fatal shooting, Williamson had reported his Chevrolet Tahoe stolen, but police obtained a surveillance video showing him and the others entering into the vehicle moments before the shooting.

Speaker: 'Colorblind' ideal inadequate in Black Lives Matter era

CEDAR FALLS — Some say they are “colorblind” when it comes to issues of race.

But in the era of Black Lives Matter, Rasheed Ali Cromwell questions if anyone can truly claim they don’t notice or aren’t influenced by the color of another person’s skin. “The fact that we have to say ‘black lives matter’ in and of itself means that it’s an issue,” he told the audience at the African-American Children & Families Conference Friday.

Cromwell was the keynote speaker during the day-long conference at the University of Northern Iowa. The founder and president of the The Harbor Institute, an educational consulting firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, earned a law degree from Texas Southern University. In the past, he was an attorney with the Washington law firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett and Dunner and a law clerk with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas in Houston.

Black Lives Matter is a movement that emerged during recent years in response to the deaths of a number of African-American men across the U.S., often at the hand of police officers. The increased racial tensions seen since that time strain the idea of a colorblind society, in Cromwell’s view.

“They don’t see color. That’s an interesting concept,” he said. “By saying ‘I don’t see color,’ you’re saying ‘I don’t see a part of you and where you’re coming from.’”

He believes the colorblind concept is a misunderstanding of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote expressing hope that black people like the civil rights leader’s then-young children would someday “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“It’s about what you relate to what you see,” said Cromwell, rather than not noticing skin color. “Everyone has their own prejudices.” What’s most important is how people deal with them, he added.

After slavery ended in the U.S., racism was institutionalized through segregationist policies that were reinforced by the courts, in some cases until the 1950s and ‘60s. Cromwell showed some examples of how that bias has been reflected in media and advertising during the past century. Those included a montage of clips from D.W. Griffith’s racist 1915 silent movie “The Birth of a Nation” and various offensive depictions of black people in product advertising through the decades.

For Cromwell, that all points back to the need for the movement around “Black Lives Matter.” “It’s an issue because for so long American society said they don’t,” he contended.

Quote of the week


“The ordinance assumes our citizens do not have common sense. I trust our people can make logical decisions and do not need this unnecessary law.

-- Decorah Mayor Don Arendt, on his first-ever veto of an ordinance that would limit vehicle idling.


It's Your Government
It's Your Government

Monday, Feb. 20

Waterloo City Council, 5:30 p.m., City Hall.

Hudson Board of Education, 6 p.m., Board Room.

Raymond City Council, 6 p.m., City Hall.

Cedar Falls City Council, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Cedar Falls Human Rights Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Tuesday, Feb. 21

Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors, 9 a.m., Courthouse.

Waterloo Local Option Tax Oversight Committee, 1:30 p.m., City Hall.

Waterloo Community Development Board, 4 p.m., City Hall.

Wednesday, Feb. 22

Black Hawk County Board of Health, 7:30 a.m., Pinecrest Building, Room 420, 1407 Independence Ave.

Cedar Falls Art & Culture Board, 4:30 p.m., Hearst Center for the Arts, 304 W. Seerley Blvd.

Cedar Falls Planning & Zoning Commission, 5:30 p.m., City Hall.

Thursday, Feb. 23

Iowa Northland Regional Economic Development Commission, 10:30 a.m., 229 E. Park Ave., Waterloo.