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Tips from public end with arrest

LIVINGSTON -- A suspect in the Oct. 24 burglary of the Airport Quick Stop off FM 350 South has been taken into custody by Polk County Sheriff’s Office, thanks to a tip from the public.
Richard Vincent Prebis, 52, of Livingston has been charged burglary of a building in connection with the incident.

According to Sheriff Kenneth Hammack, the victim of the burglary reported that someone had broken in and taken money along with a number of products.

The sheriff’s Criminal Investigative Division launched an investigation into the matter and a Crime Stoppers report was generated with a picture of the suspect obtained from the surveillance video at the store.

As a result of that Crime Stoppers bulletin, investigators received a tip of the possible identity of the suspect and where he resided.

Detectives were able to locate and identify Prebis as the suspect. He was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail Nov. 9.

Hammack, as well as members of both the Criminal Investigation Division and the Patrol Division, expressed their appreciation to public for the tips and information that led to the arrest.

Anyone who is able to provide any information pertaining to this case or another case involving Prebis is asked to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at (936) 329-9027 or call Crime Stoppers at (936) 327-STOP. Tips made through Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may result in a cash reward for information leading to an arrest.

Armed man shot by PCSO deputy

LIVINGSTON -- Details were released on an officer-related shooting that resulted in the death of a Livingston man inside the Southland Plantation subdivision on Friday, Nov. 3.

According to a statement released by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Jason Poindexter Johnson, 37, of Livingston died at the scene of an incident involving deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 3.

Preliminary information shows that deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office responded to a domestic disturbance at a residence on Vicksburg Drive at approximately 11 p.m. on Nov. 3. After arriving, Johnson allegedly approached the officers while holding a pistol and refused to drop it after multiple verbal commands were given by deputies.

The report states that Johnson then walked towards the location of the domestic disturbance and fired his weapon. That is when a Polk County deputy returned fire.

Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene and transported to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

The incident remains under the investigation of the Texas Rangers and no additional information is available at this time.
Funeral services for Johnson are set for Monday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. in the First United Pentecostal Church in Livingston.

Five charged with smuggling drugs into jail

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LIVINGSTON -- Five people, including three jail inmates, have been charged in connection with a contraband smuggling operation uncovered by narcotics investigators at the Polk County Jail.

The inmates included Maghen Ann Haynes, 30, of Livingston; Sophia Yancey Schaffer, 31, of Goodrich; and Christa Marque Branam, 23, of Livingston.

The others arrested in connection with the operation included Steven Lynn Croft, 41, of Goodrich and Tony Curtis Brooks, 50, of Livingston.

All were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and bringing prohibited substances into a correctional facility.

According to Polk County Sheriff Kenneth Hammack, investigators in the narcotics division opened an investigation on Oct. 27 regarding prohibited substances being brought into the Polk County Jail.

Over the course of the next few days, detectives learned a jail trusty and at least two other inmates conspired with at least two people outside the jail to bring methamphetamine and other contraband into the county’s correctional facility.

Through telephone and video surveillance monitoring, detectives were able to identify suspects and obtain arrest warrants. While the three female inmates were all already in jail, additional charges were filed against them and the two non-inmates were taken into custody.

According to jail records, Haynes has been held since June 6 on a bench warrant, Schaffer has been held since July 19 on a charge of abandoning/endangering a child through criminal negligence and Branam has been in custody since June 7 on a drug possession charge and out-of-state parole violation warrant.

Hammack noted bringing contraband in to the Polk County Jail is a felony offense which will not be tolerated and all charges possible will be filed in such cases and sent to the Polk County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Early voting underway for Nov. 7 ballot

LIVINGSTON -- As of noon on Friday, only 115 Polk County residents had cast early ballots on seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. Election day will be on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Early voting will continue next week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Locations include the first floor of the Polk County Judicial Center in Livingston, where a total of 74 people voted last week; the Polk County Subcourthouse in Onalaska, where 30 early votes were cast last week; and the Sechrest Webster Community Center in Corrigan, where 11 early ballots were received last week.

Because of the expected low voter turnout for the amendment election, the 20 voting boxes normally used by county have been consolidated into five locations.

They will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day, Nov. 7.

The voting places include:
Voting boxes 3, 4, 7, 16, 18, and 21 will vote at the Polk County Courthouse in Livingston.
The Onalaska Sub-Courthouse at 14111 U.S. Highway 190 West will host voters for Voting Boxes 5, 6, and 17.
The Escapee’s Care Center at 159 Care Center Drive near Livingston will be the voting location for Boxes 1, 2, 15, 19 and 20.
Voting Boxes 8, 9, 10 and 11 will vote in Sechrest Webster Community Center at 100 West Front Street in Corrigan.
Soda Baptist Church at 8135 U.S. Highway 190 West in Livingston will host Voting Boxes 12, 13 and 14.
Voters unsure of which box they should use should look on their voter registration card. The voting box number is listed as “Prec. No.”

The Propositions are as follows:
Proposition Number 1 (HJR 21)
HJR 21 proposes a constitutional amendment that would permit the Texas legislature to expand the circumstances under which a partially disabled veteran or their spouse may qualify for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the veteran’s residence homestead. Currently, the Texas legislature may provide that a partially disabled veteran or their spouse is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a percentage of the market value of the disabled veteran’s residence homestead only if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The amendment would allow the Texas legislature to provide that the exemption also may be taken when the residence homestead was donated, sold, or transferred to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead. The amendment also harmonizes certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.
Proposition Number 2 (SJR 60)
SJR 60 proposes a constitutional amendment to require that certain conditions be met for the refinancing of a home equity loan to be secured by a voluntary lien on a homestead. The amendment also would: redefine what is excluded in the calculation of the cap on fees associated with a home equity loan, lower the cap from 3% to 2% of the original principal amount of the extension of credit, and specify that such fees are in addition to any bona fide discount points used to buy down the interest rate. The amendment would further specify the list of authorized lenders to make home equity loans, change the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, allow agricultural property owners to acquire home equity loans, and update technical terminology in the Texas Constitution. The amendment would be effective on January 1, 2018, and applicable only to a home equity loan made or refinanced on or after that date.
Proposition Number 3 (SJR 34)
SJR 34 proposes a constitutional amendment that would prevent certain office holders from serving indefinitely beyond the expiration of their term. Office holders who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate and receive no salary would only be able to serve until the last day of the first regular session of the Texas legislature that begins after their term expires.
Proposition Number 4 (SJR 6)
SJR 6 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature to require any court that is hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute to notify the attorney general of that challenge, if the party raising the challenge notifies the court that the party is challenging the constitutionality of such statute. Additionally, the amendment would allow the Texas legislature to set a period of not more than 45 days following the notification to the attorney general that the court must wait before rendering a judgment that a state statute is unconstitutional.
Proposition Number 5 (HJR 100)
HJR 100 proposes a constitutional amendment to provide a more detailed definition of “professional sports team” for purposes of their charitable foundations, which the Texas legislature may permit to hold charitable raffles. The amendment also deletes a requirement that an eligible professional sports team charitable foundation permitted by the Texas legislature to hold charitable raffles had to be in existence on January 1, 2016.
Proposition Number 6 (SJR 1)
SJR 1 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature by general law to provide that a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty is entitled to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. It would also allow the Texas legislature to provide that the surviving spouse, who qualifies and receives the exemption and then qualifies a different property as the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the different homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the exemption of the first homestead for which the exemption was received in the last year in which the surviving spouse received the exemption for that first homestead. Like the initial exemption, this benefit will only remain available if the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. The proposed amendment would apply only to ad valorem taxes imposed for a tax year beginning on or after January 1, 2018.
Proposition Number 7 (HJR 37)
HJR 37 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature to make an exception to the law regarding the award of certain prizes. Currently, the Texas Constitution requires the Texas legislature to pass laws prohibiting lotteries, raffles, and other programs where the award of gifts is based on luck or chance. The proposed amendment would make an exception to this general rule to allow the Texas legislature to authorize credit unions and other financial institutions to institute programs which, in order to encourage savings, would award prizes based on luck or chance to the credit union’s or financial institution’s customers.

Two suspects flee after DPS traffic stop

7 undocumented passengers left behind

SEVEN OAKS -- Two suspects remain at large after fleeing a traffic stop by the Texas Highway Patrol on U.S. Highway 59 in the Seven Oaks area Wednesday afternoon.

According to a press release from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS,) the driver of a 2004 Toyota passenger van, Oscar Perez, 27, of Honduras, was traveling north on U.S. 59 and was stopped by a DPS Trooper Zach Linderman for a traffic violation at approximately 3:30 p.m.

During the stop, Perez and an unidentified passenger abruptly evaded the officer on foot and ran into the nearby woods.

Seven passengers were left behind in the van and are believed to be undocumented immigrants that Perez was allegedly transporting from Houston to New York.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice K9 Division arrived at the scene that evening to conduct a nearby search for the suspects. However, the two suspects were reported to still be on-the-run as of press time Friday.

The seven undocumented passengers were later transferred into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.)

County jobless rate falls to 5.6% in Sept.

LIVINGSTON – Polk County’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest level of the year in September, dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point when compared to August.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the local unemployment rate dipped to 5.6 percent in September, down significantly from the 6.2 percent listed in August and down from the previous 2017 low of 5.8 percent posted in July.

In addition to being the lowest jobless rate of the year, the 5.6 percent September rate is down almost a full percentage point from the 6.5 percent rate recorded in September 2016.

The current 6.2 percent unemployment rate translates to mean that out of an estimated workforce of 17,314, there were 975 county residents looking for work during the month. One month earlier, TWC’s revised estimates put the local labor force at 17,334 with 1,069 people looking for jobs.

Statewide, September’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.0 percent was down from August’s 4.2 percent and down from the 4.7 percent jobles rate posted in September 2016.

The September seasonally adjusted U.S. rate of 4.2 percent was down slightly from August’s 4.4 percent and down from the 4.9 percent figure posted in September 2016.

According to TWC officials, the state experienced a decrease of 7,300 jobs in September, due largely to the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Texas’ annual employment growth was 2.1 percent.

“Hurricane Harvey impacted overall job numbers in September, but the dynamic Texas economy has created jobs in 10 of 11 industries over the year,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “TWC remains focused on building and deploying all partnerships necessary to support the rebuilding of our communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey and to put our fellow Texans back to work.”
Employment in the Professional and Business Services industry increased by 5,900 jobs in September. Over the year, this industry has gained 41,700 jobs. Financial Activities employment expanded by 5,000 jobs. These gains were offset by losses in other industries including Leisure and Hospitality which lost 21,300 jobs.

“Texas’ economic growth is boosted by the resilience of our employers who have added 230,300 private-sector jobs over the past year,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “TWC is committed to ensuring our state resources and services are provided to help get Texans get back to work after the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey.”

“All Goods Producing industries showed strength in Texas in September, including Manufacturing, which has added 37,200 jobs over the year,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “If you have been unable to work due to Hurricane Harvey, go to texasworkforce.org for more information on disaster recovery resources for jobseekers.”

From among the 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) monitored by TWC, the Amarillo MSA had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.7 percent, followed the Midland MSA at 2.8 percent and the Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan and Lubbock MSAs at 2.9 percent.

The MSAs with the highest jobless rate in September was the Beaumont-Port Arthur MSA at 8.1 percent followed by the McAllen–Edinburg–Mission MSA at 6.9 percent. The Brownsville-Harlingen MSA recorded a rate of 6.4 percent.

Unemployment rates posted for other East Texas counties include:
SEPT. %
COUNTY RATE CHANGE
Anderson 3.2 -0.4
Angelina 4.5 -0.7
Cherokee 4.2 -0.6
Grimes 4.7 -1.1
Hardin 6.6 +0.1
Harris 4.9 -0.3
Houston 4.1 -0.6
Jasper 7.1 -0.9
Jefferson 8.4 +1.0
Leon 5.8 -1.1
Liberty 6.9 -0.7
Madison 4.3 -1.0
Montgomery 4.1 -0.4
Nacogdoches 3.8 -0.8
Polk 5.6 -0.6
Sabine 7.8 1.1
San Augustine 7.0 -0.9
San Jacinto 5.4 -0.6
Shelby 4.6 -0.8
Trinity 5.5 -0.3
Tyler 7.3 -0.9
Walker 4.3 -0.7