Sunday, December 12, 2010


How easy is it for a teen to buy alcohol?
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–How easy is it for a teen to purchase an alcoholic beverage in Gun Barrel City?
Police chief Damon Boswell says it’s easier than it ought to be.
“I was surprised that we had as many as four (vendors caught selling alcohol to minors). We hit every store in town, but I didn’t think we’d get that many,” Boswell told The Monitor.
Boswell released results from a recent city sting operation, with assistance from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).
The legal age to purchase alcohol is 21 in Texas.
Payne Springs Police Chief Tim Meadows reported a similar sting in the last three months caught two of three store clerks from different outlets selling beer to a minor.
He said the one outlet that refused the request isn’t off the hook, because it was a complaint against them that motivated the sting.
“We’ve fielded complaints of minors drinking and stuff. And in the last couple of years, we’ve had a number of deaths due to underage drinking,” Boswell said.
Since the results weren’t as good as he expected, another sting is in the works.
“We got them for the criminal violation, and TABC got a administrative violation, which involves fines, or an administrative hearing. If caught twice in one year, the offending vendor could lose its license to sell alcohol,” Boswell said.
Meadows reported he also has filed charges against the store clerks involved at the Shell station and Cedar Creek Lake Mart.
“We definitely will be doing this again,” Boswell added. “Some asked for ID and got it, and still sold it to them.”
On Nov. 18, Gun Barrel City officers conducted their sting operation, with the participation of youthful-appearing volunteer teens.
Boswell learned a teen has a 73 percent chance of being turned away from a grocery or convenience store when attempting to purchase alcohol.
The state average, as of July, is 88 percent. Gun Barrel City falls below that average, with four of its 15 outlets allowing underage persons to purchase alcoholic beverages.
The four locations found to be out of compliance with the law were CJs Convenience, Cut Rate, Friendly’s Shell and One Stop.
Store clerks at 11 others acted in accordance with the law. They were Boots Liquor Store, Buddy’s Liquor, Coyote Liquor, CVS Pharmacy, Food Fast No. 60 and No. 64, Great American Package Store, Hootin’ Holler Package Store, RJ Food Mart, Tiger Mart and Walmart.
According to a press release, the four store clerks who sold the beverages will be charged with sale to a minor, class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and/or up to a year in jail.
TABC is preparing administrative cases against the store owners, which could result in a fine, suspension or cancellation of their permits. TABC routinely offers free follow-up training for the employees of these stores in an effort to prevent illegal sales in the future.
According to TABC, enforcement agents across Texas conducted 9,138 minor stings in 2009, and found an overall compliance rate of 87 percent, a vast improvement from the 30-40 percent rate that existed in some places when the program began in the early 1990s.
During these stings, young people between 16 and 18, who appear obviously under-age, go into licensed establishments and attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage.
The young volunteers are closely supervised and instructed to dress appropriately for their ages. Photos are taken of the minors the day of the sting to attest to their youthful appearance.
The minors are instructed not to lie about their ages, not to use fake IDs, and not to coerce the sales clerk in any way. If the sales clerk asks any questions, the minors are to be polite and truthful.


Community support sought for Kemp counselor
Monitor Staff Reports
KEMP–A bank account at the First National Bank of Kemp has been opened to benefit a Kemp High School counselor after a Wednesday fire destroyed most of her Kaufman home.
Marisa Garmon, in her first year with the Kemp school district, and her three children, ages 6, 7 and 14, are staying with friends and family.
The family had just put up their Christmas tree, but hadn’t really gotten any gifts under it yet, a source close to the family informed The Monitor.
“Because they don’t have any place to put donations of clothes or furniture, monetary gifts would be most helpful at this time,” friend Angie Ellis said.



Tip leads to drug lab find
Monitor Staff Reports
TRINIDAD–Henderson County Sheriff’s deputies lunching at the Dairy Queen in Seven Points all jumped into their patrol cars suddenly Monday in response to a pursuit call in Trinidad.
Earlier, deputies in search of a felon reported in the area came upon a working drug lab at a Tall Trees subdivision residence.
Drug Enforcement Unit investigators Ronny Halbert, David Faught and Wick Gabbard obtained a search warrant from Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace Milton Adams for the subdivision off State Highway 274.
The initial call reported the whereabouts of Joshua Thompson, 29, who was seen at the property in question. (HCSO couldn’t tell The Monitor the address by presstime Thursday.)
While taking an inventory of the clandestine drug lab, officers saw Thompson drive by the residence.
Deputy Billy Jack Valentine pursued the vehicle in an effort to stop it, but the truck evaded pursuit, speeding up SH 274, onto Farm-to-Market 3225, onto County Road 2448 and then onto CR 2450 before crashing into a garage on private property.
In addition to Thompson, officers arrested the passenger, Christopher Wells, 34, the owner of the property where the drug lab was found.
A search of the vehicle turned up a number of clear plastic baggies containing suspected methamphetamine.
The two men were charged with evading arrest and possession of a controlled substance. Thompson also was charged with violating his parole, while Wells also was charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, more than four grams and less than 200 grams.
Wells’ bond was set at $100,000, while Thompson is being held without bond, due to his parole violation.
The drug lab is the second one deputies have found in a three-day period.
Sheriff Ray Nutt asks property owners to check their holdings for any signs of unusual or suspicious activity.

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