The face of terrorism (in San Antonio)
The face of terrorism (in San Antonio)

Nailed by the Cops

If you were pitching it to Hollywood, it would be CSI meets Beauty Shop meets Cinderella. For the want of a fingernail, a criminal kingdom was lost.

The Spring police department got a call March 22 from a pair of aggrieved newlyweds whose home had been broken into. Jewelry, TV, a stereo and two rifles had been stolen.

After an initial investigation, Sergeant F. David Escobar was sent to follow up the next day.

"I get up there and start looking, trying to find any clues I can," Escobar says, "and there was a big old fingernail that was broken off. You know, women go and get their fingernails at these nail shops, and they're kind of gaudy, you know, so you can't really miss them."

The fuchsia-pink nail was lying by the broken window used to gain entry to the house. No suspicious cars had been seen the night before, and so, assuming the break-in was a local job, Escobar put the nail into a baggie and went knocking on doors.

Unlike Prince Charming and the glass slipper, he didn't have to go far. Next door his knock was answered by a woman with gaudy fuchsia-pink fingernails -- except she was missing one.

The woman claimed she had been burglarized also, but Escobar wasn't buying it. "I told her, 'Give me a second,' and I pulled out the clear evidence bag and looked down at it really good, because I said, 'This ain't happening, this is too good to be true.' You know, I look and I see…that it's from a thumbnail, and I look up and her thumbnail is busted. And she doesn't know what's going on -- she's still explaining and using her hands, which is helping me tremendously."

And then came the Magic Moment. "I asked her to stretch out her hand, and it fits right into her flipping nail!" Escobar says. Get the orchestra to strike up "Someday My Perp Will Come"!

Except the woman still denied any wrongdoing. She let Escobar search the place, where he found the stolen rifles and incriminating pawn-shop tickets.

Eventually she confessed at police headquarters. "She says, 'Man, you know, Sergeant Escobar, I should have picked that sucker up. You woulda never gotten me.' "

A lesson learned, indeed. "These were fancy, fancy nails; she was obviously proud of them," Escobar says. "But obviously they were not the equipment you use to burglarize a house."

Wet Dream

Six or seven years ago, when then-councilman Chris Bell was pushing hard for the city of Houston to bottle its municipal water and sell it in stores, people were underwhelmed.

Try as they might, they couldn't quite imagine a Houstonian standing by the sink, draining the last ounce of a bottle of Houston Pride water and then -- instead of turning on the tap and refilling the bottle -- saying, "Honey! I've got to head to the store to get more Houston tap water!"

Bell's idea never quite took off. But it apparently is not dead, even though Bell has long since left the council. Waving around a plastic bottle, Councilwoman Toni Lawrence announced at the April 19 council meeting that the city will begin selling its water. "I am holding the first bottle in my hand," she said, in words that one day will rank with "That's one small step for man…"

She called it the completion of "Chris Bell's dream."

But she wasn't very forthcoming with other details, and was unavailable for follow-up questions. So Houstonians will just have to wait, with bated breath, to see if finally -- finally -- they will have available to them an incredibly more inconvenient and expensive way of getting their tap water.

Next up: handy neighborhood centers where you can tote a six-foot stack of batteries in order to stock up on electricity -- great-tasting Houston electricity.

Beyond Alamodome

In the Mad Max movies, Mel Gibson took on all comers, bowing to no man. But he never had to face the San Antonio police.

Christopher Fenner did, and he spent 20 hours in jail learning to leave the Mad Max stuff to the professionals.

Fenner talked San Antonio's Alamo Drafthouse into hosting a marathon of the Gibson movies, and he and a couple dozen friends decided to drive to it in style.

Fenner, 41, manages a facility -- he'd prefer not to get more specific -- that provided him access to a fuel tanker. The group, which included two Eagle Scouts, then dressed some vehicles to look like the cannon-toting cars in the movies. The plan was to have a caravan for the 30 miles from Boerne to the movie house.

It wasn't the most high-tech thing in the world. The Eagle Scouts "had built a replica of the little four-barreled air-gun thing that they have in the back of one of the cars in the movie," Fenner says. "They built it out of cardboard and PVC pipe. It looked very fake."

Not fake enough, apparently. San Antonio police told Fenner they had received 20 to 30 calls about "terrorists trying to overtake a tanker."

Another blessing of the cell-phone world: Extremely gullible drivers can call 911 whenever they see a cardboard gun threatening a tanker.

Threatening a tanker in an extremely lame way, as it turns out. "While I was riding along, I kept thinking, 'This sucks for these guys [who came] from out of town, because no one is even going to get that this is related to Mad Max, because you've got two fairly normal motorcycles traveling well behind a tanker,' " Fenner says. "People were merging in and out. We were using our signals."

Sounds very postapocalyptic. All they needed was a "baby on board" sunshield.

The cops met them at the Drafthouse and pored through an ordinance book to see what charges could be brought. Eventually they came up with "obstructing a highway" and "filming a documentary without a permit," which you should keep in mind the next time you want to whip out the camcorder at the Riverwalk.

There were also two weapons charges -- the Eagle Scouts had knives with them. They probably also had a slew of merit badges, but that apparently doesn't violate San Antonio law.

Taste Crimes

Carlon Scott of southeast Houston was one of three locals recently named in a federal lawsuit for illegally downloading movies. The Motion Picture Association of America filed the suits April 13 as part of its latest antipiracy sweep.

Scott wouldn't comment on the case, and neither would her attorney, Shanna Hennigan. All of which sucks, because we had a very pressing question: What the hell kind of taste in movies do you have? Among the films Scott is accused of downloading are White Chicks, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and 13 Going on 30, all of which are probably available used at Blockbuster for $1.99. Would it kill you to mix in a Hotel Rwanda?

Facing a court suit over these movies is like getting overdue library fines for a Danielle Steele book. The exposure is worse than the penalty.

MPAA president Dan Glickman, in a statement announcing the suits, said, "You can click but you cannot hide."

Sometimes you wish you could, however.

Tower of Power

It's hard to believe that the city's problem-plagued Houston Emergency Center could get even more fiasco-tastic, but it's true. Officials are seeking to put up a 480-foot communications tower, which isn't going over too well with residents of the North Shepherd neighborhood.

"We remain stumped and bewildered by the city's plan to build this monster," says resident Joseph Amante, who called the proposal "neighborhood suicide."

The tower would violate just about every city ordinance imaginable if it were a private edifice for a cell-phone company, but the city doesn't have to abide by those rules.

HEC officials told City Council the tower is needed in case all other communications systems fail, which -- considering the problems since its opening two years ago -- seems like a given.

Residents should take heart, however. Councilman Mark Goldberg, a consistent critic of the facility, said he'd been informed that all those communications systems would be obsolete in five or six years anyway.

Hey, if these people didn't want to live near a huge tower that might not be needed, they shouldn't have moved…Oh, that's right. The city and then-mayor Lee Brown unilaterally decided to put the HEC there over the area's objections.

That decision was "sort of a raw deal" for the neighborhood, Mayor Bill White told residents.

Sounds like they should get used to it.


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