Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

A man buying a box of bullets at a gun store in Kansas City, Mo., handed $40 to the owner, who was ringing up the sale when the man pointed a gun at him and demanded money. The owner said he noticed the gun wasn't loaded and pulled his own gun, chasing off the robber, who left behind the bullets and his $40. (Kansas City's KMBC-TV)

Two men entered a convenience store in La Mirada, Calif., picked up an 18-pack of beer and assorted snack items and ran out the door without paying. Four uniformed sheriff's deputies standing inside the store drinking coffee chased after them and arrested Jacob Wallace, 29, and Robert Martin, 19. Los Angeles County sheriff's Capt. Patrick Maxwell noted that the suspects also failed to notice the deputies' two marked patrol cars parked outside the store before they entered. (San Gabriel Valley's SGV Tribune)

Scare care

Police arrested ex-veterinarian Stephen Mahnken for dressing like a doctor and entering patients' rooms at a hospital in South Charleston, W.Va., while the patients slept. One male patient awoke to find a bandaged stuffed monkey hanging from the ceiling, a bandaged teddy bear, notes around the room about castration and cotton balls placed on his private parts. "The guy (Mahnken) had a big bag of ketchup with him. I don't know if he was going to play a joke, you know, put ketchup down there and make him think that something had happened," Assistant Police Chief Robert Houck said, adding that patients "were just freaked out about it." (West Virginia's WSAZ-TV)

Trial separation

British authorities reported that when a woman visited family in Pakistan, her husband, an immigration officer with access to security databases, added her name to a list of terrorist suspects banned from boarding flights into Britain. As a result, the woman was stranded in Pakistan for three years without being told why. The husband's action went undetected until he applied for a promotion with the U.K. Border Agency. During the vetting process, his wife's name was discovered on the suspects list. When questioned, the officer admitted what he'd done and was fired for gross misconduct. (Britain's Daily Mail)

Power outage

When German Defense Minister Theodor zu Guttenberg, 39, resigned after being accused of plagiarizing his doctoral dissertation, he got to choose the music for the transfer-of-power ceremony. He asked the military band to play something by rockers AC/DC. The band's head conductor declared that such a request "just totally breaks the mold of our music styles" and substituted Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." (The New York Times)

Animated appeal

Sex offender John Jacques, 60, appealed his conviction, arguing that the arresting officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl during Internet chats, used animated emoticons that constituted entrapment. Jacques said that prosecutors at his trial in La Crosse, Wis., showed the jury transcripts of the conversations but inserted static blushing smiley-face emoticons to represent the actual animated ones, which Jacques insisted would have provided "clear evidence of enticement." (La Crosse Tribune)

No more Kool-Aid

A restaurant chain in South Bend, Ind., pulled its billboard ads that made reference to People's Temple leader Jim Jones and to the mass suicide he orchestrated in 1978. After coming up with the theme "You belong," leaders at Hacienda brainstormed ways to show how clubs, teams and restaurants can develop cult followings of like-minded people. Using Jones's cult "went the wrong direction," admitted Jeff Leslie, Hacienda's vice president of sales and marketing. "We lose the core message." (South Bend Tribune)

Wise guy, huh?

When computer scientist David N. Cox and some of his neighbors in Raleigh, N.C., lobbied city and state officials to add traffic signals at two intersections, the city hired an engineering consultant, who said the signals weren't needed. Cox and the North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners' Associations responded with their own eight-page analysis. After seeing the maps, diagrams and traffic projections, Kevin Lacy, chief traffic engineer for the state Department of Transportation, declared the report "appears to be engineering-level work" and accused Cox of practicing engineering without a license. "When you start applying the principles for trip generation and route assignment, applying judgments from engineering documents and national standards and making recommendations," that's technical work a licensed engineer would do, Lacy said after he called on the N.C. Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors to investigate Cox, who never claimed to be an engineer but now faces misdemeanor charges. (Raleigh's The News & Observer)

Launch of the week

Timothy Lee Walker, 48, was riding on top of a mattress to keep it from falling off the roof of a sport utility vehicle in Burlington, N.C., when the SUV rounded a corner, causing the mattress to slide off the roof. Walker was thrown from the mattress into the street and had to be taken to the hospital by helicopter. (Burlington's The Times-News)

Nine-year-old Alissa Baray was seriously injured after being tossed 110 feet into the air in Marana, Ariz., when the bouncing castle she was playing in got caught in a gust of wind. The castle was tied down, but the force of the wind sent it skyward. The girl was thrown out onto a neighbor's roof. According to a company that rents the inflatable castles for parties, they're designed to handle winds of up to 25 mph, not the 160-mph one Baray experienced during what observers described as a "microburst." (Britain's Daily Mail)

It's reasonable

The lawyer for former art dealer Kurt Lidtke, 44, who pleaded guilty to masterminding the theft of 13 paintings and a sculpture from a Seattle home, blamed the burglary on his client's addiction to cough syrup. "His brand of choice was Robitussin," attorney Ralph Hurvitz said. "By the time of his arrest, his consumption level was between three and four bottles per day." (Seattle Weekly)

Accident of the week

When Helen Foster, 36, of Carthage, Ohio, asked Clifton Hoover, 30, use his pickup to tow her 18-year-old Dodge Caravan to the junkyard, they tied a rope from the truck to the van and headed out, with Hoover driving the pickup, Foster riding in the van's passenger seat and her friend, Melinda Adamski, 28, behind the wheel. Suddenly, the rope snapped, and the recoil severed Foster's arm below the elbow. "It was like whoosh," Adamski said. "It was the blink of an eye, and it was gone." Doctors were able to reattach the arm. (Cincinnati Enquirer)


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