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AK Beat: Suspect charged in Bartlett student's assault

Alaska Dispatch
401(K)2013 / cc via flickr

Bartlett High assault suspect's bail increased: A 21-year-old Anchorage man who allegedly assaulted a 15-year-old high school freshman walking to school made his first court appearance Wednesday at the Anchorage jail. Rodney Stevens faces one count each of second- and fourth-degree assault. His bail was increased from an initial $5,000 to double that with a third-party custodian, KTUU reported. The assault took place on school grounds. The female victim reported that she was walking to Bartlett High School, on the northeastern edge of Alaska's largest city, when she noticed a man, later identified as Stevens, walking behind her. She eventually stopped to see if Stevens would pass her; he instead started a brief conversation then began punching and choking the teenager. The girl told school resource officers at Bartlett what had happened, and they found Stevens blocks away.

Company in hot water over alleged fraudulent Medicaid billing: The state has suspended Medicaid billing privileges for the company Good Faith Services pending an investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The in-home medical services provider allegedly billed the state for services to Medicaid patients that employees never provided. Thirty-nine company employees have been charged with fraudulently billing for personal-care attendant services. The Medicaid billing suspension for the company is temporary, the state says, and may only be made permanent if the company is convicted of fraud. Employees and companies are treated with separate processes and charges.

Fire causes brief evacuation at Anchorage High School: West High School students got a short break from classes Wednesday when an alleged arsonist set a toilet paper dispenser on fire in one of the school’s bathrooms. The Anchorage Fire Department got a call about smoke coming out of the bathroom shortly before 11 a.m. and responded with 13 fire vehicles. When firefighters reached the school, no smoke or fire was visible from the exterior of the building but students could be seen evacuating, said Fire Capt. Chad Richardson. A school resource officer guided the responders to a bathroom, where smoke was billowing from the bottom of the door. Firefighters entered the room -- which was filled with smoke and drenched in water as the sprinkler system had engaged -- and used an infrared device to find the source of the fire. They extinguished the small fire, tore a hole in the wall to make sure the flames hadn’t spread, and cleaned the floors of dirty water. An Anchorage School District spokesperson said the high school’s students were able to use the auditorium and an attached middle school to avoid standing out in the cold for an hour. Class resumed around noon. Anchorage police later arrested a male student in relation to the fire.

Good turn for the day: An unidentified woman walked into the office of Anchorage's Northway Mall on Monday evening and dropped off a wallet she had just found. When mall manager Mao Tosi opened it up, he was in for a shock: It contained about $1,400 in cash. There was no driver’s license inside, but there were identifying cards and documents. The owner soon contacted Tosi and arranged to pick it up on Tuesday. When she did she told Tosi that she had just lost everything in a fire in October and was in the process of trying to get her life back together. The money was most of what she had left. “She looked like someone who really needed her money,” Tosi said. The wallet’s owner said she was not expecting the money to be left inside, and was near tears when she found out her cash stash was intact. “The neighborhood (East Anchorage) often gets a bad rap, but there’s good folks everywhere,” said Tosi. (Photo courtesy Mao Tosi) 

Small explosion rocks restless Aleutian Island Volcano: Mt. Cleveland, an active volcano in the Aleutian Islands underwent a brief, small explosion Tuesday evening. The explosion, which took place at about 7:31 p.m. Alaska time, was detected by remote seismic devices and other monitoring equipment, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. "It is possible that a small ash cloud was generated but if so, it was too small to be observed in satellite data," reported AVO. Cleveland, a stratovolcano (that's the steeply-sided, symmetrical cone-shaped variety for lay folks) that comprises the western half of Chuginadak Island, is one of the Aleutians most active volcanoes. The AVO currently lists Cleveland at a yellow alert level; it has been at that level since being downgraded from orange following its eruption in May. That eruption threatened, but eventually failed, to disrupt the significant air traffic that travels in nearby corridors. After Tuesday's explosion, the peak exhibited no further signs of what the AVO terms "eruptive activity."

Regulations proposed to allow armed VPSOs: The Alaska Department of Public Safety is seeking public comments on proposed changes to village public safety officers’ (VPSO) regulations, which would allow qualifying officers to carry firearms while on duty. Currently, VPSOs are unarmed peace officers employed by Native nonprofit corporations with state funding. Money from the state is passed through to the nonprofits, covering the officers’ salaries and benefits. Just three months ago, the total number of VPSOs around the state topped 100 for the first time in decades. The push to arm these officers began with the shooting of 54-year-old officer Thomas O. Madole, who died while serving the village of Manokotak. A bill to arm VPSOs was introduced during the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session but didn’t make it out of the House. More recently, lawmakers have been collecting information on what the proposal would mean and what it would cost, in terms of equipment and training. The public is encouraged to review the public notice relating to proposed changes. Public comment is open until 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2014.