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Latest from Russell Mills

    Americans suffering from drug and alcohol addiction often find themselves with few alternatives outside of a jail cell or expensive rehabilitation facilities. But there is an alternative, available in Tulsa, that provides a chance to turn one’s life around with the help and support of others who know what the struggle is like. The organization is called Oxford House, and local outreach worker Thomas Floyd says it has experienced rapid growth in Oklahoma in recent years. “It’s actually the largest sober-living organization in the world,” he told KRMG. “How I actually got involved with it was a life of 20 years of addiction, incarceration, all those things. And the last time I was incarcerated, some people came in to the prison I was in and talked about Oxford House.” He moved into an Oxford House in 2013, he said. “The men in that house taught me about a 12-step program and how to live a productive life,” Floyd added. “We’re growing at a really fast rate here in Oklahoma, we’re up to 102 houses, 899 beds, in which we accept individuals either off the street, or out of treatment or detox, or just like me, out of prison. And we get them plugged into a 12-step program and teach them how to live life, on life’s terms.” He said there are three charter requirements for an Oxford House, which are segregated into house that accept males, females, or females with children. “The house must be democratically ran, it must be financially self-supporting, and it must evict anyone who drinks or uses.” He said residents have to pitch in on chores, hold a job, and contribute to the house’s collective finances. One can check the Oxford House vacancies website to see if any room is available in a particular area. A check by KRMG showed a number of beds available in the Tulsa area. To learn more about Oxford House, visit the website.
  • A little known fact about flowers sold across the United States is that a large majority of them come from other countries, and most of them pass through the Port of Miami, Florida. Hurricane Irma disrupted operations at that port, and also caused problems with ground and air transportation. That has led to a major shortage of fresh flowers across the country, including in Tulsa. Nicki Argo owns Mary Murray’s Flowers, a locally-owned business that has operated for more than fifty years. She’s never seen anything like the current shortage, she told KRMG Wednesday.  Since Irma, she said, “I have yet to get my first shipment.” She was supposed to get one Wednesday morning, but the truck didn’t show. California is the only real source of fresh flowers within the U.S., she said, but buying from California is not cheap. “They’re beautiful flowers,” she said, “but because they pay American wages for their farmers and stuff, they’re incredibly expensive.” And there are many types of flowers that aren’t grown in California. She admits it’s been tough explaining the problem to customers, most of whom don’t realize that for instance nearly all roses sold in the U.S. are actually grown in Ecuador. It’s one thing not to be able to buy flowers for an anniversary or to decorate the home, but imagine being a bride-to-be. Argo says she’s gone out of her way to help. “That’s one thing I have to do, is I have to have that bride’s flowers for her,” Argo said. “There are no do-overs. So even if it means not making a dime on the wedding, you just have to do what’s right.” It will all get sorted out, she said, though she can’t predict how long it will take. “This has never happened before, so I don’t even know what that outcome’s gonna be.”
  • Oklahomans overwhelmingly passed State Question 792 last November, allowing the sale of full-strength beer and wine at grocery stores, and allowing liquor stores to carry refrigerated beer. The new law doesn’t go into effect until October 1st of 2018, and KRMG has had several questions about why it’s taking so long. Lisette Barnes with the Oklahoma Beer Alliance says there are two main reasons the legislature delayed implementation. The first involves the 18 “dry” counties in Oklahoma. While liquor stores are allowed in those counties, restaurants and bars are limited to selling 3.2 beer, and each county must vote on whether to allow the sale of full-strength beer. So far, only three counties have held elections on the question, Barnes says. One said “no,” the other two said “yes.” The other reason for the delay is that under current law, the Oklahoma Tax Commission regulates the sale of 3.2 beer, while the Alcohol and Beverage Law Enforcement Commission handles other forms of alcoholic beverages. Under the new law, ABLE will regulate all beer, wine and liquor sales, and that will mean ramping up to handle a major influx of license applications. The good news, she said, is that when it’s over, Oklahomans will see a much better selection of beer on the shelves, both in markets and at liquor stores.
  • Friday afternoon, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order officially calling the legislature into special session beginning September 25th. She told lawmakers she wants them to focus on four key issues: Address the immediate budget shortfall created by the loss of the $215 million cigarette fee revenue. Have the option to address a long-term solution to continuing budget shortfalls. Address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government.  Clarify intended exemptions to the new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles.  Address a needed pay increase for K-12 public school teachers.  It will potentially be a tough nut to crack for lawmakers, who were unable to solve any of those issues during the regular session. Democrats felt that Republicans failed to negotiate in good faith, specifically on the Democrats’ plan to increase the gross production tax on oil and natural gas. Republicans countered that Democrats were being obstructive, refusing to support a tax on cigarettes. Unable to get the 75 percent supermajority required to pass that tax, Republicans passed a “fee” on cigarettes, which the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out. The court’s decision left a $215 million budget gap - which, including matching federal funds, is closer to $500 million. That, in turn, triggered the necessity for a special session, because by law the budget must balance. The special session is likely to be stormy, since so far neither side has indicated its likely to budge on the positions held during the regular session. But with midterm elections right around the corner, there may be some who would rather bend and try to build a compromise, rather than hold the line and have to face angry voters next year.
  • Posters filled with hateful, white supremacist rhetoric appeared this week in a busy section of midtown Tulsa, touching off a firestorm on social media. Jamie Morton, a former U.S. Marine and native Tulsan, first learned about the neo-Nazi propaganda when he visited a coffee shop with friends Thursday on Cherry Street. He tells KRMG workers at the coffee shop had seen the posters, and tore them down. He asked if he could take a picture of them, and he posted the photo on Facebook with the caption “The Nazis are in Tulsa. Time to stand up and be counted.” Responses from friends, and friends of friends, began pouring in. Some, he told KRMG Friday, said it was a “false flag” operation, carried out by someone trying to give white separatists and their ilk a bad name. But he doesn’t buy that theory. “I don’t think it’s a false flag. I think it’s someone trying to say ‘hey, we’re here, and if you feel the same way this is how you get in touch with us,” Morton said. He’s heard people say there’s really no such movement, and he wanted them to stop and realize that white supremacists do exist, and the neo-Nazi ideology has gained traction in recent months. “I do have some people that I know, that (say) ‘well, you know it really doesn’t happen here,’ or ‘no, the media’s playing it up just to get people riled up’ or whatever. And so I just pretty much posted it wanting people to sit there and say ‘see, yes it is here, yes it does happen, and it is here in Tulsa, Oklahoma also.” Morton, now a private investigator by trade, says he has second-hand information about who might have put the posters up, but can’t confirm their identities. However, from what he’s learned, he believes their beliefs are reflected by the content of the posters. And while he supports their right to free speech, Morton said, “if I see it, like the workers at the coffee house did, then I’m gonna pull them down.” And, he added, there is one bright side to such people making their message public. “I don’t want snakes under the rocks,” he said. “I want them out in the open.”
  • In the solidly Republican Oklahoma House District 46, a Democrat walked away with a resounding victory Tuesday in a special election. It’s the third special election victory in a row for Democrats, and this time the seat wasn’t vacated because of scandal; Scott Martin resigned the seat to take a job with the Norman Chamber of Commerce. But despite the fact that registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in that Norman House District by some 3,000 voters, Jacob Rosecrants walloped the GOP candidate, Darin Chambers, 3,176 votes to 2,081. That’s a 20-point margin of victory. Anna Langthorn is the new Chairman of the Oklahoma State Democratic Party. She told KRMG the string of recent victories can now be safely called a trend. “Three means that it’s not a fluke,” she told KRMG Wednesday. “I think that’s what we’ve all decided, is that three in a row means that there is something happening, that things are trending well. And I always try to take credit for actually four. We didn’t win the first one, but it was a race in Seminole that was arguably a lot closer than it should have been. It was 56 votes, which that to me said ‘oh, if we can lose in Seminole by 56 votes, that I think that we can probably win in Norman.’ And I think that we’re going to continue to see that in the Oklahoma City metro area where we have one more special election and then in the Tulsa metro area, where we have two.” She said she thinks there’s been a combination of Republican mistakes and hard work on the part of Democrats that have resulted in several upsets. “Republicans are certainly not doing themselves any favors. We continue to see failures in leadership, whether it’s actual scandals or whether it’s just crises,” she said. “We’re going to have this special session because of the unconstitutional budget that was passed that we all said was unconstitutional. I think that no one’s excited about that, and it’s really starting to affect people’s lives in a serious way. And Democrats are not only offering an alternative solution, but real solutions.” Voters, she said, are expressing their unhappiness at the voting booth. “I think that Oklahoma voters are tired of imbalanced leadership, that it’s clear that Republicans have had too much power for too long, and it’s affecting Oklahomans’ lives.”
  • A task force comprised of roughly 500 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers slated to head to Texas Tuesday for hurricane relief was first delayed, and then canceled. Maj. Jeremy Dean Renfrow spoke with KRMG Tuesday, shortly after the delay in the deployment was issued. He said he didn’t know why they weren’t going, but said they were standing by to carry out the mission as soon as orders came down. “A little above my pay grade, but if I was a betting man, I would probably bet that there is just too much inflow into the state, and they just want to slow it down a little bit to make sure they get everyone where they want them,” he said. And it’s Texas’ call, since they’re the ones asking for the help, and also receiving the federal funds to pay for it. “Texas is getting the funds, Oklahoma’s not getting the funds, so they have to work together - Texas says ‘yes, I want soldiers from Oklahoma, and yes we’re gonna pay you the money back.’ There’s a lot involved, so it’s not just cut and dried, somebody says ‘hey, let’s go to Texas’ and we go.” The plan was to send about 500 soldiers for a deployment estimated to last 45 days. There are still about 1,000 members of the Oklahoma National Guard and Oklahoma Air National Guard in Texas helping out in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
  • Tulsa police have arrested a man they think deliberately targeted homeless people in a series of attacks on Labor Day, and KRMG has learned there are more victims than initially reported. According to Ofcr. Jeanne MacKenzie, Jeremy Thacker was arrested Tuesday afternoon after two calls came in with tips on the case. The first call was to Crime Stoppers, and Thacker was named by the informant. Minutes later, a call to OHP reported the possible location of the truck used to run down several people in two separate incidents Monday. One of the victims, Shawn Birdo, died from his injuries. Two other people who were sleeping under an overpass near I-244 and Cheyenne with Birdo were injured in that incident, which occurred about 5:45 a.m. Later, about 4:30 p.m., two people sitting outside the QuikTrip near 14th and Denver were targeted by a man driving a vehicle matching the description of the one used in the earlier attack. One was injured, the truck missed the other. Now, police say, there was another attack even earlier in the day. “Yesterday morning about 5:30 (a.m.), we had a victim who was asleep on a park bench in the area of 15th and Denver. He was approached by an unknown white male wearing a black hat, and he was assaulted with some type of pipe, physically assaulted with a pipe,” MacKenzie said Tuesday. The attacker then left in a white pickup truck - his description, and that of the truck, again matching up with the other incidents. She said Thacker has refused to make any statement to police.
  • Police investigating a murder at a south Tulsa apartment complex found the situation more complicated than originally thought, after a second body turned up in a nearby apartment. Homicide investigators told KRMG a man was shot and killed in the parking lot about 6:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Savannah Landing Apartments near 61st and Peoria. Around 10 a.m., another body was found, this time inside an apartment. The first victim was a man in his 40s, whom police tell KRMG had a criminal record and ties to an earlier homicide investigation in the area. Investigators identified the victim as Teddy Prejean AKA Ervin Sam. The second victim was a young woman, 19-year-old Shayron Brown. Homicide Det. Sgt. Dave Walker said the building where her body was found was serviced by the parking lot in which the initial victim was killed. They have not definitively tied the two crimes together, but say it’s possible they’re related. When family members discovered the female victim, the crowd began to get emotional, and there was pushing and shoving, Walker said. An officer was assaulted, and some people were removed from the scene and taken in for questioning; he did not confirm any arrests. These are the 56th and 57th homicides of the year for Tulsa. Police are still looking for the killer or killers. They do have one man in custody, Keenon White, who gave himself up on felony warrants. He was found near the complex, but hasn’t been directly linked to the homicides.
  • The problem of North Korea’s saber-rattling is a thorny one, and unfortunately while it’s nothing new, it appears to be getting a lot more serious. Lt. Col. Vincent Stephan (US Army, Ret.) tells KRMG he believes the key to averting war is working with China and Russia. Stephan wrote a paper on the subject when he graduated at the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas in 2004. He said he believes that if the U.S. has to take military action in North Korea, the result will be “mass destruction and war.” Strategically, the best option is to avoid that costly scenario. And that, he says, means not only working with NATO allies, but also with the remaining super powers. “You’re talking about getting China involved, Russia involved, some other people that’s going to help us fight North Korea diplomatically. And those countries, by far, we have to have on board or it’ll never happen.” And he’s not just concerned about North Korea; Iran still poses a serious threat as well, he told KRMG, and again cooperation with Russia and China are key to resolving the threat. “If we can get those two countries on board, we will do fine with both Iran and North Korea, the situation with Iran and North Korea possibly having nuclear weapons.” He approves of President Trump’s hard line with the North Koreans. “He’s the strongest one right now that’s making a stand,” Stephan said. “No other president has done that up to this point with North Korea, no matter who was in charge.” And he says the president’s right to err on the side of caution. “We have to assume that all of it’s true, and that he (Kim Jong Un) is a crazy lunatic, and he will go to any means possible for what he thinks.”
  • Russell Mills

    Anchor/Reporter

    Russell Mills came to Tulsa in 1991 with an AA degree in Broadcast Journalism and a new family. He worked in local television for more than 20 years as a show producer, assignment editor, and online content director. He built one of the first television news websites in the country and helped pioneer streaming audio and video, especially as it related to weather and live news coverage on the Internet. Russell says working for KRMG fulfills a longtime dream. "I worked in newsrooms for a long, long time before finally getting the chance to get out and cover the news in person. I can't tell you how much I love doing just that -- driving toward the big story to talk to the people involved gets my adrenaline going like almost nothing else in life." Russell grew up in Bozeman, Montana then spent several years as an "itinerant musician and restaurant worker," living in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California before finally starting college at 28 and discovering broadcasting as a possible career path. He is married to Shadia Dahlal, a nationally-known Middle Eastern Dancer and instructor, and has two stepchildren. You can connect with Russell via TwitterFacebook, or Linked In

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  • Witnesses spotted children driving a vehicle in Sand Springs recently with an adult woman in the backseat. Police say three children, ages 10, 11 and 12, took turns because 34-year-old Nicole Ann Hall was in no condition to drive. “She had these children blow into the interlock device to get the car started,” police said.  “It’s shocking.  The interlock device is put on cars to protect the public.” The children were not good drivers either.  Witnesses report they ran stop signs, hit curbs, and nearly hit a car head-on.   Hall now faces three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, public intoxication, and obstructing a police officer.
  • Summer isn't done with the Tulsa area just yet. National Weather Service Meteorologist Craig Sullivan says we have another hot day ahead of us on Saturday. “The hot weather is going to continue through the weekend,” Sullivan said.  “We’re looking at highs this afternoon in the lower 90s in Tulsa.” NWS reports the low Saturday night will be around 71 degrees. Conditions will remain the same on Sunday.  Expect to see sunny skies, with a high near 92 degrees.  
  • With Friday’s decision by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to oppose a last-ditch GOP proposal to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans have almost run out of time to make substantive changes to Obamacare by a September 30 deadline for action under a special expedited procedure that did not allow for a Senate filibuster, again dealing the President and GOP leaders a bitter defeat on an issue they’ve campaigned on for the last seven years. Here’s what can still happen over the next week – and in coming months on Capitol Hill. 1. There could still be a vote on Graham-Cassidy. While Sen. McCain has made clear that he won’t vote for the plan from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), it’s possible that the Senate could still go on the record on the matter. Aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week that he planned to force a vote, and that could still happen, to clearly show who was for the plan, and who was not. But for now, it seems like the GOP will fail to get anything done on this signature campaign issue, with McCain, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) definitely against the plan – and two others, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) leaning against. I cannot in good conscience vote for Graham-Cassidy. A bill impacting so many lives deserves a bipartisan approach. https://t.co/2sDjhw6Era pic.twitter.com/30OWezQpLg — John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 22, 2017 2. It could re-start bipartisan health talks. Up until last week, when GOP interest suddenly surged in the Graham-Cassidy plan, there had been increasing efforts to find some kind of agreement between Senators in both parties on ways to make some short term improvements in the Obama health care system for those in the individual and non-group insurance market. Those efforts were put on the shelf in recent days, but now this development leaves an opening for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). I'm proud of you, John. It's time for the resumption of the bipartisan Alexander/Murray plan, and I'm ready to help however I can. https://t.co/xu2e3higf3 — John Kasich (@JohnKasich) September 22, 2017 3. GOP health care efforts are certainly not dead. Just because the Graham-Cassidy plan has seemingly fallen short, that doesn’t mean Republicans will give up on their plans to change the Obama health law. For the next fiscal year, the GOP wants to use the budget reconciliation process to pass something on tax cuts and tax reform. Well – there is no reason that they can’t also try to add a health care bill onto that measure as well. One Senate official told me exactly that a few weeks ago. So, this battle is not over. But waiting to do health care on next budget reconciliation bill would give CBO time to fully analyze #GrahamCassidy's impact — Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 22, 2017 4. Republicans just weren’t ready for this process. Maybe the biggest lesson from the after-action report on GOP health care bills over the last nine months is a simple one – Republicans were not ready with their own plan to replace the Obama health law, even though they had been talking about this for seven straight years. Ever since the law was signed by President Obama, Republicans had promised to repeal it, and do something different. As a slogan it sounded great – but as we saw in recent weeks, getting the exact details was something different. The GOP has had 7+ years to come up with a healthcare bill. They've also had a full majority for 8 months. And still nothing. Embarrassing! — Mitch Drabenstott (@mitchdwx) September 22, 2017 5. Democrats have also had 7 years to make improvements. Just as the GOP failed in rallying around a single plan, Democrats also didn’t exactly ring the bell in recent years on how best to improve the Obamacare system. Yes, they admit, things aren’t working perfectly, but they certainly haven’t been talking about what exactly should change, or might be changed. Could we see something different now that Graham-Cassidy seems to be dead? Or will Democrats still just sort of circle the wagons to protect President Obama’s top legislative accomplishment? This is the time for bipartisan action – but that’s easier said than done. McCain's advice for Congress: Republicans and Democrats must work together to improve health care. — Cary Weldy (@caryweldy) September 22, 2017
  • Former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams was arrested in Texas on Tuesday on traffic warrants, records show. >> Read more trending news  Williams was pulled over for a traffic offense, then arrested on warrants, Austin police said. He is no longer in the Travis County Jail, records show.  Williams, who starred at the University of Texas and played seven seasons in the NFL, is currently a football analyst for ESPN's Longhorn Network. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 and was the second Longhorn to win college football’s top prize, and was also a two-time All-American. Earlier this year, Williams said he was racially profiled while walking through a neighborhood in Tyler. A man called 911 when he 'observed a black male, wearing all black, crouched down behind his wire fence,' and Tyler police stopped and searched Williams, according to media reports.  Williams was taken to the Travis County Jail 17 years ago, when he was playing for the New Orleans Saints, when he refused to sign a traffic ticket, according to previous media reports. 
  • A former Michigan health official testified Thursday that he started asking questions about bacteria in Flint’s water supply a year before the state publicly acknowledged an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Tim Becker, who was deputy director at the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledged that the agency could have issued a public warning in January 2015. But it was 12 more months before the department and Gov. Rick Snyder said something publicly. Becker was the first witness at a key court hearing involving his former boss, department director Nick Lyon, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of an 85-year-old man and misconduct in office. A judge must decide whether there’s enough evidence to send him to trial. Lyon’s attorneys call the charges “baseless.” The attorney general’s office says a timely announcement about a Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Flint area in 2014-15 might have saved Robert Skidmore. He died of congestive heart failure, six months after he was treated for Legionnaires’.