Students’ feats top 2017 news

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER) Jim Wood describes his experiences as a cat operator while helping out at the Sundance Fire in August and September of 1967. The fire was so loud in the Hellroaring Creek area that is sounded like 100 jets overhead, he said. The fire's anniversary was among 2017's top stories.

SANDPOINT — From criminal proceedings to some amazing feats by local students, 2017 was a busy year for news in Bonner County.

This is the eighth in a series looking back at some of the top headlines of the year. Stories are listed in no particular order.

• A settlement was reached in September regarding a civil suit brought by the parents of a Priest River teen who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a high school football game in 2011.

Robert Clark II and Julie Clark filed suit against the district and other defendants in 2013 on behalf of their son, Robert “Bobby” Norman Clark III, who was injured during a Priest River Lamanna High School football game against Timberlake High School. The younger Clark was a varsity offensive and defensive lineman for the Priest River Spartans.

Counsel for the student athlete alleged in the suit that Clark was briefly removed from the game after becoming injured, but was sent back out onto the field by unidentified coaches. He returned to the sidelines two plays later and collapsed. Clark was flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he underwent emergency surgery and was placed on life support, the suit said.

• A Coolin man was fatally wounded on Sept. 26 in an armed confrontation with Bonner County sheriff’s deputies.

State police said deputies were attempting to serve a felony arrest warrant on 50-year-old Craig Albert Johnson at 9 a.m. The male was armed and exhibited hostile behavior to the deputies, which prompted them to open fire, according to an ISP news release.

Johnson was injured and medical attention was rendered. A ground ambulance was attempting to rendezvous with an air ambulance, but the he died en route, state police said.

• A large crowd gathered near the Pack River Bridge on Sept. 2, near where the Sundance Fire made its 2,000-acre overnight run 50 years ago.

The commemorative event was held to remember the fire and its impact and pay tribute to the two firefighters, Lee Collins and Luther Rodarte, who were killed near McCormick Creek when they were overrun by the fire.

• A teen was arrested at Newport High School’s homecoming football game for bringing a dangerous weapon onto school grounds on Oct. 6

Pend Oreille County Sheriff Alan Botzheim said an off-duty deputy in plainclothes was approached by school staff who said a young male subject at the game had a handgun concealed in his waistband. The deputy, Travis Stigall, alerted dispatch and multiple deputies responded. School District Superintendent Dave Smith pointed out the suspect and he was detained without incident.

Jonathan D.J. Hodge, an 18-year-old Pend Oreille County resident, was ultimately arrested. The teen’s weapon turned out to be an Airsoft pistol which realistically replicated a 1911 .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

• Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler asked county commissioners in October to enact an ordinance restricting wake boats on the Pend Oreille River.

In a letter to commissioners, Wheeler said property owners along the Pend Oreille River have experienced an incredible amount of damage to their shorelines, docks and boats over the past few years.

Riverfront landowners have been clamoring for wake boats to be relegated to Lake Pend Oreille for the better part of year. They argue the prohibition isn’t too onerous because those vessels can still access the lake, which provides ample room for wakes to dissipate before reaching shore. But the proposal never made its way out of the Bonner County Waterways Committee, which instead favored better enforcement of the county’s no-wake zone ordinance and a public awareness campaign

• Three people were arrested Oct. 18 in connection with two commercial burglaries, Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon said.

Wrenco Arms and the Subway sandwich store were burglarized on Oct. 15. At least one handgun was taken from Wrenco Arms and it appeared there was an attempt to remove the cash register from Subway, police said. Coon said officers used surveillance footage from the Wrenco burglary and compared notes about local offenders, which allowed them to develop a short list of suspects.

David Anthony Dorland Jr. emerged as a suspect in the Wrenco Arms break-in. The investigation into Dorland uncovered evidence that his roommates, Christian Don Moes and Dylan Lane Utt, were behind the Subway heist. Each were charged with one count of burglary.

Dorland faced an additional felony charge of malicious injury to property for causing an estimated $1,500 in damages while breaching the door of Wrenco Arms and smashing in a display case, according to court records. Dorland was ordered held in lieu of $4,000 bail, while bail for Moes and Utt was set at $1,000 a piece.

• Playground hardware valued at $1,000 was stolen on Oct. 19 in Kootenai. The nuts and bolts were being stored beneath a gazebo in preparation for the installation of new playground equipment to replace equipment that was damaged by a youthful arsonist last year.

The incorrect playground equipment was sent to the city, which caused a delay in its installation, said Mayor Nancy Lewis. In the meantime, thieves capitalized on the delay and pilfered the specialty hardware. A security camera captured the theft on video, but Lewis said the lighting was too poor to identify the suspects.

• Brandon Scott Cramer was charged with two counts of felony assault and two misdemeanor counts of battery in October. Cramer also faced a sentencing enhancement for using a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime.

Cramer, 32, is accused of attacking a man and a woman outside a trailer off Dry Creek Road on Tuesday, Oct. 17. The alleged victims told Bonner County sheriff’s deputies that Cramer arrived at the home and they heard the slide of a pistol being racked into firing position as he approached. The woman said Cramer pressed the muzzle of the pistol to the man’s head before punching him. Cramer then turned his attention to the female and demanded she tell him where his brother is, a probable cause affidavit said.

• Documents were released in October regarding a candidate for City Council who was investigated for allegedly texting pictures of his genitalia to random people in 2011.

The investigation dates back to when Mose Clement Dunkel was a mayoral candidate. A Bonner County sheriff detective’s report at various points turned up on social media, prompting a public records request which yielded a hard copy of the report. In the report, a sheriff’s detective said a sheriff’s detective said he was contacted by an Alaska state trooper who said an Idaho man was using his mobile phone to send pictures of his genitalia to random people.

The allegations against Dunkel were reviewed by Sandpoint Police, but the department handed off the investigation to the sheriff’s office to sidestep appearances of a conflict of interest because Dunkel was a candidate in the mayoral election, the report indicates.

No charges were filed against Dunkel in Idaho and there is no record of him being charged with a criminal offense in Alaska, according to that state’s online courts database. Dunkel said on Friday that the police report never should have been released because he was never charged with a crime.

• Loris Michael and Linda Melia shared their brother’s story with the Daily Bee on Oct. 2 after receiving a special memento in his honor from a kind-hearted stranger. SSgt. Larry J. Newman of the United States Air Force disappeared in South Vietnam 45 years ago. The duo had to fight back tears, not only from the memories, but because someone they never met would take the time and effort to send his POW/MIA bracelet home — and it wasn’t the first time.

As people were listed prisoner of war or missing in action, bracelets were made in their honor. Bracelets were distributed with names of POW/MIA soldiers randomly to anyone who made a small donation to the Voices in Vital America organization. The recipients would then wear the bracelets in honor of the lost soldiers.

• The Sandpoint Arts Commission announced in October that it will spend $113,500 on the artwork for the new roundabout at the intersection of Boyer Avenue and Schweitzer Cutoff Road.

The commission is utilizing CaFE, a call for entry website that allows project administrators to streamline the application and review process. The CaFE fee is $500, the three finalists will receive a design fee of $1,000 each, the final artist will have a $90,000 budget and landscaping and infrastructure is budgeted at $20,000.

Three finalists will be chosen by Feb. 5, 2018, and the final artist will be announced May 1. Installation of the art is scheduled for completion by June 2019.

• Sandpoint High School had a busy month in October as it hosted the North Idaho College CTE Roadshow and the Bulldog Finance Fair. The teachers also went on the third Community Connections tour, visiting local industries to find out what employers look for so they can better educate their students for the future.

• Six Sandpoint Middle School students prepared in October for their November trip to Spain as United States ambassadors for the Design for Change global summit.

The students were chosen in June as Washington Elementary students for their work on addressing teen suicide in the community. Five students received an all-expense paid trip, but the group still had to raise $20,000. As they were falling about $2,800 short in October, the Daily Bee ran an article.

Pierce Smith from the Rotary Club of Sandpoint responded to the Daily Bee immediately and said they would match up to $1,000 in an effort to get the other $1,800 donated from the community. Another story ran the next morning, and by 8:30 a.m., a man showed up at Washington Elementary with a donation. He wrote the teacher, Ann Dickinson, a check for $1,800, but what he said afterward was worth more than the money itself.

“He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I am a suicide survivor, and what you are doing is extremely important and I want you to know that,’” Dickinson said. • The city of Ponderay served as Capital for a Day as Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and other state officials made their way to North Idaho on Oct. 19.

Each month, Otter brings state government to Idahoans living outside Boise by making a different town in Idaho the state’s Capital for a Day. The meetings provide local residents an opportunity to have open discussions about government issues and public policy with Otter, members of his Cabinet and other senior state officials.

• In a challenge set forth by Clark Fork High School instructor KC MacDonald and his leadership class, Washington Elementary students collected 214 pounds of school supplies in October for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Hope Elementary students also took on the challenge, gathering 266 items. At each school, the class that raised the most supplies won an ice cream sandwich party.

More than 450 pounds of school supplies were collected, so to get the supplies to Texas, veterans across four states volunteered to drive the supplies in November.

• With 20 mph winds and gusts up to 50 mph, Selkirk Fire, Rescue and EMS firefighters were busy on Oct. 17 as they responded to several fires throughout the area.

The department received more than 10 calls in a three-hour period, and Selkirk Fire Chief Ron Stocking said the majority of those calls were wind related. One of those calls was a report of a fire in the 10100 block of Lakeshore Drive in Sagle, which destroyed several cars and a large pole barn. Crews responded to several smaller brush fires as well, all of which Stocking said were caused by burn piles that were not fully extinguished.

• Sandpoint Middle School students took part in a near space balloon launch from Diamond Lake, Wash., on Oct. 27.

The near space balloon launch was part of the Gizmo2Extremes project through Gizmo-CDA, in collaboration with SMS instructor Dinah Gaddie and her manufacturing and design students, as well as Laura Spurway’s gifted and talented sixth-graders from Rathdrum. The balloon was expected to land south of Coeur d’Alene, but went a bit farther than expected. But after it was retrieved, the students were able to learn from the data collected.

• Addie Brewington was loud and proud on Oct. 27 as she announced over her school’s intercom how much money she and her classmates raised for this year’s Coats 4 Kids drive.

“We raised $400,” the 7-year-old announced, followed by Kootenai Elementary Principal Kelli Knowles, who said they also gathered five bags of coats.

Half of the money was donated by Addie herself, because at the beginning of the donation drive she challenged her Kootenai Elementary classmates and the staff to donate as much as they could. In return, Addie told her classmates that she would match the funds. For her efforts, Addie was not only rewarded with the knowledge that so many kids would be warm in the coming winter months, she also got to go shopping with Karen Battenschlag, the local Coats 4 Kids coordinator, on Oct. 29 to purchase new coats with the money raised.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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