The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, March 05, 1999, Page 2, Image 2

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    State patrolman killed
in accidental shooting
■ The trooper from i
North Platte was shot in
the chest during a routine
training practice.
Nebraska State Patrol trooper from
North Platte was shot and killed
accidentally Thursday during rou
tine training that does not call for
using live ammunition, patrol offi
cers said.
Mark Wagner, 37, was shot once
in the chest when a gun accidentally
discharged during the training, State
Patrol Maj. Bryan Tuma said at a
news conference in Lincoln.
Tuma said he did not know why
the gun would have been loaded.
North Platte police were investi
gating the shooting.
Several officers were going
through self-defense training inside
Troop D headquarters when Wagner
was shot at about 2 p.m. CST, Tuma
Wagner was shot with a State
Patrol handgun - either a dock .40
caliber or .45-caliber semiautomat
ic, Tuma said.
But Tuma declined to say
whether it was Wagner’s gun.
Wagner was being trained as part
of annual in-service training, which
usually involves about 20 officers,
Tuma said.
No live ammunition is used in
such training, he said.
Tuma said the patrol does not
require troopers to wear bulletproof
vests. He said he did not believe
Wagner was wearing a vest.
No civilians or officers from
other departments were in the room
when the shooting occurred, he said.
Tuma said counselors will be
available to other troopers.
“This is a tragedy,” he said. “We
have a lot of damage control to do
out there.”
Wagner was assigned to road
patrol. Troop D has about 60 troop
A graduate of North Platte High
School, Wagner is survived by his
wife, Denise, and three daughters.
Wagner is the 11th State Patrol
trooper to die in the line of duty.
The last Nebraska trooper to be
killed in the line of duty was in 1989.
Omaha police officer Jimmy Wilson
Jr. was shot to death during a traffic
This is a tragedy. We
have a lot of damage
control to do out
Bryan Tuma
state patrol major
stop in 1995.
The last trooper who died in the
line of duty was Don Matejka, who
had a heart attack while wrestling a
suspect in a domestic-disturbance
call in Norfolk.
Gov. Mike Johanns met with
members of Wagner’s family in
North Platte and he issued a com
ment through his office.
“On behalf of all Nebraskans, I
extend the deepest sympathies to the
family of Trooper Mark Wagner,”
Johanns said.
“The citizens of Nebraska will
be forever grateful for his service to
our state.”
Marine cleared of 20 deaths
in jet accident with gondola
Italian authorities outraged, saying pilot flew recklessly
Outraging Italian authorities, a mili
tary jury Thursday cleared a U.S.
Marine pilot of charges he was flying
recklessly when his jet sliced through
a ski gondola cable in the Alps and
sent 20 pepple plunging to their
deaths. I
A whoop went up in the tiny court
room when the eight Marine officers
found Capt Richard Ashby innocent
of 20 involuntary manslaughter
charges and other counts. The jury
deliberated for TA hours.
“Basically, all I really want to say
is this has been a tragedy for all
involved,” Ashby said. “My heart nay
thoughts and prayers go out to the fam
ilies of victims of this tragedy.”
Prosecutors said Ashby was “flat
hatting” - recklessly flying too low
and too fast - when his EA-6B
Prowler hit the cable on Feb. 3,1998.
He could have gotten 206 years in
prison if convicted of all charges.
Ashby argued that the cables
weren’t on his map, that the jet’s alti
tude-gauging equipment malfunc
tioned and that an optical illusion
made him think he was flying higher.
Ashby still faces another court
martial, on obstruction of justice
charges for the disappearance of a
videotape his navigator made during
the fatal flight. He could get a year in
prison if convicted.
And his navigator, Capt. Joseph
Schweitzer, faces a manslaughter
He could’ve at least apologized to us,
but he didn’t do it.”
victims’ family member
court-martial as well. It was unclear
whether prosecutors will proceed with
that case now.
When the acquittal was
announced, ending a trial that began
Feb. 8, a prosecutor turned and said
quietly, “I’m sorry” to some of the vic
tims’ relatives. Other relatives hugged
and wept
“I am really baffled by this ruling,”
Italian Premier Massimo D’Alema
said during a visit to Boston. “With
that kind of a massacre, with so many
casualties, I think it is a duty to ensure
that justice is done.” He said Italy will
“explore all the legal ways” to hold
those responsible liable.
Achille Occhetto, president of the
lower house of Parliament’s foreign
affairs committee, said, “In the face of
many dead, and such clear responsibil
ity, this verdict is an act of arrogance
and prevarication.”
John Arthur Eaves, a lawyer who
represents relatives of eight German
victims, said some lamented that there
is “no justice in the world.”
“I was just shocked because I can’t
understand that the man who killed 20
people ... is not guilty,” said Sindy
Renkewitz of Germany, whose father
and sister died in the accident “I don’t
believe that he feels bad for us. He
could’ve at least apologized to us, but
he didn’t do it”
Defense lawyers claimed Ashby
and Schweitzer, 31, ofWestbury, N.Y.,
were charged because of political
pressure.The jurors and the prosecu
tors had no comment
Ashby, 31, of Mission Viejo,
Calif., was found innocent of
manslaughter, destruction of private
and government property, dereliction
of duty and failure to plan the fatal
mission properly.
The accident happened on a train
ing flight through the Italian Alps.
Ashby flew the four-man radar-jam
ming jet into two cables of the Mount
Cermis gondola at Cavalese, Italy,
sending it hurtling into the valley.
Eight Germans, five Belgians, one
Austrian, one Dutch, two Poles and
three Italians died.
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PkZ&QL '. -*7'»Mwfeg?vpJ. ■
Brashear pushes
sales tax reforms
■ The bill proposes to add
tax to services, candy, gum,
soda arid gas.
By Shane Anthony
Staff writer
Omaha Sen. Kermit Brashear
brought LB836 to the Revenue
Committee on Thursday with a sense
of humor and little hope.
The 50-page bill, which would
seek major changes in Nebraska’s tax
structure by adding sales taxes to busi
ness services, candy, gum, bottled
water, soft drinks and gasoline, as well
as cutting sales and income tax rates,
drew a host of lobbyists testifying
against it.
Noting he had never had a bill pass
out of the Judiciary Committee,
Brashear opened with a joke.
“I feel like the proverbial snowman
carrying the snowball,” he said. Other
senators chimed in with laughs about
offering Brashear a “warm reception.”
Most of the opposition centered on
adding sales taxes to services that are
currently exempt. The list includes
construction services, automotive
repair, camps and recreational vehicle
parks, advertising services and 14
other services taxed by one or more of
Nebraska s neighboring states.
“It’s my belief that we have a very
narrow tax base,” he said.
By broadening that base, he said,
tax rates could be lowered.
The bill includes a general home
stead exemption, a refundable tax
credit of $1,000 on agricultural land, a
permanent sales tax reduction of 4.75
percent, an income tax rate reduction
of 1.25 percent for the first three tax
brackets and a 4.1 percent reduction in
the top bracket. It also includes a
spending lid based on personal income
Brashear said the public tends to
view property, income and motor vehi
cle taxes as more of a burden than sales
tax, and the rate reductions he pro
posed would make Nebraska more
competitive with other states.
“I think we could provide more fair
taxation schemes to the public that
they are more willing to pay,” he said.
But while most opponents said
they supported the idea of broadening
the tax base, none thought their ser
vices should be taxed
Ron Sedlacek, a lobbyist for the
Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, said lower tax rates can affect
consumer behavior, but portability
becomes an issue. If Nebraska starts
taxing businesses it has not taxed
before, he said, those businesses could
move out of the state.
Robert Leavitt, who represented
the Nebraska Collectors Association,
agreed. He said 106 of 165 licensed
collection agencies in Nebraska are
out-of-state businesses.
“I applaud the effort,” he said “But
taxing services is probably not going
to be a fair way to do it”
Others said adding sales tax to ser
vices would hurt consumers.
Gary Latimer, who spoke on
behalf of the Nebraska Court
Reporters Association, took issue with
a provision that would add sales taxes
to freelance court reporting services.
“The fiscal impact to the state will
be small by taxing court reporting ser
vices,” he said. The real impact will be
on those individuals paying the tax in
the only forum available to them to
legally pursue their remedies.”
But before any of the lobbyist
groups testified, Harrison Sen. Bob
Wickersham, the committee chair
man, asked testifiers to suggest whom
the Legislature could tax.
“We’re going to have to eventually
tax services,” he said.
In other news, the committee heard
two other tax bills. Except for the sen
ators who introduced the bills, no one
testified on either of them.
■ LB 125, introduced by Omaha
Sen. Deb Suttle, would leave the cur
rent sales tax rate at 4.5 percent. The
rate is scheduled to return to 5 percent
July 1, ending a one-year reduction.
■ LB670, introduced by
Wickersham, leaves the state income
tax rate blank, allowing senators to fill
in numbers later.
The committee took no action on
any of the bills.
—ism j—
Bill requires nurses to notify
pregnant teens’ parents
LB263, sponsored by Elkhom Sen.
Dwits Pedersen, would require school
nurses or counselors to notify parents if
their children are pregnant
Under the bill, school-based clinics
would be prohibited from providing
counseling or instructions relating to
( abortion services or pregnancy testing.
The bill would prohibit school nurses
from administering pregnancy tests.
Pedersen said he introduced the bill
to protect the lives and health of stu
dents. Pregnancy could pose health
problems, he said, and parents or
guardians have a right to know if their
children are pregnant
Parents are required to give consent
for their children to play high school
sports and attend field trips, he said, and
pregnancy should be no different
Senator proposes legalizing
physician-assisted suicide
Omaha Sol Ernie Chambers wants
to give Nebraskans the right to die with
dignity, not in pain.
“Some circumstances toward the
end of a person’s life can be so demean
ing, so dehumanizing ... that they do
not want to go on,” Chambers said.
LB70, sponsored by Chambers,
would allow physicians to administer
lethal doses of medication with the per
mission of a terminally-ill patient
Assisted suicide is currently a Class
IV felony.
Under the Voluntary Physician Aid
In-Dying Act, terminally-ill patients
could request that their doctors termi
nate their lives.
Proponents of the bill said myths
that all dying people are depressed,
can’t make sound decisions and would
be manipulated by doctors were not
But opponents believed that death
was not the best option for ill patients.
“We’ve all heard it before - suicide
is a cry for help,” Nebraska Right to
Life representative Denise Ashby said.
“Suicidal people should be helped with
their problems, not helped to die.”
State property tobacco ban
goes up in smoke, again
An effort to expand a smoking ban
to all state-owned vehicles and most
state buildings failed on the floor
An amendment, offered to a bill
banning smoking in the State Capitol,
would have outlawed smoking in state
vehicles and buildings owned by the
state with some exemptions.
The amendment received 21 votes,
four short of the total needed to be
adopted. Lawmakers adjourned before
taking a vote on whether to advance the
bill (LB211) without die amendment
Compiled by senior staff writer
Jessica Fargen. The Associated Press
contributed to this report.