Nation in brief
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2003
NEW ORLEANS -- Gunmen armed with an AK-47 rifle and a handgun opened fire in a crowded school gymnasium Monday, killing a 15-year-old boy and wounding three teenage girls in a spray of more than 30 bullets that sent some 200 students scrambling for cover.
Four suspects, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were arrested in a sweep of the neighborhood near John McDonogh High School. Three were charged with first-degree murder. The fourth allegedly hid the trio after the shooting and was charged with accessory after the fact, police said.
Police said the shooting appeared to be retaliation for a murder on April 7. Students said the shooting was apparently gang related.
PHOENIX -- A man arrested in the deaths of six prostitutes confessed to police that he lured the women with drugs and strangled five of them during sex, according to court documents released Monday.
Cory Morris, 24, who was arrested Saturday after a decomposing body was found in a camper where he sometimes lived, detailed some of the deaths for police, according to the documents. He didn't address how the first woman was killed but acknowledged that he dumped her body, the records say. He is being held on $1.3-million bail.
NEW YORK -- A judge sentenced the founder of the Bloods gang on the East Coast to 50 years in prison Monday after prosecutors said he headed one of the nation's most violent criminal organizations.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said Omar Portee, 33, founder of the United Blood Nation, encouraged young people to join a life of violent crime and must face a long prison term to encourage respect for the law, deter crime and protect the public.
Portee was convicted in August of racketeering, murder conspiracy, credit card fraud and drug selling.
WASHINGTON -- Almost two years before the Columbia disaster, NASA inspectors discovered a serious weakening of Discovery's protective left-wing panel and ordered a fleetwide inspection out of fear the problem would turn up in other shuttles, internal space agency documents show.
Inspectors were ordered to feel for similar cracks on wing panels of other shuttles. They found none, but NASA now acknowledges its testing might have missed deterioration on shuttles like Columbia because of difficulties detecting such flaws without removing wing panels and cutting them apart.
Columbia was NASA's oldest shuttle when it disintegrated above the Earth Feb. 1, killing the crew.