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Nation in brief

Gym shooting victim had gun in pocket, coroner says

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 16, 2003

NEW ORLEANS -- A loaded handgun was found Tuesday on the body of a 15-year-old boy who was gunned down in a high school gym, according to police who say they believe the attack was retaliation for an earlier slaying.

Jonathan Williams and his attackers apparently bypassed metal detectors at the main entrance of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans by going in through the gymnasium, schools superintendent Tony Amato said.

About 200 people were in the gym Monday when four young men burst in and shot Williams with an AK-47 rifle and at least one handgun. On Tuesday, police displayed the rifle, handguns, bags of bullets and clips found at the scene, but wouldn't say how many rounds were found in Williams' body. "More than enough," Lt. Jim Keen said.

A .45-caliber handgun was found in Williams' pocket in the coroner's office, when his body was undressed for the autopsy, Capt. Marlon Defillo said. It will be tested to learn if it had been used in any crimes.

"Basically, this is a person who may have brought this on himself, being as he was armed with a .45-pistol in his right pocket," police Superintendent Eddie Compass said. "When Mr. Jonathan Williams brought that firearm to that school, he opened it up to the type of violence we saw."

Eight suspects, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were in custody Tuesday. All faced charges of first-degree murder except one who was held as an accessory.

Washed-up bodies of baby, woman remain unidentified

MODESTO, Calif. -- Investigators said Tuesday that it will take days or even weeks to determine whether the body of a woman that washed up on a Northern California shoreline is that of Laci Peterson, the expectant mother who disappeared Christmas Eve.

The body and that of an infant boy were found a few miles from the Berkeley marina where Peterson's husband told police he had gone fishing on Christmas Eve. The Modesto woman was due to give birth to a boy in February.

Republican senator won't run

CHICAGO -- Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald announced Tuesday he will not seek a second term next year, leaving stunned party officials scrambling for a candidate as they try to hang onto a 51-48 edge in the Senate.

"This is a race in a heavily Democratic state that for a Republican candidate will need full-time devotion in order to win," Fitzgerald said. He said he was unwilling to make such a commitment because it would leave him unable to be a full-time father or senator.

In other news ...

DRUG RING CHARGES: U.S. and Canadian officials said Tuesday they had disrupted a major methamphetamine supply system through an investigation that netted 67 arrests and tons of illegal chemicals.

The charges were brought in indictments unsealed Tuesday in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as cases brought in Canada. Among those charged are six current or former executives with three Canadian companies -- Frega Inc., Formulex and GC Medical Products -- who allegedly diverted thousands of pounds of pseudoephedrine to the United States.

Most of the shipments were made by truck over the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, often hidden within legitimate loads of bottled water, bubble gum and other goods.

MARS ROVER DELAY: NASA has delayed the launch date for the first of two Mars rovers after discovering they were vulnerable to short circuits that could have doomed them. The launch from Cape Canaveral is delayed by eight days, to no earlier than June 6.

OHIO STATE ARSON: A weekend fire that killed five college students in a house near Ohio State University in Columbus was arson and the deaths are being treated as homicides, investigators said Tuesday.

ASK THE WHITE HOUSE: Web users can log onto at 6 p.m. today and pose a question to White House chief of staff Andrew Card in a new interactive feature. The White House will pick the questions and begin posting them and Card's responses at 7 p.m. Other government officials will chat at later dates.

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