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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jan 30, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Michigan governor issues state of emergency ahead of cold

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order Tuesday declaring a state of emergency in Michigan ahead of dangerous subzero weather.

Whitmer said her move will harness government resources and ensure the public "understands the seriousness" of the once-in-a-generation cold snap. She visited the Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing — a warming house for residents.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said the city's homeless shelters are "overloaded."

Whitmer has also activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate efforts by state agencies and local governments.

Wind chill factors may drop to as low as minus 45 from Tuesday night through Thursday morning.

Whitmer moves speech over conflict with president’s address

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her first State of the State address a week later than planned to avoid having it on the same night as President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech.

The Democratic governor will speak Feb. 12 during a joint session of the Republican-led Legislature in Lansing. Her office proposed the new date Tuesday, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield agreed.

Whitmer's address initially was scheduled for Feb. 5, but Trump's speech was delayed due to the record-setting partial shutdown of the federal government. Whitmer said both speeches are "incredibly important" and the public should have an opportunity to "absorb both."

The yearly State of the State address is a chance for the new governor to unveil her policy agenda.

Man linked to child pornography ring enters plea in sex case

BATTLE CREEK (AP) — A Battle Creek man who authorities say was involved in a child pornography ring has pleaded no contest in a sexual assault case involving an infant girl.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reported Matthew Toole, 32, entered the plea Monday to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. A no-contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing.

Toole is scheduled to learn his punishment March 11.

Defense attorney Melissa Heffner said he decided to forego a trial. In exchange, several charges will be dismissed including child abuse and making and possessing child pornography.

Toole and his girlfriend were arrested last year on charges including sexual assault. She's awaiting trial. They're among four charged with conspiring to kidnap and kill a child in Branch County.

Authorities identify man fatally shot by Jackson police

JACKSON (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed in a gunfight with officers in southern Michigan.

Jackson County Undersheriff Chris Kuhl said 29-year-old Joey Duane Ramirez of Jackson was killed Monday by Jackson police officers investigating a domestic disturbance.

Jackson police said a woman called early Monday, saying an acquaintance was outside banging on her apartment door and wouldn't leave. Police said officers spotted him with a handgun, running through the apartment complex, and exchanged fire with him. He died at the scene.

Jackson Director of Police and Fire Services Elmer Hitt said one of the officers involved was treated for a leg injury sustained in a fall at the scene.

Court records show Ramirez had a pending resisting and obstructing police charge from an incident that occurred Jan. 18, MLive reported.

Deaf couple allege discrimination by Delta Air Lines agent

ROMULUS (AP) — A deaf couple from California who are activists for the hearing impaired allege that a gate agent for Delta Air Lines discriminated against them at Detroit Metro Airport.

Socorro Garcia and Melissa Yingst are co-founders of Alma de Muxeristas, a group of Hispanic feminist activists with hearing issues. They said they tried to communicate with an agent Sunday about getting seats next to each other on a flight to Los Angeles, but the agent threw away the paper they were writing on and rolled her eyes.

The airline said there were conflicting views of the incident, but that it was investigating.

Garcia said in a Facebook video that he tried to retrieve the paper, but that the agent called police and alleged Garcia assaulted her.

"Loss for words," Garcia said in sign language on the video. "What did we do wrong?"

The couple was ultimately denied boarding and booked another return flight through a separate airline.

"This really isn't about us not being able to sit together but how they handled communication and refused to provide us access to the needs we asked for," Yingst said in sign language, according to a transcript of her remarks posted on Facebook.

The agent discarded the paper because she thought the conversation was over, according to Michael Thomas, a spokesman for Delta. The agent felt threatened because Garcia knocked into the agent's leg when he aggressively went behind the ticket counter, which isn't permitted, Thomas said.

"To be completely candid, there are very conflicting versions of events based on initial reports from both sides," he said.

Delta said it's reviewing the issue and will work with the passengers to learn more about what happened.

"As always, we take situations like these seriously and we are using this as an opportunity to learn and improve," Thomas said.

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