Metro Beat: Police called after crowd mobs Salvation Army toy giveaway

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – A crowd grew unruly at a western Pennsylvania toy distribution event Friday, and the Salvation Army shut the program down for a day.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said in a statement that police were called to the North Avenue toy giveaway at about noon. Authorities reported that the crowd became unruly after some people cut in front of a long waiting line.

People surged into the facility when the doors opened and the Salvation Army did not have enough staff to control the situation, so the distribution was shut down for a day.

The center said they added extra workers and were open without any reported problems on Saturday.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Ginny Knor told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that she could not remember any similar dust-ups in her 20 years with the charitable group. Knor said more people sought help this year from the North Side center – about 1,500, up from 1,100 in 2012.

Knor told the paper that many people showed up before their designated pickup times, which contributed to the crowding. Workers at the center called police for help, but Knor said that might not have been necessary if people had showed up at their appointed time.

Knor attributed the demand primarily to the sour economy.

“I think there’s just so many more people in need,” she said. “We do our best to attend to them.”

There were no arrests or injuries.

Pa. Catholic groups win health care act ruling

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Catholic groups in western Pennsylvania received another favorable legal ruling in their fight over mandates in the federal health care overhaul law.

District Judge Arthur J. Schwab on Friday granted a permanent injunction to the Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie in their case. That means they don’t have to comply with the disputed provisions unless the ruling is overturned by a higher court.

The dioceses object to the law’s requirement that contraception, including sterilization, be offered in employee health care plans.

Schwab ruled in November that forcing Catholic schools and charities to comply with the Affordable Care Act could result in decreased donations and the closure of some programs.

Both sides expect the case to be appealed to higher courts. There are numerous similar challenges in other states.

Pittsburgh tunnel painting delayed until spring

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A tunnel rehabilitation project in Pittsburgh has been delayed until spring because of paint problems.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1biiEFD ) reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on Friday announced the Liberty Tunnels rehabilitation project delay.

PennDOT executive Dan Cessna says the bright white paint was not adhering to the walls in a way that would allow it to be washed regularly. The contractor will have to remove and repaint portions of the tunnels, and that was proving difficult because of cold weather.

The $18.8 million fourth phase of rehabilitation was originally scheduled for completion by November.

Cessna says overnight tunnel closures will resume in April and continue into July. Swank Construction Co. of New Kensington will be given extra time for the work without being hit with delay penalties.

Man dies, 3 others injured in W. Pa. crash

PITTSBURGH (AP) – An 86-year-old man died in a Pittsburgh car crash, and a police officer and a paramedic were injured during the response.

Authorities say the unidentified man crossed the center line of Route 30 at about 6:30 p.m. Friday night and struck another car, and police say he may have been stricken with a medical condition. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the death.

A police officer and paramedic who responded sustained leg injuries when they were hit by a responding ambulance that rolled into them for unknown reasons. That incident is under investigation.

Another person who was injured in the original crash was also taken to an area hospital for treatment.

Details weren’t immediately available on the condition of the injured people.

Ex-Pa. prison guard gets probation in assault

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A former western Pennsylvania prison guard who pleaded guilty to punching an inmate has been sentenced to five years of probation.

Judge Nora Barry Fischer sentenced 35-year-old Arii Metz of Pittsburgh on Friday. Fischer says she didn’t send Metz to jail because his young son has extreme anxiety disorder.

Metz had pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of David Kipp by entering his Allegheny County jail cell in October 2010 and striking him several times. Kipp suffered a broken nose and other injuries.

Metz was also sentenced to 14 months of home confinement, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $2,000. He was also ordered to continue payments on the $7,500 damage award that Kipp won in a related civil lawsuit.

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