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AP-US-HOUSTON-EXPLOSION

2 killed, 20 injured when warehouse explosion shakes Houston

HOUSTON (AP) — Two people were killed after a massive explosion at a Houston industrial company. The explosion happened about 4:30 a.m. Friday inside a building at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, which makes valves and provides thermal-spray coatings for equipment in various industries. Another 20 people were injured. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says authorities don't believe Friday morning's explosion was intentional though a criminal investigation is underway.

AP-GYM-GYMNASTICS-COACH-SENTENCED

Ex-gymnastics coach gets 50 years in prison for sex assaults

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A 53-year-old former gymnastics coach has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for sexually assaulting young female gymnasts in North Texas and Oklahoma. Skipper Crawley, of Kemp, Texas, pleaded guilty in a state district court in Fort Worth to four counts of aggravated assault of a child. Crawley was an instructor at Sokol Gymnastics in Fort Worth when three girls reported that he had sexually assaulted them during practice. He fled after he was charged in August 2018, but was arrested in Indiana. Then more gymnasts Crawley had trained in Oklahoma came forward to say he had also molested them.

ELECTION 2020-EARLY VOTING

Early voting means 2020 primary is already here for millions

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Iowa caucuses haven't yet happened, but millions of Americans are already free to vote. Many of the Super Tuesday states that hold primaries on March 3 offer early voting. That gives campaigns a chance to bank votes before results in the first four voting contests can reshape the trajectory of the race. Early voting began in person last week in Minnesota. California, Colorado, North Carolina and Texas are expected to see a strong early voting turnout, either by mail or in person, when it opens next month.

AP-STATE OF THE UNION-DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE

Dems pick Whitmer, Escobar for Trump State of Union response

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4. Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas will deliver the Spanish-language response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer made the announcement Friday. They praised Whitmer for her efforts to ensure clean drinking water in communities across Michigan, which was scarred by the 2014 water crisis in Flint. Escobar, of El Paso, attended a protest rally in August ahead of Trump's visit to the city after a mass shooting at a Walmart killed 22 people. Police said the gunman specifically targeted Mexicans.

DRUG RAID-TODDLER SHOT

3-year-old girl shot in gunfight during West Texas drug raid

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A 3-year-old girl has been shot in a gunfight between police and 16-year-old male suspect during a drug raid at a West Texas house. The Texas Department of Public Safety says Midland police officers were serving a search warrant at a house near Hogan Park in eastern Midland Wednesday night when a gunfight ensued with the teenage suspect that wounded the child. DPS Sgt. Oscar Villarreal said Friday that the girl was in stable condition at a hospital and the teen was taken into custody. It was unclear if they were related, and Villarreal had no further information on the child.

GALVESTON-GUN SHOPS

Galveston repeals gun regulations to avoid city lawsuit

GALVESTON, TX (AP) — Gun regulations in Galveston that once prevented gun shops and shooting ranges to be located near schools and places of worship are no longer in effect. The Galveston City Council unanimously voted to approve the amended land-use regulations on Thursday after it received a letter from the Texas Attorney General's Office asserting that the city's restrictions violated state law. Gun shops will now be treated the same as any other commercial retail entity. Shooting ranges will also no longer be required to limit noise to a certain decibel level.

DR. PEPPER-REBATE SCHEME

Texas man gets probation in Dr Pepper rebate scheme

HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston man has been sentenced to five years probation for participating in a rebate scheme that defrauded soda giant Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. of more than $1 million.  Joseph A. Isaac was sentenced during a court hearing in Houston federal court on Wednesday. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in September.  Prosecutors say Isaac’s company was in charge of a rebate campaign by Dr Pepper that paid money to customers who returned bottle caps and paid vendors who switched to Dr Pepper Snapple Group products.  Authorities say Isaac failed to pay the rebates and instead pocketed the money.

DREADLOCKS-SCHOOL SUSPENSION

Texas high school bars student who won't cut dreadlocks

MONT BELVIEU, Texas (AP) — The family of a black high school student in Texas says he won’t be allowed to walk at his graduation ceremony if he doesn’t cut his dreadlocks as school officials have asked. Deandre Arnold is a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu in Southeast Texas. He attended a district meeting Monday to protest the hair request. Family members and several activists accompanied him. Deandre’s family is from Trinidad. He says many men in his culture wear dreadlocks. The Barbers Hill Independent School District says it allows dreadlocks but has rules about length.

POLICE SHOOTING-TEXAS-CHILDREN

Texas man: Police shot, hurt 3-year-old daughter, teen son

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A man says police in West Texas shot and injured his 3-year-old daughter and his teenage son as officers searched a home.  Luis Gomez told KOSA-TV that his daughter and son were shot around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at a home in Midland. Erin Bailey, a spokeswoman for city of Midland, confirmed that an officer-involved shooting took place but referred all other questions about it to the Texas Rangers. A spokesman for the Texas Rangers didn't immediately return calls seeking comment. Gomez says as police executed a search warrant at the home, his son was shot in the arm and his daughter was shot in the back. His son was taken into custody and his daughter is in a hospital.

DALLAS OFFICER-MISTAKEN APARTMENT VIDEO

NFL initiative yields PSA on man killed by Dallas officer

DALLAS (AP) — A public service announcement honoring the life of a black man killed in his apartment by a white Dallas police officer has debuted as part of an NFL initiative promoting social justice and racial equality. The lawyer for Botham Jean's family says the public service announcement honoring his life will air during the Super Bowl, but an NFL representative tells the Dallas Morning News there are no plans to air the two-minute video during the game. Jean was killed in September 2018 by an officer who said she mistook his apartment for her own. The ad was produced by Jay-Z's company Roc Nation and the NFL. It debuted Wednesday.