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Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 6:58 PM
It’s a steep ramp with too much of an incline to walk up easily. To the side, an aging and precarious set of wooden steps goes up to the top, where the path that led to the ramp leads to nothing -- just a steep dropoff over a short boundary and lots of graffiti all around the structure.
The ramp has been the subject of lots of online speculation, especially since it became the subject of a Reddit thread in late 2016. Was it part of an old military project, this thing off an office park at 6900 Metropolis Drive? A structure that once connected to a shipping dock? A base for gravel dumping? A piece of a road that once connected to East Ben White Boulevard? What was this thing?
Adam van Alderwerelt, an Austin lighting designer and video engineer, became a bit obsessed with the ramp after volunteering at a nearby building that housed evacuees from Hurricane Harvey.
“Nobody at the shelter even knew what it was,” he said. “I only saw it because it was on Google Maps when I was looking for directions to and from the shelter.”
Van Alderwerelt shot a YouTube video, “What is South Austin’s Ramp of Mystery??”
“I thought, let’s bring some awareness to this thing,” van Alderwerelt said. “It’s a hidden oddity of Austin.”
The buzz around this curious structure prompted a reader to ask our Austin Answered project: “Please tell us about the Ramp of Mystery in South Austin; Google it!”
We did. But the ramp didn’t divulge its origin so easily. Visits to the Austin History Center to study old aerial photographs of the area proved inconclusive, except to show that it probably didn’t originate before the early 1980s. A wide call on social media for any local insight on the landmark yielded a few leads, but nothing concrete, so to speak. The current owners of the lot, Zydeco Development Corporation, said by phone they didn’t know what the ramp was for or why it was built.
A request to Lockheed Martin, which owned a facility in the area that opened to much fanfare in the 1980s, was unsuccessful. The company checked but was unable to find records related to the ramp or its purpose.
But leave it to a historian to crack the case.
Austin history buff Lanny Ottosen tracked down names on an old document related to the property he found at the Austin History Center. One of those names was Frank Niendorff, who for many years ran Commercial Industrial Properties Co. (also known as NAI Austin).
Niendorff, who spent two years brokering the property deal to bring Lockheed Missiles and Space to Austin (for one year, the identity of the buyer was a secret even to him), remembered the ramp well.
“There’s nothing mysterious about the ramp,” he said this week by phone, “When Lockheed first came here, they were working on developing a government contract for a drone. This was when drones were first imagined. This was a drone that would be launched from a ramp.”
The program, called “Aquila,” involved hydraulic catapults to launch the drone and a net that would catch the unmanned aerial vehicles. The drones would be used to provide laser guidance for weapons systems.
The San Diego Air and Space Museum has archive footage on YouTube of what appears to be such a system.
Despite the work Lockheed did with the drone project on that ramp, Niendorff said, the government bid was unsuccessful.
“They spent millions of dollars trying to get this contract, building prototypes,” he said. “Ultimately, Lockheed ended up building other things at that facility, including concrete bunker bombs.”
Kenneth Ross, a spokesman for Lockheed, said that as far as the ramp goes, Niendorff appears to have the right information.
“The info you’ve discovered gives us confidence that you have the right story,” Ross wrote in an email.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 7:18 AM
LOUISA COUNTY, Va. — A Virginia family is mourning the death of a 2-year-old boy after he was shot and killed by his 4-year-old brother.
Tyson Aponte was shot in the chest when his brother picked up what he thought was a toy. In reality it was a loaded gun, WTVR reported.
The children’s mother was home when the shooting happened Tuesday morning.
Tyson was taken to the University of Virginia Health System where he died, WCAV reported.
“It’s of paramount importance to make sure your guns are secured and out of the reach of children and everything,” Major Donald Lowe told WTVR. “At least have them unloaded or a safety lock on them, whatever you have to do to keep them from being discharged accidentally.”
Police are investigating.
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 9:50 PM
DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio authorities have no suspects and few solid leads in their investigation into who shot and killed a 62-year-old grandmother during a drive-by shooting Saturday evening in Dayton.
Investigators are asking for the public’s help in what they called a “heinous” and “sad” crime.
Dayton police Lt. Gregg Gaby on Tuesday wouldn’t answer specific questions about how many shots were fired and what caliber of bullet killed Sherrell Wheatley as she was walking home after feeding a neighbor’s dogs.
“We really have nothing other than at this point the suspect vehicle is possibly a silver-colored (Ford) Taurus or possible (Chevrolet) Impala-type vehicle. We’re not sure of the exact make and model of the vehicle,” said Gaby, commander of the violent crimes bureau.
“What we are asking is anyone in the neighborhood that saw any of this or has any information on this, please contact the Dayton Police Department.”
“At this point, we do not think that they intentionally targeted her, but we don’t know that,” said Gaby, who added that nothing in the investigation has revealed why Wheatley was targeted.
Gaby said witnesses heard gunshots and saw the vehicle, but nothing has tied the suspect vehicle to other crimes. Gaby also said a September 2017 shooting at the same residence does not yet tie in.
“This is the type of crime that hopefully the community will be incensed by and come forward and help out with and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got information on it,’” he said
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 11:17 PM
— If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, apparently you’re not alone. No less an authority than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says people frequently confuse the two holidays.
Make no mistake about it: Both are incredibly important holidays, with their common focus on Americans who’ve served in the military. The key distinction: Memorial Day “is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle,” the VA says.
While Veterans Day also honors the dead, it is “the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime.”
Here’s a guide to each holiday:
When it is: This year, it is on May 28.
Its original name: Decoration Day. Initially, it honored only those soldiers who’d died during the Civil War. In 1868, a veteran of the Union Army, General John A. Logan, decided to formalize a growing tradition of towns’ decorating veterans’ graves with flowers, by organizing a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30 (Logan also served in Congress from Illinois and in 1884, unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the Republican ticket). During World War I, the holiday’s focus expanded to honoring those lost during all U.S. wars.
When it became official: In 1968, Congress officially established Memorial Day (as it had gradually come to be known) as a federal holiday that always takes place on the last Monday in May.
Its unofficial designation: Memorial Day is still a solemn day of remembrance everywhere from Arlington National Cemetery to metro Atlanta, where a number of ceremonies and events will take place on Monday. On a lighter note, though, many people view the arrival of the three-day weekend each year as the start of summer.
One more thing to know: In 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance. It asks all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year to remember the dead.
When it is: November 11 every year.
Its original name: Armistice Day. The “armistice” or agreement signed between the Allies and Germany that ended World War I called for the cessation of all hostilities to take effect at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year in 1918. One year later, on Nov. 11, 1919, the first Armistice Day was celebrated in the U.S.
When it became official: In 1938, a Congressional act established Armistice Day as an annual legal holiday. In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks first proposed the idea of expanding the holiday to one honoring veterans of all U.S. wars. In 1954, the holiday legally became known as Veterans Day (In 1982, President Ronald Reagan presented Alabama resident Weeks with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in recognition of his efforts in creating Veterans Day).
Its temporary relocation: In 1968, the same Congressional act that established Memorial Day moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October every year. That law took effect in 1971; just four years later, in 1975, President Gerald Ford -- citing the original date’s “historic and patriotic significance” -- signed a bill that redesignated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day every year.
One more thing to know: Despite much confusion over the spelling, it’s Veterans Day, plural, and without any apostrophes. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which explains on its web site: “Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an "s" at the end of ‘veterans’ because it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 6:30 AM
YADKIN COUNTY, N.C. — A man wanted following a fatal crash involving a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper has been captured.
Authorities had been looking for 22-year-old Dakota Kape Whitt after Trooper Samuel N. Bullard, 24, of Wilkes County, died late Monday in a crash along Interstate 77 in Yadkin County during a chase.
The @NCSHP & @NCPublicSafety today mourns the loss of three-year veteran Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard Monday night following an on-duty patrol vehicle collision on I-77 in Yadkin County. https://t.co/73ntfmGVT6 pic.twitter.com/RPpaFg86TI— NC Highway Patrol (@NCSHP) May 22, 2018
WGHP-TV reports that during the chase, one trooper noticed he did not see a second patrol car behind him. When his attempt at contacting the other trooper failed, he turned around and found the patrol car engulfed in flames.
“Our SHP family is devastated by the loss of Trooper Bullard. We are struggling to find words that describe the hurting we feel right now,” said Col. Glenn M. McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “Trooper Bullard died as he was fulfilling his promise to the people of North Carolina, protecting and serving his community.”
It happened around 11:30 p.m. on I-77 southbound near NC-67. The area is about 70 miles north of Charlotte and due west of Winston-Salem.
Chris Knox with the NCSHP said Bullard was a three-year veteran assigned to Surry County.
Troopers said the incident started with a license check. A black BMW did not stop and troopers went after it. Trooper Bullard was involved in a collision at Mile Marker 80.
Whitt was taken into custody without incident around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. He's charged with murder, felony fleeing to elude arrest in a motor vehicle and driving with a revoked license.
The @NCSHP seeks the public’s assistance in locating the driver of a black BMW passenger vehicle that traveled through a checkpoint and was involved in Monday night’s pursuit in Surry County https://t.co/4UVLO62J9W pic.twitter.com/pltzKVkHFW— NC Highway Patrol (@NCSHP) May 23, 2018