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Entries in Grand Rapids (4)

Sunday
Jul102011

Betty Ford Memorials to be Held in Michigan and California

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.) -- Public and private services will be held in California and Michigan for former first lady Betty Ford, who died of natural causes.

She died Friday at the age of 93.

Ford, whose candor and courage touched the nation, will first be remembered in a private service Tuesday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where she and President Ford lived after the White House.

On Wednesday, her casket will be flown to Grand Rapids, Mich. where a public memorial and funeral service are scheduled.

Ford's dear friends Lynn Cheney, Cokie Roberts, and Rosalyn Carter, whose husband defeated Gerald Ford in the race for the White House in 1976, will deliver her eulogies.

"The relationship that Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Carter had was one of the deepest and richest of Mrs. Ford's life. It was a wonderful, wonderful friendship. One that was very dear to Mrs. Ford," said Greg Willard, a personal representative of the Ford Family Funeral Service.

Ford impacted lives around the word, making public her struggles with breast cancer and substance abuse and opening the treatment center that bears her name.

"Shame and stigma were significantly reduced and the Betty Ford Center has become a model for effective treatment," Dr. Scott Basinger, associate dean at Baylor College of Medicine, told ABC News Saturday.

"Betty Ford was one of the first public figures to put a face on alcoholism as a disease and she raised awareness of the need for treatment and helped society understand recovery as a lifelong process," Dessa Bergen-Cico, assistant professor of Public Health and Addiction Studies at Syracuse University, told ABC News Saturday.

On Thursday, she will be laid to rest alongside her husband on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum.

"Obviously the outpouring for the Ford family is extremely strong. We look forward to welcoming Mrs. Ford home," said Tim Pietryga, a Ford Foundation spokesman.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

Murder Suspect Kills Himself after Hostage Standoff in Michigan

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- A man suspected of killing seven people in Grand Rapids, Michigan killed himself by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after an eight-hour manhunt and an armed hostage standoff with police officers, according to police.

Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, 34, had been holding three people hostage on Thursday night in a house on Rickman Avenue in Grand Rapids, according to Police Chief Kevin Belk.

"The suspect chose to put the gun to his head and fired one shot, taking his life," Belk said in a news conference after the standoff ended.

None of the hostages were injured in the incident.  Following negotiations with authorities, the suspect released a 53-year-old female hostage unharmed late Thursday evening, Belk said.

The eight-hour manhunt began at 3 p.m. on Thursday, after the discovery of two murder scenes in two separate homes in Grand Rapids, where at least seven people died, including at least two children -- one in each location, Belk said.

Dantzler appeared to have "prior relationships with at least one person at each location," according to Belk.

After announcing Dantzler as the suspect in the shootings, police chased a vehicle believed to belong to Dantzler along Interstate 96 in the north end of Grand Rapids, resulting in the car crashing in downtown Grand Rapids after shots were fired at police, Belk said.

During the chase Belk says the suspect shot two other people, though they did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

At one point Dantzler abandoned his vehicle and ran up the highway.  The pursuit continued on foot until Dantzler entered the standoff house.

"We believe, at this point, it was a random house that he ended up exiting his vehicle and ran to the first house that he came to," Belk said before the hostage situation ended.

As police negotiated with Dantzler it was apparent that he was agitated, and while they were telling him how to give himself up, he shot and killed himself, according to ABC News affiliate WZZM.

"The victims were in a back corner of the house.  We had officers in the house … we were talking to him when the incident occurred.  He had threatened people, asked officers to shoot him.  He was talking about giving himself up, and at the last moment decided to take his own life," Belk said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul072011

7 Dead in Michigan Shooting Rampage

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock

UPDATE: Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said Thursday that shooting suspect, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Both hostages previously held by Dantzler are safe and uninjured.

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- Police in Grand Rapids, Mich., are in an armed hostage standoff with a suspect they believe is connected to seven killings at two other locations.

Late Thursday evening, the suspect released a 53-year-old female hostage unharmed following negotiations with authorities, Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk said at a news conference.

"There was an agreement, he upheld his end," Belk said.

Authorities believed Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, 34, had been holding at least two people hostage, including the woman, in a house on Rickman Avenue in Grand Rapids, Belk said. Neither was believed to be injured.

"We believe, at this point, it was a random house that he ended up exiting his vehicle and ran to the first house that he came to," Belk said.

Police had been after Dantzler in connection with the earlier shootings at two locations that left at least seven people dead, including at least two children -- one in each location, Belk said.

"We don't have a motive, at this time," Grand Rapids Police Sgt. John Wu said, according to ABC News Radio. "We do know that the victims in the two separate addresses did have a personal relationship with Mr. Dantzler."

Belk later clarified that Dantzler appeared to have "prior relationships with at least one person at each location."

After announcing Dantzler as the suspect in the shootings, police chased a vehicle believed to belong to Dantzler along Interstate 96 in the north end of Grand Rapids, resulting in the car crashing in downtown Grand Rapids after shots were fired at police, Belk said. The pursuit continued on foot until Dantzler entered the standoff house.

Police have been communicating with Dantzler since he entered the house, Belk said.

As the standoff continued, nearby residents were evacuated or told to remain inside their homes.

Witnesses said police exchanged gunfire with someone in the house, ABC News' Tom Campbell in Grand Rapids reported. Campbell said the person in the house opened fire on police vehicles with five to seven shots, and a woman in a red SUV was caught in the crossfire and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

ABC News' Phil Dawson reported dozens of law enforcement officers were gathered at the scene.

Belk told ABC News affiliate WZZM that four bodies were found at one location in the 1,200 block of Brynell NE. Three other bodies were discovered at second location in the 2,000 block of Plainfield Ave. NE.

He previously has been accused of misdemeanor assault and battery, and domestic violence, WZZM reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

Grand Rapids, Mich., Stands Up to Newsweek 'Dying City' Snub with Music Video

File photo. Digital Vision/Thinkstock(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- When Newsweek.com listed Grand Rapids, Mich., as one of America's top-10 dying cities, the community came together to show the world it is full of life.

Grand Rapids responded to the unflattering distinction with a 10-minute music video featuring 5,000 people set to Don McLean's song "American Pie."

"I took great exception to Newsweek's characterization of a dying city," Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said. "We're a city that's young, that's vibrant, that's alive, that's growing. It's a fun place to be."

The video, which was published on YouTube May 26, has nearly 1.9 million views. It is one continuous shot and features a little bit of everything. There are fire trucks, police cars, cheerleaders, dancers, football players, politicians and news vans. There is even a wedding, a concert, a marching band and a helicopter.

"The idea of making an enormous promotional video for the city seemed like a real feel-good idea that could be a lot of fun," said Rob Bliss, creator and director of the video. "But really when Newsweek's article came out, that really lit the fire under my sponsors, the media, the government, citizens and even myself to really lock this down and get it done."

Bliss had previously organized other events for the community that included zombie walks, pillow fights and the longest water slide in the world. Heartwell trusted Bliss and was willing to do just about anything to make Bliss' vision a reality.

"We said, 'Rob, what do you need? We'll close the streets, we'll turn out the fire engines, the mayor will sing, whatever you need,'" Heartwell said. "And in fact, he needed all of that. ... The mayor has certain prerogatives and I exercised all the prerogatives in this case ... pulled out all the stops and the result was I believe well worth it."

Bliss and his team practiced for a month and a half leading up to the event, making sure no detail was overlooked.

"We only had this three and a half hour amount of time to get in and get the job done because we had to close all these streets so, of course, the clock was ticking on us," Bliss told ABC News.

The project cost about $40,000 and was financed entirely by local sponsors from the city of about 188,000 people, 40 miles east of Lake Michigan. Bliss said that none of the money went to advertising the event because local television and radio stations were willing to give it publicity.

While the video has been a resounding success for the community, Bliss said, change won't come overnight.

"I'm not expecting this to bring 10,000 new people to the city or something crazy, but it's a baby step and there are a lot of other organizations here taking those steps forward to make us a better and better city, and I'm just one of them," he said.

As for Mayor Heartwell, he is encouraging others to use their creativity to highlight Grand Rapids.

"My door is open for ideas like this one ... wild and crazy as they are, to highlight our city as the great, dynamic, vital community that it really is."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio