Wells Dunbar

Online Editor

As  online editor for KUT News, Wells Dunbar covers news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond. Before joining the KUT family, Wells served as staff writer and news blog editor at The Austin Chronicle, and covered the Texas Legislature for Gallery Watch. Hailing from El Paso, Wells is a longtime Austin resident whose interests include technology and social media, film and music, and spending quality time with his wife and cat.

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LBJ Civil Rights Summit
7:28 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Bill Clinton Speaks at UT Austin's LBJ Summit

Former President Bill Clinton addresses the audience during the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.
Deborah Cannon, American-Statesman

Former President Bill Clinton spoke Wednesday night at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. The summit, gathering four U.S Presidents and dozens of other speakers, marks the 50th anniversary of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act.

Clinton lamented last year’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to weaken another part of the LBJ legacy, the Voting Rights Act. Clinton singled out the Texas law requiring voters to show photo ID.

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Wildflower Season
1:54 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Snakes or No Snakes, Safety Tips for Texas Bluebonnet Pictures

While you probably won’t find a six-foot rattler among the bluebonnets, there's still precautions you can take.
menoutdoors.com via imgur

With spring in full swing, it's time for wildflower pictures – including photos among Texas' iconic state flower, the bluebonnet.

But something's taking the bloom off this wildflower season: images of snakes among the flowers.

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Killeen
2:01 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Fake Explosive Found & Destroyed in Killeen; Police Say No Known Link to Fort Hood

The evacuation radius in Killeen, Texas, bounded from North Second Street east to North 10th Street and from East Dunn Avenue to East Harrison Avenue.
facebook.com/KilleenPD

Update: Device an 'Intentional Fake'

KWTX-TV News in Waco reports that what appeared to be an improvised explosive device was an "intentional fake:"

The device, a piece of pipe with wires attached, was intentionally made to look like a pipe bomb but was, in fact, inert and contained no explosive hazard, Carroll Smith, Killeen police spokeswoman said.

Original story (1:38 p.m.): The town of Killeen, Texas – on high-alert after yesterday's shooting at nearby Fort Hood left four dead – evacuated an area north of downtown after police found what they say "appears to be an Improvised Explosive Device." On Facebook, Killeen Police shared initial details. Police say "there is no known connection between this incident and the recent tragedy on Fort Hood."

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SXSW 2014
1:49 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

After SXSW Tragedy, Austin Seeks 'Full Evaluation' of Crowds, Alcohol

Crowds during the seventh day of the SXSW Music Festival. City officials are calling for a full accounting of public safety issues related to the festival.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUTX

Questions raised by this year's South by Southwest festival and conference aren't restricted to think pieces: The Austin City Council is now asking for "a full post-event evaluation" of the ever-growing event. The findings could result in changes to the way Austin deals with safety, crowds, permits, and even alcohol during SXSW and other events. 

Coming off its 27th year, the SXSW event itself generated as many headlines as its performers and conference breakouts. 

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Austin Police
6:35 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Man Shot by Austin Police Sgt. This Week Was Armed with BB Gun

Police surrounded the scene of a sergeant-involved shooting on Berkman Drive on March 18, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Update: Austin Police made clear Thursday that the weapon in the hand of man who was shot this week by an APD sergeant was a pistol that fires BBs or pellets. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke about that pistol in the hours after Tuesday’s shooting.

“When the sergeant sees it, he sees the suspect put it behind his back, allegedly, and then puts it back forward. The suspect at one point yells, ‘it’s a bb gun,’ or says, ‘it’s a bb gun, it’s a bb gun.’”

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SXSW 2014
3:59 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Two Victims of SXSW Crash, Including Critical Patient, Are Fort Worth Teens

The memorial outside the Mohawk nightclub on Red River Street, where two were killed and 23 injured last week.
Andrew Huygen for KUT News

Update: Curtisha Davis has been released from University Medical Center Brackenridge, a hospital spokesperson says. According to Fort Worth media, she has returned home. Her boyfriend, DeAndre Tatum, remains in critical condition.

Two other Brackenridge patients (Gracie Nguyen, Evan West) remain in fair condition; at St. David's hospital, Mason Endres also remains in fair condition.

Another Brackenridge patient (Joseph McCraney) remains in good condition. 

Original story (1: 56 p.m.): KERA News in Dallas has details on two of the victims in last week's fatal South by Southwest crash.

Two of the victims still hospitalized – 17-year-old Curtisha Davis and 18-year-old DeAndre Tatum – are current and former students at Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth. "Cheerleader Curtisha Davis is expected to leave the hospital in the next few days," KERA reports."But DeAndre Tatum is still in a medically induced coma." The two are girlfriend and boyfriend. 

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SXSW 2014
10:26 am
Tue March 18, 2014

SXSW Crash Update: Third Victim Dies From Injuries

A memorial outside the Mohawk nightclub, the site of a fatal crash which has now claimed three lives.
Andrew Huygen for KUT News

A patient injured in last week's car collision with South by Southwest crowds has died. 

Sandy Thuy Le, 26, died this morning at University Medical Center Brackenridge. She was an Austin resident, according to social media.

Le is the third to die from injuries incurred in the Thursday morning crash; 27 year-old Austinite Jamie Ranae West and 35 year-old Dutch visitor Steven Craenmehr were pronounced dead at the crash scene. 

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SXSW 2014
2:10 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

SXSW Crash Update: Capital Murder Charge for Rashad Owens; Victims Remain Hospitalized

Onlookers at a memorial in front of The Mohawk honoring victims of a crash outside the club earlier that week.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

Summary: 21 year-old Rashad Owens has been formally charged in this week’s crash that killed two people and injured 23 on Red River Street during South by Southwest. As of Saturday, he remains in custody.

Court documents show Owens had a blood alcohol content of 0.114, above the legal limit of .08. Read the entire charging affidavit here.

Owens was charged with one count of capital murder. His bail was set at $3 million. More charges could follow.

South by Southwest concluded Sunday with a handful of events. A charity fund created for the crash victims and their families, SXSW Cares, has already netted tens of thousands of dollars. 

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SXSW 2014
4:52 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Two Dead After Driver Plows Into SXSW Crowd; Suspect in Custody

The incident took place outside The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue.
Ashley Park for KUT

This post is no longer being updated. See more from KUT:

Summary: An Austin woman and a male visitor from the Netherlands are dead after a car plowed through South by Southwest crowds in Downtown Austin early this morning. The collisions took place along Red River Street near The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue. Nearly two dozen were injured.  

Austin Police have a suspect in custody, 21 year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens. He's been charged with two counts of capital murder.

The Austin victim is 27-year-old Jamie Ranae West, according to several news reports, including one from the Austin American-Statesman.  

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Thursday morning that the incident started as a traffic stop (part of police efforts to crack down on drunk drivers) at the Shell Gas station at Ninth Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road. Chief Acevedo says the driver drove into the gas station parking lot, but then sped off and started driving the wrong way down Ninth Street.

APD pursued the driver, who then tried to strike one officer working barricade duty, and continued speeding onto Red River. Acevedo says the driver hit multiple pedestrians on the street, killing two on vehicles: an Austin female that was a passenger on a moped, and  a male visitor from the Netherlands who was killed on his bicycle. (Initial police reports said both passengers on the moped were killed.)

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Austin
4:07 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Mayor Leffingwell Hosts Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' Thread

Mayor Lee Leffingwell is fielding questions on Reddit right now.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Mayor Leffingwell just finished fielding questions in his Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session. Here's a sampling of his answers.

A robust defense of South by Southwest:

In response to a question describing the "burden" of hosting SXSW, he wrote:

"SXSW brought $218 million of economic impact in 2013. Austin benefits incredibly from being on the international stage due to the festival. I believe it's well worth a week's worth of minor inconvenience for all of the positive impacts it brings. It is also a tourism festival. People come here, spend all of their money and then go home. Not too shabby."

A dig at Austin's wage floor:
In October, the Austin City Council approved a $11/hour wage floor for companies receiving city incentives. Leffingwell used his IAmA to take a swipe at the requirement, in answer to what can be done about Austin's growing economic divide:

"We collaborate with educational organizations, such as UT, ACC, etc. I believe increased training and education will help create more opportunities and a better quality of life. I support bringing manufacturing level jobs to our city, but this is challenging because of wage restrictions recently passed by council. I realize that this is an important issue."

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Austin
3:45 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

In Time for SXSW, a Brief History of Austin's 'Don't Move Here' T-Shirts

An artist's rendering of the back of the Wannabes' 1997 t-shirt.

The story of Austin's various "Don’t Move Here" t-shirts is, in many ways, the story of Austin itself: the transformation of an undiscovered secret into something much bigger. 

While the "Don’t Move Here" meme certainly predates its first recorded t-shirt printing – not to mention the concept of a "meme" itself – modern history posits spring 1997 as the time it was first put to cotton.

It was then that Austin pop-rockers The Wannabes minted a batch of merch bearing the slogan.

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Same-Sex Marriage
1:50 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Travis County's Clerk is Confident Gay Couples Will Marry Soon in Texas

"My office would be thrilled if we could offer marriage licenses equally to all couples," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says.

The ruling this week calling Texas' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional prompted plenty of reaction from politicos.

One of the lesser-known politicians to sound off: Dana DeBeauvoir. As Travis County Clerk, she's decidedly downballot of the state's top races. But DeBeauvoir is also uniquely affected by the decision, since the county clerk's office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Austin and Travis County.

When the ruling was announced, DeBeauvoir offered a ringing endorsement:

“Because of the stay order in the ruling, the County Clerk cannot issue marriage licenses to gay couples at this time. This is a joyous day, but we will have to wait a little longer to actually deliver the justice and equal rights gay couples so deserve.” 

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Austin City Council
1:06 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Live Blog: Mayor Leffingwell's 2014 State of the City Address

Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell  delivered his final "State of the City" address today at noon.

Leffingwell's office billed the 40-minute speech as an overview of the mayor's two terms in office. Leffingwell was elected mayor in 2009 and 2012; Austin will elect a new mayor this November. Read below for a real-time report on the mayor's remarks. Video of the mayor's speech will be included in this post once it is available. 

That's a wrap: Leffingwell ends his speech with a call for interconnectedness going forward into single-member districts. On to a Q&A session with the crowd.

Not many major proclamations coming out of the mayor's address: calls for a medical school innovation district and urban rail were big moments from the mayor's speech last year. Still, the address can be viewed as doubling down on initiatives Leffingwell wants to accomplish before leaving office; as soon as his speech ended, his office issued a statement titled "Mayor defines focus for
 final 10 months in office."

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Winter Weather
12:37 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Weather Delays Have Austin Asking: Why Are We So Bad at Winter?

Students dressed warmly on the University of Texas campus today. UT, like most Austin-area schools and governments, started at 10 a.m. today due to inclement weather.
KUT News

Morning delays at Austin schools are receiving some ribbing online.

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, the City of Austin and dozens of other school districts and government agencies postponed start times until 10 a.m. this morning.

Some districts, like Round Rock ISD, also posted through explanations of their thinking in making the decision to issue late starts.

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Capital Metro
5:04 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Is Capital Metro's New MetroRapid Service Leaving Bus Riders Behind?

Critics say a standing-room-only 1M is a common sight since Capital Metro launched its new MetroRapid service.
Reddit user KidOmni

Disclaimer: Capital Metro is a sponsor of KUT.

Capital Metro's new MetroRapid bus service launched on Sunday. And with the new route came additional service changes some say give short-shrift to existing riders on Cap Metro's most popular lines.

MetroRapid line 801 travels from Southpark Meadows to the Tech Ridge area in North Austin. Its route through the urban core – along South Congress Avenue and Guadalupe Street – parallels Cap Metro's 1L and 1M bus lines, the routes with the highest ridership in Austin. And another route – the 101 Express – traveled largely along the same line. (Read more about service changes.)

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