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Kilgore remembers those lost on 9/11, service members killed in Afghanistan

A crowd assembled Saturday at Kilgore Veterans Monument at Harris Street Park to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and to remember the civilians, first responders and military service members who lost their lives in the initial attacks and in the two decades of war which followed.

“Those of us in our generation remember where we were when John. F. Kennedy was assassinated,” Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said. “I think, for the next generation, they’ll always remember what they were doing and what happened the morning of 9/11: the worry, the terror, the concern about what happens next, the sorrow for the families who lost people and the feelings of grief and terror.

“It was also a time when the United States rallied in a way I’ve never seen before,” he said. “We saw the flag more often than any time before or after, we saw prayer more often, we saw love of country, and it’s a shame it takes something like that to bring together our nation and restore our love for God and country.”

Vietnam combat veteran Skip Beal described his experience of that day when he was aboard a plane 30,000 feet above Atlanta. His plane was ordered to land at a nearby airport, and those aboard did not know what had happened until they saw news reports on televisions in the airport showing images of the World Trade Center towers in New York City collapsing.

“It just drained the emotions out of a lot of people. I looked at those buildings collapse and I thought it’s sad that man has to be that way,” Beal said.

“It was like Pearl Harbor all over again,” said Vietnam combat veteran John Edney. “Do you remember where you were on Sept. 11 twenty years ago? Do you remember what you were doing 20 years ago? It’s a history lesson that should be taught in our schools today just like Pearl Harbor is taught. It should never, ever, ever be forgotten.”

Also honored at the ceremony were the 13 U.S. military service members killed in late August when Taliban fighters and suicide bombers attacked an airport in Kabul amidst evacuation efforts as the U.S. withdraws from combat operations there after 20 years of war.

Beal said the U.S. did not find victory in Afghanistan and several other conflicts because the country does not honor God as it once did.

“There’s something wrong with America, and I’ll tell you what it is. We have forgotten our God,” Beal said. “We’re never going to win another war unless God becomes the centerpiece of America. We need to come back to God. We need a revival in our United States.”

EastTexConnects seeks input on regional transportation plan

EasTexConnects, which coordinates transportation services across the East Texas region, is seeking feedback on their regionally coordinated transportation plan.

The EasTexConnects consists of elected and appointed officials, citizens, representatives from social service agencies, local transportation providers and businesses.

“Staff work with the EasTexConnects committee and an outside vendor to develop and maintain a five-year Regionally Coordinated Transportation Plan for the East Texas area,” the group said. “The 2021 update of this plan is currently underway, and we need public feedback!”

Send EasTexConnects your comments about regional transportation by visiting ETCOG’s new public engagement website, Let’s Talk ETCOG. Visit letstalketcog.org/regional-transportation to review our plan and submit your ideas.

Kilgore police identify suspects in Sept. 2 homicide
  • Updated

Kilgore Police Department has released the identity of two suspects in a homicide that occurred in Kilgore Thursday, Sept. 2.

Calvin Marcellus Anderson, 32, of Henderson, and Kendall Damaal Johnson, 33, of Tyler were both arrested and charged with murder. Both men have been booked into Gregg County Jail and are each being held on $1 million bond.

The homicide occurred at 1400 Miles Blvd. around 10:30 p.m. Sept. 2. The victim was identified as Lashekia Shardae Kenney, 35, of Kilgore. She was found near the front entrance of her home, having suffered multiple wounds from a bladed weapon.

According to an arrest affidavit, KPD officers interviewed Kenney’s sister, who lived with her at the residence. In the interview, Kenney’s sister said she arrived home Sept. 2 at approximately 9:20 p.m. and spoke to friends on the phone while she prepared to take a shower. While in the bathroom, she said she heard a “loud boom and a gasp.” When she went to investigate, she saw Kenney lying on the porch of the house in a pool of blood. She called police and later told them Kenney had been having ongoing problems with her ex-boyfriend, Kendall Johnson.

According to the report, Kenney’s sister told police Johnson and Kenney had been in a relationship but had broken up and Johnson had repeatedly messaged Kenney to try to repair the relationship. At one point, he showed up unannounced to their house.

Police went to Johnson’s residence in Tyler, where he waived his Miranda rights and was interviewed by officers. Johnson stated, on the day of the murder, he got into a red Chrysler 300 at the UT Tyler campus and came to Kilgore to pick up Calvin Anderson at Burke’s Outlet at 98 Midtown Plaza, the affidavit said.

He then told Anderson how Kenney had broken his heart and Anderson said he would “fix her.” The two traveled to Kenney’s residence, where Anderson asked to be let out of the car and returned shortly afterwards, saying he had stabbed Kenney, according to the affidavit.

Police also searched Johnson’s cell phone and discovered its GPS location information showed he had been in Kilgore at the time of Kenney’s death.

Police have also reviewed surveillance footage which confirmed both Johnson and Anderson had been present at the UT Tyler campus and at Burke’s Outlet on the day of the murder. They also discovered possible blood evidence in Johnson’s vehicle, according to the affidavit.

Gregg County DA Tom Watson won't seek reelection
  • Updated

Gregg County District Attorney Tom Watson says he will not seek a second term in office.

He announced his decision Friday afternoon in a statement.

“After much thought and prayer, I have decided I will not seek re-election as district attorney,” he said. “However, I am making this announcement now to give potential candidates time to organize their campaigns.

“When I ran for DA in 2018 with the backing of law enforcement, I made a promise to fill the need for decisive leadership and aggressive prosecution. I am proud to say that I kept that promise.”

The former police officer unseated 10-year incumbent Gregg County District Attorney Carl Dorrough in the March 2018 Republican primary by a 5,203 vote-to-4,303 vote count. With no Democratic challenger in the field, Watson was sworn in Jan. 1, 2019, for a four-year term that ends Dec. 31, 2022.

“In my first year, we increased criminal prosecutions in Gregg County, exceeding the numbers of the previous administration,” Watson said Friday. “Then came the pandemic. COVID-19 protocols halted jury trials. The intervening months have been challenging, pressure-filled and compromising.

“The resulting stress has not been good for my health or my family’s health. And nothing in my life comes before my family — except God. So, yes, I will finish my term as promised, but I will not run again. Guess I’m a cop at heart, not a politician.”

He thanked his supporters and all law enforcement.

“I’m grateful for their support these past three years and during the balance of my term in office. After that, I plan to return to private practice,” he said.

Watson said he shared his decision privately with prosecutors and staff in his office. He also made personal calls to Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano, who had endorsed him in the election, and the chiefs of Gregg County law enforcement agencies.

“I respect Tom’s decision. I will continue to work with Tom and the staff of the Gregg County District Attorney’s Office through the end of his term,” Cerliano said Friday afternoon. “I remain committed to work together for a better, safer Gregg County.”

Former Gov. Rick Perry appointed Watson’s predecessor, Dorrough, as Gregg County district attorney in November 2007 after the resignation of the late former DA Bill Jennings, for whom Dorrough worked as part of his 15 years as an assistant district attorney. Watson also formerly worked as a prosecutor and was hired by Dorrough.