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Diego, part of the Marvelous Mutts troupe which performed three shows at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard on Sunday, catches a frisbee thrown by trainer Nadja Palenzuela.

Go fetch

Probe of police shooting completed by police, under review with prosecutor's office

The Maryland State Police have forwarded their criminal investigation of a shooting where a trooper shot and killed a 16-year-old boy in Leonardtown to the St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.

“We’re really working hard to get that wrapped up,” Deputy State’s Attorney Daniel White said outside of the county courthouse in Leonardtown, just over a mile down Washington Street from the Hollywood Road location where two months ago a lawman fired several shots at Peyton Ham, who was carrying what was later found to be a toy gun.

White said the office is waiting on reports from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner related to the teen’s death.

Shortly after the shooting in April, police convened a press conference in Leonardtown where Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Woodrow W. Jones told reporters police had received two calls reporting a “suspicious” individual with what appeared to be a gun at a residence next to the Maryland State Police Barrack in Leonardtown.

Trooper Joseph Azzari, who was not identified as the officer who fired the shots until weeks after, arrived after the two 911 calls and saw Ham, who police said took a “shooter’s stance” with the gun. Azzari fired at least once, wounding Ham, before Ham allegedly drew a knife, and Azzari fired again.

Investigators have not yet said how many shots were fired, but several bullet holes appeared in a garage at a house across the street, The Baltimore Sun reported shortly after the shooting.

State police released a photo of the actual knife involved, but included a stock image of the airsoft gun involved, as there was blood on the toy gun.

Azzari has been on administrative leave since the shooting, pending an administrative investigation by the state police.

While preliminary work on the administrative investigation is done, the full investigation will begin when the criminal investigation completes, Greg Shipley, a spokesperson for the state police, said.

Ham, who was a student at Leonardtown High School, was described as an “incredibly smart, gifted sweet young man” by family in a press release from the family’s attorney, Christopher Longmore, who is a family member of the teenager. He was compared to Alex P. Keaton of the NBC sitcom Family Ties.

Soon after his death, a large memorial ceremony was held at Leonardtown High School in Ham’s honor.

Twitter: @DanSoMdNews

Local spellers are ready for their c-l-o-s-e-u-p-s

It would be pretty cool to celebrate your 14th birthday with a trip to the Scripps Spelling Bee finals in Orlando, Fla., and Charlynne Lowe has a chance to do exactly that.

The King’s Christian Academy eighth-grader will turn 14 on July 8, the same day the finals begins.

“It’s my first year so I’d like to win,” said Lowe, who advanced following her regional victory in March. “That would be nice, but [maybe at least] just get past the first and second round.”

Former Piccowaxen Middle School student Aurianey Borja — who moved to Monterrey, Calif., in April — is also competing in the national spelling bee.

“I’m very excited,” said the 14-year-old, who previously lived in Newburg and said she’s studying a few hours a day.

The competition — which will be televised on ESPN3 — begins 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12, while the quarterfinals will be held Tuesday, June 15. Advancers will then take part in the semifinals on June 27.

Borja is speller No. 28 and is expected to receiver her first word at about 10:15 a.m. while Lowe is speller No. 31 and is expected to spell her first word about 15 minutes later.

The spellers can be asked any one of 3,000 words words, from “gel” and ends with “pyxis” (a small and faint constellation in the southern sky).

Scripps has sent a computer and a headset to each competitor and a proctor will be at each participant’s home to monitor the competition, which is being staged virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Borja, who is still able to represent Charles County, is being assisted by her mother, Vanessa Borja, who knows a thing or two about spelling bees. She won the competition as a fifth-grader at Yigo Elementary School in Guam and was in the top three in Guam of that year.

“My best advice to her is just to stay calm and stay relaxed because I know with Ari gets a little nervous and has a bit of anxiety,” Vanessa said. “So I give her the straight face and let her know that she’s a role model for her younger sister. Words of encouragement really go a long way. Kids are about that. They like to hear the encouraging words and there’s people on the sidelines cheering them on and pushing them.”

Borja was unsure what she would wear to the national bee, but is planning to incorporate something from Guam.

Lowe, who lives in Hollywood, plans to wear a dark blue shirt and a string of pearls for the competition.

“I’m trying to study as much as I can these last five days,” Lowe said on Sunday.

Lowe became interested in spelling after watching the televised competition as a fifth-grader.

“Char said, ‘That’s kind of cool, I wonder if our school does it?’ said the girl’s mother, Charlene Lowe.

The school did have a tournament planned, in part because they didn’t have a coach, so Charlene volunteered. The KCA Spellers were formed, complete with sweatshirts, stickers and even a cheer.

“We try to promote it like it’s a football team,” Charlene said.

After winning the school competition, Charlynne advanced to regionals which was held online. Words were distributed randomly and participants pressed a speaker and then spelled the word.

Charlynne won the competition, which was hosted by the Maryland Sports Commission, after correctly spelling the word “oasis” in the 19th round to defeat Charles Tosten of Chestertown and Adelaide Venditto of Finksburg,

“I was very nervous and I said, ‘I know this word,’” said Lowe, who also likes history, creative writing, playing the drums and the banjo, and watching Korean dramas, “Jeopardy?” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

“I was second guessing myself, but thankfully I got it right,” she said. “I started screaming.”

Charlynne celebrated by going to Barnes & Noble and “buying a whole bunch of books.”

The winners were also invited to watch the Baltimore Orioles’ 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees on April 29 in a catered suite, which Charlynne said was “the best day of my life.”

But Charlynne still has difficulties with some words, including “loup garou,” which is French for werewolf.

“Sometimes I have words that don’t spell like they sound,” she said.

Still, Charlene said her daughter “beats us like crazy when we play Scrabble.”

“She has a good grasp of how languages are and how words are formed,” Charlene said. “I’ve noticed that over the last two spelling bees she hasn’t just been learning the words but she’s been using them. So sometimes when she talks to me I have to get the dictionary to look up stuff.”

Twitter: @MichaelSoMdNews

La Plata High School senior second baseman Dylan Brown batted .436 with fiv doubles and 21 RBI to lead the Warriors to the SMAC Potomac Division Championship and a berth in today’s 2A South Region final against Southern of Anne Arundel County in route to being the Charles County baseball player of the year.

Taking aim at the coronavirus: officials find creative ways to host vaccine clinics

A popular St. Mary’s gun range won’t be firing rounds next Tuesday, but instead giving COVID-19 shots.

A COVID-19 clinic at Flat Broke Shooters, located at the southern end of Lexington Park, is one of many ways local health officials are trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine into as many arms as possible, as mass vaccination centers wind down their operations and vaccinators begin to hit a “hesitancy wall” of people who may not otherwise sign up for a vaccine.

At a St. Mary’s commissioners meeting, minutes after the gun range vaccine clinic was announced by press release, St. Mary’s Health Officer Dr. Meena Brewster said the county would be winding down its mass vaccination center at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department in favor of smaller, more localized clinics to entice visitors, paralleling the state’s pull away from mass vaccination sites, at least until the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for younger age groups.

Health officials throughout the Southern Maryland region are doing the same.

Currently, there is one type of vaccine approved for people 12 years old and over, and two others available for people 18 and over.

The Flat Broke Shooters vaccine clinic will be held Tuesday, June 15, from noon to 6 p.m., and on top of walk-up Pfizer vaccines, will include free gun locks, presentations on gun safety from the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office and the gun range, vaccine question and answer sessions with Brewster, giveaways from the shooting range and a free range safety card.

The gun range concept came about when Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) connected Brewster with the Thomas family, who owns the gun range, Brewster said.

“They’re very community-minded people, and I think they recognize the need,” she said.

“This could be very enticing for a lot of people,” St. Mary’s Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) told Brewster.

St. Mary’s will also hold vaccine clinics this weekend at the California Farmer’s Market, and at the women’s auxiliary of the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department’s craft show, at the firehouse, this Saturday.

The following weekend, the health department will be offering vaccines at the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions’ annual Juneteenth festival from 2 to 6 p.m. on June 19 at John G. Lancaster Park in Lexington Park. The St. Mary’s County Health Department is also offering to bring vaccines to any group of 10 or more that signs up at www.smchd.org.

In Charles, state officials brought the vaccine to the Southern Maryland Food Truck festival last weekend. The county health department is also running a clinic at the Bryan’s Road Shopping Center off Marshall Hall Road until Sunday, with walk-ups accepted from noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Charles health department also holds several clinics at churches and schools. A full list of their clinics can be found at www.charlescountyhealth.org.

In Calvert, the health department’s mobile vaccination van will be traveling to Scorpion Brewing in Owings this Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m., and registration links can be found at www.calvertcountycovid19.com/vaccination.

The smaller vaccination clinics have not always been successful, as St. Mary’s Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) noted at Tuesday’s meeting that a pop-up clinic in Mechanicsville only drew “maybe eight people.”

Brewster said vaccinated people should “encourage people” in their social circles to get vaccinated.

“There’s a lot of myths and misinformation still out there,” she said. But “millions and millions” of people have been vaccinated with no issues.

As more localized clinics pop up, and the vaccine becomes steadily available at primary care offices and pharmacies, mass vaccination centers are winding down.

The vaccination clinic at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf will close on June 24. The Calvert County Health Department has not announced plans to close its mass vaccination center as of yet, but the Hollywood firehouse operation in St. Mary’s will be “taking a pause” temporarily in coming weeks, Brewster said, but will likely administer vaccines again when the vaccines are permitted for younger age groups.

Twitter: @DanSoMdNews

Charles' woman gets a real shot in the arm; wins $40K VaxCash prize

While some people have mild negative reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, one Charles County woman instead got something very positive out of the shot.

Tabatha Duckett was announced the winner of a $40,000 prize for getting her coronavirus vaccine. The prize, announced June 6, was part of the $2 million state VaxCash promotion, run through the Maryland Lottery and state health department.

Duckett, who is a school custodian, said she was unaware of the VaxCash promotion until she received a phone call from the Maryland Department of Health while cleaning the administrative offices at La Plata High School.

“I don’t even play the Lottery, so this was a huge surprise,” she said in a press release.

Throughout the pandemic Duckett and her fellow custodians kept school and administrative offices functioning. With the return to in-person education, the school is once again bustling with activity.

“Throughout it all we were sanitizing areas and taking care of the folks that would be in the school, so the virus was always on our minds,” she said.

Those fears hit even closer to home when her husband contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and rode out severe symptoms at home.

“I didn’t want to get sick, and I wanted to protect my grandkids, my mother and my sisters, too,” Duckett said, adding that she plans to share a portion of the prize with family.

The VaxCash promotion, announced by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on May 20, is a collaboration of the Maryland Lottery and the Maryland Department of Health, and aimed at incentivizing Marylanders who have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccinations while rewarding those who have. All Maryland residents 18 and older who have received a COVID-19 shot at a non-federal facility in the state at any time are automatically entered into daily drawings being held from May 25 through July 4.

Each day through July 3, one winner will receive a $40,000 prize, and the promotion culminates on the Fourth of July when one winner will receive a $400,000 prize.

Twitter: @CalebSoMdNews

Mike Francisco (played by David M. Thomas) literally shakes things up after learning Frankie Salvucci (Robert Sebo) is unable to pay his debt to the famiglia.