Someone's Taking Potshots at Santa

Being Santa can be a dangerous job.

Scott Slodysko of Shamokin, Pa., knows that all too well.

He was riding atop a fire engine Monday evening, all dressed up as St. Nick, when someone shot him in the leg with a pellet gun.

"We were at the intersection when I heard a popping sound," Slodysko, a 23-year-old volunteer fireman, told The News-Item of Shamokin. "It felt like a bee stung me — like a very bad bee sting."

The projectile didn't penetrate the skin, but did cause "a black-and-blue mark about the size of a silver dollar," according to Slodysko.

Quick work by police in the town, about 30 miles northeast of the state capital of Harrisburg, turned up a 17-year-old suspect.

The unnamed assailant confessed to firing out of a second-story window as the Kringle motorcade slowly passed below.

"Who in the world would shoot Santa Claus?" asked Chief of Police Richard Nichols. "Here is a volunteer who supports the community by playing Santa Claus and ends up getting shot with a pellet. This is really sad."

The assailant will be charged as a juvenile, and faces one felony offense of aggravated assault and three misdemeanor charges of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct.

"Hopefully, justice will be swift and unmerciful," said Nichols.

Santa Slodysko, who was doing his second turn as the North Pole's most famous resident, was undaunted.

"I'll still do it [next year]," he said. "We do this for the kids. I like to see kids smiling and having fun."

— Thanks to Out There reader Mike S.

Salvation Army Bell Ringer Drinks, Fights, Gets Arrested

DENVER (AP) — An intoxicated Salvation Army (search) bell ringer with a history of public drinking was arrested after getting into a fight with an employee at a grocery store where he was collecting donations.

David Duncan, 46, was arrested Dec. 16 on 11 outstanding warrants after he got into a fight with the Safeway worker, police detective Teresa Garcia said.

Nine of the 11 warrants were for public consumption of alcohol, Garcia said. Two were for trespass.

Duncan was a temporary Salvation Army employee and had undergone an interview but not a background check, Salvation Army spokeswoman Becky O'Guin said.

The group hires about 1,000 bell ringers in the Denver area each Christmas season and doesn't have the time or money for background checks, she said.

O'Guin said Duncan was in his second season working as a bell ringer and had no history of violent incidents. He was fired after his arrest, she said.

"Had we known about these outstanding warrants, we would never have hired him," O'Guin said.

Killer Board Game, Dude

VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP) — The hot new Christmas gift in Canada this year is a board game that lets players run their own "B.C. Bud" marijuana farm.

Creators of "The Grow-Op Game" say the $39.95 "educational board game" highlights the perils of the marijuana business and cautions would-be growers.

"You get ratted on by neighbors, hydro [the power utility] cuts you off, you get floods, there are tons of stuff that is negative about it," said Vancouver-based creator Ivan Solomon Saturday.

Solomon said the Monopoly-style game is the brainchild of a young, 20-something reformed pot grower, known only as the "Rabbit," to conceal his identity.

Solomon said Rabbit came up with the idea for the game while serving time in jail.

Rabbit and Solomon brought the game to market about four weeks ago.

Players roll the dice, move around the board, renting properties, buying lights and equipment, planting and harvesting crops.

Moving in an opposite direction on the cylinder shaped board is the "GrowBuster." He lands on the unsuspecting player's property, rips out the plants and sends the player directly to jail.

"Out of six players, one might get lucky," Soloman said.

Cpl. Scott Rintoul, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (search) Drug Awareness Squad, expressed concern that the game does not illustrate the impact the drug trade can have on the victims of organized crime.

"It's not a game," he said.

Dangerous Toy Really Stinks

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong officials are pulling "Fart Bomb" toys from the shelves because the gag gift — a metallic bag that gives off a stench — produces a dangerous chemical reaction, the government said.

The sulfur-acid mixture (search) produced by the toy can cause nausea, headaches and eye irritation, the government said in a statement Tuesday.

Customs officers have seized 263 "Fart Bombs" and are urging parents to hand in their unused toys to a consumer protection bureau, it said.

The toy includes a silver-colored bag containing sulfur compound powder and an inner plastic bag of diluted acid, the government said.

When the inner bag is broken, the chemicals mix producing hydrogen sulfide and "giving off a disgusting smell," the statement said.

Dumb Crooks Find Dumber Prison Administrators

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Brotherly love was put to the test this week after two 18-year-old identical twins swapped their clothing and traded places so that one could escape jail.

But prison and police officials were not impressed by the gesture when one of the brothers, serving a 10-month sentence for assault and robbery, walked out to freedom.

The inmate walked out of the Kronoberg Jail, which is located in the same building that houses the headquarters for Stockholm's police department, undetected on Monday after a visit by his twin brother.

During a visit, the two siblings, neither of whom were named, managed to switch their outfits without anyone noticing.

After visiting hours ended, the inmate walked out, pretending to be his brother. Faced with the prospect of spending the night in jail, his brother admitted the ruse to prison guards.

"We knew there was a certain risk of a mix up, so we took some measures," said Lars-Aake Pettersson, the warden for the jail. "But this was apparently not enough. They managed to dupe us."

The only noticeable difference between the two twins was a birthmark on the face of the one doing time, but that was taken care of with an ink pen.

The visiting brother was questioned and released, but could face charges of aiding in a prison escape.

His brother? Police said he was still on the run.

Town May Mandate Huge Garages

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Now not only is keeping up with the Joneses a daily pressure, but it may become a law.

The town of Gilbert is considering several changes its zoning code, including a major change that would set a minimum interior garage size for homes in this southeast Phoenix suburb.

"We drive Suburbans, Excursions and Silverado extended cabs, and they won't fit in small garages," said Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman Brigette Peterson at a recent meeting on the proposed land development code.

When recommending the change, town staff told the commission that 74 percent of registered vehicles in Gilbert are trucks or sport utility vehicles.

The proposal for a minimum garage size would be an unobstructed 20 feet by 20 feet, meaning 20 feet from interior wall to interior wall with no water heaters or anything else in the way.

The current code only requires two enclosed parking spaces and has no size minimum.

Saying that's it's an unnecessary standard, the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona (search) has been the loudest critic.

Erin Patterson, deputy director of the association, said the association doesn't think the requirement is appropriate for the code.

"It's a market decision," she said. "Making a garage larger does not mean people will stop parking cars on the street or that theft will decrease."

The council is scheduled to vote to approve the final draft Jan. 25.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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