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Texas Plumber Sues After Truck Ended Up In Syria And Appeared In Jihadist Photo

Mark Oberholtzer's plumbing truck was featured in this photo.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: a fight against panhandlers in Fort Worth; the Lewisville Lake Dam could be in trouble; a Dallas school board member gets a promotion; and more.

A Texas plumber is suing a truck dealer after a vehicle emblazoned with his company's name and phone number — and carrying gun-toting fighters — appeared in a photo circulated by purported Islamic extremists.

Mark Oberholtzer filed the lawsuit against Charlie Thomas Ford Ltd., of Houston, last week, the Associated Press reports. Oberholtzer wants more than $1 million to cover the damage to his company, Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, since the photo was circulated on social media in 2014.

Oberholtzer says he's received death threats and over 1,000 phone calls since the photo appeared online. The lawsuit says the dealer didn't remove the Mark-1 decals as promised before shipping the vehicle to Turkey. The dealer didn't return an AP call seeking comment Monday. 

NPR dives into the issue here: In his lawsuit, ​Oberholtzer "says that he began to scrape off the name of his company from the truck as he waited for paperwork. But a salesman at AutoNation Ford in Houston told him someone else would take care of it. Records from Carfax show that the truck was sold at auction in November 2013. By December, it had been exported to Turkey and a year later, his truck was spotted on Twitter in Syria."

The truck and the tweet were featured last year on "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central:

[Associated Press/NPR]

  • The Texas Education Agency has a new leader: A member of the Dallas school board. KERA’s Stella Chavez reports: “Gov. Greg Abbott has tapped Dallas school board trustee Mike Morath as the state’s next education commissioner. Morath replaces Michael Williams, an Arlington resident who’s stepping down at the end of the year. Fellow board trustee Dan Micciche said he hopes Morath makes early childhood education his top priority. … Morath has served on the Dallas school board since 2011. A little more than a month ago, Abbott appointed him to lead a state commission on assessments and accountability. In his new role, Morath will oversee the Texas Education Agency and 1,200 school districts and charter schools. In a statement, he said he wants to ensure that “Texas becomes the No. 1 school system in the nation.”

  • A Fort Worth City Council member wants to “shame” panhandlers. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: “Fort Worth Councilwoman Gyna Bivens is growing more concerned about the number of panhandlers in her district and appears willing to take the matter into her own hands. ‘I know my panhandlers by name, and they don’t speak to me anymore,’ Bivens said. ‘I’ve cussed enough of them.’ Her comments came at the end of last week’s precouncil meeting — and on the heels of Councilman Cary Moon asking the city attorney for a clarification about city ordinances regarding panhandlers — when Bivens chimed in with an admittedly ‘somewhat illegal’ idea to handle the issue. … ‘What can we do to impose shame?’ she said.” [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

  • The Lewisville Lake Dam is in trouble, according to an in-depth report. The Dallas Morning News has the details: “Even before last spring’s rains, the Lewisville Dam was listed by the [Army Corps of Engineers] as the eighth-most-hazardous in the country. Recent rains have made it worse, the Corps says. The dam is so unstable now that the Fort Worth District is considering asking Corps headquarters to upgrade its risk classification to the highest: ‘critically near failure’ — that is, ‘almost certain to fail under normal operations … within a few years without intervention,’ according to a Corps document. … If the dam failed, the magnitude of all that water unleashed from Lake Lewisville down the Trinity River would dwarf the worst dam disaster in American history.” [The Dallas Morning News]

  • Police say a cadaver found along a North Texas road was being transported to Denver for medical research but fell out of a vehicle. Denton police said there's no indication of criminal wrongdoing and the van transporting the body had a broken rear window. A Denton officer last week discovered a bag containing the body of 79-year-old Nell Joseph. Officials say Joseph had lung disease and died in Fort Worth on Thanksgiving Day. Her family donated her body to Science Care so the organization could study chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The body was being transported from a Dallas-area mortuary. The van driver told authorities he didn't realize the body had crashed through the back window. Science Care has stopped using the transportation firm amid a review of the incident. [Associated Press]

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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