Police Augment Funds to Extend Gun Buyback; Critics Question Effectiveness of Program; 2,300 Guns Turned in for Cash Rewards

Academics say gun amnesty programs don't do much to reduce violent crime. Try telling that to the hundreds of people from all areas of the District who turned their guns in to police in exchange for a $100 bill.

One man from upper Northwest Washington who brought in five guns in a Fresh Fields paper shopping bag said his son had been shot to death in a domestic dispute. And Robert Webster, 9, brother of Marcus, 5, watched approvingly as their grandmother handed over a gun at a police station. "I think it's smart," he said. "My brother might just walk up to it and play with it."

D.C. police said that every gun taken out of a home reduces the risks to residents. So they allocated $100,000 in confiscated drug money for the program--and then sweetened the pot by $25,000 and later an additional $100,000--as the crowds kept coming on the first day of the citywide program.

"This isn't the beginning or end of reducing crime," Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said. "There's a lot of things that need to be done to make this city safer, but I think it's pretty . . . important."

After two days, the money had just about run out, and there were 2,306 fewer handguns, sawed-off shotguns and other firearms on the streets. According to one estimate, that amounts to about 1.6 percent of the city's guns.

But that may not be the end of it. Andre Wright, the police officer who initiated the gun-amnesty campaign with a smaller program this month, says he will push for a nationwide gun buyback.

Sheinbein Strikes Plea Agreement; Teen to Plead Guilty in Israeli Court to Montgomery Murder

Later this week, Samuel Sheinbein is expected to walk into an Israeli courtroom and admit that he killed fellow Montgomery County teenager Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr.

If a three-judge panel accepts the plea and decides to go along with a 24-year prison sentence, Sheinbein, now 19, could be paroled when he is 33 and would be eligible for weekend furloughs in four years.

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler (D) called the possible plea agreement "an absolute outrage" because Sheinbein could have spent the rest of his life behind bars if extradited and convicted of first-degree murder in the United States.

But Gansler, who said he played no role in the plea negotiations between Israeli prosecutors and defense attorneys, also called the deal "a good agreement" and "not a complete miscarriage of justice" because the Israeli court could have acquitted Sheinbein.

Israeli officials, for their part, called the recommended sentence the stiffest their country has ever imposed for a murder committed by a minor.

And they accused Gansler of "a breach of professional faith" for announcing the deal.

Whether or not the deal goes through, Sheinbein won't be a free man in the eyes of U.S. law. Gansler said that if the teenager ever returns to this country, he could be tried for Tello's 1997 death.

Rescue Team Returns

Fairfax Volunteers Helped in Turkey

They accomplished so much, yet wished they could have done so much more. After nearly a week of almost ceaseless labor, the 70 members of Fairfax County's Urban Search and Rescue Team returned home, having saved the lives of a 7-year-old child and at least three other people buried in the ruins of a brutal earthquake in Turkey.

More than 100 family members and colleagues cheered as the C-5 cargo plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base. The Fairfax team is one of only two in the country commissioned by the federal government to respond to international disasters.

"I remember that first live victim. To pull him out and see the expression on his face--it made the whole trip worthwhile," James Chinn said. "That will stick with me for the rest of my life."

Just a Drop in Drought Bucket

Rain Doesn't Ease Water Restrictions

Ahhhhhhhhhh. You couldn't blame anyone for singing in the rain as the scorched earth soaked up more of the wet stuff than the Washington area has seen in a long, long time.

On one day, Dulles International Airport was treated to 3.03 inches of rain--and Riviera Beach in Anne Arundel County got drenched by seven inches. "This definitely helps with the drought," said John Margraf, of the National Weather Service, "but it won't solve all of our problems."

Water experts say the region needs as much as 20 inches of rain to emerge from one of the worst droughts on record. That's several months of rainfall at more than 1 1/2 times normal amounts.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) said the limits will continue for at least two months.

Across the Region

Coaster Death; Hospital Closing

* A 20-year-old New York man died when he fell from the stand-up Shockwave roller coaster at Paramount's Kings Dominion. The roller coaster has shoulder harnesses and waist-level guards, and investigators are trying to figure out how Timothy Fan became free. Officials at the park north of Richmond say 13 million guests have ridden the coaster without a single serious injury since the ride opened in 1986.

* Z'aira Tri'ann Marshall died eight months ago, but Anne Arundel County police didn't know it until last week. Richard Lee Marshall, who told a neighbor he was afraid to alert authorities, buried his 3-year-old daughter's body in the woods after she collapsed with oatmeal and mucous in her mouth. Prosecutors say Marshall apparently didn't break any laws by not reporting the death. "There's nothing that says you can't bury your husband, wife or child in the back yard," said a spokeswoman for the county state's attorney.

* A former Montgomery County high school music teacher is to serve 18 months in jail for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old female student. James A. Misenheimer, 34, wiped away tears as the sentence was pronounced. "This time, I've crossed the line," he told the judge. The Winston Churchill High School teacher was arrested in February after allegedly sending sexually charged e-mail to another student, who was 14.

* After serving the area for 51 years, Pentagon City Hospital is about to become a fatality. The underused facility, known until 1996 as the National Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, had been struggling in an era of managed care. The hospital's owners had hoped to relocate it to Springfield, but a regulatory agency said that area doesn't need another hospital. The doors will close within two months.

* It's curtains for the area's oldest movie theater. Alexandria's twin-screen Cineplex Odeon Old Town, which opened as the Richmond in the days when films were still silent, will roll its last reel in October. The villain? A nearby 16-screen theater helped steal the Old Town's crowd, and a second multiplex is planned. "It's a sweet little theater," fan Ernie Johns said. "It'll be missed."