| NEWS of the Day - January 6, 2012
|on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From Los Angeles Times
Probe of Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart widens to Canada
Authorities in Vancouver, where the suspect lived with his mother before moving to L.A., are looking into whether he was involved in a series of suspicious fires there.
by Kim Murphy, Richard Winton and Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
January 5, 2012
Reporting from Vancouver, Canada, and Los Angeles -- The investigation of Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart widened Thursday to include a probe by Canadian authorities into whether he was involved in a series of suspicious fires in Vancouver.
Burkhart, who has been charged with 37 felony counts related to the New Year's weekend arson rampage, lived in Vancouver with his mother before moving to the Los Angeles area.
Vancouver Police Department spokesman Lindsey Houghton said officials "have begun to liaise with the LAPD" but stressed that detectives have not connected Burkhart to any specific fires in that city.
Several Canadian news outlets reported that police were looking into any possible connection between Burkhart and at least 12 suspicious property arsons last year in Vancouver that remain unsolved. It's unclear, however, whether Burkhart was in the city at the times those fires occurred.
News of the probe comes a day after German prosecutors confirmed Burkhart, 24, was under investigation on suspicion of arson and insurance fraud in an Oct. 14, 2011, fire that caused major damage to a half-timbered duplex in the mountainous region near Marburg in central Germany. U.S. immigration officials have confirmed that Burkhart flew from Frankfurt to Las Vegas six days after the fire.
L.A. arson investigators are trying to piece together the movements of Burkhart and his mother over the last few years. Authorities say Burkhart was "motivated by his rage against Americans" when he allegedly set the fires in Los Angeles. The fires began after Burkhart's mother was detained by authorities on a German criminal warrant.
Dorothee Burkhart was due in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday, where she was expected to continue fighting an extradition effort by the German government to try her on multiple fraud allegations.
A 53-year-old Chechen native, who is thought to be of distant German ancestry, Dorothee Burkhart was arrested last week by federal agents acting on behalf of the German court from which she fled more than four years ago.
The arson suspect's mother escaped pretrial detention in September 2007 by slipping out a bathroom window of a Frankfurt hospital where she had been brought from jail after complaining of a heart ailment, according to the Canadian court file and her German public defender, Michael Koch.
On Dec. 29, Harry Burkhart erupted in anger at his mother's first hearing on the extradition warrant. He hurled expletives at the court, U.S. authorities and American citizens, leading to his removal from the downtown federal courtroom by U.S. marshals.
When a grainy security video from the garage at the Hollywood & Highland Center was shown on local television on Sunday, Deputy U.S. Marshal Luis Flores recognized the unruly man who was ousted from the courtroom, he said in an interview Thursday.
"I called the LAPD hotline and my chain of command," Flores said.
"When you watch the video surveillance that was released, it was unmistakable," said Jonathan Lamb, a State Department special agent who with Flores helped find Burkhart's mother last week.
The State Department dispatched Lamb, armed with intelligence on the Burkharts' address, descriptions and vehicle, to work with the arson task force Sunday night to help locate Harry Burkhart.
Within five hours, a reserve Sheriff's Department deputy detained him on the Sunset Strip based on a description of the Dodge Caravan provided by the two federal officials.
"We are just glad to help," Flores said.
Prison battle in Mexico leaves at least 31 inmates dead
REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- At least 31 inmates were killed and another dozen injured in pitched fighting inside a prison in Mexico's cartel-dominated Tamaulipas state, authorities said (link in Spanish).
Some of the dead were believed to be accused drug traffickers in what was described as a fight between rival gangs , the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, housed at the prison in Altamira, a small city in the state that borders Texas.
Mexico's brutally overcrowded penitentiaries are plagued by numerous riots , deadly brawls and frequent, brazen escapes by dozens of inmates, often with the guards and even the odd warden in cahoots . By one count, 58 prisoners have been killed in the last three months.
The Altamira battle Wednesday followed reports that inmates in another jail near Mexico City were using Twitter accounts to denounce corruption by officials and, later, to beg for protection after having made the complaints (links in Spanish). The city's human rights commission said it would investigate.
Brazil finally ready to confront abuses in past dictatorship
A truth commission in Brazil will investigate what happened under a military dictatorship in the 1970s when hundreds of people were killed or disappeared.
by Vincent Bevins, Los Angeles Times
January 5, 2012
Reporting from Sao Paulo, Brazil
Vera Paiva has spent four decades trying to find out what happened to her father after he was arrested in 1971 during Brazil's military dictatorship.
Rubens Paiva, a former congressman, is one of the country's most famous desaparecidos, or "disappeared ones," whose cases finally will be investigated by the government.
"The last time we heard of anyone seeing him, he was inside the jail and had been barbarically tortured," Vera Paiva said, sitting in her house in Sao Paulo and going through details she has told journalists and officials hundreds of times.
"As his daughter, I would love to know what actually happened," said Paiva, 57. "But it's more important that the country know the truth, so it can move forward."
Long after South American neighbors Chile, Argentina and Uruguay underwent similar bouts of self-reflection over their violent histories, Brazil's government in November approved the formation of a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses under its military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
The commission's work is expected to last two years and comes as President Dilma Rousseff, who was among those imprisoned and tortured in the early 1970s for opposing the dictatorship, completes her first year overseeing a country that has seen its economy grow rapidly and is eager to take a prominent position on the world stage.
The dictatorship, which took over in a U.S.-backed coup, is suspected of killing or causing the disappearance of more than 450 people, and torturing or exiling thousands more. There is broad agreement on what the regime did, but government records have not been opened to reveal details since the military passed an amnesty law in 1979 while managing a gradual transition to civilian rule.
The truth commission will not lead to any trials. But after 16 years in which the country was governed by presidents who once were persecuted by military rule, proponents of a commission successfully argued that a full investigation would allow the country to confront its past. The commission findings could end an era of perceived impunity and secrecy for human rights abusers, they said, and help move the nation forward with boosted moral credibility.
Brazil's regime was less bloody than those of other countries, but victims, relatives and activists say orders of magnitude are not important when discussing the consequences of decades of repression. The regime took aim not only at the politically active, but artists, intellectuals and musicians as well.
"I heard the cries of the tortured in the night," said Caetano Veloso, a legendary musician who helped pioneer the Tropicalismo movement, which mixed Brazilian rhythms with '60s rock 'n' roll. Veloso was imprisoned for two months in the late 1960s and left for London soon after being released.
"The truth commission should mean a healthier public.… If it goes well, it should serve to pull Brazil out of the moral underworld" that the dictatorship plunged the country into, "and elevate it to a nation seriously committed to human rights," he said.
"The dictatorship was a nightmare for those who believed in democracy," Veloso said. "But that was the role that fell to Brazil between the forces of the Cold War."
Analysts say the commission could also stir some uncomfortable reflections on the role the United States played at the time. Washington provided aggressive support to movements opposed to any perceived communist threat, regardless of their democratic or human rights credentials.
"Of course the U.S. will have embarrassing moments, but it has had those all over the region," said Peter Hakim, president emeritus at Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank focusing on hemispheric affairs. "Brazil's dictatorship was not quite as brutal as that in Argentina or Chile, and U.S. involvement there was more modest."
Supporters of the investigation said laying blame is less important than national reconciliation.
"The truth commission won't affect Dilma's relations with Washington, but will reveal a black period in US-Brazil relations," said Antonio Campos, a lawyer who will present evidence to the commission.
Declassified documents show that the Brazilian military government took power with U.S. logistical and military support, and then exiled left-wing President Joao Goulart in 1964. What was initially a so-called soft military dictatorship became increasingly repressive as the decade went on. The most frequent targets of fatal violence were leftist antigovernment guerrilla groups, in which the young Rousseff took part.
Rubens Paiva was one of the most emblematic of the disappeared, his daughter said, because he was a respected politician with a family, rather than a young radical suspected of involvement in armed struggle against the regime.
Vera Paiva said her family does not know a lot about what happened to her father. After his position in Brazil's legislature was revoked by the coup, she said, he maintained contact with friends and allies.
Vera Paiva believes that after her father received a letter from an exile in Chile — then still under President Salvador Allende before a military coup there in 1973 — the Brazilian regime must have come to the conclusion that he had some information on armed guerrilla organizations.
She said that in 1971 two plainclothes government agents picked him up in Rio de Janeiro as he returned from a beach for lunch. Most of the rest of his family members, including his wife, were also arrested and then released over the next few weeks. Their best guess is that he was tortured to death.
"But of course, no one knows," Paiva said.
The delay in getting answers in Brazil came about partly because the military oversaw the transition to democracy and protected its interests, said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia.
"The military wants zero investigation. They didn't want any truth commission at all. They considered the amnesty enough," he said.
The influence of still-active political parties that participated in the regime was another countervailing force to the movement for a commission, analysts say. This is despite the fact that since 1995, all Brazilian presidents had been personally affected by the military regime. During the dictatorship, center-right Fernando Henrique Cardoso was exiled in Paris and Chile, and left-wing Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — Cardoso's successor and Rousseff's predecessor — was imprisoned as a labor leader.
"I hope the commission can reveal the truth," Paiva said. "You can't build a new future on lies and falsifications."
Texas police in 911 call tell student, 'Put the gun down!'
In a 911 recording released by police Thursday, south Texas officers can be heard confronting an eighth-grader who they believed was brandishing a real gun at a middle school in the border town of Brownsville.
An assistant principal at Cummings Middle School made the 911 call early Wednesday, and as officers arrive, she can be heard saying the teen was drawing a weapon, according to the Brownsville Herald , which obtained the recording.
"Be careful not to charge through the front door, he's right there," she says. "Don't walk in --there's a kid with a gun!"
She later says, "He's drawing the gun!"
Someone else yells that the student says he's willing to die, so be careful. An administrator shouts, "Lock the door!"
Throughout the six-minute call, police can be heard yelling, "Put the gun down! Put it on the floor!"
At one point, the administrator says, "Oh, gosh, there's shooting going on..."
A moment later, police can be heard yelling that the student is running down the hall.
Police said that when 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez refused to drop the weapon, officers shot him three times, killing him -- only to discover that he was armed with a pellet gun. No one else was injured.
Interim Brownsville Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez told the Brownsville Herald that, in the wake of the shooting, the department had received death threats.
Gonzalez's parents have questioned why Brownsville officers thought they had to shoot the boy.
"Why was so much excess force used on a minor?" Jaime Gonzalez Sr. said, according to the Associated Press . "Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?"
Gonzalez told CBS that he did not know where his son got the gun or why he brought it to school.
Noralva Gonzalez displayed a photo to reporters of her son in his drum major uniform standing with his band instructors. Then she showed three photos she said she took of bullet wounds in her son's body, including one in the back of his head.
"What happened was an injustice," she told the Associated Press. "I know that my son wasn't perfect, but he was a great kid."
Rodriguez told the Brownsville Herald that the teen "had plenty of opportunities to lower the gun and listen to the officers' orders" and that police did what they could to protect themselves and other students.
Shortly before the shooting, Gonzalez had walked into a classroom and punched another boy in the nose, Rodriguez told the Herald. It was not clear why, he said.
Police also did not know why Gonzalez pulled out the pellet gun, but Rodriguez told the Herald he thought it may have been "a way to bring attention to himself."
Police declined to say what the boy said before he was shot.
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to seek sixth term
Joe Arpaio, criticized by the U.S. Department of Justice for what it called discrimination against Latinos, said Thursday that he would seek a sixth term as sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona.
Arpaio, who has built a national reputation in conservative circles for his hard-line attitude to illegal immigration, announced his intention to run for reelection in news releases sent to local media.
“It is an honor and a privilege to serve as sheriff of Maricopa County. I am running for a sixth term and will continue to protect the citizens of Maricopa County by enforcing all the laws,” Arpaio said in the widely reported statement.
The sheriff also announced his plans Thursday afternoon in an appearance on Fox News. Arpaio has often appeared on the network discussing immigration issues.
“For all those critics that demonstrate in front of my office for three years, calling me every name in the book, I'm going to announce right now on your show, on your show, that I'm running again for sheriff, for my sixth four-year term,” Arpaio said. “So maybe they're going to have a bad day, all these critics against me.”
Last month, the Justice Department announced the results of a three-year probe of Arpaio's department, charging that it had engaged in a wide range of civil rights violations, including mistreatment of Latinos and racial profiling.
Arpaio, a Republican, has rejected calls that he should resign and has denied the charges. He has called on the federal government to provide evidence of its findings.
His reelection bid had been widely expected.
Arpaio is likely to face Mike Stauffer, a 20-year veteran of the Scottsdale Police Department who announced in October that he would run against Arpaio as an independent.
Oklahoma teen mom called 'hero' for fatally shooting intruder
Some might call it a case of swift Oklahoma justice for at least one of two intruders -- both reportedly high on prescription drugs -- who tried to break into a young widow's home on New Year's Eve.
Sarah McKinley, 18, calmly used a shotgun to shoot and kill one of the men when he forced his way through the front door of her mobile home and past a sofa she had used to barricade it. Now, the second man is facing first-degree murder charges, and McKinley is being hailed as a hero for doing what she believed she had to do to protect herself and her 3-month-old son, Justin.
The two men were reportedly looking for drugs -- most likely painkillers -- that they believed might have been left behind by McKinley's husband, who died of lung cancer on Christmas Day.
McKinley will not face charges in connection with the case, which is garnering headlines around the world, because there appears to be little confusion about the facts of the case. Much of her ordeal was captured in a recording of the 911 call in which she asked for help -- and also asked for permission to shoot if necessary.
"There's a guy at my door and I'm here by myself with my infant baby. Can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?" McKinley asks in a voice that is both steady, but tinged with emotion. Grady County dispatcher Diane Graham asks McKinley whether her doors are locked. Her steely answer: "Yes. I've got two guns in my hand. Is it OK to shoot him if he comes in my door?"
"I can't tell you that you can do that," Graham answers, "but you do what you have to do to protect your baby."
Justin Shane Martin, 24, of Blanchard, died clutching a knife in his gloved left hand, according to court records filed in Grady County district court. His alleged accomplice, Dustin Louis Stewart, 29, also of Blanchard, shown above, later turned himself in to police.
Stewart later confessed to police that he and Martin "devised a plan to burglarize the residence" because Martin knew that "a resident of the home had recently died of cancer" and he "suspected narcotics may be located inside the residence," according to an affidavit. Stewart also told police that he and Martin took the drug hydrocodone about 30 minutes before the planned break-in, according to the court records.
Grady County prosecutors said McKinley acted in self-defense.
"Our initial review of the case doesn't indicate she violated the law in any way," Asst. Dist. Atty. James Walters told NewsOK . "He should have thought about it before he went into someone's home."
McKinley told NewsOK that she tried to hold off as long as she could, waiting for police to arrive, while Martin kept pounding on the front door. At one point, she gave her son a bottle to keep him from crying too loud -- and possibly alerting the intruders to her specific location.
"I didn't want to give away my position in the house, I wanted to see him first," she said of the intruders during this video interview with NewsOK.
But about 21 minutes later, with no law enforcement officer in sight, Martin pushed his way in the door.
"I was standing in the bedroom doorway with a shotgun in my hand ... when he did come in the door ... I told 911 I was going to shoot and I did. And he just kind of fell over the couch."
She said she feels bad -- but has no regrets.
"I felt like what I did was the best decision for my son and I. Obviously when someone breaks into your house with a deadly weapon, they're not here for anything good. But I am very sorry and it's not something I ever wanted to do."
The public has been supportive of McKinley, to say the least. A sampling from stories posted online about the incident: "Good for her." "Glad she survived and the intruder got his 'just reward.'" "Give her the highest award for valor." "Good on you girl."
America's new lean fighting machine
Facing tighter budgets, the Defense Department outlines a new strategy for America's military.
January 6, 2012
Budgetary necessity may have been the mother of President Obama's reinvention of military strategy, but that doesn't mean the change is reckless or even imprudent. After the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and with the winding down of the American presence in Afghanistan, it's time for new thinking.
In an appearance Thursday at the Pentagon, Obama unveiled the recommendations of a Defense Department study group that he said would produce a military that is "agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats." That would be accomplished by smaller increases in defense spending, a policy telegraphed by Obama's 10-year budget projections for fiscal 2012, which were $105 billion less than his 2011 blueprint.
Although the need for greater austerity forms the background for the new directions proposed in the report, they are convincingly justified by its analysis of geopolitical trends. It proposes a reorientation of defense planning to China and the Middle East, noting that most European countries "are now producers of security rather than consumers of it." It also foresees greater attention to security threats in Africa and Latin America, though there as elsewhere the United States will develop "innovative, low-cost and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence and advisory capabilities." Finally, the report contemplates, in cautious terms, a reduction in spending on nuclear weapons, saying it's possible that "our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."
The critical response to the report has focused on whether it effectively renounces the strategy that requires the United States to be sufficiently prepared to wage two ground wars simultaneously. It does not endorse such a change of policy. In fact, it declares: "Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of — or imposing unacceptable costs on — an opportunistic aggressor in a second region."
Nevertheless, there is a discernible change in emphasis. The report grounds preparedness to fight two wars in the concept of "reversibility" — defined as the ability to "make a course change that could be driven by many factors, including shocks or evolutions in the strategic, operational, economic and technological spheres." The concept needs fleshing out, but if nimbleness in mobilization can be substituted for standing numbers of troops, that would be a military as well as a budgetary advantage, and both would help make the nation more secure.
From Google News
Police Warn Southern California Homeless About Serial Killer
January 06, 2012 | Associated Press
Homeless people in southern California were put on alert by police and advocates concerned that they're the target of a serial killer who has already slain three men.
The Orange County Rescue Mission handed out flashlights and whistles in an effort to help homeless people protect themselves after three men were stabbed to death in north Orange County.
Jim Palmer, the group's president, encouraged people to sleep in groups, or better yet, come inside to a shelter.
"Our goal is to get them into those beds," he said.
Darryl Bossier, 49, said he sleeps outside the Orange County administration building in downtown Santa Ana -- one of a dozen transients who use the benches that zigzag across the courtyard as a place to rest each night.
"I'm a watchdog. I don't want them to get anybody," Bossier said of the killer, adding he sleeps only about four hours a night. "Who wants to wake up next to somebody dead?"
He said he learned of the killings three days ago but would not go to a shelter because he had his cellphone stolen from his bag the last time he slept there.
"You take a deep breath, but what are you going to do? Watch out for the people who are there."
Authorities have asked for the public's help as a special task force that includes the FBI searches for the killer.
An image of a suspect from a video surveillance camera in the area where the first victim was killed shows what appears to be a thin man dressed in a dark hoodie or sweater who appears to be lying in wait for his victim.
The body of the first victim, 53-year-old James McGillivray, was found Dec. 21 near a Placentia shopping mall. The second victim, Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found on a riverbed trail in Anaheim a week later.
The third victim, 57-year-old Paulus Cornelius Smit, was discovered with fatal stab wounds outside a Yorba Linda library, where a photo of him stood at a small candlelit memorial this week.
Two of the killings took place at night and one in the late afternoon.
No motive has been determined, and investigators have found no connection among the victims beyond their homelessness .
From the Department of Justice Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Revisions to the Uniform Crime Report's Definition of Rape
Data Reported on Rape Will Better Reflect State Criminal Codes, Victim Experiences
Attorney General Eric Holder today announced revisions to the Uniform Crime Report's (UCR) definition of rape, which will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide. The new definition is more inclusive, better reflects state criminal codes and focuses on the various forms of sexual penetration understood to be rape. The new definition of rape is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The definition is used by the FBI to collect information from local law enforcement agencies about reported rapes.
“Rape is a devastating crime and we can't solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” said Vice President Biden, a leader in the effort to end violence against women for over 20 years and author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. “This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”
“These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice's commitment to standing with rape victims,” Attorney General Holder said. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”
“The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board recently recommended the adoption of a revised definition of rape within the Summary Reporting System of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program,” said David Cuthbertson, FBI Assistant Director, CJIS Division. “This definitional change was recently approved by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. This change will give law enforcement the ability to report more complete rape offense data, as the new definition reflects the vast majority of state rape statutes. As we implement this change, the FBI is confident that the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics.”
The revised definition includes any gender of victim or perpetrator, and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent. The new definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the local level.
“The revised definition of rape sends an important message to the broad range of rape victims that they are supported and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable,” said Justice Department Director of the Office on Violence Against Women Susan B. Carbon. “We are grateful for the dedicated work of all those involved in making and implementing the changes that reflect more accurately the devastating crime of rape.”
T he longstanding, narrow definition of forcible rape, first established in 1927, is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” It thus included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina and excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and, non-forcible rape.
Police departments submit data on reported crimes and arrests to the UCR. The UCR data are reported nationally and used to measure and understand crime trends. In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent trend data until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood.
The revised definition of rape is within FBI's UCR Summary Reporting System Program. The new definition is supported by leading law enforcement agencies and advocates and reflects the work of the FBI's CJIS Advisory Policy Board.
Click here to read a blog post from Director Carbon on the importance of the new definition of rape to our nation's law enforcement, and for survivors of rape and their advocates. Click here to listen to the FBI's podcast .