NEWS of the Day - January 16, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - January 16, 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



The Peace Corps kids are all right

Peace Corps volunteers shouldn't be pulled out of Central America.

by Jared Metzker

January 16, 2012

My mother, reacting to the recent spate of alarmist headlines about "raging" violence and increased security measures affecting Peace Corps volunteers in Central America, has taken to calling me on a near-nightly basis.

"Just needed to hear your voice," she says to explain the call.

"I'm fine, Mom," I respond.

Frankly, it's getting annoying.

It's not that I don't appreciate the chance to speak with my mother. What bothers me is knowing that she is seriously worried. No matter how much I try to persuade her otherwise, she is convinced my life is in constant danger. Never mind that only one volunteer has been murdered in Guatemala in the 40-plus years the Peace Corps has operated there; as far as she's concerned, it's a war zone. Let me tell you (and her, for the thousandth time!): Guatemala is not Afghanistan. Not even close.

Americans who ride the bus in Guatemala are indeed often targets of pickpockets on the hunt for money, cellphones, cameras and iPods. Volunteers are no exception to this rule, and most of us have been fleeced at least once. It's usually a nonviolent affair, though, and, aside from the hassle of having to fill out Peace Corps reimbursement slips, it's not a big deal.

Officially, however, every such incident is misleadingly categorized as a robbery, a term that by definition implies violence, real or threatened, and that makes the incidents seem much worse than they actually are. Consequently, the media latches on to the upward trend in this scary category of crimes and vaguely connect it to the real but unrelated horrors of the drug cartels — and scare the bejesus out of my mom.

Unfortunately, stoking the false perception of a volunteer population under siege has ramifications beyond my mother's ongoing descent into madness. The Peace Corps director decided last month to take a step back from the programs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He has evacuated all Peace Corps workers from Honduras and is suspending the induction of new volunteers in Guatemala and El Salvador. From my perspective, based on being here, speaking to other volunteers and reading the Guatemalan press every day, these decisions seem unnecessary, even cowardly.

I am not saying violence against Peace Corps volunteers is unheard of or to be taken lightly. Serious calamities have affected some of my friends here. One of them was on a bus that was in a fatal accident, but he walked away uninjured, thank goodness. Assaults, sexual and otherwise, are probably more likely to happen to us here in Guatemala than in the U.S. (depending on where in the States we hail from), but that's sort of part of the deal. There is no Peace Corps draft, after all; we sign up and agree to come, fully cognizant of the risks. Furthermore, if we decide once we get here that it's more than we'd bargained for, we can leave at any time. Unlike in the case of the military, there is no such thing as a dishonorable discharge from the Peace Corps.

Before the Peace Corps' inception, some Americans wondered whether our "young men and tender young girls, reared in air-conditioned houses," could handle life in a poor country for two years. Fifty years later, with more than 200,000 current and former volunteers, the Peace Corps remains as clear evidence of America's best intentions with regard to foreign policy. Volunteers working in countries such as Guatemala do much to improve the United States' image abroad and often make significant contributions to the development of their host communities. The Peace Corps has proved itself to be a phenomenal idea, and, in contrast to our military endeavors over the last 50 years, its mission has never lacked approval from the American people, liberal and conservative alike.

As the U.S. passes through adverse times, it's important that we not lose sight of the ideals that made us great in the first place. The Peace Corps is a paragon of these ideals, and any decision to scale it back should be taken with full awareness of the damage that doing so would cause. In the case of those of us who are now finishing up our service, much of the work we started will be left unfinished because there will be no one to continue it, but it's more than that. Young Americans, and those young at heart, deserve the opportunity to venture unarmed and un-air-conditioned into developing countries to experience life as it presents itself to the majority of the human population. To deprive them of that opportunity unnecessarily is cowardly, and such cowardice — although perhaps appreciated by their mothers — is inexcusable considering the courage that potential volunteers exhibit just by signing up.

Jared Metzker is a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He reads the Los Angeles Times every day with breakfast.



From Google News


Calif. killings suspect's dad also homeless

YORBA LINDA, Calif. - Just days before being arrested, a Marine veteran suspected in the deaths of four homeless men in Southern California visited his father, who is himself homeless, warning of the danger of being on the streets and showing him a picture of one of the victims.

"He was very worried about me," Refugio Ocampo, 49, told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I told him, `Don't worry. I'm a survivor. Nothing will happen to me."'

The father also said his son came back a changed man after serving in Iraq, expressing disillusionment and becoming ever darker as his family life frayed and he struggled to find his way as a civilian.

The father said he lost his job and home, and ended up living under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping repair.

His 23-year-old son, Itzcoatl Ocampo, is awaiting charges in connection with the serial killings of four homeless men since late December.

He was arrested Jan. 13 after a locally known homeless man, John Berry, 64, was stabbed to death outside a Carl's Jr. restaurant in Anaheim. Bystanders gave chase, and police made the arrest.

Refugio Ocampo said that on Jan. 11 his son came to him with a picture of the first victim, 53-year-old James Patrick McGillivray, who was killed on Dec. 20.

"'This is what's happening,"' the father quoted his son as saying.

Itzcoatl Ocampo had been living with his mother, uncle, and younger brother and sister in a rented house on a horse ranch surrounded by the sprawling suburbs of Yorba Linda. At the humble home, his mother, who speaks little English, tearfully brought her son's Marine Corps dress uniform out of a closet and showed unit photos, citations and medals from his military service.

The son followed a friend into the Marine Corps right out of high school in 2006 instead of going to college as his father had hoped. Itzcoatl Ocampo was discharged in 2010 and returned home to find his family in disarray, the father said.

That same month, Itzcoatl Ocampo's friend, Cpl. Claudio Patino IV, 22, of Yorba Linda, was killed in combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

"Once he received the news he was never the same," said the suspect's younger brother, 17-year-old Mixcoatl Ocampo. He said his brother visited Patino's grave twice a week.

Refugio and Mixcoatl both described a physical condition Itzcoatl suffered in which his hands shook and he suffered headaches. Medical treatments helped until he started drinking heavily, both said.

"He started drinking like crazy, too much, way too much," the father said.

A neighbor who is a Vietnam veteran and the father both tried to push Itzcoatl to get treatment at a Veterans hospital, but he refused. Refugio Ocampo said he wanted his son to get psychological treatment as well.

"He started talking about stuff that didn't make any sense, that the end of the world was going to happen," he said.

While Refugio Ocampo lives away from his family, they remain close. He saw his children every day, and his wife brings food to the parking lot where the truck is located in the city of Fullerton. He and his two sons went to get haircuts together just a day before the arrest, the father said.

Refugio Ocampo, who said he was educated as a lawyer in Mexico, immigrated with his wife and Itzcoatl in 1988 and became a U.S. citizen. He described building a successful life in which he became a warehouse manager and bought a home in Yorba Linda. In the past few years he lost his job, ran out of savings, lost his house and separated from his wife.

Standing near the truck where he sleeps, the father fought back tears as he described the changes he saw in his son in the year since returning home.

"Before, he had the initiative to do things, the desire. But after the military, he didn't have any of that," he said.

That was far from the son who in high school was a polite and motivated student, he said.

A school friend, Brian Doyle, portrayed Itzcoatl Ocampo as a fun-loving teen who liked to hit on girls when he joined the military. After he was discharged and returned home he became isolated and trusted no one, Doyle, 23, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Doyle had difficulty describing the change he saw in his friend from high school.

"He went from being a tall, geeky kid, really fun-loving...," he said, trailing off.

Doyle said he once offered his friend a self-help book based on Eastern philosophy that he had found useful but Itzcoatl Ocampo rejected it.

Doyle said he tried to find out what was going on with his friend but didn't press it, never imagining something like the serial killings.

"Everyone's got their issues, you know," he said.

Refugio Ocampo said investigators came to him on Friday night and showed him surveillance photos from a crime scene, but he did not recognize his son as the person in the images.

"If he did it, it wasn't right, obviously. But there's something wrong with him," he said.

In addition to Berry and McGillivray, Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was killed near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28; and Paulus Smit, 57, was found dead outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30.

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter has said investigators are confident they have the man responsible for the string of murders that struck fear into Orange County's homeless since Dec. 20. Prosecutors have yet to file charges.



Ohio taking death penalty case to US Supreme Court

by Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio— Ohio's governor and attorney general said Sunday the state is asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a ruling that Ohio's protocol for carrying out the death penalty is constitutional.

Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement that the state wants the high court to reverse a federal appeals court decision to delay the Wednesday execution of Charles Lorraine.

Lorraine was condemned to death in the 1986 slaying of an elderly Trumbull County couple. But the federal appeals court said Friday his execution should be delayed to review changes Ohio has made in carrying out the death penalty.

Lorraine argued that Ohio broke its promise to adhere strictly to its execution procedures. But the state said that deviations from the procedures during the last execution were minor and that an inmate's rights would not be violated by changes, such as which official announces the start and finish times of an injection.

"Attorney General Mike DeWine and I agree that Ohio's administration of capital punishment is constitutional and we have asked the Supreme Court of the United States to affirm that," the governor said in the statement.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling supported an earlier decision by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost, who criticized the state for deviating from policy when an inmate was executed in November.

After the appeals court ruling, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins sent a letter urging the two state officials to appeal. Watkins argued the federal courts have wrongly interfered with Ohio executions.

Records show Lorraine, 45, repeatedly stabbed 77-year-old Raymond Montgomery and his bedridden wife, 80-year-old Doris Montgomery, before burglarizing their Trumbull County home.

Lorraine's attorney, Allen L. Bohnert, has said the case is not about the crimes for which Lorraine was convicted and sentenced, but about the state's liability to apply its law equally.