| NEWS of the Day - July 21, 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 Google News
Cops may set off suspect's booby traps today
(CBS/AP) AURORA, Colo. - Investigators are preparing to detonate shooting suspect James Holmes' apartment building, perhaps as early as today, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.
Holmes is being held in what is now the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history. Twelve people were shot and killed and 58 hurt, most by gunfire -- and some in the chaos as patrons rushed to flee the theater -- allegedly by the 24-year-old Holmes at a midnight premiere of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" Friday.
He says he rigged his apartment with a complex system of booby traps and explosives, and police say they have found no way of safely diffusing them.
"It is a very vexing problem how to enter that apartment safely," Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates says. "I personally haven't seen anything like what the pictures show us is in there. I'm a layman when it comes to bomb stuff, (but) I see an awful lot of wires, trip wires, jars full of ammunition ... jars full of liquids, mortar rounds. We have a lot of challenges to get in there safely."
After spending most of Friday evacuating and scouring the complex, investigators were planning to detonate the devices, using a robot.
Complete coverage: Aurora massacre
"48 Hours" special: Tragedy in Aurora
Police grimly went door to door late Friday with a list of the deceased victims,, notifying families who had held out anxious hope that their loved ones had been spared.
And Aurora residents are coming together to support each other, as well as the victims who remain in critical condition.
Friday night, massacre turned into mourning at a private vigil in Aurora.
"That's how we move forward. We're there for each other," one mourner said.
"It's so sad," said one of two girls hugging each other and crying.
Near the entrance to the Aurora theater's parking lot, a makeshift memorial of 12 candles sat in a row near piles of flowers. Up the hill, about 20 pastors led an emotional vigil for about 350 people, some hugging and crying. A sign read, "7/20. Gone Not Forgotten."
An emotional Gov. John Hickenlooper said earlier Friday that people would not be defined by the tragedy.
"We are clear that we are going to rise back and lift ourselves above this," he said.
"They're saying somebody's shooting in the auditorium," one police officer is heard saying on a 9112 tape. " ... They're saying there are hundreds of people just running around."
Speaking from his hospital bed, victim Stephen Barton said, "I don't really remember people starting to scream until I got hit, and then it was mass mayhem. ... On one level, I thought, 'OK, there's a shooter in the theater and he's trying to kill people,' but on another level, Ii didn't really want to believe it.
The first 911 calls came in at 12:39 a.m. Police responded within 90 seconds. An estimated 200 officers wound up at the scene.
"Everybody get on this, it's an assault rifle," one officer on a radio said. "We got magazines down inside. Everybody watch out for the assault rifle."
Another officer can be heard saying, "We see suspect in gas mask!"
Authorities say Holmes, the alleged assailant, had three guns on him and one in his car -- all legally purchased at Colorado gun stores. Officials say he also purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet.
And while Holmes surrendered without a fight, it's clear that he carefully staged his attack.
"Based on his behavior and based on planning that went into it, he very likely is sitting back enjoying the impact of the crime," observes Mary Ellen O'toole. "It's very unnerving when you think about that."
Holmes' motive remained unclear.
The suspect's stellar academic record, apparent shy demeanor and lack of a criminal background made the attack even more difficult to fathom.
It also wasn't known why the suspect chose a movie theater to stage the assault, or whether he intended some twisted, intended symbolic link to the film itself.
Holmes had enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, though he left the program last month for unknown reasons. In academic achievement, "he was at the top of the top," recalled Timothy P. White, chancellor at the University of California, Riverside, where Holmes earned his undergraduate degree before attending the Denver school.
Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood in San Diego. Holmes played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross-country before going to college.
Police released a statement from his family Friday that said, "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."
The fatalities included 23-year-old Micayla Medek, said Anita Busch, the cousin of Medek's father. The family took the news hard, but knowing her fate after waiting without word brought them some peace, Busch said.
"I hope this evil act, that this evil man doesn't shake people's faith in God," she said.
Besides Medek, relatives confirmed that Alex Sullivan and Jessica Ghawi were among those killed, Sullivan on his 27th birthday.
The new Batman movie, the last in the trilogy starring Christian Bale, opened worldwide Friday with midnight showings in the U.S. The plot has the villain Bane facing Bale's Caped Crusader with a nuclear weapon that could destroy all of fictional Gotham.
In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: "It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman."
Oates would not confirm that information, but did say he had spoken to Kelly. The two used to work together in New York. Asked whether Holmes had makeup to look like the Joker, Oates said: "That to my knowledge is not true."
CBS News sources say Holmes' hair had been dyed red.
A federal law enforcement official said Holmes bought a ticket to "The Dark Knight Returns," went into the theater as part of the crowd and propped open an exit door as the movie was playing. The suspect then donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Authorities said he hit scores of people, picking off people who tried to flee. At least one person was struck in an adjacent theater by gunfire that went through the wall. Adding to the terror and chaos were gas canisters thrown by the suspect that filled the packed suburban Denver theater with smoke.
Tanner Coon, a 17-year-old Aurora resident who was watching the film with two friends, said he first thought the gunshots were firecrackers. When he realized what was happening, he ducked between the seats and waited for the shooter say what he wanted.
"When is he going to start telling us what to do? When is this going to become a hostage situation?" Coon said.
When the firing ended, Coon started running up the row, but slipped in blood and fell on top of a woman who was lying on the ground. He tried shaking her, he said, but she didn't respond, so he left her behind and ran out of the theater.
After dealing with Holmes' apartment, says Oates, it will be time for his town -- and his officers -- to heal.
"Our cops went through a lot," he points out. " ... They rushed people out of that theater into police cars. I've heard some compelling stories. ... When this has slowed down, one of our highest priorities is to deal with our own officers and how they cope with this event.
Holmes remains in police custody, has a lawyer and, sources tell CBS News, is saying very little.
His first court appearance is slated for Monday morning.
The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. It was the deadliest in Colorado since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves.
Colorado Gun Laws Remain Lax, Despite Some Changes
by JOHN SCHWARTZ
The news of the horrifying armed assault in Aurora, Colo. — just a half-hour drive from the site of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 — has a freakish resonance in a state that has long played an unsought role in the national debate over gun laws and firearm rights.
As a mountain state, Colorado has a history of broad support for Second Amendment rights. But in the years since the Columbine tragedy, the state's lawmakers and voters passed some gun restrictions, including requirements governing the sale of firearms at gun shows, a law regulating people's ability to carry concealed weapons and legislation banning “straw purchases” of weapons for people who would not qualify to buy them legitimately.
Still, James Holmes, 24, the former neuroscience student believed to be the lone gunman in Friday's shootings in Aurora, armed himself with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun to allegedly kill 12 and wound 59 others, many critically. All were weapons that would probably be legal for him to possess.
“The guy basically had normal guns,” said Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Unless some new evidence of documented psychiatric disturbance emerges, Mr. Volokh added, “there's no indication that, from his record, he is someone whom more restrictive screening procedures would have caught.”
Despite the changes over the past 13 years, Colorado law still prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights in several significant ways. Moreover, gun rights organizations have successfully fought other efforts to restrict access to guns, including blocking a University of Colorado rule prohibiting concealed weapons on campus.
People in Colorado are allowed to carry firearms in a vehicle, loaded or unloaded, as long as the gun is intended for lawful uses like personal protection or protecting property.
Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, but Colorado is among those states whose rules on permits are relatively lax, said Heather Morton of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Colorado is one of 38 “shall issue” states. She explained that this meant “if a person complies with all of the requirements, then the state must issue a concealed weapons permit.” (By other measures, the number of states whose laws amount to “shall issue” is closer to 41.) Factors that might keep someone from being able to get a permit generally include felony convictions, mental illness or protective orders.
Other states have a tougher “may issue” law, which gives discretion to withhold a permit to an authority like the local sheriff or department of public safety.
Getting a concealed weapon permit in Denver is a relatively straightforward affair, according to materials put online by the Denver Police Department. Information forms and the application are available online; the process costs $152.50, payable by certified check or money order. Denver's Web page describing the process warns, “Do not bring any weapon with you when you bring your application for review.”
The latest shootings will almost certainly lead to efforts to tighten gun laws. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement that laid the blame on lax gun laws: “The horrendous shooting in Aurora, Colo., is yet another tragic reminder that we have a national problem of easy availability of guns in this country.”
On his weekly radio appearance Friday morning, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York called for the presidential candidates to make gun issues a part of their campaigns.
Yet another tragedy is not likely to shift the national debate over guns, said David Kopel, an adjunct professor at the Denver University law school and the research director of the Independence Institute, a libertarian organization in Denver. He noted that gun violence did not seem to bring about national restrictions on gun rights.
“The gun prohibition people tried to use Gabrielle Giffords and the Trayvon Martin case to get their cause going again, and weren't particularly successful with that,” he said.
At the state level, he added, having fought pitched battles over gun rights since the 1980s, “we're at a reasonably well settled point,” and “the legislature is not that interested in opening it up again.”
Mr. Volokh said the fragmentary information available so far about Mr. Holmes and the attack did not make a strong case for reform.
“The only weapons-control solution that could do anything about this kind of murder would be a total ban on guns,” he said.
“It's hard to prevent someone who is really bent on committing a crime from getting them,” he added, and “it's unlikely that gun laws are going to stop him.”
In the never-ending argument, tragedy can become a talking point. Luke O'Dell, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado-based group that fights gun control measures, said private gun restrictions may well have had “tragic consequences” in the shootings.
He noted that the theater chain that owns the Aurora movie house bans firearms on the premises, and said that if other patrons had been legally able to carry weapons, the death toll might have been less. Mr. O'Dell also said that Mayor Bloomberg's call for a discussion of gun issues was “exploiting the blood of these innocent victims to advance his political agenda.”
Mass. man pleads guilty in plot to blow up Pentagon with explosive-packed model planes
by Associated Press
BOSTON — A Muslim-American man admitted Friday that he plotted to use remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives to blow up the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to damage and destroy federal buildings by means of an explosive.
Ferdaus, of Ashland, was arrested last year after federal employees posing as members of al-Qaida delivered materials he requested, including grenades, machine guns and plastic explosives.
Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors agreed to drop four other charges. Prosecutors and Ferdaus' lawyers also agreed to jointly recommend a 17-year prison term. Sentencing is set for Nov. 1.
Ferdaus, who grew up in Massachusetts and has a physics degree from Boston's Northeastern University, smiled and greeted a large group of family and friends as he entered the courtroom.
After entering his guilty plea, Ferdaus tried to lean over to comfort his crying mother but was quickly pulled away by U.S. Marshals. She sobbed uncontrollably and had to be supported by family members as her son was led out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors said Ferdaus began planning jihad, or holy war, against the United States in 2010 after becoming convinced through jihadi websites and videos that America was evil. He later contacted a federal informant and began meeting to discuss the plot with undercover agents.
Authorities said the explosives were always under the control of federal agents and the public was never in danger. Counterterrorism experts and model-aircraft enthusiasts say it would be nearly impossible to inflict large-scale damage using model planes.
But both inside and outside court Friday, prosecutors described an elaborate plan they said Ferdaus was committed to carrying out.
Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would have used recordings on which Ferdaus is heard detailing the plot.
Siegmann said there were two main parts of his plan: to blow up the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled planes and to kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan using improvised explosive devices detonated by modified cellphones.
The planes, measuring 60 to 80 inches in length and capable of speeds greater than 100 mph, would be guided by GPS and packed with 5 pounds each of plastic explosives.
Siegmann said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to scout out his targets and later gave the undercover agents surveillance photos and maps. She said Ferdaus told them his plan “ought to terrorize” and “ought to result in the downfall of this entire disgusting place.”
Siegmann said Ferdaus modified 12 cellphones so they could act as an electrical switch for an IED.
After giving the first device to the undercover agents, the agents lied and told him it had been used in Iraq and killed three U.S. soldiers.
Siegmann said Ferdaus was “visibly excited” to learn his device had been used successfully and said, “That was exactly what I wanted.”
Ferdaus told Judge Richard Stearns that he was being treated for mild depression and anxiety before he was arrested and is now taking anti-anxiety medication.
During an earlier court hearing, Ferdaus' lawyers suggested that the FBI ignored signs of mental illness in Ferdaus while investigating him. An FBI agent acknowledged that the FBI had received reports about bizarre behavior by Ferdaus, including a report to Hopkinton police about one incident in which authorities say he stood in the road not moving and appeared to have wet his pants.
When asked Friday whether Ferdaus' mental health was taken into account when making the 17-year sentencing recommendation, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Pirozzolo cited Ferdaus' composed responses to the judge's questions and the judge's comment that Ferdaus is “obviously an intelligent and well-educated young man.”
“He answered clearly; he was lucid,” Pirozzolo said.
Siegmann said the defense didn't request a mental examination.
Aiken Public Safety puts new emphasis on community policing
News 12 joins the Aiken Department of Public Safety for a ride-along, but this mission is a special one. The department is putting a special emphasis on community police work.
by Chad Mills
AIKEN, S.C. -- Patrolling the streets of Crosland Park Friday morning, Corporal Jeremy Hembree wasn't looking to make arrests. He was looking to make friends.
Hembree's part of the Aiken Department of Public Safety's new effort to patrol communities around the city. His assignment is Crosland Park.
"The public perception of Crosland Park is that it is a high crime area. Although, if you look at the numbers, it is in line with other areas throughout the city,” said Hembree.
News 12 rode along with Corporal Hembree for a typical patrol. He spends about five and half hours patrolling the streets of Crosland Park. The remaining time is spent in his office that's also in Crosland Park.
"This is it,” he said showing off his office. “This is where we want to feel comfortable at to where we feel comfortable and also the community feels comfortable to come in and talk with us."
Along with his partner, he spends eight hours each day patrolling Crosland Park. Three other pairs of officers patrol three other communities.
"What they're able to do is, through those patrols, build relationships with community members and neighborhood association to where they know the officers that are going to be out there each day,” he said.
Hembree says this new type of old-fashioned police work is showing results. Fewer people are loitering in the streets, more people are coming to neighborhood meetings, and there's hope too that crime will go down.
Also, he says there's a positive impact on young people.
"Before the streets get them, we're able to guide them in the right direction,” said Hembree.
Hembree actually has his own baseball card that he hands out to young people he meets daily in Crosland Park. He says, in fact, one time he was at an armed robbery and was armed with his assault rifle. A school bus let off nearby, and a child that he knew came up and hugged him. He says that's just another example of how well this program is working.