NEWS of the Day - March 20, 2013
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - March 20, 2013
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 ...


UCF Gunman's To-Do List Ended With 'Give 'Em Hell'

(Video on site)

The University of Central Florida student who planned to massacre his fellow students had ordered more than $700 worth of weapons online, including two packages of ammunition, gun shooting DVDs, and accessories for his weapons that arrived on campus after the attack had already been thwarted.

The packages contained even more ammunition for the attack that former UCF student James Oliver Seevakumaran, 30, planned to carry out Monday morning shortly after midnight.

He already had a handgun, assault rifle, high capacity magazines, and four homemade bombs he hoped to use on fellow students after pulling the fire alarm and forcing them into the crowded hallways, according to police.

University Police Chief Richard Beary said today that Seevakumaran had written out a detailed list of the actions he hoped to take Monday night and crossed off the items as he went, including getting drunk at a bar called Mad Hatters and pulling the fire alarm. Police confirmed that he did both.

The last item on the list was "give 'em hell," but Seevakumaran killed himself before killing any fellow students, Beary said.

According to cops, the former business student pulled the fire alarm shortly after midnight, causing campus police to respond to the Tower 1 residence hall. He then returned to his apartment, where he pointed a rifle at roommate Arabo Babakhani.

Babakhani quickly hid in the bathroom and called 911 before Seevakumaran had a chance to shoot.

"As soon as the fire alarm happened, I open my door, I think something is burning on the stove. I open my door and I see my roommate with an assault rifle. I didn't stop and look, I slam the door in his face so he couldn't harm me. As soon as I open the door he just raised the rifle on me," Babakhani told ABC News.

Babakhani said Seevakumaran was a loner.

"For the most part if you said anything to him he would ignore you, he would stare off in the distance and pretend like you didn't exist. But he made eye contact with me when he pulled the gun on me. That was the best eye contact I ever had with him. He looked me dead in the eye and raised the gun," Babakhani said.

"I thought he went after my roommate but I didn't hear a struggle. Then I heard pops and then silence," he said.

University police responded to the apartment and, in a dramatic video shown at a press conference today, spent tedious moments trying to find the right key to enter Seevakumaran's room while the fire alarm sounded around them. Upon entering, they found Seevakumaran dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Officers quickly backed out of the room where Seevakumaran's body was. Police said that he had four homemade IEDs that were laced with shrapnel in a backpack in his room, in addition to the guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The suspect had a American Tactical .22 caliber assault rifle and a High Point .45 caliber handgun and high capacity magazines, including a drum magazine similar to the type used in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Police discovered today that Seevakumaran had two additional packages that he never picked up at the campus post office that included a sling for his rifle, a magazine, and DVDs on shooting and using lasers with weapons.

Beary said that the suspect spent at least $700 on the weapons and ammunition for the attack.

Seevakumaran had purchased his guns online and picked them up at a local Orlando federal firearms dealer, according to Beary.

Police said they were still investigating the incident but that there was no discernible motive for the planned attack.

Last Item on Gunman's List Was 'Give 'Em Hell'

Seevakumaran had been a student at the university from fall 2010 until December 2012, but he did not re-enroll for the 2013 semester. He was in the process of being evicted from the dorm when he killed himself. University officials said that it should not have taken as long as it did to evict Seevakumaran, but that the school took pains to be "compassionate" to students who had nowhere to go.

Babakhani said that his roommate was a loner.

"For the most part if you said anything to him he would ignore you. He would stare off in the distance and pretend like you didn't exist. But he made eye contact with me when he pulled the gun on me. That was the best eye contact I ever had with him. He looked me dead in the eye and raised the gun," Babakhani.

His roommates said they had never seen him with guns or weapons.

University police have stressed how the number of weapons and ammunition could have led to mass tragedy.

"Anybody armed with this type of weapon could have hurt a lot of people there, particularly in a crowded area as people were evacuating," Beary said. "It could have been a very bad day."




Oakland unveils new community policing strategy

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland's police chief says his department is implementing a new crime-fighting strategy that he hopes will allow officers to respond to calls more effectively.

Chief Howard Jordan says the new strategy includes dividing the city into five smaller districts, instead of two massive zones the department has been using.

In announcing the plan Monday, Jordan says the smaller districts will be led by a captain who will oversee about 60 officers. The captains will be encouraged to get more input from residents to help strengthen ties between police and the community.

Each district will also have its own citizen's advisory council.

A similar strategy to fight crime with three zones was adopted a few years ago but failed police say because of a lack of officers and equipment. The department switched to covering the city in two large zones not long after 80 officers were laid off in 2010.



New Jersey

Trenton council, residents grill police director about department's crime strategy

by Erin Duffy

TRENTON — Residents and several council members united to ask Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr. the same question tonight: What exactly is the police department's plan to combat the drug dealing, shootings and rash of burglaries and break-ins residents deal with on a daily basis?

Summoned before council for an update on the city's policing strategy, Rivera was equal parts defensive and defiant about his job performance and the state of the department, complaining at times about “sensational” media accounts, a small group of disgruntled officers resistant to change and other community members — an “evil force” — whom he said were “stirring the beehive” and criticizing the reforms he's been trying to institute since taking over the police force nearly one year ago.

“When I got here — I'll be honest — the layoffs destroyed this department,” he said.

Tonight's meeting included a verbal sparring match between Rivera and Councilman George Muschal, who accused the police chief of delegating much of his responsibility to a subordinate and said that his department was on “life support.”

Rivera claimed he inherited a department marred by small pockets of laziness, a lack of supervision, disciplinary problems, an overly generous union contract and low levels of morale spawned by mass layoffs in 2011, but said overtime was down, patrol units beefed up and department resources prioritized to the most high-crime areas of the city over the past year.

“Change is slow but believe me, we're moving forward,” he said. “I heard from one community member who said tonight, I don't know why you're here director, because I like the job you're doing.”

But during the public comment portion of the meeting, which Rivera missed because he was dealing with a personnel matter, residents and civic activists said they're fed up with a police department that seems to be operating without a rudder or proactive policing units, such as the tactical anti-crime unit disbanded by Rivera in December in favor of putting more police officers on patrol.

A review of police records by The Times this week found overall arrests and drug arrests had dropped since the TAC unit was dissolved.

“If the police department doesn't have proactive units such at TAC and vice to go after the people who are dealing drugs from their home, what's the plan to get rid of these people?” resident Michael Walker asked. “Do we knock on their doors with milk and cookies and ask them to stop because it's ruining our neighborhood? The question I have for the director is, what is your strategic plan to deal with residents engaging in criminal activities out of their homes?”

Jacque Howard, the president of the Franklin Park Northeast Block Association, said car break-ins and burglaries were up in his neighborhood. If it's this bad in winter, when the cold typically drives criminals inside, how will the city cope now that it's getting warmer?

“How are we going to address the issue of crime and unlawful behavior throughout this winter and how are we going to address it as the seasons change and it gets warmer, when we see a spike in crime?” Howard said.

Donald Brokate said the city was becoming numb to the barrage of shootings and asked why Mayor Tony Mack and Rivera hadn't unveiled a comprehensive strategy for crime suppression.

“Why isn't he here listening to the citizens?” Brokate asked of Rivera. “He is perpetually absent. We need to get some answers as to why the tactical unit was dissolved and what his strategy is to stop the bleeding. There seems to be no proactive strategy, just a reactive strategy and a poor one at that, and I would like some answers.”

Council President Phyllis Holly-Ward said people in the community wanted more visibility from their police director and a clear idea of what was being done to combat crime.

Overall, in my opinion the police department is on life support right now

“From what I'm hearing tonight people want to hear from you, see you,” she told Rivera.

She and Councilwoman Kathy McBride interrupted the police director at one point during his presentation and asked him to more clearly define the department's crime strategy moving forward.

“You're using negative words, talking about naysayers. None of that has to do with what we want to hear regarding a plan,” Holly-Ward said. “What I'm hearing is a lot about fighting on the inside. What we need to hear is not about the people fighting on the inside, we need to hear about fighting crime on the outside.”

Rivera spoke about continued partnerships with the State Police, U.S. Marshals, FBI and the state parole system to tackle violent crime and said he's met with State Police Col. Rick Fuentes and Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio in recent weeks to talk strategy. Police overtime is down $457,000 from last year and the state Uniform Crime Report shows that while crimes like unattended theft — copper in particular — are up, other areas of crime remain flat or have even decreased slightly, Rivera said.

Homicides in January and February are up by two from the same period last year but most of the six homicides so far this year were isolated incidents that could not have been prevented by even a fully-staffed force, Rivera said.

“We are being proactive,” Rivera said. He defended his disbanding of the TAC unit, saying the hours TAC officers worked were at odds with the days and hours most violent crimes were being committed and the often-aggressive tactics of the unit were better replaced with more officers on patrol and an emphasis on community policing.

“The reality is, what we're experiencing here in Trenton is no different than any other urban environments,” Rivera said. “That doesn't mean it's fine, it's good, but we have good officers … some of the finest officers, working diligently who have tremendous success rates closing all these homicides and aggravated assaults.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Muschal, a retired police officer who's clashed with Rivera publicly in the past, said he still felt transparency was an issue under Rivera and said he heard that his chief of staff Sgt. Adrian Mendez was the one actually running the department day-to-day.

“If he's running the show, what are we paying you $105,000 for?” Muschal asked.

He asked Rivera, who rents an apartment from the city but hails from Hackensack, if he would move his family to Trenton.

“Overall, in my opinion the police department is on life support right now,” Muschal said, referring to department infighting and initiatives he said weren't working, like the reopening of two police precincts. “I'm telling you straight up that we are in chaos and I don't want to give people a false sense of security.”

Rivera said he was the city's most transparent police chief in recent years and said Muschal was listening too closely to disgruntled officers whispering in his ear.

Rivera and Muschal began raising their voices to each other over Rivera's residency and Muschal's perceived meddling, with Rivera telling Muschal at one point “you are the nonsense that keeps this department down.”