Manhunt intensifies for Mississippi bank robber suspected in cop's death
(Picture on site)
The FBI is seeking the public's help in locating a man accused of fatally shooting a police officer and wounding another while fleeing the scene of a bank robbery in Mississippi.
Authorities say the suspect wanted in connection with Monday's fatal bank robbery in Tupelo also tried to rob a bank in Atlanta on the same day. The FBI released a wanted poster Friday showing the suspect wearing a facemask, a patterned jacket, khaki pants, and tennis shoes.
The suspect is described as about 5-feet, 8-inches tall to 6 feet tall with a slender build, the FBI said. Authorities believe the suspect fled in a grey sedan.
Police Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer died from gunshot wounds Monday at age 38. Law enforcement from as far away as Florence, Alabama, Jackson and Memphis, as well as local law enforcement, attended his funeral on Friday.
Also shot was Officer Joseph Maher, 27. Police Chief Bart Aguirre said Maher's wife reported he has greatly improved over the last two days and was able to walk with assistance.
When asked about a possible suspect in Chicago, Highway Patrol Trooper Ray Hall told the Daily Journal he couldn't release any information and no formal charges have been filed. Still, he said, investigators are following some good leads.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said billboards were made and will be posted in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas to get the word and photos out. He also asked the public not to rely on social media for their news.
"We thank everyone for support and prayers," he said. "We are asking that because of social networking that any information that is obtained by any source other than that of officials working this case to be considered non-reliable. Please use caution if posting information due to the safety of the officers that are still working to apprehend the person or persons responsible."
Stauffer's family said the strength of the community is helping them get through this rough time.
"Everybody has been so wonderful to us through this week. And, the overwhelming love and support that this community has given us has helped us make it through," his mother, Debbie Brangenberg, told WTVA-TV in Tupelo.
Stauffer's wife, Beth, says it's her strong faith that keeps her standing and says she'll never give up.
"I have my moments. But, I'm at peace with Gale because I know he died doing something he loved. The way he was at work as a leader is what he was like at home," Beth Stauffer said.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the man responsible for the shooting. Anyone in the area with pictures or information is asked to contact CrimeStoppers of Northeast Mississippi at 1-800-773-TIPS or the FBI's Tip Line at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
California man pleads guilty to terror count
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California man who used the Internet and Facebook to connect with al-Quaida pleaded guilty Friday to a federal terrorism charge after admitting he attempted to assist al-Qaeda by providing weapons training, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, unexpectedly entered the plea before U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter, who scheduled sentencing for March 21, prosecutors said in a statement. Reporters were not notified of his court appearance and were not present.
Nguyen faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.
Nguyen's lawyer, Yasmin Cader, refused to comment on his decision, quickly hanging up the phone on a reporter, and U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said prosecutors also would have no comment.
The judge who accepted the plea previously had expressed skepticism about whether Nguyen had any special skills to offer al-Qaeda.
Nguyen had confessed to federal agents after he was unmasked by an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group.
He said that he planned to offer himself as a trainer of some 30 al-Qaeda forces to ambush troops in Syria, where he had already spent five months fighting with rebels, Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Heinz said after his arrest in October. She said he underwent 50 hours of interrogation during which he confessed to his plan.
Nguyen's admission was contained in a plea agreement filed in federal court, according to a U.S. attorney's press release issued after the plea was entered and accepted.
"Nguyen admitted that approximately one year ago he traveled to Syria where he joined opposition forces," the statement said. "Using a social network site during a four-month period he was in Syria, Nguyen told people that he was fighting against the Assad regime and that he had had a 'confirmed kill.'"
Nguyen returned to the U.S., where he told associates that he had offered to train al-Qaeda forces in Syria but was turned down, the U.S. attorney's office said.
At a hearing last fall, Judge Walter asked Heinz what Nguyen had to offer the terrorist group and she said, "He was providing himself."
The judge noted that Nguyen was never a member of the U.S. armed forces, having been rejected because of a hearing problem.
"I don't see evidence that this defendant had any particular skill in firearms," he said, "or that he had the ability to procure or deliver weapons. … This is the part of the case that escapes me."
It was not immediately known what changed his mind between then and the entry of the plea.
Prosecutors said that between Aug. 3 and Oct. 11 Nguyen met with a man he thought was an al-Qaeda recruiter but who actually was working for the FBI, telling him about what he'd done in Syria and saying he wanted to return to jihad.
On Oct. 1, Nguyen purchased a ticket for travel from Mexico to Pakistan and he was arrested by FBI agents on Oct. 11 as he was about to board a bus from Santa Ana, California, to Mexico. He had been told he would be meeting "his sheik" in Peshawar, the prosecutor had said.
When he was arrested, authorities said he exclaimed, "How did you guys find out?"
Teens learning radio skills in Chicago police program
Program is part of push to improve community relations.
by Patrick Smith
A pair of police officers on Chicago's South Side are helping teens learn radio production in an effort to keep them off the streets and improve their views on cops.
The program in the Englewood neighborhood fits with a push by Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy to improve the relationship between police officers and the people they serve.
It is called the 7th District Youth Anti-Violence Media Program. It introduces teens to the ins and outs of radio production, and gives them a chance to get on the air.
The classes are held three days a week at Kennedy-King College. The broadcasting instructors there pitch in to teach the kids.
The program was started by Daliah Goree-Pruitt and Claudette Knight, both community policing (or CAPS) officers. The two started out as beat cops. Now they are in charge of neighborhood outreach, counseling crime victims, and running community meetings in a neighborhood struggling with some of the highest crime rates in the city.
The two had a lot to do already. Knight and Goree-Pruitt also do a weekly food give-away and hand out turkeys before Thanksgiving. On the Saturday before Christmas, they gave away toys at the station house located at 1438 W. 63rd Street.
But 7th District Deputy Chief Leo Schmitz came to them last spring with a new task.
“He was like, ‘Think of something that we can do for the kids,'” Goree-Pruitt said.
Schmitz was worried about the summer then coming up, when hot temperatures and idle teens could contribute to a spike in violent crime.
Knight said they wanted to do something new.
“You know, something different, some other added activity because you always hear basketball, baseball, but not all kids are sports-inclined,” Knight said.
They wanted to do a swim program, but they could not get the funding. Goree-Pruitt said the only thing the department had money for was t-shirts for the participants. So Goree-Pruitt and Knight needed partners.
Kennedy-King College, about a mile west of the 7th District station, has a broadcasting department and its own radio station, WKKC. Knight said it was the “perfect opportunity.” They approached the college and got the OK.
So all they needed were students. This turned out to not be easy. The two went personally to high school principals in the area, asking them to recommend students for the program… and they got almost no response. Then they asked area pastors - again, nothing.
So Goree-Pruitt and Knight just started approaching random kids on the street and around the neighborhood.
That's how Genavie Clark heard about it.
“One day [I was] sitting in Dunkin' Donuts, and all the officers were sitting in Dunkin' Donuts, and Officer Goree came up to my table and she told us about the radio program. So I signed up for it,” Genavie said.
Ultimately, the two got 20 teens of high school age for that first summer class, and it went so well they did a smaller after-school version this fall.
The program gets by mostly on the power of Goree-Pruitt and Knight's charisma, which is considerable. But these two career cops know nothing about radio production, and they do not have any money to pay instructors.
So the students learn mostly by observing WKKC in action.
The kids are exposed to a lot of the skills that go into producing a radio show: hosting, logging tape, mixing audio - even DJ-ing.
Station manager Dennis Snipe comes in every once in awhile to talk to the students about diction and public speaking, the assistant program director lets them look over her shoulder while she logs tape, and the hosts give them pointers during music breaks.
The summer classes were from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., so the students had to be fed. The owner of a shopping plaza across the street from the station donated Subway sandwiches.
So it's a nice story. But at first glance, none of it seems much like police work.
“It's all about community interaction, because the youth especially, most of their interaction with the police is negative. So if you start introducing a positive interaction at a teenage level, then they start to view us in a different way,” she said.
WBEZ ran a story on Dec. 23 about police legitimacy training: thousands of Chicago cops re-learning how to best interact with the people they serve.
Efforts such as the radio program and legitimacy training fit with Superintendent McCarthy's priority on what he calls a return to community policing.
A recent study by Yale criminologist Andrew Papachristos found that Chicago in 2013 has had its lowest violent-crime rate in the past three decades. McCarthy credits community policing with a decrease in crime.
Goree-Pruitt believes it's part of her job to connect with people.
“I feel like I can help these kids. I may not help all of them, but the ones that I can help, they'll know the police department just don't lock kids up,” she said.
Besides teaching them how to produce a radio show and to like cops, the officers use the class as a way to help the students deal with their own issues. They talk to the students about resolving conflicts, safe sex, and staying out of trouble.
Before they start the radio lessons, the students gather around a round table in a small windowless room across from the WKKC studios.
One of the girls is talking to Goree-Pruitt about problems she is having with her stepmom. She says her dad is getting a divorce, and he blames her.
Goree-Pruitt councils her on being the mature one, even though her stepmom is the adult.
“I've had the same issues, having two parents to living with just my mom, to my mom getting remarried, to my mom getting rid of all four of her daughters to be with this new husband, to my dad raising four daughters by himself. So I am no different from you all. Like I tell you all, because we're the police doesn't mean that we're not human,” Goree-Pruitt told them.
Goree-Pruitt and Knight look tougher than they sound, and they both spent time on the beat, dealing with high-stress situations. But they also have families of their own, so maybe it is not surprising that they connect so well with teens.
“When I come here it just, all my stress just goes away,” freshman Wattsita Henley said.
The fall class, which ended earlier this month, was five high schoolers, three girls and two boys, and most did not seem like the types police really need to worry about.
Freshman James Cross Jr. said the closest he has ever gotten to drugs is seeing weed in a bag at school.
“One of my friends showed me a bag, and I don't know why but I just started laughing,” James told the group.
The other boy, Jermaine Robinson, has gotten into some trouble in the past.
He left Englewood to live with his grandmother in suburban Hazel Crest for a few years. He said he came back because it was just too quiet out there.
Robinson is about to start at Winnie Mandela, an alternative high school in the South Shore neighborhood.
He likes working with his hands, so he is trying to learn how to DJ.
His ultimate goal is to be a computer engineer.
“Because like, when I was in 5th grade we did a program, and I earned a computer and I was taking it apart and putting it back together and stuff like that,” Jermaine said.
Goree-Pruitt said she is not worried about what type of kids they are reaching, adding that she is just glad to be reaching any.
“ All I can say is that you touch one you reach another one, because they'll tell, they'll tell their friends.”
The next radio class starts in January.