June, 2016 - Week 4
Corruption Cases Casts Harsh Light On NYPD Handgun Permits
NEW YORK (AP) — A corruption probe at the New York Police Department has cast a harsh light on how people get handgun permits in a city that boasts some of the nation's toughest gun laws.
Federal prosecutors say a shady fixer's cash bribes induced officers working in NYPD's licensing division to rubber-stamp dozens of gun applications, circumventing stringent background checks intended to weed out candidates with criminal records, mental health problems and other red flags. The potential public safety breach comes amid a national debate over whether easy access to weapons fueled the Orlando massacre and other mass shootings.
“We don't want guns getting into the wrong hands, and we have officers of the law facilitating that process,” said Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “That is not a good situation.”
The New York investigation caught Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, a volunteer safety patrol member in his Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, on tape bragging that he had obtained at least 150 licenses for people to carry guns by paying up to $6,000 in bribes for each weapon.
The bribes were covered by fees of $10,000 or more paid by clients who in turn saw their applications to carry a handgun approved in two months or less — compared to as long as a year in normal circumstances — while other clients saw their criminal histories ignored.
Investigators say one person got a permit despite being arrested for bribing a public official and for assault. Another license holder was arrested on a forgery charge and was the subject of domestic violence complaints, including one involving a death threat.
Lichtenstein “was no less than an arms dealer for the community,” a federal prosecutor said at an arraignment last month when Lichtenstein pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit bribery.
Two police officers who worked in the licensing division were also arrested in the bribery scheme — part of a broader, ongoing corruption case that has roiled the nation's largest police department.
Last week, two high-ranking NYPD commanders were charged with accepting $100,000 in bribes including free flights, hotel rooms and prostitutes in exchange for favors like police escorts, ticket fixing and getting gun license applications for corrupt businessmen.
The revelations have prompted the NYPD to so far revoke 79 gun permits of the roughly 260 that came under suspicion because of the corruption probe. Police also are reviewing ways to further tighten regulations for a system that processes thousands of new applications, as well as renewals for the 37,000 permits already in circulation.
Most of the applications are for permits to keep a gun at home. But a small percentage are from people seeking to carry handguns while working or at all times for personal safety — a request that triggers a thorough background check and an investigation into whether their safety concerns are legitimate.
Aside from rejecting applications based on arrest records and mental issues, the NYPD says it also disqualifies people with histories of drug abuse, domestic violence and poor driving records.
The department doesn't disclose the identities of handgun permit holders, saying only that retired law enforcement officers are a high percentage of them. But there have been reports that the rich and famous have gotten its permission to pack heat.
A website for John Chambers, a New York City lawyer who's part of a cottage industry of legitimate gun permit expediters, boasts that his clients include a best-selling author, a billionaire businessman, a radio personality and a movie star, along with liquor store owners, jewelers and strip club operators.
Chambers called the case a shocking “aberration” for a licensing division he has dealt with for decades.
“It's going to hurt the law-abiding citizen, but it's almost not the fault of the government,” he said. “It's these criminal cops and Shaya.”
Lichtenstein, he said, was a constant presence at the division offices.
“Every time I was there, he was there. … I think it got out of control,” he said.
Court papers say that behind the scenes, Lichtenstein bragged he had gamed the system so well that his connections would automatically sign off on his clients' applications simply “because it's Lichtenstein.”
The papers add that in another instance, while seeking to recruit an officer for the scheme, he insisted, “I'm not bribing you.” But the officer wouldn't have it.
“Of course you're bribing me,” he said.
Reports: Authorities feared terrorism, explosives at Pulse
by Jennifer Kay
MIAMI — Law enforcement officials immediately suspected terrorism and adjusted their staging areas due to fears about an explosive device as they responded to reports of shots fired at a gay nightclub in Orlando, according to sheriff's office incident reports released Saturday.
In the reports, Orange County Sheriff's Office deputies describe receiving limited information about an “active shooter” as they rushed to control the chaos outside Pulse on June 12 in what turned out to be the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Sgt. David Legvold wrote that as he assessed all the sheriff's office personnel and resources at the early morning scene, he was told by a superior that “this incident had been declared a National Special Security Event and should not be discussed outside the law enforcement community.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security makes that designation for events deemed to be potential targets for terrorism, mass protests or other criminal activity. Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia last year and this year's Republican and Democratic national conventions have received this designation.
Legvold wrote that the commander of the sheriff's office Critical Incident Management Team informed him about the special security designation, but it wasn't clear where that information came from. A report by the lieutenant that Legvold identified as the team's commander was not released.
In a 911 call from the club where 49 people were killed and over 50 were injured, the gunman, Omar Mateen, pledged solidarity with the Islamic State group. Federal law enforcement officials have said there's no evidence Mateen was directed by any foreign terror groups.
Officials also have said FBI investigators haven't found convincing evidence supporting reports that Mateen was gay or seeking gay relationships.
In another report, Deputy Johnerick Sanchez described helping victims coming out of the club's entrance until authorities relocated an “inner perimeter” due to fears of a “possible improvised explosive device.”
Sanchez then moved to the west side of the club, where he said he helped people escaping from the bathrooms and dressing room.
Other deputies wrote about responding to Orlando Police calls for emergency backup in roughly 15 reports emailed by sheriff's office spokesman Jeff Williamson.
When they arrived, they saw people covered in blood and running from the club in a panic while others with gunshot wounds lay on the ground, according to the reports.
Deputies wrote about hearing gunshots from inside Pulse, separating the wounded according to the severity of their injuries and carrying people to paramedics and ambulances.
Bill would make targeting public safety workers a hate crime
by The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A state lawmaker from Louisville has introduced a bill that would make it a hate crime to target police officers, firefighters or emergency medical service workers.
Republican state Rep. Kevin Bratcher filed the legislation on Thursday. It comes after Louisiana's Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a similar law last month, making Louisiana the first state in the country to expand its hate crimes law to cover public safety workers.
Killing a police officer or firefighter is a capital offense in Kentucky. But by making targeting public safety workers a hate crime would give judges more leeway to impose tougher sentences. The state legislature will consider the bill when it convenes in January.
Kentucky state Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder and Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis were shot and killed while on duty in 2015.
Utah PD's newest member is a porn-sniffing K-9
K-9 URL is trained in electronic detection
by PoliceOne Staff
OGDEN, Utah — The Weber County Sheriff's Office has introduced the state's first K-9 trained to aid officers in child pornography investigations.
According to KSL, K-9 URL is trained in electronic detection – sniffing out concealed, small items used for digital storage such as SD cards, SIM cards, and USB sticks – items that could contain illegal pornographic material.
Although URL's primary role will be in child porn investigations, the sheriff's office may use the dog in the future to sniff out other devices – such as contraband cell phones in jails.
The 17-month-old black Labrador was an animal shelter rescue, according to the report.
House squabbles over police transparency in NC body camera bill
Some lawmakers say the standards could cloak the recordings in secrecy
by Anna Gronewold
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's first-ever regulations for access to police video footage won House approval Thursday over objections from some lawmakers who say the standards could cloak the recordings in secrecy.
The House gave initial endorsement to the measure that would exempt from public records video recordings from body cameras and dashboard cameras.
Law enforcement agencies could release footage to the people who are recorded. However, police could also withhold footage if it could jeopardize a person's safety, harm a person's reputation or is part of an active investigation. If the agency denies a request, the person would have to bring a claim in court.
The bill's supporters argue that creating a state framework for releasing the footage will promote transparency.
Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland said without any state guidelines, law enforcement agencies so far have been classifying the recordings as personnel records, which are not publicly accessible.
Floyd, who was one of the sponsors of last year's study on the use of body cameras in the state, said if this bill is enacted it can be amended and approved later.
"This is not the end all and be all," Floyd said. "It is a step along the pathway to improving access."
But opponents called it a step in the wrong direction.
Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance, said the footage belongs to the public to hold police accountable. He said the bill creates burdens for those looking to access it, especially those who can't afford to hire lawyers if their requests are denied.
Rep. Billy Richardson, D-Cumberland, said the bill has things backward. He said withholding the records should be the exception, not the rule.
"Do you really want to tell the people of North Carolina when it comes to their business, when it comes to the stakeholders' business, that we are not going to create a presumption of openness?" Richardson said.
But Richardson, along with nearly half the House Democrats, voted for the measure as an improvement over the status quo.
The primary sponsor, Rep. Allen McNeill, R-Randolph, said the videos cannot be classified public records because some barriers are necessary to protect citizen privacy.
Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said police footage could include private or embarrassing moments for both citizens and law enforcement.
"If we're going to do that, why don't we just put them all online?" he said. "We could run a TV show."
The bill requires another House vote before being sent to the Senate.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Securing our Communities: Resources for Small and Medium Businesses
by Caitlin Durkovich
The recent shooting in Orlando reminds all Americans that the threat of violence exists in our communities. The ideology or motivation behind each attack may vary, but in common we have seen an evolution toward more independent, unaffiliated attacks inspired by extremist groups. Extremist individuals can find inspiration and encouragement through social media with geographically dispersed but like-minded extremists.
These tragedies often leave people, and particularly business owners or those organizing public events, wondering what they can do. The Department of Homeland Security's Hometown Security initiative was created to share tools and resources for small and medium size businesses as well as people who organize public gatherings that extremists may consider appealing and easily accessible targets. Through this initiative, we encourage community partners to Connect. Plan. Train. Report.
Connect with a local Protective Security Advisor or first responder
Plan for emergencies, including active shooters
Train your employees and exercise your plans
Report suspicious activities
DHS' Protective Security Advisor program consists of approximately 100 advisors around the country that support security planning in coordination with government and private sector partners. They also conduct vulnerability assessments, coordinate training, and support event security operations. I encourage businesses and organizations to reach out to the PSA in your community.
We must take an active role in ensuring the security and resilience of our communities, and we must do this in a way that preserves our civil rights and American values. I encourage you to visit our Hometown Security page and learn more about what you can do to help keep your community safe and secure.
What You Can Do
ICE, US Marshals arrest 45 international fugitives with Interpol notices
WASHINGTON — Forty-five foreign fugitives – all subjects of active Interpol notices for individuals wanted in connection with criminal activity – were arrested across the United States this week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the U.S. Marshals Service. Arrests occurred nationwide during the three-day enforcement operation June 21 to 23.
“Project Red II” targeted individuals with Interpol red notices and others wanted for serious crimes within Interpol member countries. A red notice serves as an international wanted notice and provides information on the identification of fugitives charged with or convicted of serious crimes who have fled prosecution or the serving of their sentence.
The 45 individuals arrested during Project Red II were wanted for crimes in 22 different countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Sixteen were wanted on various fraud charges, seven were wanted for homicide and four for illegal gang activity. Other alleged crimes included drug trafficking, rape, embezzlement, extortion and kidnapping.
“Identifying and arresting foreign fugitives is a global law enforcement priority and commands the full commitment of ICE resources,” said ERO Executive Associate Director Tom Homan. “It is our duty to the American people and our partner countries to ensure that these individuals are removed from the shadows of our communities and returned to their home countries to face justice for their criminal acts.”
Emilio Eliseo Coreas Avelar, 23, of El Salvador, arrested June 22 in Burke, Virginia, subject of an Interpol red notice from El Salvador for aggravated homicide and gang participation.
Marleny Rodriguez-De Lovo, 43, of El Salvador, arrested June 21 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, subject of an Interpol red notice from El Salvador for participating in an organized criminal gang in furtherance of illegal criminal activity.
Pothuvilage Ushan Bernard Karunaratne, 38, of Sri Lanka, arrested June 21 in Fort Worth, Texas, subject of an Interpol red notice from Sri Lanka for fraud.
Sergei Levchenko, 44, of Russia, arrested June 21 in Miami, subject of an Interpol red notice from Russia for fraud.
Jose Angel Vanegas, 36, of El Salvador, arrested June 23 in Houston, Texas, subject of an Interpol red notice from El Salvador for aggravated homicide and gang participation.
Two remaining at-large fugitives were added to ICE's list of most wanted fugitives: David Ernesto Perez-Viales, 34, of Nicaragua, wanted on an Interpol red notice for aggravated rape and who was last seen in Miami, and Andrew Andreyevich Vikhrev, 31, of Belarus, wanted on an Interpol red notice for illegal drug trafficking and who was last seen in Brooklyn, New York.
ICE leadership credited the combined efforts of Interpol Washington, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“For more than a decade, Interpol Washington and ICE have partnered to share critical law enforcement investigative information to keep fugitives off our streets,” said Interpol Washington Director Geoffrey S. Shank. “The level of cooperation and partnership exemplified throughout Project Red II are a reflection of the achievements made possible when law enforcement agencies collaborate to ensure our nation and world are a safer place.”
The ICE National Criminal Analysis and Targeting Center (NCATC) provided critical investigative support for this operation, including criminal and intelligence analysis of information obtained from proprietary sources, open-source, and bilateral/multilateral exchanges with entities throughout the United States and partners represented at Europol. The NCATC provides comprehensive analytical support to aid the at-large enforcement and removal efforts of all ICE components.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed 1,789 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office of International Operations, foreign consular offices in the United States, Interpol and Europol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the United States.
ERO coordinates the removal of criminals, foreign fugitives and others ordered deported. Last year alone, ERO removed 235,413 individuals from the United States.
Members of the public who have information about these fugitives are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199, or by completing an online tip form.
Paramedics barred from saving Orlando shooting victims because club was deemed too dangerous
by Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Paramedics responding to the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting never entered the building throughout the three-hour standoff because it was considered too dangerous, officials said Wednesday.
The attack at the Pulse nightclub left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded. It's unclear how many could have been saved had paramedics been able to enter the gay club between the time the shooting was reported at about 2 a.m. and when it ended shortly after 5 a.m.
The Orlando Fire Department has a station a block away from the club and paramedics were on the scene within minutes of when the shooting started, according to Deputy Fire Chief Richard Wales.
The department sent more than 80 personnel and 34 vehicles, but they were forced to remain outside, treating the wounded who emerged or were rescued by police, he said.
“There were no EMS teams going in because at that time it was still a ‘hot zone.' It was not a ‘warm zone,'” Wales said.
Typically at active shootings, rescue workers are told to wait in safe, or "cold,” zones until law enforcement can clear "hot zones” where gunmen are still active. Whether a zone is hot or warm can change depending on the shooter's movements, weaponry and the configuration of the building, experts say.
But paramedics have been responding more aggressively to active shootings in recent years as federal guidelines and training have evolved.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has called for fire department medics, working with police, to enter warm zones — areas near active shooters where a threat still might exist — before attackers are fully contained. Some paramedics now train to accompany police into hot zones like battlefield medics.
“The cultural barriers that existed in fire and EMS [agencies] to entering areas of danger that involved ballistics or explosive threats have changed,” said E. Reed Smith, medical director of the Arlington County Fire Department in Virginia and an advisor on the federal government's new guidelines. “We have to get in there to stop the dying.”
He said the aggressive approach to life-saving gained traction after the Columbine, Colo., school shooting in 1999, in which medical crews and police waited for a SWAT team outside for nearly an hour as a teacher died.
“As long as we're standing outside, we have not stopped the dying,” Reed said.
U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell Jr., former fire chief in Pasadena and Monrovia, said law enforcement tried to respond more quickly after Columbine, and fire agencies developed more rapid responses after the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in 2012.
New FEMA guidelines issued for paramedics in 2013 included identifying warm zones where they could treat patients without a direct threat.
Now they're working to update those fire agency guidelines by summer's end to include policies, procedures and data on how to more rapidly treat victims of active shootings, he said.
While some agencies are entering active shooting hot zones, he said, that “takes ballistics protection; it takes training and coordination with the law enforcement team they're going in with.”
He said Orlando was especially difficult, given the size of the building and the hostage negotiations that took place with the barricaded shooter.
The new, more aggressive responses include entering the building with police to reach victims as a “rescue task force,” or entering the building after police create a “warm corridor” to extricate the wounded or after they create a “protected island” within the building where they can treat victims. Paramedics typically focus on stopping bleeding, clearing airways and treating chest wounds that often lead to death in mass shootings.
“You want a paramedic beside you as soon as possible,” Reed said.
After the mass shooting in Aurora, police rushed the wounded to hospitals in their cruisers, “not unlike what they did at the Pulse nightclub,” Reed said. He added that “although they saved a lot of lives, they did not stop the dying” in Aurora.
Paramedics were more aggressive in responding to the Boston Marathon bombing two years ago, rushing to the scene and treating the wounded despite repeated blasts.
Before the mass shooting in San Bernardino last year, SWAT team members happened to be training nearby. They responded to the shooting with their own medic. A SWAT medic also happened to be at Virginia Tech to aid victims after the mass shooting there in 2007.
Reed said the Orlando paramedics' response was “reasonable,” but he questioned what factored into the decision to hold back – and what impact it may have had on the death toll.
“The question we're all asking is did somebody in the building die because paramedics didn't get to them?” he said.
Geoff Shapiro, director of EMS and operational medicine training at George Washington University, also questioned how much of a hot zone the club was once the shooter retreated to rear bathrooms during the standoff.
“I completely understand why they didn't enter, but I also think that rationale, that way of thinking, needs to be updated to include the actual risks to EMS providers,” Shapiro said. “Fire personnel work in dangerous scenarios every day, and arguably a firefighter entering a burning building is as dangerous as entering a club where there's an active shooter.”
By the time the standoff ended and the building was cleared, all of the remaining victims were dead, according to Lori Moore, head of fire and EMS operations for the International Assn. of Firefighters union in Washington.
Moore, who has been briefed by Orlando EMS officials, said the structure of Pulse nightclub made it difficult for police to allow paramedics inside.
“When law enforcement made entry they could not clear the entire facility. That's why EMS did not make entry,” Moore said.
She said a “rescue task force” might have entered with the second wave of police who stormed the building, but because it had not been cleared, “that could not happen.”
“Everyone operated exactly as they should have,” she said. “They were told they would not be making entry and the victims would be moved out to them.”
Capt. Mark Canty, Orlando Police SWAT commander, said officers rescued people from inside the club during the standoff, but did not say whether they administered first aid. He and a police spokeswoman did not return calls Wednesday.
However, Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, a surgeon who was involved in the emergency response, said at least some of the police who dropped off victims of the shooting at nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center had rendered first aid.
“The main things they would do would be to put tourniquets on, because that's part of their uniform now. They would put tourniquets on the extremities to stop the bleeding. That was basically all they could do. They were that close,” he said.
Paramedics took 26 victims to hospitals, where nine died soon after arriving. It's unclear whether any of the 40 victims who died inside the club could have been saved, the deputy fire chief said.
“There will be a lot of people who second-guess what happens,” Wales said.
“We have active-shooter training we have done with [the] Orlando Police Department and we have been doing this for some time. The capability is there; our level of training is increasing," he said. “They knew where to go and exactly what the next steps should be.”
He said Orlando fire staff had trained in international trauma life support, “the battlefield model,” and used those tools as they treated victims outside the nightclub.
“Many lives were saved,” said Wales, who has been with the department 25 years.
While the department has responded to other active shootings, those ended before warm zones developed, he said.
“That's what sets this one apart: that this was over a period of time,” Wales said. “This is one of the most heartbreaking scenarios anyone will ever be in over a lifetime.… We learn as a nation this is how you handle this kind of a situation. Undoubtedly, there will be lessons learned.”
After Orlando, Questions Over Effectiveness of Terrorism Watch Lists
by Eric Lichtblau
WASHINGTON — The shooting rampage at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., has focused new attention on the vast but murky terror watch lists that the government has used with mixed results to identify potential security threats.
At the time of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, there were just 16 names on the government's so-called no-fly list. Today, that number stands at about 81,000, officials said, and the largest of the watch lists has 1.5 million names on it, all but a small fraction of them foreigners.
One of the names on the F.B.I.'s terrorism watch list as of early 2014 was Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando attack. But when the F.B.I. dropped its investigation into his suspected terrorist sympathies, his name came off the list, and he was legally allowed to go into a Florida gun store this month and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle used in the killings.
That sequence of events has set off a round of debate in Congress over the law allowing someone on the list to buy a gun. But four bills aimed at plugging the “terror gap” and blocking people on terrorism watch lists from buying guns failed to gain passage this week.
Another proposal, led by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, appeared likely to meet the same fate as early as Thursday.
From 2005 to 2015, nearly 2,500 people who appeared on the F.B.I.'s terrorism watch list attempted to buy a firearm, and 91 percent of the sales were approved, a study by the Government Accountability Office found.
The recent proposals to stop people on the watch lists from being able to buy guns have faced resistance from an unlikely group of opponents, including the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We're as appalled as anyone else about the attack in Orlando,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the A.C.L.U.'s National Security Project. “But it's our position that there is no bar on Congress in the reasonable regulation of guns. They could do something without an overly broad, unreliable watch list solution.”
The A.C.L.U., representing Muslim-Americans and others who said they had wrongly been put on the no-fly list, won a ruling in federal court in Oregon two years ago that found the list was unconstitutional because of the high risk of errors and the difficulty of being taken off it. That lawsuit is continuing.
“There certainly has been some improvement in the process since these watch lists were first put into place, but we still don't think the safeguards are adequate,” Ms. Shamsi said.
Under guidelines for the biggest of the terror lists, known as TIDE, or Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, those placed on the list are “known or appropriately suspected” of being involved in terrorist activity. Of the 1.5 million names on the TIDE list, residents of the United States account for only about 15,000.
In one of the most recent internal reviews of the watch list system, the Justice Department inspector general found in a 2014 report that improvements in the F.B.I.'s watch list system had made it “more complete, accurate and current” after problems in getting people on and off the list.
Earlier reviews found that as many as 15 percent of suspects in active terrorism investigations were not on the F.B.I. watch list, and that other people were improperly kept on it even after investigations into their suspected terrorism ties were closed. Both these problems appeared to have been significantly reduced or eliminated by the time of the 2014 review.
Counterterrorism officials have described the watch lists as a cornerstone of their efforts to detect possible terrorists before they can strike. But the watch lists' effectiveness has been spotty.
Just as Mr. Mateen was put on a watch list before the Orlando shooting, Tamerlan Tsarnaev — one of the brothers in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 — had also been placed on several versions of the list a few years earlier.
The “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate a bomb on a Detroit-bound plane in 2009, was also on one version of the terrorism watch list but was allowed to board the plane in Amsterdam. That near-disaster led to wide changes in the system and an expansion of the lists.
But the very next year, Faisal Shahzad, who tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in Manhattan, was allowed to board a plane for Dubai a day after the attempted bombing even though he had been put on a no-fly list. He was apprehended while the plane was at the gate.
In the wake of the Orlando shootings, Justice Department officials said they were considering a new policy to alert F.B.I. investigators if someone who was once on a terrorism watch list, like Mr. Mateen, attempts to buy a gun.
By itself, the placement on a watch list would not be grounds to stop a firearms purchase. But F.B.I. investigators could then search the buyer's file to look for other legal prohibitions — like a criminal conviction, drug use or mental health issue — that could allow them to stop the sale.
Community policing, teamwork should drive today's law enforcement
by Todd Feathers
LOWELL -- At a time when police officers are expected to be counter-terrorism agents, every arrest is likely to be captured on camera, and departments around the country face a backlash for real or perceived brutality, what are the foundations on which officers can place their faith?
Community-oriented policing and partnerships with other law-enforcement agencies, according to a panel of local experts who spoke Wednesday at the Police Society for Problem Based Learning in Lowell. They discussed the complex situations officers face and methods for helping officers decide whether they should be in the mindset of a guardian or a warrior at any given time.
"Now, we're asking that you to sort of swing back from the military style to the community style, but sort of straddle that line and know that you could go in either direction at any given time and it's difficult," said Ed Davis, the former police superintendent in Lowell and former police commissioner in Boston.
He was joined on the panel by Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor; FBI Special Agent Gary Coffey; Assistant District Attorney Steve Loughlin; Terrence Downes, executive director of the Program on Homeland Security at Middlesex Community College; and Greg Saville, director of AlterNation, a public-safety consultancy.
Policing is a crisis-based business, the panelists agreed, and the best way to be prepared for a crisis -- whether it be terrorism, a murder, or criticism from the community -- is to have already built trusting relationships with other people who can help.
"You can have the best-trained police force in the world, but if you don't get along with the community, they won't tell you anything," Downes said. "They likely won't tell you if your coat is on fire."
Davis and Coffey described the close relationship between the FBI and Boston Police Department and how critical it was during the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent investigation.
The first person Davis called after learning the bombs had gone off was Richard Deslauriers, the FBI agent in charge of the Boston office. The two men regularly had breakfast together prior to the attack and their mutual understanding ensured that FBI bomb squads were quickly on the scene.
One of the most valuable partnerships in Lowell is aimed at getting people who have overdosed on opioids into treatment, Taylor said. The Lowell Police Department partners with the Fire Department, city health officials, and the Lowell House treatment program to track down people who have overdosed within 24 hours and guide them to seek help.
The city has helped make its own luck, he added, in avoiding the kind of conflicts between civilians and police that have erupted in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, Md.
"We've seen this play out over the last couple of years, at least, where those among us in our profession act inappropriately, sometimes illegally, and it has very negative consequences for everybody in law enforcement," Taylor said. "Certainly it's a very, very small number of people, but the consequences can be extremely tragic."
In such situations, it is important for law enforcement and prosecutors to work together to reassure the public that proper steps will be taken to hold wrong-doers accountable and to rectify the problem going forward, Loughlin said.
"I think one of the critical things is the ability to listen and accept constructive criticism," he said.
The panelists also discussed the role of technology like cellphone videos and how best to share information with the media without jeopardizing investigations.
Davis urged the audience -- composed of police officers and police-academy professionals from around the country -- to develop social-media policies that emphasize releasing as much information as possible while ensuring accuracy and investigators' ability to do their jobs, and not to wait until a crisis strikes to start using social media.
Several of the panelists said that a culture change is taking place and police are becoming more comfortable and adept at sharing appropriate information -- such as video evidence -- with media outlets and the public instead of stonewalling all inquiries.
"There's always going to be something (new and problematic), but the constant is your ability to mobilize within the community," Saville said, adding, "The real, critical partnership is the one between the line officer and the people they see every single day."
Lynch: No 'magic bullet' against jihadist propaganda
Countering the narrative of radical extremism continues to be a challenge for the government, Lynch said
by Eric Tucker and Mike Schneider
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando massacre at a popular gay nightclub shows no one yet has "found the magic bullet" to prevent Americans from being inspired to violence by jihadist propaganda on the internet, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday as she visited a city still shaken by the shootings.
Countering the narrative of radical extremism continues to be a challenge for the government, Lynch said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"How do we break that chain? How do we counter this extremist ideology that's online, knowing that the internet has to remain free and open?" she said. "What can we get out there that's a counter-message to that?"
At the scene of the carnage, workers removed a temporary fence that was erected around the Pulse nightclub. State officials wondered how they would pay for resources drained by the June 12 massacre, and investigators kept probing for gunman Omar Mateen's motives for the rampage, in which 49 people were killed and dozens more wounded. Mateen died in a gunbattle with police.
Lynch said investigators may never pinpoint a single motive and have not ruled out witness reports suggesting Mateen might have been at Pulse before or had gay interests.
"While we know a lot more about him in terms of who he was and what he did, I do not want to definitively rule out any particular motivation here," she said, later adding, "It's entirely possible that he had a singular motive. It's entirely possible that he had a dual motive."
In a 911 call from the club, Mateen pledged solidarity with the Islamic State group, and Lynch said there's no doubt, based on evidence gathered during the investigation, that he had read and absorbed extremist propaganda on the internet.
"We believe that is certainly one avenue of radicalization, but we want to know if there are others," she said in the interview. "We want to know everything he did in the days, weeks and months leading up to this attack."
"We still do believe that this was an act of terror and an act of hate," she added.
Speaking to reporters later, she called the rampage a "shattering attack — on our nation, on our people and on our most fundamental ideals." She also directly addressed the LGBT community, saying, "We stand with you to say that the good in the world far outweighs the evil ... and that our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love."
While in Orlando, Lynch visited a memorial, praised the actions of first responders and met with victims' relatives. Her remarks at a news conference followed meetings with U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley and other law enforcement officials, including prosecutors assigned to the investigation.
Lynch's meeting with first responders came as Orlando police faced continued questions about their response.
On Monday, police Chief John Mina said that if any fire from responding officers hit victims at the club, Mateen bears the responsibility. "Those killings are on the suspect, on the suspect alone in my mind," he said.
Lynch said the Justice Department will provide Florida $1 million in emergency funds to help with response costs. Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott had complained that Washington had turned down his request for $5 million to help pay for the state's response.
Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said its disaster fund was not an "appropriate source" to pay for law enforcement response, medical care and counseling for victims of a shooting.
More clues emerged about the attack Monday when the FBI released a partial transcript of phone calls Mateen had with a 911 operator and police crisis negotiators once the shooting got underway.
In them, he identified himself as an Islamic soldier, demanded that the U.S. "stop bombing" Syria and Iraq, warned of future violence and at one point pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, the FBI said.
Mateen's calls to police, which one FBI official said were made in a "chilling, calm and deliberate manner" were similar to postings he apparently made on Facebook around the time of the shooting.
"I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings," Mateen said in one call that came more than a half-hour after the first shots rang out, the FBI said.
Despite his declarations, the FBI says it's found no evidence the attack was directed by a foreign terrorist organization. Mateen instead appears to have become radicalized through online jihadist propaganda, officials say, an influence that openly worries law enforcement.
Federal officials have encouraged friends and families to report to authorities individuals they believe are coming under the sway of extremist ideology and have sought to discourage Americans from traveling to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State by portraying it as a hellish danger zone. But "it's a real challenge" to redirect extremist propaganda that motivates people like Mateen to violence, particularly when the material is so easily accessible online, Lynch said.
"A lot of people are looking at this, and I don't know that anyone has found that magic bullet or that way to break that chain," she said.
Orlando nightclub massacre: Friend says he told FBI about Mateen
by Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy
A man who attended the same mosque as Omar Mateen said he notified the FBI of his suspicions in 2014 about the future Orlando nightclub gunman.
Mohammed Malik told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that he didn't think Mateen fit the profile of a radical but he was concerned about comments Mateen made to him.
Malik, who first wrote of his contact with Mateen and with the FBI in an op-ed in the Washington Post, told CNN that Mateen mentioned Anwar al-Awlaki -- American-born Muslim scholar and cleric who acted as a spokesperson for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- to him and that Mateen watched his videos.
"He told me they were powerful," Malik said. "... those raised the red flags for me and prompted me to speak with the FBI."
The fact that Mateen was a family man made Malik think he wasn't a radical but because another man from their mosque had been a suicide bomber in Syria, Malik thought he should say something.
FBI Director James Comey seemed to reference Malik when he said on June 13: "In the course of that investigation, one witness told us, when asked, "Do you know anybody else who might be radicalizing," that he had once been concerned about the killer because the killer had mentioned al-Awlaki videos. The witness had concluded that he later got married, and had a child, and got a job as a security guard, and so he was no longer concerned about him.
Comey said the FBI spoke with Mateen about his connection to the suicide bomber.
In his Post piece, Malik said he was writing because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had said no Muslim did anything to stop Mateen.
Not so, Malik said.
"We do speak up. The only thing is we don't want accolades for what we do," he said. "The only reason I am coming out is because of the hatred that I've seen spewed because of this incident."
He said many Muslims do the right thing, but it isn't something that becomes public.
Mateen and Malik were friends who saw each other at the mosque and spoke by phone a few times a year, according to his op-ed. He said he saw nothing dark about Mateen.
And he told CNN that Mateen never really said anything being gay or being homophobic.
Also Tuesday, the killer's father, Seddique Mir Mateen, said that his son had been interred Sunday in an Islamic burial. The father didn't give any details about the burial.
Attorney general visits
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch traveled Tuesday to Florida to visit with survivors of the Orlando nightclub shooting and check up on the investigation into shooter Mateen's rampage.
She brought $1 million in emergency funding to help Florida, Orange County and Orlando pay for overtime and other investigative costs, and more praise for a community that has famously united in the face of tragedy.
Lynch expressed great pride in the community and its unity "in defiance of terror and in defense of our most cherished ideals."
"We stand with you today as we grieve together and long after the cameras are gone, we will continue to stand with you as we grow together in commitment, solidarity and in equality," she said.
Lynch's trip comes a day after authorities released details of Mateen's communications with police during the June 12 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, where 49 people died and more than 50 others were wounded.
On Tuesday, law enforcement officials told CNN that Mateen had visited the club earlier in the night before his attack, possibly to assess the club's security.
Meanwhile, police reopened streets near Pulse and wound down their investigation at the crime scene, leaving behind, in the words of the police department's Twitter account, "profound sadness."
Lynch declined to answer questions about the investigation and whether authorities are looking to charge anyone else in connection with the case.
Full transcript released
Lynch and authorities took some heat Monday after issuing a redacted transcript of Mateen's call to 911 after the first burst of shooting in which he claimed responsibility for the attack and pledged allegiance to the ISIS terror group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the decision to omit the names of ISIS and its leader "preposterous."
Later, the FBI reversed course and issued a full transcript of Mateen's 50-second 911 call.
"My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State," the revised transcript of the call reads.
The decision to leave the names out started with FBI agents in the Orlando field office who were following Comey, who generally refuses to use the names of terrorists, CNN's Evan Perez reported, citing law enforcement officials.
Officials at FBI headquarters and the Justice Department signed off on the decision, the law enforcement officials said.
At a news conference Monday, Orlando-based FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper defended the move.
"We're not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric," he said.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, she said she would be open to releasing the audio of Mateen's 911 call and possibly other details from the investigation.
"We are looking to be as transparent as possible and provide as much information as possible," she said.
Police actions defended
In the aftermath of the shooting, some survivors had spoken out shortly after the events unfolded, criticizing a three-hour standoff that followed the early burst of gunfire.
"Why couldn't we have taken care of this much earlier?" New York television station WNYW quoted attack survivor Jeannette McCoy as saying two days afterward. "There were people in there bleeding to death. A part of me puts a sense of blame on (police). I'm sorry, but I was there. They could have done something."
But Monday, Orlando police Chief John Mina reiterated earlier statements he had made that circumstances changed when officers ran to the gunshots and fired on Mateen, driving him into a club bathroom with hostages.
At that moment, Mina said, what had been an active shooter situation requiring officers to engage the gunman turned into a hostage situation that demanded negotiation and planning.
"The timeline released based upon radio communications clearly shows our officers were within the club within minutes and engaged the suspect in gunfire," Mina said Monday. "And that's important because that engagement and that initial entry caused him to retreat, stop shooting and barricade himself in the bathroom with hostages."
And, he said, police were in and out of the club rescuing victims throughout the three hours between when police gunfire drove Mateen into the bathroom and the final encounter with the gunman after a SWAT team blew a hole in the wall and stormed in.
At the same time, crisis negotiators were trying to talk to Mateen to end the situation without further bloodshed, and the SWAT team was setting up for its entry, Mina said.
There was no gunfire during that time, he said.
When Mateen threatened to put explosive vests on hostages -- vests authorities later found he did not have -- commanders gave the order to go in, Mina said.
"So I'm extremely proud of the heroic actions of our officers, and I am very confident they saved many, many, many lives that night," he said.
Orlando SWAT commander talks response to nightclub shooting
Explosives were a major concern
by Molly Hennessy-Fiske
ORLANDO, Fla. — As the hours ground on and the death toll mounted, Orlando Torres wondered when the police would come to rescue him and others trapped by the gunman who had stormed the Pulse nightclub.
He would later recall thinking, “What's taking them so long?”
The question has been asked by many in the days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Omar Mateen launched his attack on the gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., around 2 a.m. Sunday, yet the ordeal didn't end until three hours later.
But police insist that during those three hours, they were rescuing clubgoers and employees and trying to assess whether the gunman's boasts — he claimed to have an explosive vest — were real. In an interview, the commander of the Orlando Police Department SWAT team described the challenges they faced and how they made key decisions that morning.
“Officers were running inside and grabbing people and throwing them in pickup trucks” to be taken to hospitals, said Capt. Mark Canty of the SWAT team. “There was never a time we were sitting there twiddling our thumbs. My guys were doing things from the beginning. We weren't just sitting idly by. We were doing what we needed to do to save lives.”
Canty happened to be awake when he got the call about what was happening at Pulse. He was on the phone with a lieutenant, discussing a carjacking the SWAT team had responded to the day before. The suspect had fled and holed up with two hostages in an apartment. Canty's team rescued the hostages and arrested the carjacker.
But the scene Canty confronted when he arrived at the nightclub at 2:45 a.m. was far more complicated, as was the standoff that would play out over the next two hours. In the end, 50 would die, including the gunman, and an additional 53 would be wounded.
“This has been called an active-shooter situation, and it started off that way. But it became a barricaded person, and the tactics are different,” Canty said Friday. “We have to step back and position ourselves to contain him and assess what is the best way to enter the building.”
An off-duty police officer working as a security guard had traded gunfire with the shooter at the entrance to the club and called for backup.
It's not clear why the off-duty officer didn't pursue the gunman into the club, Canty said, but it's not surprising.
“That officer is by himself and doesn't know how many people are involved. The guy is obviously armed with more advanced weaponry,” Canty said. Mateen had a handgun and a Sig Sauer MCX assault-style rifle.
Some patrol officers responded to the call and traded gunfire with the shooter at the front of the club, Canty said.
“That's kind of what drove him into the bathrooms, and that allowed the officers to come in and remove some people who were inside from the main part of the club,” he said.
One officer was grazed by a bullet that struck his Kevlar helmet, and a photograph of the green helmet — with its scuffed surface and bullet hole — soon became a familiar image from the attack. The officer wanted to stay on the scene, but fellow members of law enforcement forced him to get medical attention, Canty said.
After the gunman retreated to the rear bathrooms, where more than 20 patrons had crammed themselves into the stalls, Canty and other police began to position themselves outside the darkened building.
They considered smashing through a wall to reach the hostages.
“We had been discussing the breach from shortly after I got there just because we realized it was going to be difficult to get to the hostages from the interior,” he said.
An Orange County, Fla., Sheriff's Office bomb squad was on the way, and Canty asked the commander to prepare an explosive to break through the club's walls. “None of my officers are trained to deal with those type of explosives,” he said.
But he said they didn't sit around waiting.
Some of the 44 SWAT team members replaced patrol officers stationed around the club in case the shooter emerged. They couldn't hear the gunman or those trapped inside, Canty said, but dispatchers could.
“People inside were calling, texting their friends. They were calling dispatch, and they were relaying that to us,” he said. “I know people thought during that three-hour period we were just waiting. We were actually trying to rescue people.”
And they did.
“There was a group in a dressing room. They were kind of isolated from where the shooter was, and we were able to get them out a door on the north side of the building,” Canty said. Outside, officers helped punch holes in a fence so people who had reached a patio could escape.
The club manager was in touch with employees trapped in another dressing room with an air conditioning unit in the wall. “We were able to get that air conditioning unit out and get them out,” he said. About a dozen people were freed from the two dressing rooms.
As the hours ticked by, Canty grew worried. The gunman was talking to a negotiator, but he was also checking Facebook, texting his wife and calling a local television station. Canty heard radio traffic that the gunman had made calls to 911 to say he'd “pledged allegiance” to terrorist groups “and he had made his peace with Allah.”
Explosives were a major concern. The gunman claimed that a female accomplice armed with a bomb was playing dead among the victims and that he had snipers stationed nearby, hostage Richard Aiken texted a friend, who alerted police.
“Are we going to be able to get them out of there?” Canty said he wondered. “Is there some explosive in there that's going to detonate and kill all the people in there and my officers that are there?”
Normally, he said, “when you know there's a bomb, the smart thing to do is back away like 1,000 feet.” But his team wouldn't budge.
“Even if I had given them an order, I don't think I could have dragged them away from their positions,” he said.
Shortly before 5 a.m., the gunman called 911 with a threat.
“He talked about putting vests on the hostages and sending them out to the four corners of the club,” Canty said. Mateen claimed to have a vest for himself too, according to the police chief. And the gunman said he'd take action in 15 minutes.
“Considering what has gone on in San Bernardino and Paris, you're thinking the worst case,” Canty said. “We had started prepping [an explosive] charge. We were getting ready as quickly as we could.”
When Mateen made the call, Canty was at the command post a few blocks from the club with Orlando Police Chief John Mina. They reviewed the plan to rescue the hostages, and Mina made the call to use the explosive to break through a wall of the club.
In the bathrooms, Aiken, 29, heard police on a loudspeaker: “Move as far away from the walls as you can.” He said the gunman then started shooting again.
The first explosion didn't quite break the wall, so the SWAT team used an armored, Humvee-style BearCat vehicle to ram it, Canty said.
“The hole was in the wrong spot. It was in the hall between the two bathrooms. So they attempted to make a second hole,” he said.
When officers heard gunshots inside, they hurled in some nonlethal explosive flash-bang devices to divert the shooter and then rammed the wall a few more times, finally breaking into one of the bathrooms where the hostages were trapped with the gunman.
That's when they faced off with Mateen.
“He starts coming out of the first hole, and that's where he engages the officers in gunfire,” Canty said. Ten SWAT team members opened fire and killed the shooter.
The team freed more than 20 hostages, helping those who could not walk. Still uncertain whether the gunman had acted alone, officers quickly searched the group for weapons. Concerned that Mateen might have explosives strapped to his body, officers sent a robot to inspect the corpse.
Canty said the rescue showed why police increasingly invest in military-style equipment like the BearCat. He said his team followed “accepted tactics” and did all it could to help those trapped inside the club.
As the investigation unfolded, police eventually would find 49 people dead. “You have a lot of seasoned guys — they're shaken by what they saw,” Canty said.
Many SWAT team members stayed until 10 a.m., when they were sent home to rest. By 5 p.m., they were back on duty, Canty said, “ready for anything else that may occur in the city of Orlando.”
Two California men convicted of plotting to support IS
Two men from California have been found guilty of plotting to provide material support to the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group.
A federal court convicted Nader Elhuzayel and Muhanad Badawi, both 25, after a two-week trial.
The pair were arrested last year after Elhuzayel attempted to board a Los Angeles plane headed to Turkey with the intent of joining IS.
Badawi had bought Elhuzayel a one-way ticket to Israel via Istanbul.
The two Anaheim, California, residents had "expressed a desire to die as martyrs" on social media, according to a statement from the US attorney's office.
Prosecutors also said a Facebook account appearing to belong to Badawi featured posts showing he intended to join IS.
Elhuzayel had a Facebook account displaying the IS flag as his profile picture.
The pair also made a video in which Elhuzayel swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS, and vowed to travel to Syria to join the group, according to court documents.
Elhuzayel was also convicted of 26 counts of bank fraud for depositing stolen cheques into his personal accounts and then withdrawing cash at different branches in Orange County.
The stolen cash was intended to finance Elhuzayel's journey to Syria join IS, according to prosecutors.
Badawi was also found guilty of using his financial aid to purchase Elhuzayel's ticket to Turkey.
Both men face up to 15 years in prison on each count of providing material support to IS.
Elhuzayel also faces up to 30 years in federal prison on each bank fraud count while Badawi could serve an additional five years for the financial aid fraud count.
Elhuzayel is scheduled to be sentenced on 19 September while Badawi is due back in court on 26 September.
Rift between police, state on display in Freddie Gray trial
The betrayal of the symbiotic relationship police and prosecutors maintain in most cities has been particularly unwelcome in Baltimore, where murders reached a 40-year high last year
by Juliet Linderman
BALTIMORE — A judge gave himself until Thursday to decide the fate of an officer in whose van the neck of a young black arrestee was somehow broken.
It could take much longer to repair the tense and uneasy relationship between Baltimore's prosecutors and police, now that they've traded accusations of sabotage, misconduct and dirty dealings during the third trial of an officer in the death of Freddie Gray.
The betrayal of the symbiotic relationship police and prosecutors maintain in most cities has been particularly unwelcome in Baltimore, where murders reached a 40-year high last year and some neighborhoods have yet to recover from the riots that followed Gray's death.
"The citizens of the city have to wonder: If the two agencies can't work together to investigate and prosecute crime, where do we stand?" said Warren Alperstein, a prominent attorney in the city.
If Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquits Officer Caesar Goodson, who also is black, of "depraved-heart" murder, manslaughter, assault and misconduct in office, prosecutors may have to reconsider trying officers who were less involved in Gray's death.
Whatever the verdict, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby may have decisions to make.
Her allegations that six officers intended to fatally injure the resistant prisoner prompted five of them to sue her for defamation. Her chief deputy, accused of withholding evidence, told the judge that the lead police investigator had pressured the coroner to falsely declare Gray's death an accident.
"It is extraordinarily rare to hear a prosecutor accuse a reputable, prominent lead detective of sabotaging the state's case," Alperstein said. "Calling into question a detective who the commanders appointed to lead the case sends a clear message. It breeds distrust."
Fissures had formed even before Mosby vowed last year to deliver justice to an outraged citizenry. She said the charges resulted from a "comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation," even though police investigators said they had felt pressured to hand over their evidence prematurely.
"I don't know anything about this case," the investigator in question, Dawnyell Taylor, told the Baltimore Sun shortly after the officers were charged.
Mosby and everyone else involved in the trials are prohibited by the judge from commenting.
Since Gray's death last spring, Baltimore police have been under a microscope.
The U.S. Justice Department investigating allegations of widespread abuse and unwarranted arrests. The mayor fired her police commissioner Anthony Batts and promoted his deputy, Kevin Davis, but decided against a re-election bid amid criticism of her handling of the riots.
And Maryland's legislature updated the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill Of Rights, in the law's first significant overhaul since it was established 1974.
Still, many feel the changes didn't go far enough. Police supervisors must still wait 5 days before questioning officers suspected of committing crimes; it used to be 10. And officers still can't be fired without an internal review or a felony conviction, even if, like Goodson, they refuse to talk with investigators.
Mosby's office has made other decisions that frustrate police: In March, prosecutors dropped charges against nine people charged after a sweeping raid found drugs, guns and ammunition; two suspects were soon charged in new crimes, including a quintuple shooting on Memorial Day.
Davis responded carefully, saying that while police and prosecutors have a "working" and "healthy" relationship, more must be done.
"There's a hyper focus on the police: What are the police doing, what's the plan, what's the strategy. We have those strategies and we're making progress," he said. "There are other pieces to that law enforcement puzzle I believe need to be held to that same standard."
Baltimore attorney Steve Levin praised police for their reforms in the past year.
"The police are now wearing cameras on their uniforms, and even have cameras in their police vans," he said. "But I think it'll soon be time to talk about reform in the prosecutor's office. As the judge himself said, if the most senior attorneys in the office don't recognize exculpatory material, that's a problem."
Mississippi Ends Inquiry Into 1964 Killing of 3 Civil Rights Workers
by Campbell Robertson
The investigation into the 1964 murders of three civil rights volunteers by a group of Klansmen, an inquiry that became known as the “Mississippi Burning” case, has come to a close, the Mississippi attorney general announced Monday.
The murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, committed on a remote Mississippi road 52 years ago on Tuesday, prompted an intense federal investigation. That investigation, plus a re-examination in more recent years, led to eight trial convictions and one guilty plea over five decades. One of the masterminds of the murders, a Klansman named Edgar Ray Killen, was convicted by state prosecutors in 2005.
“I am convinced that during the last 52 years, investigators have done everything possible under the law to find those responsible and hold them accountable,” said Jim Hood, the state attorney general, at a news conference. “However, we have determined that there is no likelihood of any additional convictions. Absent any new information presented to the F.B.I. or my office, this case will be closed.”
The most recent round of investigations — the third push by federal agents since 1964 — began after the passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act in 2008, which set up an office within the United States Justice Department to investigate unsolved murders from the civil rights era.
“The department's focus during this third investigation,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, “homed in on determining whether sufficient admissible evidence existed to support further state prosecution against any surviving person for involvement in the murders.”
A 48-page report released by the Justice Department on Monday, which described the history of the case and recent investigative efforts, included the names of five people believed to have been involved in the killings who were still alive in 2010 when federal agents began re-examining the case. Mr. Killen is serving a 60-year sentence for the killings; two others died shortly after the investigation began.
The report describes two other men as “still potentially culpable for state offenses related to the murders.” Neither is believed to have been at the scene, but are thought by authorities to have been involved in the conspiracy.
Agents interviewed or attempted to interview old sources and tracked down new ones, including Klansmen who had been active in the 1960s, relatives of those involved, jailhouse confidants and Mr. Killen himself.
But the deaths of so many original witnesses and sources, the inadmissibility in court of key testimony, the faulty memories of elderly men and an enduring reluctance among some to speak to the authorities made the likelihood of successful prosecutions remote.
“Obviously, the willingness of surviving witnesses to cooperate fully rather than minimizing their knowledge with false denials or feigned memory problems is a factor to consider,” the report read.
Still, it concluded that the deaths of the three young men “have been thoroughly and aggressively investigated and reinvestigated and have thus received some measure of vindication.”
Evidence Found In Illegal Stops Backed By Justices, But Brings Fiery Dissent
by Nina Totenberg
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that courts need not suppress evidence of a crime, even if it was obtained through an illegal stop.
The Supreme Court long has held that when police illegally stop or search someone without, at minimum, reasonable suspicion, any incriminating evidence that is found cannot be used in court. There are, however, exceptions to this rule — and on Monday the court carved out a new and big one, giving police far broader authority to search people who are stopped for no reason.
The decision came in the case of Edward Strieff, who was stopped after leaving a house that that was under police observation; police had received an anonymous tip that the house was being used for drug dealing.
Though narcotics detective Douglas Fackrell later admitted he had no reason to believe Strieff had done anything wrong, he stopped him, demanded that he identify himself, and detained him while radioing in to see if there were any outstanding warrants against Strieff. As it turned out there was one — for a minor traffic offense — so the detective searched Streiff, and found a small amount of methamphetamines.
The Utah Supreme Court later threw out the drug conviction because it stemmed from an illegal stop. But the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction Monday.
Writing for the five-justice majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that officer Fackrell's discovery of the outstanding warrant broke the connection to the unconstitutional stop. As a result, the evidence found in the search could be used to prosecute Strieff, he said.
The generally liberal Justice Stephen Breyer joined the Court's four conservatives to provide the fifth and decisive vote. The Court's three other liberals dissented in two separate opinions, one from Justice Elena Kagan.
The other, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was a barn-burner.
Monday's decision, said Sotomayor, will allow police — as in this case — to stop someone on what amounts to "a whim or hunch" and then leverage that stop to conduct a search, based on a minor outstanding warrant that the police officer didn't know about to begin with. Sotomayor scoffed at the majority's assertion that there was nothing systemic about this stop, that it was an isolated case.
She noted that according to state and federal databases, there are more than 7.8 million outstanding warrants, the vast majority of which are for minor offenses. In New Orleans, a third of the 60,000 arrests in 2011 were of people with outstanding traffic or misdemeanor warrants for infractions such as unpaid tickets.
Similarly in Ferguson, Mo., a town with a population of 21,000, 16,000 people had outstanding warrants — in one case for failure to feed the meter with enough quarters, according to the Justice Department.
And in the broader metropolitan St. Louis area, Sotomayor said, the Justice Department found that officers routinely stop people on the street, at bus stops or even in courthouses, for no reason other than to check whether the subject has an outstanding warrant.
"The combined effect of this immense number of warrants" and police practices like stop and frisk is "creating this huge tension between communities, particularly communities of color, and their police — and they're not promoting public safety," said Jonathan Smith, who until 2015 was the chief of the U.S. Justice Department section that conducts systemic investigations of police misconduct.
Lauren-Brooke Eisen, a former prosecutor, now at the New York University law school's Brennan Center for Justice, says Monday's ruling can incentivize police to concentrate illegal stops in neighborhoods where there are the most outstanding warrants.
"The reason that's such a scary proposition is because most of the people in this country who have open warrants are poor," she said — too poor to pay a lawyer to get rid of the warrant.
That theme was reflected in Sotomayor's dissent, most of which was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the concluding section, however, Sotomayor stressed that she was writing for herself alone, based on her "professional experiences."
By legitimizing the conduct in the Strieff case, she said, the court "tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent" that you can be stopped at any time.
"It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy," Sotomayor said.
"We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police," are, as the majority maintains, "isolated" cases, she said. "They are the canaries in the coal mine" who warn us that "unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but."
911 transcript: Orlando gunman said he was Islamic soldier
The partial, printed transcripts were of three conversations the shooter had with the police during the attack
by Eric Tucker and Mike Schneider
ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando gunman Omar Mateen spoke in Arabic to a 911 dispatcher, identified himself an Islamic soldier and demanded to a crisis negotiator that the U.S. "stop bombing Syria and Iraq," according to transcripts released by the FBI on Monday.
The partial, printed transcripts were of three conversations Mateen had with the police during the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, in which 49 people died and dozens were wounded.
Those communications, along with Facebook posts Mateen made before and after the shooting, add to the public understanding of the final hours of Mateen's life.
The first call came more than a half hour after shots rang out, when Mateen told a 911 operator, "Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God," he told the dispatcher, referring to God in Arabic.
"I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings."
During the 50-second call with a dispatcher, Mateen "made murderous statements in a "chilling, calm and deliberate manner," said Ronald Hopper, FBI assistant special agent in charge in Orlando.
However, there is no evidence Mateen was directed by a foreign terrorist group, and he was radicalized on his own, Hopper said.
Mateen's name and the groups and people to whom he pledged allegiance were omitted from the excerpt. But the FBI has previously said he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
Shortly after the call, Mateen had three conversations with crisis negotiators in which he identified himself as an Islamic soldier and told a negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. He said that was why he was "out here right now," according to the excerpt.
Meanwhile, hospital officials said four people remained in critical condition Monday morning, more than a week after they were wounded in the attack.
Orlando Regional Medical Center said 18 victims from the shooting were still at the hospital and three more surgeries were scheduled for Monday. The other 14 patients are listed in stable condition.
Armed with a semi-automatic weapon, Mateen went on a bloody rampage at the Pulse nightclub June 12. He died in a hail of gunfire after police stormed the venue.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will travel to Orlando on Tuesday to meet with investigators. She said that a key goal of the investigation was to determine why Mateen targeted the gay community. The victims were predominantly gay and Hispanic since it was "Latin night" at Pulse.
Around Orlando, people left balloons, flowers, pictures and posters at a makeshift memorial in front of the city's new performing arts center and at Orlando Regional Medical Center where 49 white crosses were emblazoned with red hearts and the names of the victims.
The crosses were built by a Chicago carpenter with a history of constructing crosses for victims of mass shootings. Greg Zanis drove from Illinois to Orlando last week and installed the crosses at the medical center, where many of the 53 shooting victims who survived were taken for treatment.
Dr. Khurshid Ahmed was part of a group of Muslim-Americans at a Sunday vigil attended by tens of thousands who held signs reading, "Muslims Condemn Extremism." A letter from the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said Mateen wrote on Facebook that "real Muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the West."
FBI veteran, a rare outsider, to lead US Border Patrol
Mark Morgan, who briefly led the internal affairs department at the Border Patrol's parent agency, will oversee the agency
by Elliot Spagat
SAN DIEGO — An FBI veteran was named Monday to head the U.S. Border Patrol, a departure from the historical practice of picking someone who has risen through the ranks.
Mark Morgan, who briefly led the internal affairs department at the Border Patrol's parent agency, will oversee a multibillion-dollar annual budget as he runs the agency in the crosshairs of the national debate about border security and immigration.
His selection didn't reflect lack of confidence in the Border Patrol's leadership or performance, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske emphasized.
Almost all federal law enforcement agencies — from the Coast Guard to the Drug Enforcement Administration — had outsiders take over at one time, Kerlikowske said.
"In the case of the Border Patrol, the current leadership across the top, from headquarters to the field, consists of the finest group of men and women that I have worked with in my more than 40 years in law enforcement," he wrote in a memo to staff.
Morgan is no stranger to the Border Patrol. In 2014, the FBI loaned Morgan to Customs and Border Protection to serve as acting assistant commissioner for internal affairs. He oversaw an extensive review of complaints of excessive use of force and employee misconduct.
Morgan is currently an assistant FBI chief who leads the training division. He joined the FBI as an agent in Los Angeles in 1996 and has held various positions, including head of its El Paso, Texas, office.
"Mark's outstanding investigative work and leadership have been an incredible asset to the FBI, and he will be missed," FBI Director James Comey said.
Morgan replaces Michael Fisher, who retired in 2015 after five years on the job. Ronald Vitiello, who was deputy chief under Fisher, has been serving as interim chief. Morgan's appointment is not subject to congressional approval.
The appointment may be one of the last significant acts by Kerlikowske as commissioner of the nation's largest law enforcement agency. Commissioners are typically replaced when presidential administrations change.
The former Seattle police chief said he considered applicants from within and outside the Border Patrol.
Elder abuse — becoming familiar with the signs
by Malinda Williams
Because of the wisdom possessed by elders, many cultures have a deep reverence for them and look to them for guidance.
Unfortunately, many of our elders in the United States are abused and neglected. They are sometimes considered nuisances, even by their own children and grandchildren. Because elders are often dependent on others to take care of their finances and for basic care, they are vulnerable to being exploited and harmed.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. This day is meant to promote understanding of elder abuse and neglect. Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial exploitation or neglect. In the U.S., approximately one in 10 of our senior citizens is a victim of abuse: a total of more than 1 million each year. In the U.S., studies estimate that for every one reported case of elder abuse, between five and 25 cases are not reported. Because victims are often unable to let anyone know what is going on or are too embarrassed to tell anyone they are being abused, it is important that we are all aware of signs and know what to do if we think an elder may be a victim.
Most caregivers perform their duties with great dedication and compassion, whether as paid professionals or caring family members. But those elders who are victimized are usually abused by a caregiver, spouse, child, other relative or paid caregiver at home or in a senior care facility. Like child abusers, elder abusers may conceal their abuse by appearing attentive and caring. Others may find it hard to believe the abuser is harming the senior.
The common signs of elder abuse are bruises or other injuries, withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness or changed financial situations. Because seniors are assumed to bruise easily or have symptoms of illness or fatigue due to aging, it is important to pay close attention and be alert for changes. Symptoms of neglect include bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, weight loss, confinement to one room in the house, improper clothing, cracked lips or unexplained missing medications. Other signs of possible elder abuse include frequent arguments between the caregiver and the elder, the elder showing fear of the caregiver and the caregiver mocking the elder.
What to do
If you see signs of abuse or think an elder may be a victim, document the observations. Try to speak with the elder about your concerns outside the presence of the suspect caregiver. Keep in mind that a victim may not admit to being abused. It is better to be cautious and report your concerns and suspicions. The New Mexico Adult Protective Services Act includes a “duty to report” provision. Any person or financial institution with a reasonable suspicion that an incapacitated adult is being abused, neglected or exploited must immediately report the suspected abuse to adult protective services at (866) 654-3219. This state agency will investigate the report.
If you believe someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help. You can also call the Community Against Violence 24-hour hotline at (575) 758-9888 to get information, resource listings and help in reporting abuse or suspected abuse.
If you think that you may be the victim of abuse or a financial scam, do not be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. Call the police, adult protective services or CAV. All these services are dedicated to helping you and the community.
Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence Inc. (CAV), which offers free, confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; shelter, transitional housing and community thrift store. Call CAV at (575) 758-9888 or go online at: TaosCAV.org
From the Department of Homeland Security
World Refugee Day
June 20 is World Refugee Day.
Taking in refugees at times of crisis is the right thing to do. For many refugees and their families, the future is brighter now that they live in our great country of freedom and opportunity. As a a great and humanitarian nation – a nation of immigrant heritage – we will continue to ensure our own safety, while doing our share to welcome men, women and children who are fleeing terrorism and violence. This is the United States of America. We can, we must, and we will do both.
On World Refugee Day, we rededicate ourselves to this mission.
Refugees, Displaced People Surpass 60 Million For First Time, UNHCR Says
by Camila Domonoske
The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people around the world has topped 65 million, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees said Monday.
As of December 2015, there were 65.3 million displaced people, according to a report from the refugee agency. It's the first time in the organization's history the number has surpassed 60 million — and represents a nearly 10 percent increase over last year's total, of 59.5 million.
That number represents "immense human suffering," a UNHCR press release says.
One in every 113 people on Earth has now been driven from their home by persecution, conflict and violence or human rights violations.
Two other ways to wrap your mind around that number: Each minute, 24 people around the world flee their home because of violence or persecution. And if the world's displaced people were their own nation, it would be larger than the United Kingdom.
The report tallies the number of refugees under the UNHCR's mandate, as well as those seeking asylum in other countries and internally displaced persons (who have been driven from their homes, but remain within their own country's borders).
An escalating humanitarian crisis in Yemen, ongoing violence in northern Nigeria and persistent conflict in Colombia have contributed to the rising number of internally displaced persons, while the war in Syria drove an increase in refugees.
Three countries — Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia — accounted for more than half of the refugees under the UN's mandate.
And most of those refugees, 86 percent, are hosted in developing countries. Lebanon hosts 183 refugees for every 1000 inhabitants, the highest ratio in the world, while Turkey hosts the highest total number of refugees — 2.5 million people.
More than half of the world's refugees in 2015 were children, the report finds.
A little more than 200,000 refugees were able to return home in 2015. Meanwhile, just 0.66 percent of the world's refugees were approved for resettlement in another country.
The level of forced displacement worldwide is "unprecedented since the founding of the UN itself," High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
Every year Grandi's agency publishes a report on displacement statistics to mark World Refugee Day.
"And each year," Grandi wrote, "UNHCR seeks to find a glimmer of hope ... to show that the world is finding solutions to help heal the trauma refugees are living through on a daily basis.
"But this year the hopeful signs are hard to find," he said.
DOJ to scrub Islam references from transcripts of Orlando terrorist's calls to police
by Fox News
The Department of Justice is scrubbing transcripts of the calls Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen made to police during his massacre of references to his radical Muslim beliefs, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday.
A partial transcript of the conversations between Mateen, who killed 49 and wounded scores in the June 12 attack at a Florida gay nightclub June 12 is set to be released on Monday. But Lynch, who appeared on numerous Sunday talk shows, said the transcripts will not include Mateen's vow to follow ISIS or any other religious justification for the attack.
“What we're not going to do is further proclaim this man's pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups, and further his propaganda,” Lynch told NBC. “We are not going to hear him make his assertions of allegiance [to the Islamic State].”
Critics blasted the move by the administration, which has rejected branding terrorist acts as motivated by radical Islam and has sought to paint the Orlando attack as a gun control issue.
"This is not just a simple wording issue," Ric Grenell, a Fox News contributor and former aide to UN Ambassador John Bolton told Fox and Friends Monday morning. "The fact that Loretta Lynch is somehow redacting the specific enemy that is being called out here is a PR move."
Mateen died in a hail of gunfire after police stormed the venue, but not before pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State terror group, even during his shooting rampage inside the gay nightclub.
Lynch said a top goal, while intensifying pressure on ISIS, is to build a complete profile of him in order to help prevent another massacre like Orlando.
“We are trying to re-create the days, the weeks, the months of this killer's life before this attack,” said Lynch, who spoke on all of the major Sunday talk shows. “And we are also asking those people who had contact with him to come forward and give us that information as well.”
Mateen was the focus of two FBI investigations into suspected terrorism. However, the probes were concluded without further action, and Mateen was allowed to legally buy firearms.
Lynch said the Justice Department is “going to go back and see what changes could have been made,” regarding how the investigations were handled.
Lynch said she's traveling to Orlando Tuesday to meet with federal investigators.
While speaking to CBS' “Face The Nation,” Lynch said that a key goal of the probe was to determine why Mateen targeted the gay community. The victims were predominantly gay and Hispanic since it was "Latin night" at Pulse.
Lynch, speaking to “Fox News Sunday,” declined to say whether federal authorities will charge anybody in connection with the mass murder. She also declined to comment on why the wife of the shooter has not been arrested, amid purported evidence that she helped her husband plot the murders.
She also expressed support from an amendment scheduled for a vote Monday in the Senate by Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn that would allow the federal government to delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for as long as 72 hours. Afterward, prosecutors would have to persuade a judge to block the sale permanently.
Lynch said such an amendment would give the federal government the ability to stop a sale to somebody on the terror watch list.
Meanwhile, thousands of people packed Lake Eola Park in Florida Sunday evening for a vigil to honor the victims of the shooting. The park was filled with people holding white flowers, American flags and candles.
At the end of the vigil, people held up their candles as the names of each victim were read, creating a ring of fire around Lake Eola. They chanted "One Orlando," ''Orlando United" and "Somos Orlando," Spanish for "We are Orlando."
"That event has gotten the attention of the world," said Evania Nichols, an Orlando resident. "And, for Orlando — a city that's always been incredibly inclusive no matter your skin color, no matter your background — it's brought about a movement that I think is starting here and I really hope continues."
Oakland PD to operate under civilian control
Lost its third police chief in eight days amid growing scandals
by The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Police Department lost its third police chief in eight days as it struggles with allegations that a number of officers had sex with a teenage prostitute and exchanged racist text messages.
Mayor Libby Schaaf said acting Police Chief Paul Figueroa was on the job for two days before stepping down on Friday but said his decision was not connected to the two scandals.
However, she denounced the department's "toxic, macho culture" and vowed to root out "the bad apples."
"As the mayor of Oakland, I'm here to run a police department, not a frat house," Schaaf said at a news conference Friday evening.
Schaaf said she will not immediately appoint an acting or interim chief. Instead, the command staff will report to City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who will be responsible for personnel and disciplinary decisions.
"This is the appropriate time to install civilian oversight in this police department," Schaaf said. "I want to assure the citizens of Oakland that we are hell bent on rooting out this disgusting culture."
The police department was already engulfed by the sex scandal when Schaaf revealed at the news conference a separate investigation into racist text messages that she said were "wholly inappropriate and not acceptable from anyone who wears the badge of the Oakland Police Department."
Schaaf said the number of officers involved is not as widespread as those involved in the sex scandal, but cautioned that the investigation was ongoing. One of the officers under investigation in the text scandal has been placed on leave, she said.
Some of the officers being investigated were "engaging in hate speech," and others were "tolerating it" by receiving offensive messages and not reporting them, Schaaf said.
She said Figueroa has taken a leave of absence and asked to return to the force as a captain, not as an assistant chief.
Schaaf appointed Figueroa on Wednesday after abruptly removing the interim police chief, Ben Fairow, after learning unspecified information that led her to lose confidence in his ability to lead the beleaguered department. She had appointed Fairow after Chief Sean Whent suddenly resigned June 9.
Two officers with the troubled Oakland department have resigned amid the sex scandal, and three others remain on paid leave.
The scandal involving at least 14 Oakland police officers is another blow to a department already under federal oversight over past failures to adequately hold officers accountable for misdeeds that included planting evidence and robbing residents in predominantly black west Oakland.