Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio, for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
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Neighborhood block party looks to connect White Gate residents
by Rudi Keller
On Saturday, the Columbia Insurance Group wanted to do something nice for the White Gate neighborhood.
So company volunteers fired up the grill, brought police and fire representatives to the open triangle of land at Towne Drive and White Gate Drive and had a picnic. Only a handful of people took them up on the hot dogs, ice cream and games that were offered at the Neighborhood Block Party, but company President and CEO Gary Thompson said he was pleased with the effort.
The company headquarters has been on White Gate Drive for more than 40 years and Thompson has been at the helm for six.
“Our goal was really just to get everybody out,” Thompson said. “This is only the first year. We never know what happens next.”
The 13 streets and cul-de-sacs of the White Gate neighborhood south of Paris Road have a reputation for crime and violence and recently were assigned two officers for community policing duty. Since Jan. 1, online police records show that officers were called to the neighborhood 19 times for larcenies, 14 times for gunshot reports, nine times for assaults and twice for drug overdoses.
“This is our neighborhood and we want to make a difference,” Kate Stull, marketing and communications specialist for the insurance company.
Among the police on hand to meet residents Saturday were Officer Justin Thomas, community policing officer for the neighborhood, and northeast area commander Lt. Geoff Jones.
Community policing is intended to soften public hostility against officers and open communication with residents to reduce crime.
“This is new to us,” Jones said. “This is something we are trying to get right.”
For those who did take part, the block party achieved one goal – residents made new friends and white and black neighbors sat down together to eat and talk.
Nicholas Dennis, who has lived in Columbia Crossing apartments on White Gate Drive for six months, was joined at one table by Daniel Gerardo, a tenant of Deerfield apartments on Sylvan Lane for two years.
Dennis said he has felt safe while he's lived in the neighborhood and said his landlord keeps the property secure.
“You will have crime anywhere you go,” he said. “Events like this, where people get together, that is how you lower crime.”
Gerardo said he heard a gunshot once since moving in. Events like the block party can bring people together to watch out for each other, he said.
“Being tight-knit is what makes a good neighborhood,” he said.
Rainbow House, The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, the Heart of Missouri United Way and Rock the Community were on hand to support the block party. Rita Renee of Rock the Community said she was disappointed with the turnout but added that she was happy to take part.
“This wasn't a hard sell,” she said.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez verdict only widens divide between police, community
Activists and police say the case's outcome adds to long standing tensions
by Chao Xiong and Randy Furst
For black Minnesotans, the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile was the latest sign of a criminal justice system that often delivers heartbreak.
“The first thing I thought is the system is a joke,” said Lewis McCaleb, 19, of Minneapolis, who just graduated from the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul. “It puts fear in my heart and of all young black males. We feel we can't be protected by these people who are supposed to patrol the cities.”
For police officers, the not-guilty verdict also brought a sense of foreboding, with their relationships with the black community already rocky at best and officers feeling that the scrutiny they operate under is higher than ever.
“They feel like defendants,” said Minneapolis attorney Fred Bruno, who frequently represents officers in criminal cases.
The Ramsey County jury's decision to clear Yanez of felony manslaughter for Castile's shooting last July reverberated nationally, becoming the latest in a string of cases — from Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla., to Freddie Gray in Baltimore — to illustrate how difficult it is to hold officers criminally responsible for killing civilians. In 15 recent high-profile cases of black men who were killed by police or who died in police custody, just two resulted in convictions.
The Yanez case, like the others, seems to have only hardened divisions and distrust on all sides. The only agreement seems to rest in the idea that it could be a long time before relations improve.
“The feeling is deep anger, a sense of betrayal,” said Ron Edwards, a civil rights activist and former president of the Minneapolis Urban League. “Today I'm afraid we're at an abyss. It will take an extreme effort to get this generation to understand that change is possible.”
Former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner sees the strain.
“Every aspect of the case has been difficult for all sides,” Gaertner said. “It would be naive to think that the acquittal won't impact police-community relations to some extent.”
After a weeklong trial, jurors needed 29 hours of deliberation to acquit Yanez, 29, of felony manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm for killing Castile, 32, last July 6 in Falcon Heights. Yanez had also been accused of endangering Castile's passengers, Diamond Reynolds and her daughter, then 4.
Reynolds' Facebook Live video of the moments after Castile's death captured worldwide attention, and Yanez became the first Minnesota police officer in modern history to be charged with the shooting death of a civilian. Castile's killing came eight months after the death of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man fatally shot during a scuffle with two Minneapolis police officers. Those officers were not charged and Clark's death had provoked weeks of protest in north Minneapolis.
Prosecutors in the Yanez case thought they had solid evidence of an officer acting rashly and with excessive force, but what some outsiders saw as an open-and-shut case became a grueling deliberation of the jury of five women and seven men, including two black jurors. Their discussions ultimately focused on the legal definition of culpable negligence, which is required for a manslaughter conviction. Under Minnesota law, it occurs when a person “creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.”
Faced with the choice of deciding that Yanez consciously chose to create unreasonable risk or that he had acted out of fear, instinct and confusion, the jury found that Yanez had acted within the law.
On its face, the verdict could be seen as reassuring for police, but several former officers said they believe the trial could instead have a chilling effect. From whether police cooperate when they become the target of an investigation to how they deal with the public, the Yanez case further complicates policing in several ways, they said. It's becoming more common for officers to refuse to cooperate when they are targets of an investigation, Bruno said.
“I'm concerned about [officers] evoking their Fifth Amendment rights in these cases, and what that does to undermine trust in the system,” said recently retired Police Chief Paul Schnell, who spent four years at Maplewood and 22 years with St. Paul and Hastings police and the Carver County Sheriff's Office. “The implication is it erodes community trust.”
Although officers have a right to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights, they customarily have submitted to questioning, Bruno said. That's changing as they worry that their words will be used against them. At Yanez's manslaughter trial, prosecutors highlighted statements in a one-hour interview he gave Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators as proof of his guilt.
“It's just getting more and more antagonistic,” Bruno said. “Prosecutors, they're all looking for their trophy cop to bag so they can tell the public that they're evenhanded.”
Dustin Reichert, a former Anoka County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a man who raised a weapon at him in 2003, watched much of the Yanez trial. Reichert said the mere fact that Yanez was charged will change how officers do their jobs. Cops depend on prosecutors to bring charges for their cases. But Ramsey County's charges against Yanez, Reichert said, have destroyed the trust between that office and police.
A cop might also think twice about doing a routine traffic stop, Reichert said.
“If you do proactive policing, you increase the risk of getting hurt by the public, or getting prosecuted if you defend yourself,” he said.
That might make officers less willing to be visible in the community, identify suspects, and try to stop fights and crimes.
'What do we do now?'
In the wake of the verdict, Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system.
“There has always been a systemic problem in the state of Minnesota, and me thinking with my common sense, that we would get justice in this case,” she said. “But nevertheless, it never seems to fail us, the system continues to fail black people and it will continue to fail you all. This happened to Philando and when they get done with us, they're coming for you, and you, and you and all your interracial children.”
Her words resonated with protesters, who gathered at the Capitol and marched toward Interstate 94, blocking the freeway for three hours in the early morning hours Saturday.
Al Flowers, one of two black candidates for Minneapolis mayor and a longtime activist, said it's going to be difficult to talk to young people about the police after the Yanez verdict. He said he's used to major setbacks, but younger people felt that given the dashcam video of the shooting, a conviction was warranted.
“I have young people calling me saying ‘What do we do now?' It is devastating for us, but more so for them,” he said. “It makes our work that much harder.”
The same sentiment was expressed by Damario Williams, 28, a youth basketball coach at Ascension Catholic School in Minneapolis.
“I feel hopeless,” Williams said. “The shooting was on tape and on camera and he still walked away.”
Gaertner acknowledged the massive attention the Yanez case received and questioned whether hopes about what it would produce were too lofty.
“It seems as the community at large was looking at this prosecution to effect major social change, eradicate racism, restore communities of colors' trust in the criminal justice system — a lot of things a single verdict in either direction would not accomplish," she said.
McCaleb said the acquittal was all that he and his friends were talking about Saturday.
"Why did he kill him?" they asked. "Why did he have to shoot him? Why didn't he get convicted?"
From the FBI
New Information in Fugitive Case
Donald Eugene Webb Murdered Pennsylvania Police Chief
(Pictures on site)
The FBI has released newly acquired photographs of longtime fugitive Donald Eugene Webb—wanted for the 1980 murder of a Pennsylvania police chief—in the hopes of enlisting the public's assistance in capturing the career criminal who has been on the run for nearly four decades.
Webb, wanted for killing Police Chief Gregory Adams of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania during a routine traffic stop, would now be 85 years old. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the fugitive's whereabouts—or the location of his remains.
“These photographs present Donald Webb in a completely new way,” said Special Agent Thomas MacDonald, who is investigating the case from the FBI's Boston Division. “The face of this investigation for decades was grainy black and white photos,” he said. The new color photographs, taken a year prior to the murder, show Webb from multiple angles in much greater detail. “If he has been living under an alias all these years,” MacDonald said, “these photographs might generate the tip that helps us resolve the case.”
One of the longest tenured fugitives to appear on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, Webb was a career criminal who specialized in jewel theft and operated in the Providence, Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts areas. It is believed he was in Pennsylvania planning a robbery at the time of the murder.
The white Mercury Cougar getaway vehicle Webb was driving at the time of the murder was located several weeks later in Rhode Island, and blood evidence linked to Webb was recovered from the vehicle, leading investigators to believe that he was wounded during the confrontation.
“There have been few leads on the Webb case for a long time,” MacDonald said. But the FBI's Boston Division started an active cold case investigation in 2015. As part of that investigation, the new photos were obtained. “We've been doing a lot of interviews and knocking on a lot of doors,” MacDonald explained.
At the time of the murder, Webb lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts with his wife and stepson. He was known to associate with members of the Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island and with criminals in southern Florida. He was also known to frequent motels in eastern Pennsylvania under the name Stanley Portas. Portas was the deceased husband of Webb's wife.
MacDonald emphasized that the $100,000 reward could be paid to someone who helps locate Webb's remains if he is deceased. “We want to know one way or the other,” he said. “There may be someone out there who had knowledge of his death and is now willing to come forward.” It is also possible that Webb is still alive, living under an alias, and that individuals will recognize him from the newly published photographs.
“It might be that someone out there doesn't know that the person they got to know in the 1990s and early 2000s was Donald Webb, and that could help us resolve this case,” MacDonald said.
During the investigation, MacDonald has talked to numerous retired agents and police detectives who have worked on the Webb case over the years, and he traveled to Saxonburg and met with police officers there.
“The case still haunts these people,” he said, noting that Adams was 31 years old at the time of his death and left behind a wife and two young children. “Resolving this case would be a great victory for law enforcement and for the family.”
Anyone with information about Donald Eugene Webb should contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). Tips can also be submitted online .
Richmond Police gave away 200 bikes at Public Safety 5K event
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Police Department gave away 200 bikes at the Public Safety 5K event Saturday.
It's the 12th year in a row that the RPD has held the event.
Beyond the 5K race, there was free food, music and a large bounce house for the kids.
Bikes went to the first 200 people who registered.
Officers say it was a great opportunity to bridge the gap between the police and the community.
8News spoke with Sgt. Carol Adams about the event.
“It is really really important for us to teach the kids how to be safe. you will see some of the paraphernalia,” Adams said. “The kids are going to get bags, they're going to get gun locks so they can take them home so if there are weapons at the home, the parents can lock them away.”
Adams said the event is held this time of year because it's the week before school lets out for the summer.
'Arrest Public Safety Threats': ICE Director's Message About Priority
by Britt Moreno
DENVER (CBS4) – The director of the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office wants to get the right message to the public when it comes to the job they do and why they do it.
“This is something you don't do very often. You guys don't give these on camera interviews. Why are you deciding to talk now?” asks CBS4's Britt Moreno to Immigration Customs Enforcement Field Office Director Jeff Lynch.
He admits hearing ICE rumors that just aren't true and he wants to set the record straight. He says the media sometimes unfairly paints the ICE picture. He wants to clear up the rumors some of the headlines depict. Lynch sits down with Britt for a rare on camera interview at ICE headquarters in Centennial.
“I think it's good for the community and the agency to get our message across,” said Lynch. “Criminals are top of the priority list. These people have egregious criminal histories.”
Lynch says it goes beyond them entering the country illegally. ICE agents target these people. He says agents will not questions others supposing they look or seem undocumented. Nor will they go to schools to make arrests. They will only seek out people for whom they have an arrest warrant.
“We do not do indiscriminate sweeps, roundups, dragnets whatever you want to call them.”
Lynch says agents will steer clear of what they call “sensitive locations” like houses of worship, hospitals, weddings and schools.
Lynch admits agents will make arrests at courthouses saying these are safer locations for arrests for both agents and the public. An ICE agent may not be spotted on the street because they do not wear uniforms. Lynch says agent put on ICE gear when they are arresting someone at a home.
When it comes to deporting Lynch says, “Just because we can doesn't mean we always do.”
Lynch says agents will look at each person on a case by case basis and consider what he calls humanitarian factors like whether a person is a threat to the community.
Lynch would not discuss high profile cases saying he wants to provide those people privacy. He admitted the agency will write up releases on people however. He also says there have been no drastic changes for ICE as the country has transitioned from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.
The sweeping message is, “We focus on doing what's right. We focus on he the bad guys and arrest public safety threats.”
Narcan use rises for South Bend area EMS, police departments
by Howard Dukes
As the prevalence of opioid abuse has increased exponentially over the past decade, local first responders — mostly police, firefighters and paramedics — have begun carrying Narcan, the chief antidote for heroin or prescription opioid overdoses.
The drug, used to potentially save the lives of overdose victims, has become a staple of first aid kits in both ambulances and squad cars.
But as the potency of heroin has evolved, so has the danger to first responders, who could end up needing Narcan for themselves during a call, or even afterward.
"We carry Narcan not only for people on the street who could overdose, but we carry if for ourselves in case of an accidental overdose," said Lt. David Wells of the St. Joseph County Drug Investigations Unit. "It's a very dangerous situation that causes a lot of concern. Especially for guys on the street."
An overdose case can be particularly dangerous to first responders if there are drugs and paraphernalia there that are toxic to touch or inhale, said Andy Myer, the EMS chief for the South Bend Fire Department. The biggest risk to first responders, Myer said, comes from an opioid called “grey death,” which is a mixture of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and, in some cases, prescription opioids.
Carfentanil, for example, is so powerful that it is used as a tranquilizer for elephants.
"It looks like concrete and can be injected, swallowed, smoked or snorted and is sold for 10 to 20 bucks," Myer said. "It causes severe respiratory distress."
If not handled properly, the concoction can be lethal to innocent people and emergency responders.
There have been reports of officers in other parts of the country overdosing after touching or inhaling the drug, Wells said. Therefore, additional training has been required for officers, drug investigators and lab technicians to learn how to handle suspected drugs.
Wells said the unit assigns an officer to be in the lab with Narcan available whenever drugs are being handled in the event of an accidental overdose.
Dave Yoder, St. Joseph County chief deputy coroner, said staff in his office have been trained to administer Narcan through a state grant and will receive kits within the next few days.
He said the coroners, deputy coroners and transport staff all had to undergo the same training that South Bend police and St. Joseph County police deputies received, which includes instruction on how to administer Narcan through a nasal atomizer.
While coroners come to scenes where the person has already died, there are still plenty of risks, Yoder said.
"We don't know if there is residual product at the scene," he said. "It can be a very cluttered and dark environment."
Yoder said that staff wear gloves and face masks while investigating, but they can still be overcome if they not careful.
Officers in many local jurisdictions, including South Bend, Walkerton, Lakeville, St. Joseph County and Berrien County in Michigan, have all been trained to use Narcan, which police officers most commonly administer nasally.
"I talk about the first 10 years of my career, I only saw a few opiate overdoses,” said Brian Thomas, EMS chief of the Mishawaka Fire Department since 2008. “But in the past 10 years we've seen a steady increase to where it is a common call that we go on now versus almost nonexistent in the past."
Paramedics in Mishawaka administered Narcan 104 times in 2015, and 121 times last year, according to Thomas.
South Bend paramedics administered the antidote 270 times in 2015 and 338 times last year, according to department EMS chief Myer. This year, South Bend paramedics had administered Narcan 214 times as of the end of May, putting the city on pace to eclipse last year's number.
Administering Narcan can be a tricky procedure in many cases.
Myer said paramedics can use nasal atomizers, but EMS responders are more likely to administer the drug intravenously. The latter is a quicker way to get Narcan into a patient's system, but paramedics may not be able to use IVs on some addicts because their veins have collapsed, Thomas and Myer said.
Intravenous lines also carry an increased risk in that the patient may experience acute withdrawal if too much Narcan is given. This could lead to withdrawal symptoms, including extreme pain, vomiting and hyperventilation, Myer said.
"We have to look to our safety,” Thomas explained, “when patients occasionally exhibit withdrawal symptoms, including combativeness toward our EMS paramedics."
The goal is often to provide oxygen and ventilation for the patients on the scene and allow the Narcan to begin working to reverse the effects of the overdose and then transport the patient to the hospital, Thomas said.
"We use valve masks and breathe for these people, and there are cases where we don't have to give Narcan at all," he said. "Our goal is not to wake these people up because that can cause harm to them and us if they become combative."
Instances of Narcan use by South Bend and Mishawaka EMS
Elevate Community Oriented Policing
by K.S. Owens and Catherine Fosi
Crime in the United States is at historic lows with the notable exception of a homicide spike in certain cities and a dramatic uptick in heroin and opioid overdose deaths in some cities and rural areas. The question is will a tough-on-crime approach that focuses on hiring more police officers and, in some places, equipping them with military-style equipment, solve these problems?
We believe that instead, Community Oriented Policing must be at the heart of any solution because the problem is about more than just the police budget and the total number of officers on the Louisville Metro Police Department.
What do the homicide spike and the heroin crisis have in common? Hopelessness. The people who are shooting each other and killing innocent bystanders have a dim future to look forward to. They have become surplus in the 21 st century.
Gangs – we don't have organized sophisticated criminal organizations in Louisville. We have groups of suicidal children who have developed an unspoken social agreement to put one another out of their misery by shooting each other.
Addicts – they're are also without hope. They feel, quite correctly, that the economic elites of this society have ruled them to be obsolete. So they stick a needle in their arm until they die.
We have to provide people with realistic hopes that their lives will improve. The only real solution is to reduce economic inequality – the gap between rich and poor, now comparable to 1929 levels – and increase people's ability to move up the socio-economic ladder.
Until then, what type of policing contributes both to preventing crime and to that larger project of creating hope? Is there any evidence that merely increasing the number of police will improve their effectiveness? How can we improve law enforcement without being able to criticize its current practices? Improvement of any institution or group depends on first being able to determine what is wrong. Virtually any outside observer would pronounce U.S. criminal justice norms as flawed, and Louisville is not exempt. Community policing is under discussion as a vital part of improving law enforcement in many major cities. But community policing has not been mentioned in recent local debates on this subject.
We believe that community policing must be at the heart of our local conversation on crime. Without wider social and economic changes, it cannot solve all of our problems. Yet it would create hope and very likely reduce our local homicide rate and get addicts into contact with needed services, not just a jail cell. Louisville already has in place some elements of community policing. We as a community need to better understand and build on them.
What is Community Oriented Policing?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, https://cops.usdoj.gov/about , “Community policing begins with a commitment to building trust and mutual respect between police and communities. Rather than simply responding to crimes once they have been committed, community policing concentrates on both preventing crime and eliminating the atmosphere of fear it creates.”
A logical first step in that project would be to recruit and assign officers from a given neighborhood to that neighborhood. Instead, the vast numbers of police in West Louisville are outsiders to the community.
What we don't need is a warrior police force tasked with suppression of people who have spiritually collapsed because the elites of their society have destroyed the ladder of economic opportunity and created a false narrative that there are plenty of jobs and that people just aren't trained for the jobs. People have lost hope not because of personal weaknesses but because of structural weaknesses in the organization of our society.
Police leadership in Louisville is not any more flawed than any similarly-sized department. Playing musical chairs with chiefs is unlikely to bring down our homicide rate.
A smarter move might be studying methods former Louisville Police Chief Robert White used when the homicide rate was lower. White had a program that called in former perpetrators. Why not resurrect that program and take it a step further: offer training, a job, or an educational opportunity on the spot? We would be better off paying people to get a GED than having those same people get involved in negative activity.
People need a future they can see and touch. Prayer walks alone cannot address these structural problems.
Louisville needs a fuller conversation about these matters that centers community policing and does not focus solely on one individual, whether it is Police Chief Steve Conrad or Professor Ricky Jones.
K.A. Owens is a member of the Jefferson County Chapter of Kentuckians For the Commonwealth and a veteran community organizer on issues of economic justice and police reform. Catherine Fosl is director of the University of Louisville's Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research.
Police seeking to build trust will wear cameras, offer video games
by Bill Duhart
GLOUCESTER TWP. -- A 20-point plan to build "community trust" and "transparency" is being l aunched in this municipality of nearly 70,000 residents in Camden County.
The initiative includes a body-camera program and a repurposed tactical command vehicle that has been outfitted with two 42-inch wall-mounted TVs, a PSII game system video gaming systems, social media command center and police-community meeting room.
Officials rolled out some of the new equipment during a news conference Monday at its Family Resource Center. None of its target youth audience was there. The event was for media only.
The plan will "increase officer professionalism, effectiveness, and ability to engage with the community in very unique ways," Chief Harry Earle said.
"A lot of the progress we focus on is with the younger generation," Earle said while giving a tour of the community outreach van , a 2002 Chevy van. "The point is for officers to stop and interact with them in a different way and that's how we build trust."
Earle says crime has been greatly reduced since the start of their community policing model in 2010. The overall crime rate has fallen 34 percent and the violent crime has dropped 50 percent from 2010 through 2015, officials said, citing state uniform crime reports. In 2016, he said a preliminary reduction in overall crime fell 8 percent.
All of the 128 officers on the force will be equipped with body cameras as part of the news initiative. The cameras will cost $525,000, which will be spread out over a five-year capital budget.
Earle said the cameras are a 'law enforcement tool,' "whereas the initiatives being announced involve changing mindsets."
It costs $29,000 to convert the former command center into an outreach vehicle. Earle and Mayor David Mayer said the purchase was a sound investment.
"It's vital that our police department is partners with our community," Mayer said. "The are not just there to arrest people. Our recidivism rate was 30 percent for juveniles to commit another offense after a first arrest. Now it is 5 percent."
Earle says the department calls its approach 3rd Gear Policing.
"The first gear is suppression or arrest," he said. "However, it must be understood throughout the community and the entire police department that arrest is not the only solution and not the only duty of a police officer. A police department's strategy must consist of more holistic approach including the '2nd Gear' strategy of prevention and the '3rd Gear' strategy of intervention."
Other parts of the new program include a liaison unit for outreach to Latino, LGBTQ, and African-American communities. The outreach van will travel around the township this summer with events with regular stops in several communities.
Steve Scalise Among 5 Shot at Baseball Field
by Michael D. Shear, Adam Goldman and Christopher Mele
A lone gunman opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in a Washington suburb Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck five people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives.
Two members of Mr. Scalise's protective police detail were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with the shooter in what other lawmakers described as a chaotic, terror-filled ten minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. Police said a total of five people were shot, two critically.
Standing at second base, Mr. Scalise was struck, in the hip, according to witnesses, and collapsed as the shots rang out, one after another, from behind a chain-link fence near the third-base dugout. Witnesses said Mr. Scalise, of Louisiana, “army crawled” his way toward taller grass as the shooting continued.
Two law enforcement officials identified the gunman as James T. Hodgkinson , 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis. The Washington Post first identified Mr. Hodgkinson as the suspect in the shooting.
Police said the gunman was wounded and taken into custody after the gunfight with the Capitol Police security detail and local police officers, who arrived minutes after they received plaintive calls for help from those at the field. The F.B.I. said the bureau would take the lead in the investigation, treating it as an assault on a federal officer.
Witnesses described a man with white hair and a beard wielding a long gun standing behind the dugout.
“He was hunting us at that point,” said Representative Mike Bishop, Republican of Michigan, who was standing at home plate when the shooting began at 7:09 a.m. Mr. Bishop said the shooter seemed to be “double-tapping” the trigger of his weapon. “There was so much gunfire, you couldn't get up and run. Pop, pop, pop, pop — it's a sound I'll never forget.”
Authorities said they could not comment on the motive for the shooting. Tim Slater, a special agent in charge in the F.B.I's Washington field office, said investigators are “exploring all angles.” Asked whether the shooting was an assassination attempt, he said it was “too early in the investigation to say one way or another.”
Aides to Mr. Scalise said Wednesday morning that he underwent surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and is in stable condition. Police said a total of five people were transported to hospitals.
A friend of Zachary Barth, a staff member for Representative Roger Williams, Republican of Texas, posted a message from Mr. Barth on Facebook saying: “I got shot this morning at the baseball fields. But I am in the hospital and ok. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.”
Representative Mo Brooks told CNN that “at least five” people were injured — including two law enforcement officers and a congressional aide — while members of a Republican congressional baseball team were practicing.
Mr. Brooks said the gunman, who had a rifle, said nothing as he opened fire. At least 50 shots were fired, congressional sources said.
The police said the gunman was shot and wounded and taken into custody.
Mr. Brooks said he went to the aid of one of the victims and used his belt as a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding from a gunshot to his leg. He said it was about two to five minutes before other officers arrived.
“My adrenaline is raging,” he told CNN. “It's not easy to take when you see people around you being shot and you don't have a weapon yourself.”
Mr. Scalise, a self-described strong conservative leader, represents the First Congressional District of Louisiana, which extends from the New Orleans suburbs.
Mr. Brooks said Mr. Scalise was shot in the hip and was at second base and dragging himself into the outfield to get away from the gunman.
“There is not a whole lot you can do,” he said. “It was emotionally distressing to know the position he was in.”
He said the security officers were “screaming for reinforcements” and “it seemed like forever, but it was probably shorter than it was.”
Alexandria police said the gunfire was reported at 7:09 a.m. and they were there within three minutes.
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, speaking to reporters, said he heard a very loud shot and then a rapid succession of gunshots. He said that the man had dark hair and was wearing a blue shirt and jeans, and had a rifle.
“It was obviously a large gauge rifle,” he said, adding that people were hiding behind trees, getting on the ground or running. “Bullets were flying. He had a lot of ammo,” he said of the gunman.
He added: “You've got to assume he knew what he was doing here. It is unclear whether Steve Scalise was targeted.”
Mr. Flake said Mr. Scalise “remained coherent” after being shot.
Gabrielle Giffords , a former member of Congress from Arizona, said on Twitter : “My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.”
Ms. Giffords was a week into her third term as a United States representative when she was shot in the head at close range in a grocery store parking lot during a meeting with constituents on Jan. 8, 2011. The gunman killed six people and, aside from Ms. Giffords, injured 12 others.
The White House said in a statement that President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were made aware of the shootings.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.”
Rep. Jared Huffman said on Twitter that the Democratic baseball team was practicing when its members heard the news. “We're safe & with police, everyone praying for GOP colleagues, staff & Cap police,” he wrote.
Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York who was not there, said it was fortunate there were armed security at the field with the members. “God knows what would have happened if they weren't there,” he said in a telephone interview.
ISIS drones are attacking U.S. troops and disrupting airstrikes in Raqqa, officials say
by Thomas Gibbons-Neff
Islamic State drones are attacking U.S. Special Operations forces located around the group's de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, U.S. officials and Syrian fighters said, sometimes disrupting the ability of American troops to call in airstrikes.
The Pentagon, in response, is looking to send additional anti-drone equipment and troops into Syria, according to one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning.
Unlike in Mosul, where U.S. forces have deployed an array of drone-stopping systems, U.S. troops on the ground in Raqqa are operating with fewer resources and have a limited ability to defend against the small, hard-to-spot aircraft, the official said. The off-the-shelf drones, sometimes used in swarms by the extremist group, are often rigged to drop small 40mm grenade-sized munitions with a relatively high degree of accuracy.
In Raqqa, the Islamic State has been attacking U.S. targeting teams working alongside the coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF , the official said. The teams — usually operating from a vehicle with radios and a computer synced to communicate with the aircraft overhead — often have a spotter looking for incoming drones. In recent days, according to one SDF fighter, the Americans were preparing for a set of strikes after receiving coordinates from their Syrian counterparts when they had to move position because of a drone.
“There have been no casualties, yet,” the official said.
The attacks, according to the fighter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media, have also hindered SDF advances. He said that the Islamic State will wait for the SDF to send up its own drone before deploying an aircraft loaded with explosives so that those on the ground think a friendly drone is overhead.
It is unclear what type of anti-drone equipment and troops might be sent into Syria if the Pentagon decides to bolster its defenses there. Around Mosul, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division have steadily increased counter-drone operations since March, at a time when the Islamic State was becoming increasingly lethal with the devices.
U.S. troops often move around Mosul, deploying their vehicle-mounted Anti-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Device, or AUDS, in locations that allow it to cover the Iraqi front lines. Other equipment to stop drones has also appeared in Iraq, including handheld rifles designed to disrupt the control signal sent to the aircraft. The counter-drone equipment, however, can come with a trade-off, as the gear has a tendency to scramble radios and other communication devices.
Placing counter-drone equipment around Raqqa could also be dangerous. In the last month, U.S. soldiers moving the devices around Mosul have come under fire from the Islamic State, at least once while scouting for deployment sites, according to troops familiar with the operations. Those troops also say that U.S.-led forces have committed resources to tracking and targeting Islamic State drone operators, sometimes using surveillance aircraft to track the drones back to their operators before striking.
The drone attacks around Raqqa come as U.S. Special Operations forces contend with larger unmanned aerial threats in southern Syria. Last week, an Iranian Shahed-129 — a drone roughly the size of a U.S. Predator — attacked U.S.-led Special Operations forces near the border outpost of al-Tanf, according to an intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the aircraft type. The munition launched by the drone appeared to be a dud and did not cause any casualties. The drone was subsequently shot down by a U.S. Air Force F-15E strike aircraft.
While the exact number of U.S. forces in Syria is unknown, there are at least several hundred U.S. Special Operations troops — a mixture of Green Berets, Rangers and other units — operating alongside the SDF as they push into Raqqa, while dozens are located around Tanf to the south. Fighting in Raqqa has been heavy, but the U.S.-backed forces are making steady gains, especially in the eastern neighborhoods, officials said. Rocket artillery and Marine howitzers located on Raqqa's periphery have also provided fire support for the advancing forces, especially during bad weather.
$1 million in meth-laced candies seized at Texas home
by HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A burglary call led Texas authorities to the home of an alleged meth dealer and nearly $1 million worth of drug-filled lollipops and other candies , the Harris County Sheriff's Office said.
Police arrested two people suspected of breaking into the Houston-area home, Evonne Christine Mick and David Salinas, both 36. Responding officers stopped the pair as they tried to escaped the area, police said.
Mick has been charged with possession of a controlled substance and her bond is set at an estimated $1 million, according to court records obtained by KIAH.
“They had put so many narcotics in the back of the vehicle, so they were trying to flee, and they couldn't even close the back hatch to their vehicle,” an official said during a press conference.
Inside the home, deputies allegedly found nearly $1 million worth of meth-filled candies— some treats molded in the form of popular fictional characters such as Batman, R2D2 and Yoda. Officers said the candies came in different sizes and ranged from $20 to $40 in price.
"It appears the candy was intended to be distributed among children and/or sold to juveniles," The sheriff's department posted on Facebook.
Deputies believe Mick may have lived inside the home prior to the burglary and knew where to find the candies.
“I don't believe these two people were the actual people making them,” a HCSO official said. “The other part of our investigation is going to be trying to figure out who's actually making them.”
Investigators said the meth was manufactured inside the home, which is located near a school. The sheriff's office said deputies acted quickly to prevent a large amount of drugs – with potential appeal to children – from being distributed in the area.
Officers released several pictures of the seized drugs, showing a home filled with dozens upon dozens of bags prepared to hit the streets.
The sheriff's office said many questions have yet to be answered as the investigation is still in its early stages and deputies are looking for additional suspects , according to KHOU.
Happy Flag Day! Here's 8 American flag facts you may not know
The American flag is one treasured symbol surrounded by a lot of history, intrigue and sometimes misinformation.
by ABC 13
In honor of Flag Day, we're fact checking some of the most often repeated statements about the stars and stripes.
1) Do you have to destroy a flag that touches the ground?
No. The Flag Code states the flag should not touch anything beneath it, including the ground, but it does not require the destruction of a flag when this happens. As long as the flag remains suitable for display, you can continue to display it, even if it requires washing or dry cleaning.
2) Can I wear American flag-themed clothing?
Yes. Unless an article of clothing is created using an actual United States flag, there is no breach of flag etiquette by wearing the stars and stripes.
3) Can I fly the American flag at night?
Yes. According to the Flag Code, so long as the flag is properly illuminated so that it is recognizable by the casual observer, you can display the flag 24 hours a day. Otherwise, the custom is to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flag staffs.
4) Is displaying the flag horizontally before a football game a violation?
Yes, contrary to the Flag Code, in Section 8c, we are instructed that the "flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free."
5) Can a flag that covered a casket be used for any other display?
Yes. There is no provision in the Flag Code suggesting you can't use the flag for another display after its funeral use.
6) Can any other flag be flown higher than the U.S. flag?
No. The Flag Code said no other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the U.S. flag, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy.
7) Can the U.S. Flag be used in advertising?
No. The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
8) When should a flag be destroyed?
You should destroy a flag when it is no longer suitable for display, preferably by burning, according to the Flag Code.
Is Texas the only state flag allowed to fly at the same height as the US flag?
No. This is an urban legend. All state flags may fly at the same height as the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag must be on its right (the viewer's left), however. Texas's laws are consistent with those of the other states.
Body Cameras Part Of Expanded Community Policing Initiative In Gloucester Township
Body cameras are just part of the way the department is building trust, Chief Harry Earle said
by Anthony Bellano
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ — About 20 Gloucester Township police officers have been outfitted with body cameras as part of a series of upgrades the department is making to its community policing strategy, Police Chief Harry Earle announced on Monday. All patrol officers will be wearing body cameras over the next several weeks.
The cameras are provided by the Axon Corporation. Axon was known as Taser until a few months ago, when it was re-branded. It now offers body worn cameras to any police department that inquires for free , according to Tech Crunch.
“I believe that the deployment of body worn cameras will enhance our efforts in building trust with the community while also assisting in capturing evidence during police investigations,” Earle said. “ … We are equipping police officers with body cameras, but it is just one small effort of many other new practices we are launching today that will build trust and legitimacy. A body camera alone does not build trust.”
Body cameras became a topic of conversation at a time when the public became more concerned about police-involved shootings. To address this issue, the Gloucester Township Police Department has introduced an upgraded training simulator.
“As part of our 2017 capital improvement program, we have just purchased an upgraded force/no-force training simulator which gives officers the ability to utilize less lethal force options such as taser and pepper spray,” Earle said. “The only option available to an officer with our previous system was lethal force (firearm). Additionally, the training evolutions will consist of some scenarios where the officer successfully de-escalates the situation without using physical or other force.”
Many of the high profile cases of police-involved shootings concerned minorities. The police department has three new liaisons that will help with outreach to these communities.
Officer Erica Marconi has been named Latino Officer Liaison. She speaks Spanish, and has already been working with Hispanic groups in the community.
“We have also produced officer trading cards in Spanish and as we launch our new website next week we will also be introducing a section in Spanish,” Earle said.
Officer Eddie Radden will serve as the police department's primary African American Liaison Officer. Officer Randy Pearce serves as one of the LGBTQ Liaison Officers. He has already begun working with the Gay-Straight Alliance at a local high school.
“It is important to understand that the role of these liaisons is not only to connect with members of the community, but perhaps as equally important they serve as integral members of our agency who help other members understand different cultures, languages, and orientations,” Earle said. “Additionally these officers will be participating in our high schools' ‘Conversation with a COP Program' and also the Freshmen Orientation Program to help high school students understand that the Gloucester Township Police Department is ready and eager to serve all people.”
These coincide with policy changes concerning transgender interactions, recruitment and career opportunities, hearing impaired interactions, volunteers in policing, bias free policing, and social media.
The department introduced a 25-foot community outreach vehicle that includes video game systems, a social media command center, and a police-community meeting room.
It will carry various forms of sporting equipment such as Jenga, beanbag toss, spike ball, and more. It will visit neighborhoods all summer. Police officers on board will engage with youth and 6 community members.
It was built in 2002, and has been re-purposed to serve as the mobile community policing command center.
The police department began implementing its community policing strategy, the Third Gear Community Policing Plan, in 2010. It is now expanding its volunteers in policing program. It will include community volunteers during certain events, and expand its Chaplain Volunteer Program.
“This new policing model focused heavily on being more visible and interactive with community members, assisting at-risk populations, and so much more,” Earle said. “Our community policing efforts that began in 2010 were unique as there were not an abundance of law enforcement agencies talking about community policing at the time.”
Since its introduction, the overall crime rate has fallen 34 percent and the violent crime rate has fallen 50 percent as of 2015, according to Earle.
“As we look at 2016 we already see a preliminary reduction even further in overall crime of 8 percent from 2015 to 2016,” Earle said. “ … I cannot say with certainty that our Third Gear community policing program is the reason for these dramatic reductions in crime or assaults on police, but I can say that our efforts dedicated to community policing certainly have not caused crime to rise.”
Earle's goal is to point out that the police department is relying on more than just body-worn cameras in building community trust.
“Please know that members of the Gloucester Township Police Department spend their time helping, serving, and at times risking their lives for our residents and all of them should be so proud of their work,” Earle said. “In the roll call room where officers report for work each day is a sign hanging clearly over the door which reads ‘Be Someone's Hero Today.' The message is simple. Certainly a hero is someone who catches a bank robber, saves a baby from a burning building, or arrests someone who has assaulted another, but here at Gloucester Township Police a hero is someone who has also recruited a candidate for our Junior Police Academy, stopped with some kids on the street to be a part of a ‘selfie,' assisted a person in crisis, and perhaps most importantly- gained their trust and legitimacy. This is the philosophy of the Gloucester Township Police Department.”
Man gets 15 months for Facebook threat to blow up Detroit cop's funeral
The FBI and the Detroit Police Department investigated the case
by Ann Zaniewski
DETROIT — A man was sentenced to 15 months in prison Friday for threatening on Facebook to blow up the funeral of a slain Detroit police sergeant.
Deshawn Maurice Lanton, 21, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to conveying false information and hoaxes, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch.
Lanton posted the threat on a livestream video of Sgt. Kenneth Steil's September funeral that was on the Facebook page of WXYZ (Channel 7), authorities said.
"During the funeral procession at St. Joan of Arc Church in St. Clair Shores, Lanton wrote 'Maybe I should drop a bomb on that building to get rid of the rest of y'all' on the Facebook live page as hundreds of officers marched into the church to pay their respects to the fallen officer," reads a press release from Lemisch's office.
Other Facebook viewers saw the post and contacted police, authorities said.
Lemisch's office said Lanton has several prior felony convictions, including for violent crimes and theft.
According to court records, authorities discovered during the investigation that Lanton posted multiple videos on his Facebook page of police officers getting injured. He then commented that he was pleased they were injured.
The FBI and the Detroit Police Department investigated the case.
Steil was shot Sept. 12 during a manhunt for a suspect in Detroit. He died five days later.
Feds: Neo-Nazi plot targeted civiliams, nukes and synagogues
Police found two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a skull mask in the suspect's car
by the Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Federal prosecutors say a neo-Nazi arrested after agents found bomb-making materials in his Florida apartment while investigating the slayings of his two roommates planned to use the explosives to harm civilians, nuclear facilities and synagogues.
Court documents filed Monday say a third roommate arrested in the killings told authorities that 21-year-old Brandon Russell had been targeting the sites.
The murder suspect, Devon Arthurs, was arrested last month after telling police he fatally shot 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk because they were neo-Nazis who disrespected his recent conversion to Islam.
Arthurs told police Russell was not involved in the shootings, but that he was planning a bombing.
The documents also state that police found two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a skull mask in Russell's car.
North Charleston citizens police advisory commission gearing up
by Mina Corpuz
The North Charleston Citizens' Advisory Commission on Community-Police Relations has wrapped up three months of sessions learning about the inner workings of the city's police department.
In their past seven meetings, members have learned about community policing, use of force, bias-based profiling and several other topics to educate them on how officers work and police culture.
The group is gearing up for their work to look at the department's policies and practices, then to make recommendations to the chief.
The commission formed more than a year after the shooting death of Walter Scott in 2015. Scott, who was pulled over for a broken brake light, ran away from a North Charleston officer and was shot in the back. Michael Slager pleaded guilty May 2 in federal court to violating Scott's civil rights. He has not been sentenced.
At Tuesday night's meeting, 14 of the 20 commissioners came to the conference room in North Charleston City Hall. They sat around a horseshoe-shaped table and listened to the last of the guest speakers.
Vic Revelise, a retired municipal court judge, spoke about the city court system and the process a person goes through after an arrest. He pointed out some of the differences between municipal and higher levels of court, depending on the offense.
Some members asked about posting bond, and another gave a hypothetical scenario to find out whether someone would receive a ticket or be arrested for a misdemeanor.
Assistant Chief Reggie Burgess talked about the department's Cops Athletic League, which is a way for police to engage with youth through sports.
Officers coach several sports, including basketball, golf and hockey. The police department teamed up with the city recreation department to host leagues for the children to play.
"Brothers don't shoot brothers," Burgess said. "They shoot over brothers."
Bill Nettles, the former U.S. attorney of South Carolina, serves as the group's facilitator. He suggested early on that members learn about how the department operates before getting started on discussion and recommendations.
The commission has met bi-monthly since mid-March. With the summer coming up, the members may meet less often.
The purpose of the advisory commission is to improve communication between the police and residents, recommend ways to bolster community policing, and later review citizens' complaints against the department and officers.
Five more members are expected to be appointed to the commission. One pick each will come from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and another will come from a recommendation by City Councilman Michael Brown. The advisory commission will pick three students from North Charleston high schools.
Court oversight of Chicago police reforms sought in lawsuit
by Michael Tarm
CHICAGO — Several leading community groups, including a local Black Lives Matter organization, filed a class-action lawsuit against Chicago on Wednesday in a bid to bypass or even scuttle a draft agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice that seeks to reform the nation's second largest police force without federal court oversight.
The 132-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago argues that an overhaul of Chicago's 12,000-officer force in the wake of a damning civil rights report in January can't work without the intense scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor answerable to a judge.
"Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve," the lawsuit says.
The civil litigation is also a signal that longtime advocates of far-reaching police reforms don't trust President Donald Trump's administration.
While Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has expressed skepticism about court involvement, President Barack Obama's administration saw it as vital to successful reforms. Obama's Justice Department typically took a city reform plan to a judge to make it legally binding in the form of a consent decree.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of seven groups and six individuals asks for a court to intervene to end what the plaintiffs describe as "abusive policies and practices undergirding the alleged constitutional and state law violations."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration said earlier this month that a draft deal negotiated by the city and the Justice Department — one that foresees a monitor not selected by a court — is being reviewed in Washington.
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and one of the more than a dozen plaintiff attorneys involved in the legal action, said reports about the draft agreement — which he called "a backroom deal without any teeth" — influenced the decision to sue now.
"This is the community stepping up when the government refuses to act and when it has long been clear that the city is incapable of acting on its own," he said.
Emanuel's chief city lawyer, Edward Siskel, said Chicago officials would have preferred court oversight but were left little choice because the Trump administration didn't favor it.
"We wish the Department of Justice would have followed through with their commitment to a consent decree — but we are not there," he told reporters Wednesday. He contended that reforms outside of court supervision had "a proven track record of success."
Futterman said the city does have a choice now that the lawsuit is filed: Emanuel could give up on the Justice Department altogether and decide to hammer out a court-enforced reform plan with the groups that are suing.
Even if the city sticks with the Justice Department, the judge presiding over the new lawsuit could side with the community groups and mandate reforms via a court order.
"This is a real test for the mayor as to whether he is truly committed to police reform in Chicago," Futterman said.
Before Trump's inauguration in January, the Justice Department issued a scathing 161-page report that found deep-rooted civil rights violations by Chicago police, including racial bias, excessive use of force and a "pervasive cover-up culture" among officers. Emanuel committed to a consent decree in a joint statement with Justice Department officials at the time.
The Justice Department launched its civil rights investigation in 2015 after the release of police dashboard camera video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. The video of McDonald's 2014 death prompted protests and demands for sweeping reforms. The officer who shot the 17-year-old was charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.
Since then, Emanuel has said repeatedly that Chicago will push ahead with reforms, no matter what. His administration has established a new police oversight agency and adopted other practices to hold officers accountable.
Addressing reporters Wednesday, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also cited the decision to fit all patrol officers with body cameras.
"I'm not a lawyer, so I won't speak about the litigation," he said. "I'm just a cop trying to make this police department better."
Using lawsuits to prompt overhauls of police departments is rare. A lawsuit filed by community groups in Cincinnati in 2001 did play a central role in kick-starting police reforms that eventually were overseen by a federal court.
Chicago officials point to Washington, D.C., as a city that enacted successful police reforms without a judge. But another plaintiff attorney in the Chicago case, Sheila Bedi, said successful reforms without court scrutiny are "very, very rare." Only judges, free of political pressure, can rule that police aren't complying with agreed-to reforms and force them to do so, Bedi said.
The Chicago Police Department is the largest in the U.S. to be investigated by the Justice Department, so court-enforced reforms could end up costing the city more than a deal cut with Trump's administration.
But Andrew Stroth, another plaintiff attorney, said a police force with deeply engrained problems that aren't fixed will see more unjustified shootings and more lawsuits that cost city taxpayers. According to the lawsuit, more than 1,600 people have been shot by Chicago police since 1996, more than 90 percent of them black. And lawsuits that alleged police abuses have cost Chicago more than $640 million on settlements.
"Chicago will save money and save lives by having federal judicial oversight," Stroth said.
Can Black Lives Matter be sued? Federal Judge to decide
by Michael Kunzelman
BATON ROUGE, La. — Black Lives Matter is a movement, not an organization that can be sued by a Louisiana police officer who was injured at a protest after a deadly police shooting, a prominent activist's attorney claims.
A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday about whether to dismiss a Baton Rouge police officer's lawsuit against Black Lives Matter and DeRay Mckesson, a Baltimore-based activist. Mckesson was one of nearly 200 protesters arrested after the July 2016 shooting death of Alton Sterling, a black man shot and killed by a white officer during a struggle outside a convenience store.
Mckesson's attorney, William Gibbens, said in a court filing that Black Lives Matter doesn't have a governing body, dues-paying members, bylaws, "or even a central location." At best, the lawyer argued, it's a "community of interest."
"However, even as a community of interest, it would be nearly impossible to ascribe a single common purpose or interest to the hundreds of thousands of different people, many with different goals and motives, who have protested, posted online, or acted under the 'Black Lives Matter' banner," Gibbens wrote.
The unidentified officer claims a piece of concrete or "rock like substance" struck him in the face during a July 9 protest over Sterling's death. The officer's lawsuit says he lost teeth and received injuries to his jaw and brain.
The suit doesn't accuse Mckesson of throwing anything, but it claims he "incited the violence" on behalf of Black Lives Matter. The suit also claims Mckesson "was in charge of the protests" and he was seen and heard giving orders.
The officer's attorneys sued Mckesson individually but also served him and others with the suit as alleged "agents" of Black Lives Matter.
Donna Grodner, an attorney for the officer, is urging U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson to deny Mckesson's requests to dismiss the case. Grodner describes Black Lives Matter as a "thriving, if not very wealthy, unincorporated association" that solicits donations and sells T-shirts for profit.
"If Black Lives Matter does not exist, it should not be raising money or collecting millions in donations," she wrote in a court filing.
Mckesson, who declined to be interviewed Wednesday, has described himself as a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"No organization started the movement," he said during an interview last year.
The officer suing Mckesson is identified only as "Officer John Doe" in the suit, saying the anonymity is "for his protection." A court filing last year cited the July 2016 sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers and a shooting 10 days later that killed three law-enforcement officers in Baton Rouge as reasons for concealing the officer's identity.
Mckesson was arrested near Baton Rouge police headquarters on a charge of obstructing a highway. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said his office wouldn't prosecute roughly 100 protesters who were arrested on that same charge, including Mckesson.
Mckesson and other protesters sued the city of Baton Rouge and local law enforcement officials over their arrests, accusing police of using excessive force and violating their constitutional rights. Last month, a federal judge preliminarily approved a proposed settlement of the class action. Mckesson is one of nearly 80 arrested protesters who are eligible for cash payments ranging from $500 to $1,000 if the settlement gets the court's final approval.
Mckesson and Black Lives Matter also were named as defendants in a federal lawsuit that Larry Klayman — founder of the conservative group Freedom Watch — filed last year in Texas after the sniper attack on Dallas police officers. Klayman also sued former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other political figures, accusing the defendants of inciting a "race war" against police officers.
Mckesson's lawyers argued Klayman should have known his claims were frivolous. A judge's ruling on June 2 said the plaintiffs didn't provide the court with any support for their "proposition" that Black Lives Matter is an entity capable of being sued. All of Klayman's claims against Mckesson and Black Lives Matter have been dismissed or withdrawn.
Creating a sense of urgency: Organizers talk community policing at council meeting
by Cory Davenport
Alton is behind on its original goals for its community policing program by as many as 90 days, but there are still many reasons for optimism, program organizers Steve Finkelstein and former St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom said.
The pair offered a presentation at last night's Alton City Council meeting regarding the initiative. Delays in the programs implementation were attributed to issues caused by the April 4, 2017, Alton mayoral election as well as the announcement of the resignation and subsequent termination of former Alton City Attorney Megan Williams, who was instrumental in the initiative coming to Alton originally.
Since the election and Williams's leaving, Alton Mayor Brant Walker met with Alton Community Relations Commission (CRC) President Peter Hough as well as CRC Board Member Judge Ellar Duff, Alton Police Chief Jason "Jake" Simmons and Walker's Chief of Staff Kimberly Clark. Hough said that meeting helped solidify the future of how the program will be initiated.
To remind the city officials about the importance of such an initiative in the city, Isom and Finkelstein addressed the Alton City Council Wednesday, June 14, 2017, to show what the proper implementation of the plan should look like. Isom and Finkelstein, through the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL), took surveys of the Alton Police Department as well as the community to identify problems and solutions for community and police relations.
"This is unusual," Isom said. "It's not every day a community lets itself open to strangers to evaluate the police department and the community itself."
Finkelstein agreed with Isom's sentiments and said the Alton Police Department's 69 percent participation in the internal survey was extremely hopeful. He added the 1,264 surveys completed from across the community were also inspiring to his optimism.
During their presentation to the Alton City Council, Finkelstein and Isom presented definitions of "community policing," with the focal words of each definition being: proactive, public safety and partnerships.
"Community policing is a policy that requires police to inherit a proactive approach to address public safety concerns... Community policing recognizes that police cannot solve every public safety problem alone, so interactive partnerships are created. The policing uses the public for developing problem-solving solutions."
The second definition goes as follows:
"Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime."
That second definition may not apply as much to Alton as the first. Isom described Alton as a "city not in crisis." Many cities use programs and platforms of community policing only as reactions to a crisis. In the case of Alton, there is no major crisis, so the city is volunteering itself proactively. Unfortunately, this lack of crisis may not give the program the urgency it deserves.
Ultimately, the goal of community policing is this: "Provide a safe, vibrant and peaceful environment." That goal can be reached by a multitude of sources, but Finkelstein and Isom delivered a "Police Success Model," detailing the many methods of reaching that goal. Those methods are as follows:
City support and police leadership support
Right officers, right passion, experience and skills
Right equipment, training, process and technology
The approach to reach those goals has been almost entirely completed. The project began with a survey and interviews conducted in September and October of 2016 in the Alton Police Department. As many as 55 of the 80 employees of the department (69 percent) willingly took part in surveys.
In October and November, consultants, including Finkelstein and Isom went on ride-alongs and analyzed 911 call reports over the course of nine months in 2016, which was a staggering total of 19,293 calls.
In February 2017, a police focus group of around 20 people was created to identify problems and possible solutions strictly within the department itself.
During phase two, an Alton community survey was taken. A "good cross-section of the community" was then mined to create a community focus group of as many as 25 people who looked through the results of the community survey, which had 1,264 responses.
Those two focus groups merged for phase three, which featured a joint focus group of community members and police officers. They created a list of issues to address during the plan's full implementation.
Areas of focus identified are as follows:
Police Department Diversity
Positive Interactions Between the Police and Community
To reach those goals, the Alton CRC had 30-,60- and 90-day goals, which were originally set to begin following an Alton CRC special meeting to discuss the findings of the community policing study, which was held on March 15.
Chief Simmons described those time frames following the meeting as overly ambitious. He said, considering a very contentious mayoral election, and the following administrative shake-ups sure to follow, those goals were not realistic.
Within 30 days, the Alton CRC was tasked with the following:
Within 60 days, the Alton CRC was tasked with the following:
Develop a written plan
Devlop an evaluative strategy
Within 90 days, the Alton CRC was tasked with the following:
Present a plan
Begin the implementation and evaluation process
Those goals have yet to be met. Hough said the CRC is lacking at the moment, because the loss of Williams on the board as well as several vacant seats. Currently, the Alton CRC is searching for three new board members. Members may apply through the city to sit on the board, and members are appointed by the mayor. The board is looking to have all 11 of its possible seats filled.
Finkelstein and Isom completed the presentation by illustrating to the city how progress can be marked regarding future implementations. Finkelstein also challenged the city to ask itself what the cost of implementing the plan is compared to the possible costs of not implementing it. He said the true answer "lays somewhere in the middle."
Teen police cadets stole, wrecked LAPD vehicles, led cops on pursuit
by Michael Balsamo
LOS ANGELES — Three teenagers in a program for those who may want to become officers stole three Los Angeles Police Department vehicles and went on patrol around the city before leading authorities on wild pursuits that ended with crashes, Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday.
The trio — two boys and a girl ages 15, 16 and 17 — "gamed the system" and used a vacationing sergeant's name to sign out stun guns and radios and drive the cars right out of a stationhouse parking lot, Beck said. Police are investigating whether the teens impersonated officers and pulled over drivers.
The three were arrested Wednesday after two pursuits ended with crashes in South Los Angeles. A third police car was later recovered around the corner from a police station.
Beck said he had ordered a thorough review of the department's cadet program and policies for managing inventory.
"We are going to take this apart top to bottom," Beck said at a news conference. "We're going to see what we can do better and we're going to do it."
The three were part of a program for teen volunteers who work in police stations and go through an academy to learn about the criminal justice system.
Authorities are still trying to figure out exactly when the cars were taken, but Beck said investigators were looking into the possibility that at least one of the vehicles had been missing since May 28.
Police first grew suspicious when a sergeant who was conducting a routine inventory noticed a patrol vehicle was unaccounted for. Investigators later reviewed surveillance video that showed a young woman with the vehicle at a gas pump, he said.
An officer who was patrolling in South Los Angeles on Wednesday saw two of the stolen police vehicles driving together and tried to pull them over. The teens behind the wheel refused to stop and led police on pursuits that ended with two separate crashes.
A woman suffered a minor injury at the end of one of the pursuits, said Josh Rubenstein, a police spokesman. She was "an innocent bystander in a separate vehicle," he said.
The third car was recovered later when one of the teens revealed its location to officers, Beck said.
The teens were arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft and other charges. One was wearing a bulletproof vest that had been taken from a police station, the chief said.
Beck said there was no indication any actual police officers were involved in the thefts.