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Human Trafficking or Human Smuggling? Why the Two Crimes Aren't Interchangeable
by Kalhan Rosenblatt
Under the scalding sun, dozens were crowded into the back of an 18-wheeler until a stop at a Texas Walmart on Sunday revealed that several had died , according to authorities.
More were critically ill from heat exposure and dehydration.
Although the origin and destination of those in the truck were unclear, police deemed the incident a case of human trafficking.
"We're looking at a human trafficking crime here this evening," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters on Sunday.
However, Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, referred to the "horrific" incident as a case of human smuggling, saying smuggling networks "have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for those they smuggle."
Experts said it remains unclear whether the migrants were the victims of human trafficking or human smuggling — which "are distinct criminal activities, and the terms are not interchangeable," ICE says on its website.
Human smuggling centers on transportation and evading the immigration laws of the United States, according to ICE. Human trafficking is based on the exploitation of people by fraud, force or coercion.
Human trafficking is also broken into two categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
While sex trafficking relates to a person who is forced to engage in a commercial sex act, labor trafficking is when a person is subjected to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
"This case of transporting people is being described as trafficking when it's about smuggling," Denise Brennan, a professor at and chairwoman of the anthropology department at Georgetown University, told NBC News. "It's about the transport of individuals. They're going to be transported over borders that they don't have legal access to cross. That's not trafficking."
Brennan, who has written several books about trafficking and has worked with victims for more than 10 years, said the real beneficiaries of smuggling are the smugglers.
"The word is that it's just costing more and more money to cross," she said, so smugglers are charging more.
"People who are going to return to home or start a new life or are fleeing violence and can't look back, they take the terms that they're handed," she said.
Few statistics are available on the number of people smuggled or trafficked into the United States, based on the secret nature of the act.
Justine Whelan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, told NBC News in an email in April that 42,000 front-line Customs and Border Patrol officers and Border Patrol agents protect nearly 7,000 miles of land border and 328 ports of entry. That includes crossings by land, air and sea.
Immigration into the United States remains a hot-button issue in the current political arena, and smugglers — sometimes called "coyotes" along the southern border — can use an increase in difficulty in entering the country as leverage against their victims, experts say .
The harder it gets to enter the United States, the bigger the risk people are willing to take to grab a piece of the American dream.
Brennan said that as U.S. borders are increasingly militarized, the deaths of migrants as they are smuggled will continue to rise.
"The migrant trail is increasingly dangerous — almost guaranteeing people are going to die — based on militarization of borders, which President Trump has promised to do more of. He has also criminalized unlawful presence in the United States," Brennan said.
When it comes to trafficking, Brennan said, the crime is a gradual progression. One doesn't necessarily evolve into the other, but she said some of the victims of trafficking she's worked with once paid someone to help them cross a border.
Regardless of the risks, people are still trying to be smuggled into the United States.
Whether they are loaded into the back of a tractor-trailer, like the migrants in San Antonio, or whether they take a different path, migrants will continue to put their trust in smugglers under the current immigration laws, Brennan said.
"I think the important piece here is that people are going to come regardless of how many border patrols President Trump puts on the line or if he can build some wall, which he wont be able to," Brennan said. "They're going to come."
Many Texas human trafficking tragedy survivors clinging to life
SAN ANTONIO -- Nine people are dead and the death toll could rise after emergency crews pulled dozens of people from a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, victims of what officials said was an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.
The driver was arrested, and nearly 20 others taken from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke, officials said Sunday.
Thirty survivors were hospitalized in all, officials said.
"We're looking at a human-trafficking crime," said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, calling it "a horrific tragedy."
One U.S. official said Sunday evening that 17 of those rescued were being treated for injuries that were considered life-threatening. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the information has not been publicly released.
Authorities were called to the San Antonio parking lot late Saturday or early Sunday and found eight people dead inside the truck. A ninth victim died at the hospital, said Liz Johnson, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The victims "were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water," San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
All the dead were adult males, authorities said.
Authorities would not say whether the trailer was locked when they arrived, but they said it had no working air conditioning.
It was just the latest smuggling-by-truck operation to end in tragedy. In one of the worst cases on record in the U.S., 19 immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.
San Antonio resident Juan Reyes told the CBS affiliate there, KENS-TV finding newly-arrived travelers near his home isn't "unheard of -- people walking up and telling me stories that they got here from walking or jumped off the train. I've seen a lot of different things. I've heard a lot of different things."
Reyes said he does what he can to help the people who come to his yard. "I'm a human being and I care about others," Reyes said emotionally.
Based on initial interviews with survivors of the San Antonio tragedy, more than 100 people may have been packed into the back of the 18-wheeler at one point in its journey, ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said. Officials said 39 people were inside when rescuers arrived, and the rest were believed to have escaped or hitched rides to their next destination.
Four of the survivors appeared to be between 10 and 17 years old, Homan said. Investigators gave no details on where the rig began its journey or where it was headed.
But Homan said it was unlikely the truck was used to carry the immigrants across the border into the United States. He said people from Latin America who rely on smuggling networks typically cross the border on foot and are then picked up by a driver.
"Even though they have the driver in custody, I can guarantee you there's going to be many more people we're looking for to prosecute," Homan said.
Mexican Consul General in San Antonio Reyna Torres said Mexican nationals were among the survivors and those who died on the rig.
The Mexican government also released a statement Sunday night expressing its condolences to the relatives of those who died and called for an "exhaustive investigation"
A Guatemalan official said two natives of Central American country were among those hospitalized. Consul Cristy Andrino in McAllen said the two told her they had crossed into the U.S. on foot and were later picked up by the rig.
Guatemala was seeking to obtain witness status for the two survivors so they wouldn't be deported, Andrino said.
Federal prosecutors said James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was taken into custody and would be charged on Monday in federal court. The local U.S. Attorney's Office wouldn't say whether Bradley was the alleged driver of the truck who was arrested. It was not immediately known whether Bradley had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
The U.S. Homeland Security Department stepped in to take the lead in the investigation from San Antonio police. Department Secretary John Kelly said the incident demonstrates the brutality of smuggling organizations that "have no regard for human life and seek only profits."
The truck had an Iowa license plate and was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. A company official did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
San Antonio is about a 150-mile drive from the Mexican border. The temperature in San Antonio reached 101 degrees Saturday and didn't dip below 90 degrees until after 10 p.m.
The tragedy came to light after a person from the truck approached a Walmart employee and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, said McManus, the local police chief.
The employee gave the person water and then called police, who found the dead and the desperate inside the rig. Some of those in the truck ran into the woods, McManus said.
Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles arriving and picking up people from the truck, authorities said. Walmart released a brief statement Sunday saying it was doing what it could to help investigators.
Vigils and prayer services for the victims were held throughout San Antonio Sunday evening.
At one, college student Diandra Borrero said, "I just can't imagine them being stuck in there dying when they thought they were coming here for a better life. This is really sad. It shakes me."
Rey Saldana remarked, "You see eight bodies in body bags and the backstory is more gruesome then what you're seeing the fact that these people went to a torturous experience."
Immigrants' rights activists and church officials held up handmade signs reading "Who here is not an immigrant" and "No human is legal."
Those gathered at one vigil held a moment of silence, then gave speeches blaming federal and Texas authorities' embrace of harsher immigration policies for contributing to the deaths.
Jonathan Ryan, executive director of a nonprofit called Raices, said it's "an unfortunate example" of what happens when such polices are enacted.
A new law approved by the Texas Legislature lets police inquire about peoples' immigration status during routine interactions like traffic stops.
Bob Libal is executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based nonprofit that supports more liberal immigration policies.
"These tragedies are compounded when it's incredibly dangerous and incredibly expensive and we push migration into the hands of illicit actors," Libal told The AP in a phone interview. "Everyone's thoughts today should be not in politicizing it but in making sure that everyone who survived this ordeal is treated with respect and get the protection they need."
A group of immigration lawyers and advocates sued Homeland Security Secretary Kelly and other U.S. officials this month alleging that guards on the U.S. border with Mexico have illegally turned away asylum-seekers.
In the May 2003 case, the immigrants were being taken from South Texas to Houston. Prosecutors said the driver heard them begging and screaming for their lives but refused to free them. The driver was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.
"These criminal organizations, they're all about making money. They have no regard for human life," Homan said.
The Border Patrol has reported at least four truck seizures this month in and around Laredo, Texas. On July 7, agents found 72 people crammed into a truck with no means of escape, the agency said. They were from Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Authorities in Mexico have also made a number of such discoveries over the years.
Last December, they found 110 migrants trapped and suffocating inside a truck after it crashed while speeding in the state of Veracruz. Most were from Central America, and 48 were minors. Some were injured in the crash.
Last October, also in Veracruz state, four migrants suffocated in a truck carrying 55 people.
Minneapolis woman killed by police: What we know and don't know
by Madison Park, Emanuella Grinberg and Holly Yan
Not long after Justine Ruszczyk called 911 to report a possible assault near her home, an officer shot and killed her.
That was Saturday night. Three days later, investigators still haven't explained why police shot the Minneapolis woman.
"Her family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived," said her fiancé, Don Damond.
Here are the few facts of the case so far:
Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity, the two Minneapolis officers that responded to the scene, are on administrative leave.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is leading the investigation, not the Minneapolis Police Department.
The officers were wearing body cameras, but they were not turned on during the incident. The squad camera didn't capture the incident, authorities said.
What led up to the shooting?
Ruszczyk called 911 on Saturday night to report a possible sexual assault in an alley near her home, her fiancé said Monday.
Two police officers responded to the scene just before 11:30 p.m., according to the BCA. One of them fired a weapon, killing Ruszczyk.
She was shot and killed in an alleyway near her home, the Hennepin County medical examiner said. She died at 11:51 p.m. The medical examiner said the 40-year-old died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Police still haven't explained how, or why the shooting occurred, Damond said.
"We've lost the dearest of people and we are desperate for information," he said. "Piecing together Justine's last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy."
What happened during the shooting?
This remains unclear.
There were no weapons at the scene of the shooting, the BCA said in a statement.
"I understand why so many people have so many questions at this point. I have many of the same questions and it is why we immediately asked for an external and independent investigation in the officer-involved shooting death," police Chief Janeé Harteau said.
She called for the investigation "to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can."
The mayor said she, too, wants more answers.
"I don't know more than other people do," Mayor Betsy Hodges said Tuesday. "I ask that they (investigators) give us as much information as they can, as quickly as possible."
Why is there little information about the shooting?
Hodges said the lack of information is "frustrating."
Neither the city nor the police department is handling the investigation.
That's to avoid having Minneapolis Police Department "investigate itself in these most sensitive cases, and in so doing, help build community trust in the oversight process," said the mayor in a statement.
This decision to have the BCA take over "critical incident" investigations involving Minneapolis police officers was made in 2014, according to the mayor's statement.
"I think it was the right move, but there are trade-offs to this policy," Hodges said. "Since MPD doesn't manage the investigation itself, the City doesn't have access to -- and thus cannot share -- information about the investigation until it's made public."
Who are the cops involved in the shooting?
Two Minneapolis officers responded to the scene: Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity.
Noor was identified by his attorney as the officer who shot Ruszczyk. The officer extended his condolences to the family in a statement through his attorney.
"He takes these events very seriously because, for him, being a police officer is a calling," attorney Thomas Plunkett said. "He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves and he empathizes with the loss others are experiencing.
"The current environment for police is difficult, but Officer Noor accepts this as part of his calling. We would like to say more, and will in the future," the statement said. "At this time, however, there are several investigations ongoing and Officer Noor wants to respect the privacy to the family and asks the same in return during this difficult period."
Noor came to the United States at a young age, according to the lawyer's statement.
He had three previous complaints against him, of which two remain open, according to records from the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review Department. One case was closed and no discipline was implemented.
Noor was also named as one of three defendants in a recent lawsuit in which a woman claimed that officers had forced their way into her house, grabbed her and involuntarily took her to a hospital. The officers in the suit claimed that the woman was having a mental health crisis.
Harrity was identified as the other officer and driver of the patrol car by his attorney, Frederic Bruno.
Both officers are on administrative leave, police said.
Who was the victim?
Ruszczyk was originally from Australia, but had lived in the United States since April 2014, a source who knew her said. She was living with her fiancé at the time of her death, and they were planning to marry in August.
Ruszczyk had dual citizenship in the United States and Australia because her father holds
holds US citizenship, the source said. The country's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is providing consular assistance to the woman's family.
"This is a very difficult time for the Ruszczyk family, they are trying to come to terms with this tragedy and to understand why it has happened," the family said in a statement.
In Australia, family friend Julia Reed said Ruszczyk was a veterinary surgeon, but that she had gone overseas "to work spiritually to heal other people with their medical problems in the United States," according to told Seven Network.
According to her website, Ruszczyk trained as a veterinarian and later became a yoga instructor and life coach. She worked at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in Minneapolis.
"Justine was dedicated to helping others make transformations in their lives, through teaching and coaching," said Nancy Coune, an administrator with the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community. "She was an amazing leader for bridging the gap between science and spirituality in a way that was easy to understand and fun."
What's the status of the investigation?
Investigators from the BCA are examining evidence and have requested initial interviews with the officers.
"The BCA will provide additional details of the incident once initial interviews with the officers are complete," the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a press release.
"Those interviews have been requested by BCA agents. The officers are working with their attorneys to schedule them."
The BCA investigation will consist of interviews with witnesses and others, collection and analysis of evidence, and follow-up interviews. Then, the state agency will "present its findings without recommendations to a county attorney for review."
What happened to the officers' body cameras?
Per police department policy, body cameras are supposed to be turned on prior to use of force "as soon as it is safe to do so" or during "any contact involving criminal activity."
The policy also says officers are supposed to wear their body cameras "during their shift at all times when they could reasonably anticipate that they may become involved in a situation for which activation is appropriate in accordance with this policy."
The body camera policy went into effect just over six months ago, Hodges said.
In failing to turn on their body cameras, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota accused the officers of thwarting "the public's right to know" what happened to Ruszczyk.
The mayor said she, like many others, wants to know why the officers' body cameras weren't on.
"I have the same questions everyone else does," Hodges said Tuesday. "Why weren't the body cameras on? What happened in the shooting? Those are burning questions we all want the answers to."
Cleveland Police Consent Decree Takes 'Hard Work', Chief Tells Black Prosecutors Association
It's been two years since Cleveland and the Justice Department agreed on a path for reforming the police department. A DOJ investigation found a pattern or practice of excessive use of force, and the reform efforts resulted in a consent decree, overseen by a federal judge.
This morning the National Black Prosecutors Association met in downtown Cleveland to learn more about the decree.
ideastream's Tony Ganzer moderated a conversation with some of the key figures in the reform process, and talked with Nick Castele, who was listening for any news.
Ganzer : “What stuck out for you from this conversation about the consent decree? Anything new?”
Castele : “One thing that stuck out to me was that Police Chief Calvin Williams said that the department needs to change its mindset if they want to fulfill the requirements of the consent decree. And what he meant was this. He said, for 20 years, police have been told they need to race from call to call. But that gets in the way of this community policing model, where officers are talking with people, they're taking time to learn more about the neighborhood where they are. So what the chief said was that he's not focusing as much on response times anymore, but he's focusing on this bigger picture of how do you take the time. Another thing that was interesting that Calvin Williams said was that the involvement of schools and the social service agencies are really needed to deal with some of the underlying issues behind these distress calls, like drug addiction or mental illness. And we have a clip of that here.”
Police Chief Calvin Williams : “I know I did for the last 30 years, said, that's a school problem, that's a social service problem, that's a mental health problem. Well, it's all of our problems, because all of it gets dumped on our doorsteps.”
Ganzer : “Nick, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed some skepticism of consent decrees, you could say. So there has been this lingering question, which has been addressed a few times, but does a change of administration mean a change to the consent decree?”
Castele : “Well, Carole Rendon, who is the former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, she addressed this question today at the panel. And what she said was that because this is entered with a court, you have a federal judge and a team of monitors who work for him to oversee this decree and make sure it's being followed, it seems like it is set in place. But Rendon also said it requires buy-in from the parties involved.”
Former U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon : “This decree will not be implemented as effectively and or as efficiently if the Department of Justice doesn't remain fully engaged. Same goes true for the city of Cleveland. If the city of Cleveland suddenly was no longer fully engaged in this process, could we force them to do it? Yes. Would it happen effectively? Would it happen efficiently? Would the change stay? Would it become cemented in the DNA of the division of police in the city of Cleveland? No.”
Ganzer : “Where does the consent decree stand now, Nick? Where are we in this process?”
Castele : “The latest six-month report from the monitoring team, which came out a couple months ago, said that police are moving too slow in fixing the system the department has for reviewing complaints against officers. Another thing that's happened in the past couple weeks is that the monitoring team filed some initial report from some focus groups that were done. And the basic findings said people felt police either were not present when they needed them, or they felt police were present but were doing the wrong things. And these focus groups also had people define what community policing meant to them. Officers engaged in the community, who know people who live there, who have an understanding of the neighborhood—some of the things that were talked about at this panel.”
Ganzer : “Sure. And I want to give the last work here to Police Chief Calvin Williams. I had posed the question, I said, what is his sales pitch, because some people in the community are skeptical of this process, some people in the police department are skeptical. And the chief said, well, it's hard work.”
Williams : “We've got to get deep down and dirty. I like to tell people, you want to get in the fire, but you're surprised that the fire is hot. It's hard work. It's hard work to get involved, to do these things, to try to make them better, because it's hot in the fire, and people don't like to be hot.”
St. Anthony police are arresting fewer black people since Philando Castile was killed. But they're still arresting them at a high rate.
by Greta Kaul
In the weeks after the death of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot by officer Jeronimo Yanez on July 6, 2016, the Associated Press reported nearly half of the people arrested by the St. Anthony Police Department, Yanez's employer, were black.
That number had been on the rise since nearly every year since at least 2011, in a patrol area where just 7 percent of the population is black and a metro area where just 8 percent of the population is black.
The death of Castile marked the first time a Minnesota police officer had been charged in an on-duty shooting since at least 2005, though a jury found him not guilty on all three charges — second degree manslaughter and two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon — last month.
Officer-involved shootings of Castile and other black people have sparked local and national discussions about how to change relations between police and communities of color, officer training and department culture.
By one measure — arrests — things in St. Anthony may be changing, at least a little. After Castile's death, the share St. Anthony Police arrestees who were black declined for the first time in several years, MinnPost learned from data obtained under a data practices request.
The share increased from about a third in 2011 to more than 45 percent in 2016, according to the St. Anthony Police Department's data, but dropped a couple percentage points to 43 percent so far this year.
That's still significantly higher than the share of the population black people make up in the metro, but represents a dip in a trendline that has generally gone up.
The St. Anthony Police Department declined to speak to MinnPost and the police chief, mayor and members of the city council did not respond to requests for comment, but here's what experts offered as possible explanations for the drop.
Have officers changed their behavior since the shooting?
First, it's possible that officers in the department changed their behavior in the wake of Castile's death.
Research suggests the publicity over high-profile police shootings and police-community relations have changed police attitudes and behavior nationally.
A Pew Research survey released in January found that 86 percent of officers found their jobs more difficult in the wake of high-profile police shootings across the U.S. Three in four say colleagues are more wary of using force “when appropriate” and to question people who appear suspicious.
Related to Castile's death or not, the total number of arrests declined after July 6th. St. Anthony Officers made 1,002 arrests before and during that day, and just 542 after. In 2015, there were 1,052 arrests made on or before July 6, and 1,077 after.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, there were 617 arrests.
Is it also possible the way police made arrests changed in the wake of the shooting?
An arrest slowdown wouldn't be without precedent. Following the release of a video showing the police killing of Laquan McDonald, a teenager who was unarmed and walking away from police, in Chicago, that city saw a decline in Terry stops, when officers stop citizens on a reasonable suspicion of criminal involvement, according to a paper by Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School, and colleague Daniel Richman. As tensions rose over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Baltimore saw a slowdown in arrests for less serious felonies and misdemeanors.
“The pullback is part of a loosely coupled system of distrust and resentment between citizens and police that entwines violence, cynicism and public safety into a complex and tangled ecology,” Fagan and Richman write.
Has the St. Anthony Police Department taken steps to change officers' behavior?
The deaths of Castile and others have set off a lot of discussion about what police departments can do to ensure shootings like this don't happen again. Police departments across the U.S. have discussed and in many cases increased efforts at community policing, and changing use of force policies.
“It could also be that police department policy has changed — that decisions are being made about how officers are deployed, how they act with the public, when arrests are appropriate, etc., and officers are following those changes,” wrote David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, in an email.
MinnPost reached out to Police Chief Jon Mangseth by email to ask if the St. Anthony Police Department was considering or had changed policies, but he didn't respond. A person who answered the phone at St. Anthony Police headquarters said the department wouldn't comment.
The department has shown an interest in reviewing its policies. In December, it signed on to be part of a federal Department of Justice program to review and improve policy.
As part of the process, the DOJ will review the department's traffic, recruitment, community relations and accountability, a to-do list that grew out of community listening sessions.
A review of DOJ activities under new Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not stop the department's day-to-day work in St. Anthony, a department spokeswoman wrote in an email.
In terms of training at the department, its 2016 annual report mentions bias awareness training completed in the second half of 2016, plus outlines for 2017 de-escalation training, community relations work and work with the Department of Justice.
Have black people changed behavior in response to the shooting?
Arrests happen because people interact with police. If fewer black people are interacting with the St. Anthony Police, fewer black people are likely to be arrested.
Rashad Turner, a founder of Black Lives Matter St. Paul and childhood friend of Castile, told Time that the area where Castile was killed was already a place that black people tried to avoid out of fear.
“Where Phil was killed, this is an area that historically has been an area that black people, people of color, avoid,” he said. “When they see us, they see us as an opportunity to go fishing.”
There isn't a lot of hard evidence to back up the idea that this happens following a high-profile incident like Castile's death, Fagan said, but anecdotally, it can happen.
A dropoff could be partly due to black people staying away from the area, traveling in groups to avoid being stopped individually, or taking taxis or Uber, Fagan said.
Could there be another explanation?
As we touched on before, arrests happen when behavior is reported to or observed by police. If any number of behaviors has changed — by people of any color or police — for any reason, data on arrests by race could differ from previous years. It's also important to note that it's only been one year since the shooting, so we don't know what the trendline will look like into the future.
Disabled SC woman had no air conditioning. Then the cops showed up
by Andrew Dys
YORK COUNTY, S.C.
The temperature hit 95 degrees outside the mobile home in York on Friday – the hottest day of the year to date. Inside the metal walls, it was hotter.
“Brutal,” said Roxanne Jett, 63, disabled for 14 years after two bouts with cancer. “I was cleaning the place Friday and I almost couldn't take it.”
Jett had moved her mobile home to Meadowbrook mobile home park in early July after the property outside the city where she had lived for decades was sold. But the air conditioning went out during the move and she had no money to repair it or replace it or even get a wall unit.
“It was just unbearable in there,” said Cathi Clement, senior property manager at Meadowbrook, which is run by Withrow Properties. “I had to do something.”
Clement called her friend, Sgt. Dale Edwards. He's a community police officer for the York Police Department. He is the guy who coordinates Christmas gifts for poor kids, food for the needy, runs kids camps and other activities. Edwards posted the need on Facebook.
“In 15 minutes I had donations not for just one wall unit, but two,” Edwards said. “I came by here Saturday. It was smoking hot. Brutal hot. Policing is not about putting people in jail. Policing is about helping people. And the people of York, and around here, they care about each other.”
Jett saw Edwards at the door and thought the worst. Then Edwards said he was only there to check on her, and would be back with the units.
“I threw my hands up in the air. It was another miracle from the Lord,” Jett said.
Lowe's Home Improvement of York, an employee at Lowe's and a car dealer in western York County gave $300. But it wasn't enough to get the units. On Monday, Edwards and the top cop in York, Chief Andy Robinson, delivered both units to Jett's mobile home.
Then they installed them.
The sweat ran down their faces and into their eyes and they did not quit until the air inside was not cool –but cold.
“Every officer in this department works by the same standard – serve people,” Robinson said. “This is what police are supposed to do. Help the people of the city.”
A social worker heard about Jett's situation over the weekend, and brought a window unit, too.
Jett was stunned that the police in York would not just find out about her situation, but immediately act on it. There is no doubt, Jett said, that God worked through the police department and the management staff at the mobile home park.
“This is a godsend,” Jett said. “The air conditioners, and the police. I am so thankful for everyone who helped me.”
Jett put her face in the breeze of the new big wall unit in the living room. Her hair billowed back. She smiled.
Then she held out her arms and individually hugged Edwards and Robinson. She thanked them and the people who donated.
Robinson wiped the sweat from his face as he walked out and said: “Ms. Jett, it is our pleasure.”
Justice Dept. signals more police property seizures coming
The DOJ sees the assets forfeiture program as a way to strip suspects of the proceeds of their activities, to deter crime and to compensate crime victims
by Sadie Gurman and Kyle Potter
MINNEAPOLIS — The Justice Department will soon make it easier for local law enforcement to seize cash and property from crime suspects and reap the proceeds, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday.
Sessions said a shift will be announced this week that will increase the use of asset forfeiture, especially for drug suspects. The practice has been criticized because it allows law enforcement to take possessions — such as cars and money — without indictments or evidence a crime has been committed.
"With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime," Sessions told local prosecutors in Minnesota.
A change would likely represent another reversal by Sessions of Obama-era Justice Department policies. His Democratic predecessor Eric Holder had tightened control of the department's asset forfeiture operations amid concerns that property could be seized without judicial oversight and without the owner ever being charged with a crime.
Holder namely restricted the ability of the federal government to take possession of, or adopt, assets seized by local authorities, who could then share in the proceeds with their federal counterparts. Civil liberties groups and some members of Congress praised the move as a step toward reform because that practice made it easier for local authorities to circumvent state laws that were sometimes stricter than the federal ones governing seizures.
Sessions on Monday said such practice — known as adoptive forfeiture — is "appropriate, as is sharing with our partners." The line drew a round of applause from the hundreds of county attorneys and law enforcement officials inside a Minneapolis convention center.
Local law enforcement agencies use forfeited proceeds to pay for expenses, and some had complained that Holder's policy left them without a key source of funding. But that policy was also designed to save federal resources for larger, complex investigations where the ability to seize assets is critical, such as cases involving national money laundering or Russian organized crime, said Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor and expert on asset forfeiture and money laundering law.
"It's a great way to build teamwork by adopting the cases and sharing the money," Cassella said. "But at the same time, not everything can be a priority."
The Justice Department sees the assets forfeiture program as a way to strip suspects of the proceeds of their activities, to deter crime and to compensate crime victims. An effort to expand it is in keeping with Sessions' tough-on-crime agenda, which he continued to espouse during Monday's speech.
He again implored prosecutors to pursue the toughest punishments against most crime suspects, echoing a directive he issued earlier this year to U.S. attorneys. He reiterated his top priorities: cracking down on illegal immigration and quashing violent crime. Sessions stressed the need to tackle gang activity, pointing to cities such as Minneapolis, where data show a recent uptick in violent crime. And he encouraged prosecutors to go after drug offenders, because "drug offenses are not nonviolent crimes, as most of you all know."
Mike Freeman, the top prosecutor for the Minneapolis area, said he disagreed with the attorney general's approach on drug crimes and with his portrayal of crime in that city, calling it "a blip."
"Our plates are full. We prosecuted about the same number of murders each of the last five years," Freeman said.
After recent terror attacks, newly - recruited UK cops may receive TASERs
Currently, TASERs are only issued to officers with more than two years of experience
by PoliceOne Staff
LONDON — After recent terror attacks in the UK, more officers are set to receive TASERs to protect themselves.
Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told the Harrow Times that over 1,800 additional officers will receive TASERs, bringing the total number to more than 6,400. Currently, only officers with more than two years of experience are issued TASERs, the Express UK reported.
The decision came following an increase in violent crime and attacks against police officers. Conversations began again after PC Wayne Marques told Britain's Press Association about how he fought off the three extremists in a market on June 3 with only his baton.
"I took a deep breath and I just charged the first one [attacker]," he said "As I got near him I swung at him with everything I had as hard as I could, straight through his head, trying to go for like a knockout blow."
According to The Telegraph, assaults against officers near the capital increased from 2,486 in 2015 to 2,676 last year. Dick said this will help officers keep the public safe from harm.
"With this uplift, my officers will be better-equipped to protect the public and themselves,” she said. “We know that the mere presence of a TASER is often enough to defuse a dangerous situation and often get a suspect to drop their weapon if they're armed.”
Officers must complete a selection and training process before they're issued a TASER. The rollout will take place within a couple of weeks and training will take place over two years.
From the Department of Homeland Security
S&T Testing Aims to Mitigate Threat from Vehicle IEDs
In July 2016, a refrigerator truck packed with explosives detonated next to a crowded apartment block in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood. The blast killed 323 people and was one of the worst Vehicle–Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) attacks ever recorded.More recently, on May 30, 2017, a VBIED—otherwise known as a car bomb—in a tanker truck ripped through the embassy quarter of Kabul, killing more than 150 people. Several embassies, including those of Germany and France, sustained damage despite the presence of blast protection structures.
More recently, on May 30, 2017, a VBIED—otherwise known as a car bomb—in a tanker truck ripped through the embassy quarter of Kabul, killing more than 150 people. Several embassies, including those of Germany and France, sustained damage despite the presence of blast protection structures.
Even though several massive Vehicle–Borne Improvised Explosive Device (aka car bombs) have been thwarted in recent years by local security forces throughout hotspots in the Middle East and Asia, these devices continue to pose a real and evolving threat to even the most secure compounds. But S&T's Explosives Division (EXD) is addressing this threat directly through research and testing. Large-Scale VBIED test at Fort Polk
EXD's Homemade Explosives (HME) program conducts Large–Scale VBIED testing to mitigate the threat posed by massive car bombs and to ensure such attacks do not occur in the United States. This program is part of S&T's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Recently, S&T EXD conducted a series of explosives tests to learn more about mitigating these threats based on the size and composition of the explosive device. These large-scale explosives tests, conducted at Fort Polk, Louisiana, brought together the HME preparation expertise of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center's Indian Head facility and the live fire testing capability of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineering, Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
“Due to the wide variety of types of and materials used to make improvised explosives, we often must use simulations to model the behavior of large scale events,” HME Deputy Program Manager Dave Hernandez said. “When current methods are no longer effective, we have to conduct controlled real-life events to discover new ways of combatting emerging trends in explosives.”
The data from the Fort Polk tests show the damage that different types of HME mixes can inflict. Such information on large-scale detonations could not be accurately calculated before these tests were conducted and will facilitate the development of new mitigation techniques for larger-scale explosions.
“The information generated from this testing will aid the Department of Defense and law enforcement communities by revealing data on the impact of a large–scale VBIED; enabling better protection for vulnerable targets,” HME Program Manager Elizabeth Obregon said. “As the HME threat is constantly changing, a continued effort in this area is required in order to provide timely information to those organizations conducting analysis and acquisitions.”
Mid Missouri city grapples with forum on community policing to address profiling
by Jason Taylor
Mid-Missouri's Columbia is trying to address racial profiling and lingering bias within its police department by considering a forum on community policing. The city council voted Monday night to postpone a decision on the idea until the Aug. 21 meeting.
Two councilors backed the idea of paying consultants nearly $70,000 for more feedback on issues like how officers should conduct themselves and how many of them should be on the force.
Mayor Brian Treece told one of them, councilor Michael Trapp, that the plan should be pulled back. He said community outreach officers tell him they're wearing out their boots walking the beat in crime hot spots.
“And yet we're going to pull $33,000 out of a budget surplus for the community outreach unit to pay for a $70,000 conversation that we all agree we want to have?” Treece said.
Citizens spoke for about two hours about the proposed forum. Many were against the proposal.
“I'd like for us to take a step back and try to move forward with the input that we've had tonight, and take that and listen to it,” Treece said. “If we don't, shame on us.”
Councilman Trapp, who supports the forum, says it's a good way to make the case for a property tax increase for more officers.
“We have an under-resourced police department. I do not believe that under existing funds we're going to be able to address that in any significant way,” Trapp said.
A study by the state Attorney General's office showed black drivers were roughly four times as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped in Columbia during 2016. The number reflects an increase in the discrepancy from 2015.
In June, Columbia civil rights activists spoke at a city council meeting about what they considered a lack of progress when it comes to how African-Americans are treated during traffic stops. Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp of Race Matters, Friends said Police Ken Burton needs to be more up-front about the issue.
Fredericksburg youth bond with police at crime fighters camp
by Amanda Vicinanzo
“Lean back. Look straight ahead. And, remember, the first step is always the hardest.”
These were the words of encouragement Officer Paul Chewning shouted up to 10-year-old Abigail McGehee on Tuesday morning as she peered over her shoulder from the top of the three-story training tower behind the Fredericksburg Police Department.
After a few moments of hesitation, Abigail gripped the rope tightly, took a deep breath and confidently pushed her feet away from the tower.
Slowly and with control, Abigail rappelled down the structure. When she landed, a big smile flashed across her face.
“I was nervous, but it was fun,” Abigail said. “I'm not scared of heights.”
Abigail was among 35 children ages 8–12 participating in 2017 Camp Crime Fighters. The camp is in its fifth year, and is run by Fredericksburg police officers who volunteer their time to make a positive impact on youth in the community.
Fredericksburg police spokeswoman Sarah Kirkpatrick said the officers cram a lot of activities into the week-long camp, including rappelling, fingerprinting, mock crime scene investigations, self-defense classes, demonstrations from Spotsylvania Animal Control and tours of the police department and the fire station downtown—just to name a few.
Later in the week, the campers will fish at Motts Run Reservoir, swim at the Doris E. Buffett Pool and visit Braehead Farm.
Chewning said many children consider rappelling to be the highlight of the camp. As he watched 12-year-old Timmy McDermott rappel down the tower, Chewning remarked that many adults are too scared to attempt the feat, but children tend to love it.
“It was fun,” said Timmy. “The first step was the hardest, but was pretty easy from there.”
While half of the campers rappelled down the tower, the others were receiving a lesson on crime scene investigations. Detective Patrick Lamb walked them through who is involved, the steps of the investigative process and how to document the scene.
The children practiced their observation skills by finding the differences between two seemingly identical pictures in front of them. They also participated in an exercise asking them how to determine whether a family member was in a particular room of a house.
Answers included looking for candy wrappers or other items—such as toys, clothing, tablets, beverage containers, etc.—that could belong to a certain family member, and obtaining DNA evidence from hair found in a hat in the room.
Officer Ken Camp, one of the founders of the camp, explained that more than ever before, the police department is focused on building positive relationships with youth and the community.
The idea to start a camp dawned on him after observing children curious to know about his police equipment. He immediately thought, “Why not start a summer camp?”
After running a pilot camp for children of department employees, the organizers rolled out their first summer camp the following year. Camp said it was an instant success, and has grown each year.
Over time, officers involved have also refined the all the details of running a camp—from feeding and entertaining the youngsters to figuring out a manageable number of children to accept to the program. In addition, the department and a number of generous donors from the community have stepped in to fund the camp, so that it is available to city residents free of charge.
“It has really become a great program,” Chewning said. “It keeps kids engaged and off the streets.”
Camp and Chewning are both community policing officers. The idea is for police to step out of their traditional law-enforcement roles and truly become a part of the community.
The camp is just one way Fredericksburg police officers are building bonds with youth in the area.
“Kids get to see that we are human, too,” Camp said. “We become lifelong mentors.”
While he has seen several campers leave with a desire to become police officers one day, Chewning explained that pushing a law-enforcement career isn't the goal of the camp.
“Teaching them to never quit, and that they can do whatever they put their mind to—that is the goal,” Chewning said.
Resisted by mayor, Nashville advocates look to council for citizen oversight of police
by Joey Garrison
Advocates pushing for a new citizen-led board that would review the actions of Nashville police have been unable to win the backing of Mayor Megan Barry.
So they're now taking their case to the Metro Council, where an ordinance that would create a new community oversight board could be filed in the coming months.
Members of a Nashville coalition called Community Oversight Now presented components of a draft ordinance Monday night at a joint meeting of the council's Budget and Finance Committee and Minority Caucus.
Under their proposal, a 13-member panel of citizens — with members appointed by the council, mayor and community members — would have the power to review allegations of misconduct involving police officers without the interference of the police department. The commission would have full access to Metro police records and subpoena-power to call in witnesses and review evidence.
"Our (neighborhoods) have become militarized rather than being policed, and it's important we have a police department that is transparent and that is accountable to the community," said Keith Caldwell, a pastor and executive director of The Urban EpiCenter. "If you don't have transparency, you effectively have the fox guarding the hen-house."
Councilman says he intends to file bill creating oversight board
The creation of a citizen oversight panel has become a top priority for social justice advocates and black community leaders in Nashville following the February fatal shooting of Jocques Clemmons, a 31-year-old black man, by a Metro police officer. Black Lives Matter, Democracy Nashville, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, or NOAH, and Justice for Jocques are among the groups pushing for an oversight board
The council's Minority Caucus chairman Scott Davis said he and other council members intend to propose legislation to create the panel by this fall. He said he's in the process of reviewing other potential funding sources besides city funding.
"I'm going to be filing something, but I just want to make sure we try to find the best bill possible," Davis said.
More: Nashville police: Gun found on Jocques Clemmons stolen
While the commission would be composed of volunteers, the board would also have a small paid staff and legal counsel, perhaps requiring an annual budget of more than $1 million.
Supporters say a citizens oversight panel is needed because of what they allege is racial bias in police departments nationally. They argue the word of a police officer is too often taken for granted in disputes with the public.
Mayor in talks about tapping NYU's Policing Project
But Barry has said that results of community oversight commissions have been mixed nationwide and that the goal should be to create a well-disciplined, professional police department. The Metro Nashville Police Department has said they don't think an oversight panel is needed.
In a statement, Barry said her administration has been in talks with New York University School of Law Professor Barry Friedman about an organization he leads called the Policing Project.
The group's stated mission is "strengthening policing through democratic governance." The Policing Project helps communities draft model rules and policies for policing that seek to promote community engagement.
"We believe the Policing Project can inspire many productive conversations between community leaders, advocates and activists, and Metro Police to develop and implement community policing initiatives that will make our city stronger and safer," Barry said.
"We're confident that dialogue with police and community representatives will lead to a consensus on the best way to go forward with the Policing Project to ensure that its work addresses these issues."
Proposal knocked by council critic
The idea of an oversight board also has skeptics on the council. Councilman Steve Glover said "a lack of family," not funding for government programs, is the real problem in the country. He said Metro doesn't have the resources to fund a panel to oversee police.
Glover, who acknowledged his point of view wasn't popular at Monday's hearing, went on to suggest there's a double-standard with race.
"While I'm making people mad, let's just go all the way: If I organized a march and said, '100 white men,' I would be written up tomorrow," Glover said. "We're not treating each other as equals."
Glover, who is white, later directed comments to Davis, who is black: "Mr. chair, have I ever not treated you as an equal?"
Oversight panel has roots in Civil Rights era
Under advocates' proposal, community oversight panel would have the authority to investigate complaints — ranging from citations, traffic stops and allege harassment, to police conduct and police-involved shootings — from start to finish and render decisions based on their findings. They would also make recommendations on criminal justice issues.
Kyle Mothershead, an attorney and member of NOAH, responded to Glover's remarks by saying that police misconduct is a "universal issue" in which both white and black people can be victims.
More than 100 cities have some type of police review commission, according to advocates including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Memphis, Austin, Texas and Denver. They say community oversight boards go back to the 1940s and were a rallying cry of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.
"This idea for an oversight board, although it may be new for Nashville, is deeply rooted in the basic fabric of the civil rights movement," said Sekou Franklin, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University.
Authorities: 10-year-old boy died from apparent fentanyl overdose
by Jennifer Kay and Curt Anderson
MIAMI — A 10-year-old boy from a drug-ridden Miami neighborhood apparently died of a fentanyl overdose last month, becoming one of Florida's littlest victims of the opioid crisis, authorities said Tuesday. But how he came into contact with the powerful painkiller is a mystery.
Fifth-grader Alton Banks died June 23 after a visit to the pool in the city's Overtown section. He began vomiting at home, was found unconscious that evening and was pronounced dead at a hospital. Preliminary toxicology tests showed he had fentanyl in his system, authorities said.
"We don't believe he got it at his home," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. "It could be as simple as touching it. It could have been a towel at the pool."
She added: "We just don't know."
The case has underscored how frighteningly prevalent fentanyl has become — and how potent it is. Exposure to just tiny amounts can be devastating.
Investigators said Alton may been exposed to the drug on his walk home in Overtown, a poor, high-crime neighborhood where Assistant Miami Fire Chief Pete Gomez said he has seen a spike in overdoses in the past year and where needles sometimes litter the streets.
"There is an epidemic," Gomez said. "Overtown seems to have the highest percentage of where these incidents are occurring."
The three-block walk between the pool and Alton's home took him down streets that appeared relatively clean Tuesday, but on the block in the other direction from his home, trash littered the pavement and empty lots. Homeless people slept in the shade of an Interstate 95 overpass.
Detectives are still trying to piece together the boy's final day. Rundle appealed to the public for information.
"This is of such great importance. We need to solve this case," she said. "I believe this may be the youngest victim of this scourge in our community."
The boy's mother, Shantell Banks, was informed of the preliminary findings last week. A distraught Banks told The Miami Herald that her son was a "fun kid" who wanted to become an engineer and loved the NFL's Carolina Panthers, especially Cam Newton.
Jessie Davis, who lives in an apartment house next to the building where Alton lived, said her grandchildren, ages 8, 9 and 10, regularly make the same walk to the nearby park with a swimming pool. She said she initially thought the pool water made Alton sick and was shocked by news reports that he had been exposed to fentanyl.
"Where would a 10-year-old baby get something like that?" Davis said.
Thinking about her own grandchildren going to the pool, Davis said, "I'm going to tell them, 'Don't touch nothing.' I don't know whether they think it's candy, but somebody needs to tell these kids something."
The Florida Department of Children and Families said it is conducting its own investigation, in addition to that of the police.
Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that has been used for decades to treat cancer patients and others in severe pain. But recently it has been front-and-center in the U.S. opioid abuse crisis.
Perhaps best known as the drug that killed pop star Prince, it is many times stronger than heroin. Dealers often mix it with heroin, a combination that has often proved lethal.
Fentanyl is so powerful that some police departments have warned officers not to even touch it. Last year, three police dogs in Broward County got sick after sniffing the drug during a federal raid, officials said.
Gomez said his crews wear long sleeves, coveralls, gloves and masks while handling fentanyl. And "you never want to start reaching into people's pockets," he said, explaining that crews often cut people's pockets open for fear of pricking themselves with needles.
The Florida Legislature addressed the epidemic, passing a law that imposes stiff mandatory sentences on dealers caught with 4 grams (0.14 ounces) or more of fentanyl or its variants. The law also makes it possible to charge dealers with murder if they provide a fatal dose of fentanyl or drugs mixed with fentanyl. The law goes into effect Oct. 1.
Nearly 300 overdose deaths in Miami-Dade County last year involved variants of fentanyl, according to the medical examiner's office. Statewide, fentanyl and its variants killed 853 people in the first half of 2016. Of those, only nine were under age 18.
Baltimore Police officer mistakenly records himself with body cam planting drugs at crime scene
by Fox News
The video, from a January arrest, is from the body camera of Baltimore Police Officer Richard Pinheiro, who is seen planting a bag of pills in a tin can while two other officers look on. The footage was evidence in a case that was scheduled for last week, but prosecutors wound up droping the case after being contacted by a public defender who was reviewing the footage in preparation for court.
Baltimore's Office of the Public Defender is now demanding that dozens of cases, where Pinheiro and his two colleagues were the arresting officers, be dropped by the Prosecutor's Office.
“The officers involved are still witnesses in other active cases that are currently being pursued for prosecution in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The officer whose camera shows him planting the drugs, Officer Richard Pinheiro, is a witness in approximately 53 active cases,” reads a statement released by the Office of the Public Defender. “The prosecutor claimed to be ‘appalled' by the video and dropped the charges in that case, but no clear policy has been taken in other cases involving these officers.”
The release also points out that Pinheiro was called to testify in another case the following week without any disclosure of this videotape.
“Officer misconduct has been a pervasive issue at the Baltimore Police Department, which is exacerbated by the lack of accountability.” Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender's Special Litigation Section said in a statement. “We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts.”
In the video, it appears that Pinheiro attempts to turn off the camera but only mutes it before he plants the bag of drugs in among a trash pile in a back alleyway. The officer and his two colleagues then walk back out to the street, where he is seen flipping a switch which brings the sound back on. Pinheiro then walks back to the alley where he “discovers” the narcotics. He then brings his find back to his partners before the video ends.
“Officers should not be able to decide when to turn the cameras on and off, and footage like what was presented here needs to result in immediate action by the State's Attorney and the Police Department,” Levi said.
Another John Wayne Gacy victim ID'd, ending family's 40-year agony
by Jessica Suerth
For half a decade, serial killer John Wayne Gacy prowled the streets of Chicago in search of young, vulnerable boys and men to lure back to his Norwood Park home.
Gacy is believed to have murdered at least 33 men between 1972 and 1978. Some 40 years later, six of those men are still unidentified.
But one family was brought closure Wednesday, as Cook County authorities identified James "Jimmie" Byron Haakenson as another victim of the so-called "killer clown."
Police: Victim was murdered shortly after coming to Chicago
Haakenson was 16 years old when he left his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, in search of a different life in a bigger city in 1976, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart told reporters Wednesday.
The teenager came to Chicago in early August and called his mom on August 5, 1976, to let her know he had arrived. It would be the last time she would hear from her son.
Police believe Gacy murdered Haakenson shortly after he made that phone call home, quite possibly that same day.
It is not known how Haakenson and Gacy met. Gacy was known for searching areas around Chicago looking for men who were gay, alone or looking for work.
Gacy would lure men to his home on false pretenses, often offering them rides, money, drugs, alcohol or a job. He would then impair them before sexually assaulting, torturing and killing them.
Authorities used DNA to identify victim
By the time police uncovered the crawlspace in Gacy's home in 1978, Haakenson's body was unidentifiable. For 39 years, he was given a new identity: Victim No. 24.
In the 1970s, police could only identify victims using dental records. Cook County officials removed the jawbones from the eight unidentified Gacy victims before burying them in county cemeteries, Dart said.
County officials found the bones did not provide enough information for four of the unidentified victims, and in 2011, authorities exhumed the bodies to gather more DNA.
Dart said authorities gathered enough DNA evidence on the victims and are ready to start bringing closure to their families. Dart said he hopes more families will come forward in the near future so more victims can be identified.
Nephew of victim searched for answers
It was earlier this year when a nephew of Haakenson's reached out to the county to find out more about his uncle.
Dart said the nephew came across information on the county's recent efforts to identify the victims. Shortly after, he persuaded his father and aunt, Haakenson's brother and sister, to take a DNA test.
The DNA submitted by the family members was an "immediate hit" on Victim No. 24, Dart said, which quickly led to identifying Haakenson.
It wasn't the first time family members came forward to link Haakenson's disappearance to John Wayne Gacy.
Haakenson's mother went to authorities in 1979 to see if her son was a victim, Dart said. But due to limited resources at the time and the mother's lack of dental records, nothing was recovered. The mother passed away in the early 2000s, Dart said.
Timeline of murder determined from positions of victims
Cook County authorities used other victims' positions in the crawlspace of Gacy's suburban Chicago home to narrow the timeframe of Haakenson's death.
Haakenson's body was found between the bodies of two other men: Rick Johnston and another unidentified boy, referred to by police as Victim No. 26.
Johnston, whose body was found on top of Haakenson's, is believed to have been murdered by Gacy on August 6, 1976, after attending a concert at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.
Dart said authorities believe the third victim, whose body was found below Haakenson's, was murdered in July or August of 1976.
Police urge people to come forward
When remains were first uncovered in Gacy's home in 1978, eight victims were unidentified. But due to advancements in technology, that number has been reduced to six.
John Doe No. 89 identified
Dart said the victims were identified because "people agreed to come forward with DNA."
Authorities are now urging people who had loved ones who went missing in Chicago during that period to come forward and submit their DNA -- and hopefully get some answers.
"Every family deserves closure, without hesitation," Dart said.
Highland gains two community police officers to build ties with residents
by Daniel J. Gross
A Spartanburg community challenged by crime is getting some help to improve safety.
The Spartanburg Police Department recently committed two full-time police officers to Highland to focus on community policing. The shift change, made possible through a recent grant, addresses what had been identified as an unmet need in Highland, according to police leaders and a community survey conducted in 2016.
Master Patrol Officer Russell Porter and Senior Patrol Officer Tina Hurne have spent the past three weeks walking, biking and driving through the neighborhood, dropping by youth programs and talking with homeowners.
Their goal is to build trust as a way to reduce criminal activity and improve the perception of safety.
“We're putting the concept of community-oriented policing back into the neighborhood,” said Maj. Art Littlejohn, the Spartanburg Police Department's patrol division commander.
The Highland neighborhood of about 1,700 residents stretches from West Main Street to Fairforest Creek between John B. White Sr. Boulevard and Forest Street. It's one of Spartanburg's most concentrated areas of poverty.
In a neighborhood survey last year, residents identified poor housing, violence, drug activity and poor access to services as negatives about living in Highland.
Many residents also indicated they didn't know who their police officers were, since at the time the neighborhood did not have dedicated patrol officers.
“In this neighborhood, it's something that's been missing for a long time,” Porter said of community policing. “There are people here that actually live here and have been here for generations and love the area and want to continue to live here and live safely.”
Some residents said the officer presence has already made a difference.
Thomas Hargrove has lived in his Highland Avenue house for about seven years and said he loves his community.
He said before the officers were permanent, it was common to see people loitering in the streets near his house. They are no longer there, he said.
“It's not where you live, it's how you live,” Hargrove said as he mowed his front yard. “People call it the hood, I call it home. That's the bottom line. … We're trying to have a better community. It's home and we want to keep it up. It's so important.”
Another addition in Highland is a “communication bench” that was installed outside the Bethlehem Center. The bench features a large painted “H” for Highland connected to a thin blue line representing law enforcement. The goal is for residents to go there if they have a tip to share with officers. Porter said if he sees someone sitting there, he'll know to check on them and hear what they have to say.
Patrena Mims is the executive director of the Bethlehem Center, which offers free programs for children in the community and other classes and programs for adults.
“Part of that is building relationships with the community and with law enforcement so we can remove that barrier of communication and hopefully improve crime so the kids aren't intimidated by the police and know what their roles are and hopefully not always see them in a negative capacity,” Mims said.
More communication benches are being built and installed in other places around Highland.
During a visit to the Bethlehem Center Wednesday, the officers were greeted by children taking part in a summer camp.
Tyrianna Thompson, 8, was one of several children who chatted with Hurne.
“They're good and nice and helpful,” she said after inspecting Hurne's utility belt and asking her questions.
Leroy Jeter, president of the Highland Neighborhood Association, said the assigned officers could help improve the neighborhood's overall image.
“Hopefully we can clean up the perception one of these days,” Jeter said. “The best part is that they're not sitting at their desks, they're out in the neighborhood knocking on doors. That's what they're supposed to be doing.”
Porter and Hurne will both be at Thursday's neighborhood watch meeting at the Bethlehem Center. The group meets the third Thursday of every month. The officers said they are looking forward to being permanent fixtures there to hear residents' concerns.
“This is more or less needed,” Porter said.
Maryland Police Officer Finds Girl's Stolen Toy, Takes It to ER to Fix 'Broken Arm'
by Kyle Rempfer
A Maryland police officer worked through the night to return a toy stolen from a little girl.
On Sunday, Jason Hendricks posted video evidence showing his daughter's toy dragon and dinosaur being stolen from their porch the night before.
As outrage built in the comment section, a friend of Hendricks called upon La Plata Police Department Officer Robert Bagley to assist.
"I'm on it," Bagley wrote back.
Hendricks posted his security video with a time and date stamp from that night. Bagley immediately recognized the suspect taking the toys in the footage.
"I recognized the suspect as someone who hangs out in that area a couple streets down from where they live and I had a pretty good idea where she might be located," Bagley said. "I didn't find her, but I was making a U-turn in the cul-de-sac and I saw the little toy sitting there laying up against the curb."
Bagley found the toy about 2 a.m. and decided it was too late to go knock on the Hendricks' door. "I figured I could swing by there in the morning hours after my shift," he said.
The toy dragon had a broken arm, though, and before buying glue to fix it, Bagley stopped at the hospital.
"I usually stop by the hospital when I'm working nights anyway," he said. "I just kind of go walk through the ER, make my presence known, check on people I know and see if they need coffee or anything."
While there, Bagley asked hospital staff to wrap up the dragon's arm and pose for a picture.
"The idea just kind of popped in my head to do this story for the girl. Give her something to look at in the morning and kind of cheer her up a little bit," Bagley said. "I took pictures throughout the night on some routes that I was on and areas I was checking. I never really expected it to get this big."
By Wednesday, Hendricks' original Facebook post, where the story unfoldedreceived more than 2,600 reactions, about 4,700 shares and more than 200 comments commending Bagley.
Bagley didn't expect such a huge showing of support because community policing is a routine part of his daily patrols.
"I've taken several classes and trainings and have worked on my community policing for several years," he said. "It's definitely something I've noticed helps the community out and creates trust between the city and police."
Given the political climate and the bad press police have received in recent years, Bagley said establishing connections with young people is an important part of what makes the fabric of his community strong.
"We got a job just like their moms and dads do and I think it's good to establish those relationships young and let kids know we're out to help them, not cause problems," Bagley said.
La Plata Police are still working to positively identify the person who stole the toys, but there was no word as to whether they will face charges.
Mayor hopes community policing can help lighten the load of the LRPD
by Katlyn Gardenhire
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola unveiled the Little Rock for Life initiative Thursday afternoon.
The goals in the plan included stopping violence, strengthening the LRPD, investing in crime prevention, promoting jobs and education, and rebuilding neighborhoods. Mayor Stoloda hit a chord with some people when it came to how he plans to strengthen the police department.
“We're forming what we call the gray squad and the telephone cadet squad,” he said. “The city is going to be immediately implementing a civilian squad, that's equipped to handle low level traffic offenses and administrative work, thereby freeing up our police officers to respond to calls of service.”
He said sworn police officers are the city's most valuable resource and they're needed out on the streets. A lot of people in the community said they back the Mayor's initiative but they're not quite sure about community policing.
“When you say you want citizens they are relatives to someone, they may have gone to school with someone so asking citizens to do police work, a lot of times you have to be very careful that could be detrimental. We're looking for good results for the city,” said Little Rock resident Cheryl Warden.
“Civilians are not prepared for the type of situations that could happen in our streets. There's a lot of things that have to be looked at before you become a servant on the street who will be fair to the public,” said another Little Rock resident, Ron Watson.
We reached out to Little Rock police chief Kenton Buckner for an interview about the new program but he said this initiative is the mayor's doing and he will leave all comments up to him.
Old police uniforms find new life as childrens' teddy bears
The only part of the teddy beat that doesn't come from the retired uniform is the thread and stuffing
by PoliceOne Staff
(Picture on site)
KALKASKA, Mich. — When the Kalkaska Police Department challenged the staff find a creative solution to dealing with the 150 retired uniforms in its basement, one officer's wife had the perfect idea on how to recycle the uniforms.
“It just kind of popped in my head -- well why don't we make teddy bears for children that need a little extra something special,” Eva Grey told 9 & 10 News.
Almost every part of the uniform, which date back to 1990, is used to make the bears. The buttons are used for the eyes, the shirts for the coats and the pants are used for the bears' bodies.
“I actually have been able to incorporate the signature lines from the police officer uniforms into the bears,” Eva said.
Each bear takes nearly two and a half hours and Eva will make about 75 bears, the news station reported. The bears will be gifted to children involved in critical incidents like car crashes or family issues. At least two bears will be kept in the back of each patrol car for easy access.
“In times of critical incidents children become very upset and sometimes they can get the view that the police might be against them and we really want to make sure that they know the police are there to help,” Lt. Artress said.
8 found dead in trailer at San Antonio Walmart-Homeland Security working with SAPD
by My San Antonio
A request for water led to the discovery of eight people dead inside a tractor-trailer at a South Side Walmart parking lot in what police are calling a "horrific tragedy."
"We're looking at a human-trafficking crime this evening," said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus in a video posted on the department's Facebook page. "Homeland Security is working with us."
The eight dead are believed to have died as a result of heat exposure/asphyxiation, according to an SAPD press release, but an official cause of death will be determined by the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office.
Officials said about 30 more people were found inside the truck at 8535 S. Interstate 35 and Highway 16 and transferred to area hospitals for treatment.
The driver of the truck was immediately detained by police and faces state and federal charges.
McManus said police were alerted by a Walmart employee who was approached by someone in the truck who asked the employee for water.
"These people were in the trailer without any water," said San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. "Looking at a lot of heat stroke, a lot of dehydration."
Engine 25 arrived at 12:26 a.m., Hood said, and firefighters started extricating patients out of the back of a semi-truck. The air conditioning was not working.
"Our paramedics and firefighters found that each patient had heartrates over about 130 beats per minute and were very hot to the touch," Hood said.
Police did not know the victims' country of origin, destination, or ages of the deceased or injured, according the press release.
University Hospital and SAMMC received 17 people with life-threatening injuries, police said, and 13 victims were taken to five other area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries.
The victims included adults and at least two children. The two youngest victims who are among the injured are 15 years old, police said.
McManus said a check of the video from the store showed that a number of vehicles arrived at the parking lot and picked up a lot of people who were in that trailer who had survived the trip.
Around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, the tractor-trailer was still parked adjacent to Walmart, along with a hearse, with several police cars positioned nearby. A large portion of the parking lot remained cordoned off by police tape as detectives gathered evidence.
Around 7 a.m. Sunday, SAPD's Eagle helicopter arrived on scene, repeatedly circling over the Walmart parking lot and the adjacent wooded area for around 20 minutes. Police said in an earlier news conference that they conducted a sweep of the woods to search for any potential victims who may have escaped the tractor trailer, and that they would conduct a secondary sweep at daylight.
"San Antonio firefighters and police responded to a horrific scene this morning on the Southwest Side of town. They discovered an alien smuggling venture gone horribly wrong. Eight immigrants were found dead. At least twenty more were in serious condition. All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo," said Richard L. Durbin Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas. "The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters. Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus degree heat. The driver is in custody and will be charged. We willl work with the Homeland Security Investigations and the local responders to identify those who were responsible for this tragedy."
Border Patrol agents in Laredo have reported an increase in smuggling attempts in tractor-trailers in recent weeks, starting with the discovery of 44 people from Mexico and Guatemala discovered after police stopped an 18-wheeler on June 19 near one of the city's international bridges.
On July 7, agents found 72 people from Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador inside a locked trailer in the same part of town. The next day, they found 33 people from Mexico and Guatemala inside a trailer stopped at the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 35. In another incident last week, agents at the checkpoint found 16 people inside a locked trailer, according to a news release from Border Patrol.
"These criminal organizations view these individuals as mere commodities without regard for their safety," Laredo Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Gabriel Acosta said in a statement released last week. "The blatant disregard for human life will not be tolerated. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle these organizations and prosecute those responsible."
In one of the biggest smuggling tragedies in the country's history, 19 people died in 2003 after being abandoned in a trailer in Victoria. The driver of the truck was sentenced to life in prison, but that was overturned and he was later given a prison term of nearly 34 years.