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for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
New York explosion: 1 in custody after blast at Port Authority bus station
by Eliott C. McLaughlin
An explosion struck the Port Authority bus terminal at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue near Times Square on Monday morning, injuring four people and causing chaos in one of the busiest commuter hubs in the city, authorities said.
A man is in custody, the New York Police Department said in a tweet, and he is among the four people suffering non-life-threatening injuries after the blast, according to the New York City Fire Department.
The A, C and E subway lines were evacuated, NYPD Sgt. Brendan Ryan said. The subway entrance on Eighth Avenue and the bus terminal are closed, the Port Authority said in a tweet, adding that there was still police activity in the area.
Aerial footage from the scene showed police cruisers, emergency vehicles and hundreds of police and fire personnel in the street outside the terminal.
"Could have been a lot worse," a federal law enforcement source told CNN.
Preliminary information, according to two law enforcement sources, one local and one federal, indicates a pipe bomb may have unintentionally exploded.
A man wearing a homemade device attempted to detonate it, and it either malfunctioned or did not go off the way it was supposed to, according to one NYPD source.
Francisco Ramirez said he heard two explosions as he was exiting a bus about 7:45 a.m. ET. He heard both blasts distinctly even though he was wearing headphones.
"From what I saw it sounded like it came from the subway, but I'm just guessing," he said. "It was two distinct explosions seconds from each other. As I was making my way toward the outside, I kept getting shoved by cops and there were cops at every entrance blocking and there was police and SWAT everywhere.
"It was scary. It was just a lot of chaos but I didn't see any injuries."
Marlyn Yu Sherlock was at a retail store on the main floor of the terminal when people began flooding out of the subway entrance, "screaming, running in panic," she said.
"The PA system was still blaring Christmas carols," Sherlock said. "It took about four minutes before men in black cop uniforms started shooing people out of Port Authority. As I walked further away from the building, I kept asking the heavily armed cops what it was. They said 'suspicious package.'"
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on the scene and has been briefed by law enforcement, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is en route. In a tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump, too, had been briefed.
The incident comes a few weeks after a deadly terror attack in Lower Manhattan.
A man was charged with killing eight people and injuring a dozen others as he drove a pickup truck down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center on Halloween. He was arrested after the truck hit a school bus, stopping it in its tracks. He exited the vehicle and an officer shot him.
The suspect, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was indicted last month on murder and terror-related charges, the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said. Saipov pleaded not guilty to 22 federal counts.
It was the deadliest terror attack in New York City since the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
U.S. military practices strikes on North Korean nuclear sites in biggest-ever joint air drill with South Korea
by Callem Paton
The United States and South Korean air forces began their biggest-ever joint drill Monday, carrying out simulated strikes using 230 aircraft over South Korea.
The New York Times reported the drills would include some of the military's most sophisticated and powerful aircraft such as B1-B lancer bombers and stealth F-35 Lightning II fighters and F-22 Raptors. It is South Korea's largest deployment of stealth-fighter warplanes ever.
The huge drills came less than a week after Pyongyang announced it had tested another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last Wednesday. It was the largest and most powerful launched by the rogue state.
The Hwasong-15 flew farther than any of its predecessors. In addition to seeming capable of reaching parts of the continental United States, it also appeared to have been designed to carry multiple warheads.
Agence France Presse said an unprecedented number of aircraft and tens of thousands of troops would be involved in the annual Vigilant Ace exercise drill.
Pyongyang vehemently criticized the U.S. and its southern neighbor for the drills, saying President Donald Trump's administration was “begging for nuclear war.” North Korea's state news outlets reported that the country would “seriously consider” measures against the drill, adding the U.S. would “pay dearly for their provocations.”
As tensions rose over the threat of nuclear war in the Korean peninsula, Republican Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham urged the Pentagon to move the families and dependents of the 28,000 U.S. troops out of South Korea.
“It's crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea,” Graham said.
The five days of drills will reportedly consist of wartime scenarios including preparing for an attack on North Korean nuclear and missile targets.
The ballistic missile launched last week dashed hopes that tensions were dissipating; the last one was launched two months ago. Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday that the chances of war with Kim Jong Un's regime were “increasing every day.”
“Every time [Kim] conducts a missile launch and nuclear test, he gets better,” McMaster said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California. “And whether it's a success or a failure isn't as important as understanding that over the years he's been learning from failures, improving and thereby increasing his threat to all of us.”
Why public safety needs an integrated response plan for acts of mass violence
For agencies to be fully prepared, they must have a comprehensive, integrated response and recovery plan with allied emergency responders
by Heather R. Cotter
Acts of mass violence in the U.S., defined as three or more people killed in a public location , are occurring at an unprecedented rate.
Here are some of the major acts of mass violence that have occurred in the United States since October:
October 1: A lone gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert goers at the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas , resulting in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history;
October 31: An ISIS-inspired terrorist drove a truck down a bike path and killed eight individuals in New York ;
November 5: A lone gunman opened fire and killed 26 during a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas ;
November 14: Five individuals in Northern California were randomly killed by a gunman.
Acts of mass violence are challenging our nation, our communities and our first responders. While the tactics used by the assailants in each of these four events differed vastly, during each attack the first responders did their best to respond quickly and in a coordinated manner.
With no end in sight to mass violence, first responders and communities must review their preparedness and develop response and recovery training that includes integrated response and civilian trauma care.
First responders need to adopt an integrated response philosophy and train often to ensure a coordinated and effective response. Acts of mass violence are generally unpredictable and often evolve quickly with little warning. Several jurisdictions have adopted the rescue task force concept, as seen in Las Vegas, and more jurisdictions around the nation are applying similar tactics to their training.
Captain Evan Hannah with the Clark County Fire Department said that, “The biggest factor in mitigating the October 1 event was the existing collaborative relationship between Clark County Fire Department and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Countless training hours over the years has not only increased our ability to integrate with each other, but increased our personal relationships with department personnel, easing integration from the Unified Command structure to RTF teams. Events of October 1 revealed areas in our current response policy that will be adjusted due to the size and complexity of incident we faced. Allowing more flexible tactical decision making by on-scene personnel is something we will evaluate in the near future.”
Glen Simpson, special events manager with Community Ambulance stated that, "The mass casualty incident at the Route 91 concert in Las Vegas affirmed the value of our pre-planning and contingency-planning efforts.
“Over the years, we have trained for various active shooter scenarios and have developed a framework for responses that includes discussions regarding egress, ambulance staging and accurate triaging. Such planning and training played a large role in our ability to effectively act/respond to an event none of us could have envisioned in our worst nightmares. While we know there's no way to imagine every possible scenario we may encounter, we constantly train for an array of possibilities.
“Moving forward, we will take the experiences from ‘One October' and add them to our framework to be adaptive to all MCI events. As first responders, we must continue to re-examine our experiences and continue to prepare for worst-case scenarios.”
In order to be fully prepared for any act of mass violence, all local agencies (law enforcement, fire, EMS and dispatch) must create trusted relationships between one another. Together they must establish what a comprehensive, integrated response and recovery plan looks like in their jurisdiction. They need to discuss details about establishing unified command and determine cross-disciplinary training schedules.
Civilian trauma care
In addition to integrated response training, first responders must train civilians in basic trauma care , as civilians will be at the scene and potentially able to provide medical aid to victims.
Research shows that an individual can bleed to death in less than three minutes from a traumatic injury. First responders should provide awareness training and hands-on trauma care training (to include tourniquets) to community members at a minimum on an annual basis.
Educating civilians on rapid medical care before an attack will help improve victim survivability.
Actionable next steps
First responders must leverage the lessons learned from recent attacks. While recent studies do address unique components of mass casualty events, there is a lack of research and readily available information about how agencies can create an effective, integrated, cross-disciplinary response to dynamic events. Here are some key steps agencies should take:
Review after-action reports and leverage existing resources and publications about integrated response training tactics.
Connect with responders who were on scene and find out if you can attend one of their upcoming exercises. I've attended rescue task force trainings in major cities in the east and west coast.
Watch PoliceOne Roll-Call Videos and listen to podcasts that discuss current trends.
Attend conferences hosted by groups like the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) and the International Public Safety Association (IPSA), that center on integrated response.
Apply to serve on national level working groups that address these issues to learn from your peers and shape integrated response policy and training.
Acts of Mass Violence Initiative
IPSA is launching a new Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative and is seeking first responder subject matter experts to be involved. Since federal funding is not currently available, the effort is being kick started through a #GivingTuesday fundraiser. IPSA is currently accepting donations to support this effort.
Recent acts of mass violence have no jurisdictional boundaries. These events evolve quickly, and they occur with little to no warning. First responders know the modus operandi and weaponry will vary and there is a range of assailant planning tactics from impulsively acting to extensive strategy. For jurisdictions to be fully prepared, they must have a comprehensive, integrated response and recovery plan that includes all allied emergency responders.
About the author
Heather Cotter serves as the Executive Director of the International Public Safety Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit. She's been working with public safety professionals for several years and understands the challenges agencies and resource constraints agencies continue to face. Heather has a Master's degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor's at Indiana University, both in Criminology. Contact her at email@example.com .
Feds issue 4,000 orders to seize guns from people who failed background checks
by Kevin Johnson
WASHINGTON— Federal authorities sought to take back guns from thousands of people the background check system should have blocked from buying weapons because they had criminal records, mental health issues or other problems that would disqualify them.
A USA TODAY review found that the FBI issued more than 4,000 requests last year for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives to retrieve guns from prohibited buyers.
It's the largest number of such retrieval requests in 10 years, according to FBI records – an especially striking statistic after revelations that a breakdown in the background check system allowed a troubled Air Force veteran to buy a rifle later used to kill 26 worshipers at a Texas church last month.
The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) vets millions of gun purchase transactions every year. But the thousands of gun seizure requests highlight persistent problems in a system where analysts must complete background checks within three days of the proposed purchase. If the background check is not complete within the 72-hour time limit, federal law allows the sale to go forward. ATF agents are asked to take back the guns if the FBI later finds these sales should have been denied.
In addition to the public safety risks, the ATF agents tasked with retrievingthe banned weapons from unauthorized gun owners across the country are exposed to potentially dangerous confrontations.
"These are people who shouldn't have weapons in the first place, and it just takes one to do something that could have tragic consequences," said David Chipman, a former ATF official who helped oversee the firearm retrieval program. "You don't want ATF to stand for 'after the fact.'"
It was not immediately clear how many gun seizure requests agents successfully executed last year or how many weapons were ultimately recovered. Since multiple firearms can be purchased in a single transaction, the actual number of guns that should have been banned could be even higher.
Chipman, now a senior policy adviser for the Giffords Law Center which advocates for more gun restrictions, called the retrieval process "uniquely dangerous."
Stephen Morris, a former assistant FBI director, said FBI examiners who review gun purchasers' backgrounds also recognize the risks.
"They are very aware of the inherent risk to law enforcement officers when they (seek) a firearm retrieval," said Morris, who recently oversaw the bureau's background check operation based in West Virginia. "They feel tremendous pressure to make a determination" within the three-day period.
Review of the gun vetting system
The sudden spike in gun retrieval directives is attributed in part to the record 27.5 million background checks fielded by NICS examiners last year.
Yet the increase is notable in the wake of last month's decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch a sweeping review of the vetting system after a reporting breakdown allowed a troubled Air Force veteran to purchase a rifle. Devin Kelley later used the rifle in the Nov. 5 massacre at a Texas church.
Air Force officials have acknowledged that the service failed to transmit a record of Kelley's court martial for domestic assault to the FBI that would have made him ineligible for the 2016 purchase of the rifle. And on Tuesday, the Air Force said a preliminary review concluded that the reporting error was part of a broader problem within the service, indicating that "similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations" within the Air Force.
The Kelley case highlights longstanding problems with government databases that are rife with incomplete or inadequate record submissions. Morris said that NICS continues to depend on those databases that largely rely on voluntary record submissions from law enforcement agencies, the military and mental health authorities to guard against unauthorized firearm purchases.
Mixed success rate
The government's success record when it comes to retrieving guns that were improperly purchased has also been mixed.
The ATF declined to provide information on the 4,170 gun purchases the FBI referred for seizure last year. They reflect a substantial increase from 2,892 requests the previous year.
The FBI said the ATF is not required to report back on the status of the retrieval efforts.
Yet in 2004, the Justice Department's inspector general found that the ATF's retrieval efforts were plagued by staffing shortages, technological inefficiencies and a general lack of urgency that resulted in recovery delays of up to a year.
"ATF agents did not consider most of the prohibited persons who had obtained guns to be dangerous and therefore did not consider it a priority to retrieve the firearm promptly,'' report concluded.
A separate inspector general's report last year found marked improvement. Of 125 transactions examined between 2008 and 2014, investigators found that the ATF recovered 116 – or 93% – of the firearms.
Of the nine outstanding cases, five buyers could not be located. Two had already re-sold the firearms. One case was turned over to local authorities. And another was not pursued because the agency "did not have the resources to retrieve the firearm," the report found.
Powerful gun industry
Larry Keane, general counsel for the firearm industry trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation, noted that the FBI's seizure directives represent only a small portion in the flood of of transactions that the bureau has been processing in recent years. On Black Friday alone , FBI examiners fielded more than 200,000 background check requests, a one-day record for the system.
"What we support are more resources for the NICS operation to process the volume of requests," Keane said.
Keane said there has been no discussion in the industry about extending the three-day time limit for completing background checks, adding that more than 90% of all checks are completed almost immediately after the request is forwarded to the FBI. He said less than 1% of all firearms transactions are later referred to the ATF for retrieval.
In some cases, Keane said the FBI gets more than three business days to complete the checks when purchases fall on weekends or holidays.
"We don't really see much reason for changing" the three-day time limit, Keane said, adding that some gun dealers elect not to transfer weapons until the FBI completes the check, even if it takes longer than three days.
However, the former ATF official Chipman called the 72-hour provision "reckless" and a concession to "the powerful gun industry that nobody wants to irritate."
For now, much of the attention on gun policy by lawmakers has focused on boosting compliance with current reporting requirements to the FBI.
Last month, a bipartisan group of senators led by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced legislation that would penalize federal agencies that fail to properly report relevant criminal and mental health records and provides incentives to states to improve their overall reporting to the NICS repository. The bill also directs more federal funding to the accurate reporting of domestic violence records.
“For years agencies and states haven't complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Cornyn said. "Just one record that's not properly reported can lead to tragedy."
L.A. asked for $3 million for community policing. The DOJ said no. Some fear it's a sign of what's ahead.
by Kate Mather
I n 2015, a community policing initiative — one credited with helping curb violence in some of L.A.'s toughest housing projects — scored the Los Angeles Police Department high-level praise.
A captain and a sergeant who led the program were invited to Washington, D.C., earning coveted seats near the first lady during President Obama's State of the Union address.
This year, L.A. officials applied for more than $3 million in federal funding to help bring the same program to Harvard Park, a South L.A. neighborhood scarred by violence.
The request was denied.
The U.S. Department of Justice hasn't said why the LAPD didn't receive any of the $98 million in grants recently awarded to scores of law enforcement agencies across the nation. Justice officials didn't offer the LAPD an explanation, and a spokesman for the federal agency declined to comment when asked by The Times last week.
But after the Trump administration's repeated threats to withhold federal money from cities that don't cooperate with its immigration crackdown, some LAPD officials said they believe the move was retaliatory — and a troubling sign of what could come.
Steve Soboroff, president of the civilian Police Commission that oversees the LAPD, said that he believes the Justice Department denied the funding request because of the LAPD's well-publicized, hands-off approach to immigration enforcement. Soboroff said he worries future funding may also be at risk.
“Community policing is what policing's all about. Militaristic policing, immigrant harassment is not,” he said. “By ignoring that, or prioritizing it beneath their issue of sanctuary cities and cooperation with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] — the priorities are wrong.”
“If this is the tip of the iceberg, we're going to set back law enforcement and policing and public safety by decades,” he added.
In announcing the grant awards last month, the Justice Department noted that 80% of the agencies that received funds earned extra points during their reviews “based on their certifications of willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.”
L.A. did not sign that certification, LAPD officials said.
The decision to tie federal funding to immigration enforcement has already prompted a flurry of coast-to-coast legal challenges, including those filed by L.A.'s city attorney and California's attorney general .
The lawsuits have largely focused on two grants awarded by the Justice Department: one administered through Community Oriented Policing Services office, which the LAPD was just denied; and a second, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which has brought L.A. more than $1 million during each of the last few fiscal years.
Opponents allege the executive branch is overstepping its constitutional authority by attaching new rules to the grants without congressional approval. They also contend that cities are safer when immigrants are willing to talk to local police without fear of deportation.
City. Atty. Mike Feuer, who filed a lawsuit this fall , said putting civil immigration enforcement requirements on grants designed to improve community policing was “ironic — and at worst, very dangerous.”
???“We're going to do everything we can to make sure our city is as safe as possible and not let this undermine public safety,” he said.
There are already signs that federal officials may question more L.A. funding. Last month, the Justice Department sent a letter to the city saying it was “concerned” that some of the LAPD's immigration practices violated new terms of the Byrne grant.
A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said that because the city had not received details about the Justice Department's reasoning, he could not speculate as to why the $3.1-million request for Harvard Park was denied.
“Keeping Angelenos safe is Mayor Garcetti's top priority, and these grants provide essential support to programs that help us reduce violence in communities across our city,” spokesman Alex Comisar wrote in an email. “The Mayor is disappointed that the City was denied federal funding for such an important community partnership.”
The LAPD has long distanced itself from federal immigration policies. The department prohibits officers from initiating contact solely to determine if someone is in the country legally. In recent years, the LAPD stopped turning over people arrested for low-level crimes to federal agents for deportation and moved away from honoring federal requests to detain inmates who might be deportable past their jail terms.
Arif Alikhan, the director of the LAPD's Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy, stressed that the department has always followed the law with its immigration procedures. The LAPD, he added, was also disappointed in the Justice Department's decision to withhold the grant money.
“If that was a factor in it — that we were not proactively working to enforce civil immigration law — that would be unfortunate,” he said.
The LAPD planned to use the $3.1-million grant to hire 25 officers as it expanded a community policing program into Harvard Park, one of the city's deadliest neighborhoods. The roughly half-mile area saw eight homicides in 2016, nearly triple the number from the year before. So far this year, six people have been killed.
Officers assigned the LAPD's Community Safety Partnership program focus on getting to know residents instead of making arrests. They coach sports teams and lead mentoring programs. The goal, department officials say, is to foster a real relationship between the police and the community — one where officers and residents know each other by name and work together to make the neighborhood safer.
Officials often credit the program for a three-year stretch without a homicide in Jordan Downs, a housing development in Watts.
Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill said she was “curious — to say the least — about what program could have been more deserving.”
According to LAPD data, it was the eighth time since 1998 that the agency applied for a hiring grant from the Community Oriented Policing Services office. Last year, the LAPD received $3.1 million. In 2012, it got $6.4 million.
The LAPD has been rejected only once before, in 2011.
Despite the Justice Department's decision this time around — and questions about why it was made — McClain-Hill noted the LAPD's stance on immigration enforcement had strong support from the Police Commission and City Hall.
“We can't be concerned about the impact of that position,” she said. “I think the question is how we move forward without the federal government.”
Crime rates down in California, up in L.A. County, during period of criminal justice reform
by Makeda Easter
B etween 2010 and 2016, crime in Los Angeles County — including property and violent crime — rose by 5% even as overall crime in the rest of the state fell by the same rate, according to a report released Tuesday.
The study by the nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice analyzed city crime trends throughout California during a period referred to as the “justice reform era,” where legislation, voter-approved initiatives and court mandates brought major changes to California's justice system.
Those initiatives include Proposition 47, the controversial 2014 ballot measure that downgraded multiple drug and theft crimes to misdemeanors and allowed defendants to renegotiate their punishments, the Public Safety Realignment law and Proposition 57, to shrink the state's prison population and focus on rehabilitation, and Proposition 64 to legalize marijuana.
Both advocates of reform and law enforcement have used the sweeping statewide policies and anecdotes to argue that crime has increased or decreased, according to the study's author, Mike Males.
But the report, which analyzed offenses reported by law enforcement agencies, found — especially in Los Angeles County — wide disparities in local crime trends.
“We decided to look at the issue comprehensively,” Males said. “The reforms are probably not the reason crime has changed for better or worse for individual cities.”
In L.A. County, crime rates rose by 5%, with a 4% increase in property crimes and an 8% increase in violent crimes during the period. Across the rest of California, property crime fell by 6% and violent crime fell by 2%.
Males said L.A. County's divergence from the statewide trend is mainly because of its size as well as a sharp increase (60%) in assaults in the city of L.A. Males speculated that because assaults are connected to domestic violence, the rise could be related to an initiative to increase reporting of that crime.
Overall, violent crime in the city of L.A. increased 27%, even though there was a decrease in burglary and homicide, according to the report.
About half of L.A. County's 89 jurisdictions showed an increase in crime and the other half showed a decrease. For instance, in Artesia, the total crime rate rose 112%, while in Avalon there was a 52% decline in total crime.
Males says the variation in crime patterns resulted from local policies and practices rather than statewide justice reform.
Cities that showed increases in crime rates include Burbank (6.1%), Lancaster (5.7%), Long Beach (14.5%) and Torrance (9.2%).
"The key to safe neighborhoods is a partnership between police and community," said Lt. Jason Clawson, public information officer with the Pasadena Police Department. In Pasadena, the overall crime rate fell 18.2%, according to the study.
Clawson said that a number of outreach initiatives, including a community policing program, citizen police academies and other steps such as increasing lighting in an area or redesigning a bathroom, are ways Pasadena police have worked to reduce crime.
Other cities showing crime decreases include Downey (15.5%), Glendale (12.3%), Inglewood (10.8%), Monrovia (25.4%), Palmdale (20.8%) and Santa Clarita (9.4%).
Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law and society at UC Irvine, studied the impact of California's Public Safety Realignment bill, signed into law in 2011 by Gov. Jerry Brown and designed to address state prison overcrowding by diverting low-level offenders to county jails or probation. She and other researchers found that releasing such offenders back onto the streets had a very small effect on crime in California.
“These criminal justice reform policies didn't seem to have much of an impact,” Kubrin said. “The action, if you will, is at the local level.”
Police announce plan to combat violent crime after seven homicides in 10 days
by Kaitlyn Alanis
In the past 10 days, Wichita has seen seven homicides, bringing the year's total to 35 homicides. Last year, 34 homicides occurred.
“We have seen an upward trend in violent crimes in Wichita over the last few years,” Wichita police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Monday.
While the crimes are violent, he said the department has noticed three major trends regarding the homicides:
They are not random. In an overwhelming majority, Ramsay said the victims and suspects knew each other.
The homicides are often tied to drugs.
Many homicides are the result of an argument, oftentimes fueled by social media.
The breakdown of the 35 homicides is:
10 were argument related
Eight were domestic related
Six had an unknown suspect
Five were related to a robbery
Three were gang related
Two involved officers
One was an accident
More than half of the homicides included a handgun. The weapons:
Handguns were used in 21 out of 35 homicides
Knives were used in four homicides
Rifles were used in three homicides
Shotguns were used in two homicides
Physical assault resulted in two homicides
A blunt object was used in two homicides
A vehicle was used in one homicide
In an effort to combat violent crimes, Ramsay said the department is bringing back three teams that will target what he called problem areas and problem people in Wichita. The teams were part of a pilot program from May to August, and they made 375 arrests.
Now, the department is looking at using the teams long term because of the earlier success.
“We see these increasing numbers, and it was time to look at and evaluate on, ‘Were we being effective?' ” Ramsay said.
The teams will start work after Jan. 1.
The first team of 10 uniformed officers will work on drug complaints in residential neighborhoods and will respond to violent crimes throughout the city. The second team of 12 officers will initiate and be proactive in the investigations of known violent offenders. They will also focus on violent street gangs and respond to violent crimes. A third, 16-person team will work with community policing teams.
A request for help
Police listed 10 open homicide cases where the department needs the public's help to solve them.
“You got to remember, with violent crimes we count on the community to come forward and help us with tips in solving these crimes,” Ramsay said. He said it is very rare that they solve a case without any witness statements or people providing the officers with information.
The 2017 homicides listed by the police that have not been solved are:
Bernardino Ornelas, 24, who died after a vehicle pulled alongside his vehicle at the intersection of 18th and Market on Jan. 9 and fired several gunshots at him and a passenger.
Sandra Flores, 26, who was found dead in a strip mall parking lot at Pawnee and Seneca on March 17. Police think she was hit by a high-powered rifle while she was taking a morning walk.
James Walker III, 31, was standing outside of a home in the 1200 block of South Minneapolis on April 9 when a group of people arrived and opened fire. He was struck several times.
Stanislaus Saiz, 56, who was killed when he was shot several times while sitting in his car in front of his home in the 600 block of North Edwards on April 16. Police think someone on foot fired at him.
Arthur Goebel, 66, who was shot during a confrontation after an intruder broke into his home in the 2300 block of East MacArthur on July 16. Goebel's wife called 911.
Houng Pham, 62, and her 23-year-old son, Cody Ha, who were found shot to death in their home in the 7500 block of East Huntington on Nov. 25. Witnesses have said prescription drugs had been sold from the home.
Hasan Rahman, 26, a mechanical engineering student at Wichita State University, who was working as a Pizza Hut delivery driver. He was fatally shot and left in the trunk of his car. His car was found Nov. 26 in the 7800 block of East Pagent.
Daniel Lopez-Silva, 32, who was found about 4:30 a.m. Sunday lying in the driveway of a house in the 4000 block of South Stearman. He had been shot several times and died at a hospital. Police said an unknown person pulled up to the house in a vehicle in the early-morning hours and started shooting.
Rolando Holt, 26, was found dead in the 2600 block of East Wilma, where he had been visiting friends. Police said unknown men entered the house shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday and began shooting at Holt.
Those with information regarding any of the homicides are urged to contact the Wichita Police Department's homicide division at 316-268-4182.
Texas officer shot to death while serving warrant
58-year-old Officer Kenneth Copeland died Monday afternoon after being shot multiple times
by the Associated Press
SAN MARCOS, Texas – Police have revealed the identity of an officer shot and killed while serving a warrant in Central Texas.
A statement issued by San Marcos, Texas, officials said 58-year-old Officer Kenneth Copeland died Monday afternoon after being shot multiple times by a suspect while Copeland was serving a warrant.
The statement says Copeland was wearing a protective vest at the time of the shooting.
At a news conference, Police Chief Chase Stapp said Copeland had been with the department for 19 years.
Stapp said the suspect, who also had at least one gunshot wound, surrendered after a brief standoff and was taken to a hospital. Stapp said it was unclear if the wound was self-inflicted or inflicted by police gunfire.
Texas officer's death highlights dangers of serving warrants
Police say Officer Kenneth Copeland's death highlights why departments rely on tactical teams to serve search and arrest warrants
by Tony Plohyetsky
SAN MARCOS, Texas — When San Marcos police officer Kenneth Copeland went to a home to serve an arrest warrant, he embarked on a law enforcement mission known in the profession for being fraught with danger.
Such operations often involve a suspect who has previously refused to quietly surrender and turn himself in, experts say, making it necessary for police to use more aggressive means to get that person into custody.
The mission might involve a person who feels desperate to stay out of jail or who already has a history of violence.
And conducting such a mission at a person's house also leaves officers at a particularly dangerous disadvantage because the suspect might have quick access to weapons or know where to hide and surprise them, experts say.
“If you go to someone's home, I tell people that it's an away game,” said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, an organization that promotes education and training for SWAT teams across the U.S.
“They have every advantage,” he said. “(The occupant) knows where all the hiding places are, where all the locks are, how far it is from your couch to the kitchen where you may have knives. I don't know if I am going to turn a corner and you could be there and potentially ambush me.”
Police say the death of Copeland, who was killed Monday in the San Marcos Police Department's first line-of-duty death, underscores the danger of serving warrants and highlights why departments often rely upon tactical teams to serve both search and arrest warrants, even though critics frequently suggest using such militarized equipment is unnecessary and overzealous.
Officials say Copeland, a 58-year-old father of four who had been with the department for nearly 20 years, was shot in an ambush-style attack while attempting to serve the warrant in the El Camino Real subdivision for a domestic violence assault charge.
They have not disclosed how many officers were participating in the operation, but have said Copeland was wearing a protective vest.
Court documents show police were attempting to arrest Stewart Thomas Mettz, who authorities confirmed Tuesday night is the man they believe fatally shot Copeland. The suspect remained in the hospital Tuesday.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a total of seven officers were killed while serving a warrant in 2015-16, among the 280 officers who died in the line of duty nationally during those two years. Officials said none of the officers killed serving warrants was from Texas.
But during the past 15 years, officers across the state have been injured or killed in the course of such work.
Fort Worth officer Hank Nava, who originally was from Round Rock, was killed in 2005 while serving an arrest warrant for a parole violation at a mobile home in Tarrant County. His killer received a life sentence without the eligibility for parole.
In Austin last year, officer James Pittman was shot and injured while serving a search warrant on a North Austin home where police said a suspected drug dealer lived.
Attorneys for Tyler Harrell, who was 18 at the time, have said he did not know that the predawn intruders in his home were police when he fired. In a case in which the actions of police received scrutiny, Harrell was charged with attempted capital murder, but faces no drug-related charges.
Tom Verni, a former New York City police officer who now serves as a cable news law enforcement consultant, said serving warrants is often considered as dangerous as traffic stops and responding to domestic violence calls, which also often involve entering someone's home.
“The tie-in with those dangerous jobs is the unpredictability factor,” he said. “You never know what you are going to be walking into. You don't know what the mindset of the person is that you are going to be dealing with.”
Across the nation, Verni and other experts said serving warrants is often left to a squad of officers, particularly in smaller agencies, who train together and plan the logistics of such operations. Agencies that are not large enough to have SWAT teams might rely upon a neighboring agency or be part of a regional task force of tactical officers.
Before entering a home, to mitigate the danger, they might investigate who lives there, the hours they are at home and whether any occupants have previous criminal records. They might try to question others who have been inside a house to glean information about its layout, experts said.
Max Westbrook, a retired Austin police lieutenant who worked in the Austin Police Department's organized crime division and is now a law enforcement consultant, said many agencies conduct a thorough analysis about whether officers or a SWAT team should serve a felony warrant.
Austin police had a checklist, Westbrook recalled, and if a suspect met certain criteria such as prior convictions for assaulting an officer or for weapons, the SWAT team would serve the warrant.
Westbrook said he was often involved in serving warrants with his team for narcotics-related crimes. He usually felt anxious before doing so.
“Certainly serving warrants, your senses were heightened and you try to be very aware of your surroundings,” he said. “As an officer, you begin to understand that certain aspects of our job are more risky than others.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Announces Progress in Enforcing Immigration Laws, Protecting Americans
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its end-of-year immigration enforcement numbers, the results of a year-long return to enforcing the law, upholding the integrity of our lawful immigration system, and keeping America safe. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported 310,531 apprehensions nationwide, 303,916 of which were along the Southwest border, underscoring the need for a physical barrier at the border. Additionally, in FY 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Removal Operations (ERO) conducted 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals. While 2017 marked a successful year in border security efforts, reducing illegal cross-border migration, increasing interior enforcement, and dismantling transnational criminal enterprises, multiple challenges still remain in providing immigration officials with the tools needed to keep criminals off the streets, eliminate the pull factors for illegal immigration, and remove aliens who have violated our immigration laws from the country. The previously announced Trump Administration's immigration priorities would address these challenges by enhancing border security, implementing a merit-based immigration system, and closing loopholes that encourage illegal immigration.
“We have clearly seen the successful results of the President's commitment to supporting the frontline officers and agents of DHS as they enforce the law and secure our borders,” said Acting Secretary Elaine Duke . “We have an obligation to uphold the integrity of our immigration system, but we must do more to step up and close loopholes to protect the American worker, our economy, and our communities.”
“We have seen historic low numbers this year - an almost 30 percent decline in apprehensions in FY17, but we are very concerned about the later month increases of unaccompanied minors and minors with a family member,” said Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello . “We are also concerned about the significant uptick in the smuggling of opioids and other hard narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, which generally increase when illegal border crossings spike. The men and women of CBP, working along our borders and at the ports of entry protecting our great nation, are doing outstanding work. For us to truly have an operationally secure border, we must close loopholes in our laws that help fund the cartels.”
“These results are proof of what the men and women of ICE can accomplish when they are empowered to fulfill their mission,” said Thomas Homan, ICE Deputy Director . “We need to maintain this momentum by matching the dedication and drive of our personnel with the resources they need to perform at even higher levels. We need to confront and address misguided policies and loopholes that only serve as a pull factor for illegal immigration. We must continue to target violent gangs like MS-13, and prevent them from rebuilding what we have begun to dismantle. Finally, we need to find a solution to the dangerous sanctuary city policies and the politicians who needlessly risk innocent lives to protect criminals who are illegally present in the United States.”
Customs and Border Protection
In FY17, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at the U.S. ports of entry. However, in May CBP began to see a month-over-month increase in apprehensions and inadmissible cases along the Southwest border, most notably from children, either as part of a family unit or unaccompanied by their parent or legal guardian.
In addition to the 310,531 apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol agents there were 216,370 inadmissible cases by CBP officers in FY17, representing a 23.7 percent decline over the previous year. Illegal migration along the Southwest border declined sharply from January 21 to April, which was the lowest month of border enforcement activity on record.
By the end of the year, family-unit apprehensions and inadmissible cases reached 104,997 along the Southwest border. Another 48,681 unaccompanied children were apprehended or determined to be inadmissible.
CBP continues to be concerned about steady increase in the flow of unaccompanied children and family units from Central America, as transnational criminal organizations continue to exploit legal and policy loopholes to help illegal aliens gain entry and facilitate their release into the interior of the country.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The most significant changes in immigration enforcement strategy can be found in the interior of the United States. The executive orders issued by President Trump in January 2017 strongly emphasized the role of interior enforcement in protecting national security and public safety, and upholding the rule of law. By making clear that no category of removable aliens would be exempt from enforcement, the directives also expanded enforcement priorities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Overall, in FY 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) conducted 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals. Notably, from the start of the Trump Administration on January 20, 2017 through the end of the fiscal year, ERO made 110,568 arrests compared to 77,806 in FY2016 - an increase of 40 percent. During the same timeframe, removals that resulted from an ICE arrest increased by 37 percent, nearly offsetting the historically low number of border apprehensions, a population that typically constitutes a significant portion of ICE removals. Total ICE removal numbers for FY17 (226,119) reflect a slight decline (6%) from FY2016 (240,255), largely attributed to the decline in border apprehensions.
ICE continued to prioritize its resources to enhance public safety and border security, which is demonstrated by the data, which reflects that 92 percent (101,722) of aliens ICE administratively arrested between January 20, 2017 and the end of FY2017, were removable aliens who had a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge, were an ICE fugitive, or were an illegal re-entrant.
The executive orders also prioritized efforts to dismantle transnational gangs, with a specific focus on MS-13, one of the most violent gangs in the United States. In FY2017, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 796 MS-13 gang members and associates, compared to 434 in FY2016 – an 83 percent increase. Overall, HSI made 4,818 criminal arrests related to gang activity and 892 administrative arrests as a result of gang investigations. Additionally, ERO administratively arrested 5,225 gang members and associates.
Overall in FY17, HSI conducted 32,958 total criminal arrests and seized $524 million in illicit currency and assets over the course of investigations into human smuggling and trafficking, cybercrime, transnational gang activity, narcotics enforcement, human smuggling and other types of cross-border criminal activity.
In addition to these improved numbers, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results for CBP and ICE personnel significantly improved this year, reflecting that the Administration is allowing them to faithfully execute their duties and fully enforce the law.
Earlier today, ICE, CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services participated in a press briefing to announce the end of year numbers. Click here to watch.
The Office of Immigration Statistics will release their annual report on DHS-wide enforcement data in January.
Link to CBP report
Link to ICE reports
Homeless Population Rises, Driven By West Coast Affordable-Housing Crisis
by Pam Fessler
Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.
The increase is almost entirely due to a surge in homelessness in Los Angeles and other cities facing severe shortages of affordable housing, say HUD officials. Many of the cities are on the West Coast, including Seattle, San Diego and Sacramento, Calif.
Overall, the nation's homeless numbers are 13 percent lower than they were in 2010 and some communities have all but eliminated homelessness among veterans, emphasized HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
"Where we're not making great progress are in places like Los Angeles and New York City. These happen to be places where the rents are going up much faster than the incomes," said Carson in an interview with NPR.
In fact, Los Angeles reported a nearly 26 percent rise in homelessness this year over 2016. Most of the increase was among individuals living outside on the street.
The number of homeless veterans was also up 1.5 percent nationally, despite major efforts by the government and nonprofit groups to house veterans. Again, officials say that rise is due to the unusually large surge in homeless veterans in Los Angeles. Veterans' homelessness in the rest of the nation, excluding the city and county of Los Angeles, dropped by 3.2 percent.
Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, was surprised the overall numbers weren't better.
"Just because I think there's been a continuing investment in veterans, and an improvement in approaches," she says. "We might expect to have seen a continuing downward trend. And we're not."
Roman says it's increasingly difficult to find available units in some areas of the country to house the homeless. And she worries the problem could get worse. Housing advocates note that the Trump administration has proposed cutting low-income housing subsidies, which many people rely on to stay housed. They also believe the tax bill working its way through Congress could discourage investment in new affordable housing construction by reducing tax credits used by developers.
Carson insists the administration is committed to helping homeless individuals, but he says that the federal government needs to work more with nonprofits, faith-based communities, state and local governments and the private sector to address the problem.
"We just need to move a little bit away from the concept that only the government can solve this problem by throwing more money at it," he says.
In fact, much of the progress that's been made in recent years reducing homelessness has been the result of joint efforts between nonprofits, the private sector and government.
There are also some positive trends. While veterans' homelessness is up, tens of thousands of homeless veterans have been housed in recent years. This year's count of 40,056 is 46 percent lower than it was in 2010.
Family homelessness was also down 5.4 percent from last year and 27 percent lower than it was in 2010. Still, there were 58,000 families with children living outside or in shelters earlier this year. The number of unaccompanied homeless youth and children was close to 41,000; more than half were unsheltered.
The number of people experiencing chronic or long-term homelessness was also up 12 percent from the year before.
Let's devote more 'time, attention and resources' toward solving homelessness issues
by Andy Giegerich
Columbia Sportswear's boss has effectively responded to protesters whose Saturday gathering caused the retailer's downtown store to shut down.
In a statement cited by the Oregonian, Tim Boyle "says he has offered to help find remedies for Portland's homeless crisis and is willing to tap other businesses to do the same."
And while the statement, according to the Oregonian, doesn't mention a specific solution, it does refer to Columbia's "previous actions to address homelessness."
The protesters had objected to an opinion piece Boyle had written generally criticizing the city's response to crime-related issues.
Here's the full statement, culled from the Oregonian's website.
A couple of weeks ago, Columbia Sportswear Company delivered a truckload of coats to Transition Projects, an important nonprofit that assists homeless individuals in Portland, and our team participated in TV interviews stressing the importance of providing support for communities in need.
The same day, I published an opinion piece in The Oregonian urging city leaders to address urgent safety issues in downtown Portland in part by providing resources for community policing. My opinion piece in The Oregonian did not address homelessness generally. The word does not appear in the article, because the concerns about safety are not tied solely to that issue. The call for community policing resources got far more attention, but the spotlight needs to be much broader.
You would be hard-pressed to name all the agencies and enterprises who are involved in some way in these inter-related issues. There are issues that touch the state, the city, the county, and there are no doubt resources being spent by public bodies that no one thinks of in connection with homelessness.
At times Portlanders seem to be talking past each other, choosing one side or another to what is inherently a multi-sided issue. We can and should — and we do – show compassion to support individuals in need. At the same time, we can and should provide resources for law enforcement to provide greater safety for all.
While this a challenging situation, I refuse to give up, and I would encourage all Oregonians to devote time, attention, and, yes, resources to address the complex issues surrounding homelessness. In meetings with local and state leaders in recent months I have offered to contribute personally to genuine solutions — not policing – and I have reiterated my belief that others in the business community should join this effort. I am glad to call business leaders personally to ask them to contribute.
We cannot solve all problems, and we will likely never address all the needs related to homelessness, but as Oregonians we can make meaningful progress if our leaders (business, government, nonprofits and others) have the will to do so.
Las Cruces ranks among safest cities in US
by Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces ranks 32nd on the 2017 list of safest cities in America by the personal finance website WalletHub.com. El Paso came in at 38 and Albuquerque ranked 112.
Last year, violent crime and property crime in Las Cruces were both down 6 percent, according to the Las Cruces Police Department's annual crime statistics.
“Being the leading safe city in our region demonstrates our commitment to creating and maintaining a safe and comforting environment for our residents and guests,” City Manager Stuart C. Ed said in a statement.
“But we are striving to do better. I compliment the women and men of the Las Cruces Police Department for their commitment to duty. Through their efforts and public partnership through the principles of community policing, we will continue to improve our service delivery,” Ed said.
Ed extended his thanks to LCPD Chief Jaime Montoya, who plans to retire at the end of this month following 26 years of service. “Chief Montoya was instrumental in Las Cruces obtaining this ranking. His leadership resulted in many positive outcomes,” Ed said.
In addition, Ed thanked the families of law enforcement for the ongoing support they give those in uniform each and every day.
WalletHub reports that its analysts compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities — across three key dimensions: home and community safety; financial safety; and natural-disaster risk.
More information at https://wallethub.com/edu/safest-cities-in-america/41926/
Crisis training helps police and the public
by Hannah Gebresilassie
CARBONDALE -- A program aims to prevent people battling mental illnesses from being trapped in the criminal justice system. Carbondale and Cape Girardeau pledged to participate and are getting their teams trained.
The Crisis Intervention Team program aims to make for calmer, more productive interactions between officers and people in distress. They also provide resources for people facing mental illnesses or addiction, instead of placing them behind bars.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness describes Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) as “a model for community policing that brings together law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency departments, and individuals with mental illness and their families to improve responses to people in crisis. CIT programs enhance communication, identify mental health resources for assisting people in crisis, and ensure that officers get the training and support that they need.”
A Carbondale woman, who did not want to appear on camera, likes the idea of police having special training to deal with people suffering from mental illness or addiction.
“They don't need to be on the streets,” the woman said. "My heart just goes out to them because it's sad.”
She told News 3 she's seen people who battle mental illnesses come out of jail or prison and get right back on the streets.
“Every time they go, they're right back out, homeless,” the woman said. “They basically get on drugs and disrupt things too.”
Sergeant Amber Ronketto, with the Carbondale Police Department, said about half of its staff has CIT training.
“A lot of times people will benefit from medical treatment as opposed to incarceration,” Ronketto said.
In Cape Girardeau, Lt. Rodney Barker said about 70 percent of officers have the training.
“Once we identify that crisisn then it gets officers to slow down, take their time, and deal with that, basically deescalate the situation,” Barker said.
Both Carbondale and Cape Girardeau officials said their goal is to reach 100 percent CIT trained officers.
Officers said the program will help police do their job better, regardless of who they interact with.
“Everybody has a bad day," Ronketto said. "Everybody has the potential to be in some sort of crisis mode whether they've been in a car crash or their house has burned down."
And folks all around, hope to see the program pay off in their community.
“A lot of them can find their way back I believe, but just throwing them back out here is not going to help, not at all,” the Carbondale woman said.
Authorities thwart planned mass shooting at Fla. mosque
Detectives learned of the mass shooting threat in late October and started to build a case against the suspect
by Joe Daraskevich
JACKSONVILLE — Local, state and federal authorities said Monday they thwarted a mass shooting at a Jacksonville mosque and arrested a 69-year-old Filipino immigrant who they say had obtained a rifle silencer from an undercover officer in the parking lot of a local sporting goods store.
Bernandino Gawala Bolatete is charged with knowingly receiving and possessing a silencer not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, according the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said detectives learned of the mass shooting threat in late October and started to build a case against Bolatete.
“The investigation confirmed that the suspect was making plans to carry out a mass shooting, and he already had the weaponry necessary to complete the attack,” Williams said.
A criminal complaint filed Friday outlines the undercover investigation into Bolatete. According to the complaint, an undercover officer with the Sheriff's Office was asked if he could help obtain a silencer for a rifle Nov. 27.
To avoid government scrutiny, the buyer asked that there be no paperwork associated with the sale, according to the complaint. The silencer was sold Friday in the parking lot of Academy Sports and Outdoors at 11901 Atlantic Blvd., according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Bolatete was arrested and faces up to 10 years in federal prison if he is convicted on the charge, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Williams said investigators went Friday to Bolatete's home in the 13200 block of Eucalyptus Drive off Atlantic Boulevard to search for any additional weaponry that could be used to carry out an attack. Williams would not provide any details about the arrest but said Bolatete was taken into custody without incident.
The investigation started when the Sheriff's Office received a tip from a citizen that Bolatete “expressed a hatred for Muslims and made a specific threat to ‘shoot up' a mosque,” according to the complaint.
The citizen then introduced an undercover officer to Bolatete, according to the complaint, and the two went shooting together several times at a gun range.
The officer recorded conversations with Bolatete on Nov. 10, Nov. 14, Nov. 20 and Nov. 24 and provided them to the FBI as evidence, according to the complaint.
The officer learned Bolatete had a kidney removed after he was accidentally shot in the back in the Phillipines, according to the complaint. His remaining kidney is failing and was only functioning at 31 percent at his last examination three months ago, according to the complaint.
The officer was told if the kidney started performing at less than 30 percent he would have to undergo dialysis, according to the complaint, so Bolatete didn't plan to survive the mass shooting at the mosque.
“If I ever decide to do that I'm not thinking of getting caught,” Bolatete said, according to the transcript. “I'll … I'll die there in that area. [laughter] They'll be some sort of suicide thing … suicide by police?”
On one trip to the gun range in St. Augustine, the officer drove by the Islamic Center at 2333 St. Johns Bluff Rd. South, according to the complaint.
As he drove by the officer was shown the tower associated with the mosque where the mass shooting could take place, according to the complaint.
Bolatete told the officer he had five guns at his disposal, including an AR-15 that could be converted to an AR-47, according to the complaint.
The officer was told Muslims attended the mosque on Fridays, according to the complaint, so that would be the day to spring the attack.
“… One thing I know is that, uh, their Sunday equivalent to us Christians is Friday,” Bolatete said in one of the transcripts.
The Sheriff's Office worked with the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other agencies throughout the investigation. Charles Spencer, the special agent in charge of the Jacksonville FBI office, said officials at the Islamic Center were contacted shortly after the arrest was made.
Spencer said there were precautions in place to guard against a possible attack, and the FBI explained to mosque officials that they were never in danger.
MOSQUE WAS BOMBED IN 2010
The center on St. John's Bluff Road has been around in some form since to 1980s. The threat was not its first.
The center was firebombed in 2010. About 80 people were inside the mosque when the crude bomb that was planted outside near a brick wall went off. No one was injured, though authorities said there could have been significant injuries because debris from the explosion was found some 100 feet away.
A year-long manhunt for the man suspected in the bombing ended with the man's death more than 1,000 miles from Jacksonville.
Sandlin Matthews Smith, 46, was killed in Oklahoma after FBI and Oklahoma Highway Patrol agents followed a tip leading them to a field where they found him. Authorities saw Smith brandishing a weapon and he was shot.
Once again, the center was grateful that a tragedy was avoided.
“The Sheriff's Office, FDLE and the FBI have clearly done a great job and we are really thankful for them. They prevented what clearly could have been a really disastrous situation,” said Mobeen Rathore, a board member at the center. “We are lucky to have law enforcement folks around us.”
Bolatete's interest in guns is apparent in his scant Facebook posts over the years.
Intermingled among the photos of him with weapons are memes asking for prayer and touching stories that have gone viral over the years. Also on the feed was a bogus story that claimed that a woman was forced for recite the Quran while being raped.
Spencer said Bolatete was a green card holder who was renting the home on Eucalyptus Drive, but he would not go into detail about others living at the residence.
Williams and Spencer both pointed to cooperation among law enforcement agencies as a key to foiling the plan, and Rathore was grateful for their efforts as well as the support from the local inter-faith community.
“This is really a lovely community,” said Rathore. “It is heartening to live in a community where there are so many caring people. Yes we have a person who wanted to do harm, but we have a lot more people who are caring and support us.”
Pearl Harbor Day 2017: Quotes, inspiration for 'date which will live in infamy'
by Leda Gore
Today is the 76 th anniversary of the date "which will live in infamy."
More than 2,390 Americans lost their lives on Dec. 7, 1941 when Japanese bombers launched a surprise attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. All eight U.S. battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack were sunk, though all but two - the Arizona and the Oklahoma - later returned to active duty. In addition, nearly 20 American Navy vessels and about 300 aircraft were damaged or destroyed.
The attack - famously described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "date which will live in infamy" - - propelled America into World War II, a conflict which claimed the lives of some 400,000 U.S. soldiers.
Here's are quotes, remembrances and more as we commemorate Pearl Harbor Day 2017:
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory" - - President Franklin D. Roosevelt, delivered Dec. 8, 1941
"Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor...We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory." - - Former President Barack Obama in 2011
"Millions of people gave their lives fighting fascism and imperialism, but Pearl Harbor was the event that forever changed the course of human history." - - Sam Graves
"Pearl Harbor caused our Nation to wholeheartedly commit to winning World War II, changing the course of our Nation's history and the world's future." - - Joe Baca
"The lesson of Pearl Harbor ought never to be forgotten, and of course the motto that came from that, 69 years ago, the war which my dad fought, was 'Remember Pearl Harbor, never again.' We need to keep that to mind." - - Oliver North
"Today at Pearl Harbor, veterans are gathering to pay tribute to the young men they remember who never escaped the sunken ships. And over the years, some Pearl Harbor veterans have made a last request. They ask that their ashes be brought down and placed inside the USS Arizona. After the long lives given them, they wanted to rest besides the best men they ever knew. Such loyalty and love remain the greatest strength of the United States Navy." - - Former President George W. Bush, Pearl Harbor Day 2001
"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." - - Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
"Never a day goes by for all these many years when I haven't thought about it. I don't talk about it too much, but when December rolls around I do. It's important the American people don't forget." - - Donald Stratton, WWII veteran
"To have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. Now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! ... Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder." - - Winston Churchill
Task force reviewing Grand Rapids police department pledges to transparency
by Amy Biolchini
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Work to review Grand Rapids police policy and procedure has only just begun for a task force made up of both police and residents.
The task force gave a public update Wednesday night before a small crowd of about 30 residents, as well as city commissioners, staff and police at the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center.
In three months, the group is pledging to host another public meeting to present its findings and recommendations for change that it's been able to identify.
"We will not wait until the very end; the expectation is that we'll make changes as we go along," City Attorney Anita Hitchcock said.
The review is the city's response to a traffic stop study that revealed Grand Rapids police officers are more likely to pull over black drivers than non-black drivers.
Part of the meeting Wednesday, Dec. 6, included a chance for the public to ask the task force questions.
Some had personal stories of discriminatory conduct from officers, like Darlene Pearson. She recalled being pulled over by an officer for not using her turn signal -- and the officer then asked for the driver's license of every person in the car. Pearson, who is black, asked Police Chief David Rahinsky if that was a practice still used by the department.
"We don't hire that way, we don't train that way," Rahinsky said.
Rahinsky repeatedly urged those in attendance Wednesday night to call his cell phone to alert him if they don't feel their case was investigated properly.
Heavy on the minds of many in attendance was the city's use of the civilian appeals board as an independent investigator of complaints about officer conduct.
Paul Mayhue, who helped form the review board, said the initial goal was for the body to have investigative authority - but it was never granted.
Rahinsky said adding that power to the civilian board would be a big undertaking and would require a change to the city charter.
Pete Walsh suggested an issue with the civilian appeals board could be fixed almost immediately: allow the person filing the complaint to speak to the board on their own behalf.
"The person filing the complaint doesn't get to make a presentation, and they just have to sit there," Walsh said. "That's not due process, that's not fair."
Huemartin Robinson II, who is on the task force and is the chairman of the civilian appeals board, said he views the body as "heavily underutilized."
"In the last 12 months, we've had four different cases," Robinson said.
The abilities of the civilian appeals board will be a part of the task force review, Robinson said.
The task force, working with the 21st Century Policing firm the city hired to help the process, has met three times since September and is starting its review of a lengthy list of policies and practices that would guide how minority communities are policed, or would constitute racial profiling.
So far, the group has come up with a list of topics it would like to cover - and started with staffing and deployment. Other topics include recruitment and hiring, the civilian appeals board, community policing, impacts on youth, training, nonpayment of tickets or fines and data collection.
The task force consists of the following members: Marques Beene, Janay Brower, Sonja Forte, Ed Kettle, Maria Moreno-Reyes, Huemartin Robinson, Raynard Ross, Rahinsky, Deputy Chief Eric Payne, Capt. Michael Maycroft, Lt. John Bylsma, Sgt. Jana Forner, Det. Dan Adams and officer Andrew Bingel.
Disarmed: The reclaiming of a city from epic gun violence
by Joseph Darius Jaafari
At every stop during a drive through the Greenville section of Jersey City, N.J., John “Jay” Gilmore recounts exactly what happened and who was involved — including the name of the person who pulled the trigger.
That's something unique about all the murders in Jersey City: Everyone knows who killed whom. In some instances, the murderer lives right next door to the victim, but no one will talk.
“Nobody's gonna tell the police because nobody's gonna snitch,” Gilmore, a former member of the local East Coast Bloods gang Sex, Money, Murda, tells NationSwell. “You snitch and you could get killed.”
So instead of snitching, Gilmore's one of many Jersey City residents trying to fix the problem from within.
Life on the Hill
Power players in government (including President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner) and finance have turned once-barren Jersey City into a metropolis of 264,000 people living in the shadow of Manhattan, just across the Hudson River. But as of October this year, there have been 16 homicides and 98 total shootings in Jersey City. Most have occurred around the Greenville neighborhood, an area referred to locally as “The Hill.” Almost all of the deaths were caused by guns, according to an independent analysis conducted by NationSwell.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop says that additional law enforcement patrols and proactive policing in high-crime areas are addressing the problem, but NationSwell's analysis — which only includes reported shootings published in local papers and cross referenced with reported shootings via the Gun Violence Archive — reveals that Jersey City has seen a 200 percent increase in the number of shootings in the past three years.
The total number of homicides recorded by Jersey City police in monthly CompStat reports — the system that logs city crimes — does not specify the number of murders by gun deaths, nor does it record number of shootings without injury.
Multiple requests for more accurate records to the Jersey City Police Department on shooting data were not made available to NationSwell.
With gunshots being heard almost every night, a neighborhood resident says the area is tantamount to a war zone.
“It's kill or be killed in Greenville,” says Hessie Williams, a Jersey City mother whose 19-year-old son was murdered in 2016. When there's a shooting, more kids take up guns to protect themselves, an issue that the Mayor's office has said is part of the problem. “I get why they carry [guns]. When you're running from bullets almost every week, it makes sense,” Williams says.
Fulop, a Democrat that recently won re-election, has consistently made gun violence part of his campaign, but even he's admitted that the problem can't be solved through changes to policing or legislation alone.
“These situations did not develop overnight and we know it will take time, dedication and long-term efforts to bring lasting change…There are many factors that impact public safety and violence,” says Fulop. “While we have hired more police and increased walking tours and community policing — and have found that to be positive — we have also more than doubled the number of recreation programs, created a partnership with the [Board of Education] for more youth activities after school and have hired over 4,000 youth over the past four summers.”
Additionally, 8,000 jobs have also been created and other community programs have been launched during Fulop's administration.
But families of gun violence victims don't feel that City Hall's actions are sufficient. “If the kids being killed were white kids, the city would be doing everything in their power to stop this. Nobody cares about my son. They think my son isn't important,” says Theresa Franklin, a Jersey City mother whose child was killed in May 2016.
To stop the shooting, regular citizens are borrowing a technique from the gangs ravaging their streets. They're taking matters into their own hands.
A Cure for Jersey City
Jersey City's Booker T. Washington Apartments, just one mile north of Greenville, have a long-standing reputation for being lethal. For the better part of the 1990s, the housing project was known for its gun violence and drug trade.
In the past five years, crime has decreased, shootings are rare (though they still happen) and residents are starting to feel safe in their own homes.
Though the city has deployed a significant number of uniformed police officers to the area, the drop in crime has much more to do with a cultural change brought about by a group of young men who live there.
One of those residents, Courtney Hemingway, 30, sits in the project's recreation center every Thursday with at least 15 of his peers and a motley crew of career professionals, including a volunteer lawyer, a jobs mentor, a social service counselor and a motivational speaker. Dwayne Baskerville, a longtime Booker T. Washington resident, is also there.
“One thing that Courtney probably won't tell you is that he put a hit out on me,” says the 55-year-old Baskerville. “So I went to him and told him my life's story and at the end of it, I said, ‘So do you wanna do this? Or do you wanna play some basketball?'”
They ended up shooting hoops.
(Today, both guys refer to the incident as “a misunderstanding.”)
That was back in 2006. Their initial interaction inspired Hemingway to form a de facto peace treaty between rivaling groups in the Booker T. Apartments and nearby Marion Gardens houses that resulted in 104 days of no shootings.
Ever since, Baskerville has been leading a program that's unofficially replicating the Cure Violence model , which takes a public-health approach by identifying those that have personally committed violent crimes and using their influence within their community to cool tensions. His group encourages youth to shed their lives of violence and crime by holding weekly sessions to talk about frustrations (they want to be less policed) and troubles they're facing (they want careers, not just jobs). As a result, a handful have been able to hold down steady career jobs or go to school.
Cure Violence has proven successful in some of America's most economically- and socially-depressed neighborhoods, including Brooklyn's East New York neighborhood, where gun injury rates declined by 50 percent, and the South Bronx, which experienced a 63 percent reduction in shootings, according to a study by CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.
Last year, Camden, N.J., one of America's 100 most dangerous cities , adopted the model. Maalik Jackson, an outreach supervisor for the local chapter Cure4Camden, says that homicides, shootings, and stabbings have significantly decreased in the four neighborhoods they're focusing on.
Jackson recently visited Jersey City to learn why Baskerville's group is so successful.
“The thing that I noticed from the beginning was that there were a lot of similarities in what they want to do to what we're doing, but they lack the backing,” he says, referring to the fact that Cure models are typically set up through government channels and are heavily financed. “They were able to apply our model within this one area — with no funding, with no help — and [are] still achieving a high level of success.”
“Put down your guns, y'all.”
The Booker T. group empathizes with residents in Greenville. They know people from the neighborhood who have been murdered, or at least hear the stories. But they're far removed from it.
“We don't have the same kind of issues that the people up on The Hill have. Not anymore,” Hemingway says. “They're shooting at each other like crazy up there.”
Gilmore, the former gang member, has first-hand knowledge of the struggles faced by Greenville youth. Convicted of drug possession, he served a six-year-long prison stint before making his way back to his hometown in 2017 to find that many of the people he raised in the gang had been killed.
Upon his return, Gilmore began talking to kids who may have beef with others, using his connections on the street and “working the chirp,” — listening in on a gang communication network — in an effort to mitigate gun violence. His efforts are similar to the work being done at the Booker T. Apartments.
“Sometimes these kids listen, but they really only listen to people their age or those they look up to,” Gilmore says. “They're not gonna be listening to the police or their elders. So I talk with them because they know me.”
He's also involved with A Mother's Pain, a group of dogged mothers of fallen children that was started by Williams. In August 2016, her son, Leander “Nunie” Williams, was killed, shot twice in the back of the head at a school event.
Williams was devastated — but not shocked — by Nunie's death, who she says was “no angel.” He had been running around with troubled neighborhood kids and a year prior, had been expelled from school for carrying a gun, which he had bought illegally.
Williams and A Mother's Pain have been working Greenville's streets at least once a month, carrying posters plastered with the pictures of local kids who have been killed. They meet with city council members and the mayor's office in hopes of elevating their profile and highlighting their work. They lead caravans where dozens of cars block traffic and have sit-ins with gun-toting gang members.
On the one-year anniversary of Nunie's death, NationSwell participated in one of those caravans, which visited seven locations where mothers in the group had lost loved ones and Nunie's gravesite. A handful of his friends had gathered to show their respect.
“Come on, y'all,” Williams pleaded with the group of six boys. “If you really loved Nunie, you'd stop shooting. Put down your guns, y'all. Put 'em down.”
Just a week later , she'd be doing the same thing after another 19-year-old was murdered.
A Mother's Pain also counts the rebellious religious leader Dr. Rev. Herbert Daughtry among its ranks.
Daughtry, 86, has mastered the art of protesting against neighborhood violence within black communities. He's been using his experience and connections to a national network of black leaders to help the mothers in Williams's group, whom he refers to as “wounded healers.”
Growing up in Jersey City and nearby Brooklyn, N.Y., Daughtry used to run with local gangs and the mafia before he was incarcerated for armed robbery and assault — a crime that led him to becoming a fourth-generation preacher. Since then, Daughtry (dubbed “The People's Preacher”) has been successful at elevating human rights alongside Rev. Jesse Jackson and former Mayor David Dinkins . He was also Tupac Shakur's spiritual advisor , according to Jet Magazine.
The action that A Mother's Pain is taking now, Daughtry did 30 years ago in the notoriously violent neighborhoods of Brooklyn. “We're taking to the streets, kinda like how we did in the radical days. That's how we raise awareness and try to stop these kids from shooting [each other].”
Killed Over a Dice Game
But gangs and the problems within their communities have changed since the 1980s, as social media has made people excitable and even tiny issues get out of hand.
“Every other day we hear about another kid getting shot,” says Dennis Febo, an advisor at the Booker T. Apartments' weekly meetings, in reference to a two-month period this past summer when two people were killed by gunfire and another 26 people were shot. One of those shootings erupted from a dice game.
“I mean, how do you even address that?”
The problem is particularly vexing in Jersey City. Dozens of residents from The Hill point to the demolition Montgomery Gardens , a public housing project just a block away from the Booker T. Apartments that was once home to 434 families, as stirring up long-standing geographic boundaries between feuding rivals, some of whom were kicked out of their apartments and forced to relocate to areas that weren't necessarily welcoming.
“The people who lived in the Montgomery houses may have had issues with people up on The Hill,” says Pamela Johnson, executive director of the New Jersey Anti-Violence Coalition Movement . “That beef between families has been transferred down from generation to generation. Now with the displacement, they live next door to an arch enemy they had their entire life.”
Public Safety Director James Shea tells NationSwell in an email that preventing these crimes is much more than just mitigating generational rivalries and requires smarter policing practices.
“Eye-for-an-eye justice is a definite problem and the cause of many instances where one incident sparks a series of retaliatory actions,” he says. “While there are definitely long-standing differences between groups related to specific public housing locations, and that is part of the investigation strategy, it is not the sole cause.”
In January of this year, Mayor Fulop vowed to reduce gun violence by hiring more police, increasing the Jersey City force from under 800 to 922 officers in the past two years, the largest it's been in 20 years.
The city has also put into place new procedures when a shooting occurs, including swarming the area with plainclothes officers who build relationships with community members that can lead to arrests. It's believed that a larger, and more visible police force, helps deter crimes.
An overnight solution isn't possible, Fulop and Shea say, because the issues facing Jersey City are so deeply rooted. Even policing won't solve it, completely.
“Any number of shooting deaths is too many but these issues aren't issues that are unique to jersey city [sic] and the reality is they are issues that no city can only police their way to a solution on,” Fulop wrote in a Facebook post in June 2015. “Many of the issues have taken decades to get here and they won't be solved by pure police.”
Many residents and volunteer advocates praise the mayor's work, but stop short of saying the administration has helped reduce violence or shootings on their streets.
A Community, Together
A Mother's Pain has yet to see the significant drop in violence that's been achieved by the group in the Booker T. apartments. The mothers, however, do take credit for a two-week period of no shootings in Greenville — a significant moment considering residents complain about gun violence virtually every day.
Mayor Fulop says that conversations with the group have helped inform the city's newest anti-violence strategies.
As for Gilmore, he's taken kids off the street to teach them boxing in Williams's backyard.
“I do it as a way to keep them from being bored. Keep 'em busy,” he says. “I'd much rather these kids — if they're gonna beef — learn to use their fists than some guns.”
Back in August, Gilmore noticed a boy, no older than 12 years old, carrying a gun in his waistband. Gilmore demanded that he hand it over. The tween argued back, claiming that he needed it for protection from guys outside his school, waiting for him.
“From now on, I'm walking you to and from school,” Gilmore told the boy.
The situation, Gilmore acknowledges, is complicated for black communities, where more policing might reduce crime but increases distrust among the community it serves.
He is confident, though, that one thing will work: Getting the entire community to come together to take a stand for a better quality of life.
Shooter among dead in New Mexico school shooting
by Megan Petersen and Hannah Grover
AZTEC, N.M. — Two New Mexico high school students were fatally shot Thursday by a gunman who later died at the scene, authorities said.
Senior Casey Jordan and junior Paco Fernandez were identified by their families as victims in the attack, killed in a classroom in what had started as a routine school day.
The gunman remained unidentified by authorities in the chaotic hours after the shooting.
In Makenzie Rezac's first-period world-history class, shortly after 8 a.m. MT, students heard they were on lockdown, she said. They stayed in their seats, assuming it was a drill.
When they heard an announcement that it was serious and that doors should be locked, students scrambled to a corner and hid, staying silent.
They heard gunshots far away, then getting closer.
"I've never heard gunshots before in person," Rezac said. "We all thought maybe someone was going around banging on lockers, trying to scare us, or moving furniture."
Soon, the sounds were right outside the door.
"When it came closer, I was like, 'Oh God, what's going to happen? Is someone going to break in or shoot through the walls?' I was terrified. I was crying," she said. "I didn't have my phone with me and the only thing I wanted to do is text my mom and tell her, 'Things are going on and if something happens, I love you.'"
Officials throughout the day worked to dispel rumors about the attacks but released little confirmed information by early Thursday evening.
At a 3 p.m. news conference, officials had still not publicly identified the shooter or victims of the tragedy. Despite an earlier assertion that all families have been notified, officials on Thursday afternoon said that was not the case.
They also refuted rumors that "dozens" of students were injured in the attack. No other individuals were harmed, according to New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas,
They confirmed that the shooter was male, but did not disclose whether the suspect was killed by his own hand or taken down by another. They also would not confirm whether the shooter was a student at the school, despite earlier reports that he was.
The slayings happened shortly after the beginning of school, after 8 a.m.
Acts of bravery
Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal said two officers responded to and entered the school within a minute of the first reports, and before the school was locked down.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said there were several acts of bravery and heroism on behalf of school staff, students and first responders.
Their actions, she said, “were amazing (and) that actually saved lives."
Martinez said the New Mexico Public Education department will make $120,000 in emergency funding available immediately to Aztec School District in the aftermath of the shooting.
“Healing and peace will take time; it just will,” Martinez said. “It will take time, but this is a small community where everyone knows everyone else, and we've got to lift those who need to be lifted. ... I want the people of Aztec to know that New Mexicans stand with you.”
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation into the shooting in partnership with Aztec Police Department, New Mexico State Police and the FBI.
All Aztec schools will be closed Friday as investigations continue, according to Aztec Schools Superintendent Kirk Carpenter.
Christensen said investigators will release more information on Friday. Social workers and counselors will be available to local students and families in need.
Christensen noted the importance of relying on official reports for information about the shooting and ongoing investigation, as rumors and gossip have spread misinformation in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Officials condemned the shooting, with Martinez calling the shooting “heinous and horrific.”
“I was hoping in 28 years that I'd never have to do this, but unfortunately we're here today,” Christensen said.
Carpenter called the shooting "a tragedy ... (that) hits you in the heart.”
“You hope that nothing ever happens at a school," Carpenter said, shaking his head and fighting back emotion. "But when it does it's reaction, and our staff, even substitutes, reacted in a way that honestly saved a lot of lives."
“We lost lives," Carpenter continued. "But to see the way people came together... the response from law enforcement and this community is amazing."
A frantic search for answers
Shortly after the shootings, students and staff were cleared from the campus as police searched the school room by room. School buses transported students to McGee Park in Farmington.
The FBI also arrived on scene.
The shooting stunned the community and left parents racing for answers about their children.
Lacy Cross waited anxiously by the school for news about her daughter. The last she had heard was a text message from her daughter telling her, “I love you,” and that they could hear the shooter approaching.
As parents and their children initially gathered at Aztec City Hall, authorities detailed little about what had happened. They did, however, quell rumors about other shooters in different locations.
Current told the crowd that the gunman had been identified and “is no longer with us.”
Many families at city hall had heard from their students, but communications were sporadic for some.
Mary Tom said she first heard about the shooting from her son, who is a freshman at the school.
“I guess it was all over Snapchat,” Tom said.
Tom said she came to city hall after a family member who lives near the school told her that many emergency response vehicles were heading to the school. Tom said around 10 a.m. that her son had not yet responded to her text messages or calls.
“I haven't heard from him” since he sent the Snapchat, Tom said. “I tried calling him, texting him but he's not responding back. ... I still don't know if my son's OK or not, but I hope he is,” Tom said.
Dean Jones, who was at city hall with his family to find information about his nephew, an AHS freshman, said the morning was “very traumatic.”
“He is safe, but there's a lot of confusion. Nobody knows anything else,” Jones said. “Nobody thinks this stuff is going to happen in a small town, especially our little small town. We grew up here. We know everybody in town, seems like. ... Nobody in this town expects anything like this to happen.”
Latanya Johnson, who was at city hall on Thursday morning waiting for instructions on where to pick up her younger sister, who is a freshman at the school, shared Dean's disbelief.
“I didn't think this would actually ever happen. It's too close to home. It's too surreal,” Johnson said.
Johnson also emphasized the importance of the community coming together in the aftermath of the shooting.
“What's really powerful is that we pray together as a community. ... We came (to city hall) as a community and as a family. We're all a big family here,” Johnson said.
As authorities tried to establish control of the situation, New Mexico officials began offering their condolences.
“Our hearts break for the victims and their families. We pray for the survivors, and are grateful to the brave first responders for their heroic actions on the scene,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas in a statement. “We have offered Office of the Attorney General resources to support the victims, the Four Corners community, and first responders during this horrific tragedy.”
Current said the children were bused to Farmington, and asked parents to pick up students at other schools before meeting those students.
Schools in Farmington and Bloomfield also placed their schools in lockdown Thursday morning as precautionary measures.
The Central Consolidated School District placed all schools and district buildings in Kirtland and Shiprock in lockdown, according to a post on Facebook from the district.
Thursday's deadly shooting appears to be the most serious incident in New Mexico schools in years, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which tracks shootings nationally.
In January 2014, a seventh-grader severely wounded two students at the gym at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell.
That shooter, Mason Campbell, who is now 17, was sentenced to the custody of the Children, Youth and Family Department up to his 21st birthday. His parents recently sued state officials, saying their son has suffered poor physical and mental health in their care.
Aztec has fewer than 6,000 residents and is about a half-hour from the Navajo Nation.
New Mexico high school shooter was investigated by FBI in 2016
by Eric Levenson and Laura Diaz-Zuniga
The 21-year-old man who shot and killed two students at Aztec High School in New Mexico on Thursday had previously been investigated by the FBI for online comments about planning a mass shooting.
San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen on Friday identified the gunman as William Atchison. Christesen said at a news conference that the shooting was a "planned event" and that Atchison purchased a 9mm Glock last month, which he used in the shooting.
Atchison was a former student at the high school, but he didn't graduate, according to the FBI.
Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco Fernandez, both 17, were killed in the shooting. Atchison died of what police believe to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said. There were no other injuries.
FBI agent Terry Wade said the FBI had contacted Atchison in March 2016 after he made notable comments on an online gaming forum.
Wade did not specify what Atchison wrote, but said it was something along the lines of: "If you're going to commit a mass shooting, does anyone know about cheap assault rifles?"
Wade said the FBI interviewed Atchison and his family but it closed the case because the man did not have a gun and did not commit a crime.
Aztec is a city of about 6,000 people in northwest New Mexico, according to the US Census Bureau , and is about a three-hour drive from Albuquerque. The high school remained closed Friday, and investigators were treating it as a crime scene and were still trying to assess all the bullet holes. The high school has approximately 900 students.
How the shooting unfolded
Kassetas said Atchison entered Aztec High School at 8:04 a.m. on Thursday disguised as a student. He had a backpack with him in which he had his gun and multiple magazines, ammunition storage and feeding devices.
Atchison went to a second-floor bathroom, where he was "preparing to confront students." Classes were in session at the time. Kassetas said Francisco Fernandez entered the bathroom where Atchison was gearing up. The police chief said Atchison immediately fired his gun, fatally wounding the teen.
Atchison then walked out to the hallway and encountered Casey Jordan Marquez, and he "immediately shot her dead," Kassetas said.
The shooting could have been even deadlier if not for substitute teacher Kathleen Potter, who was with her students inside a computer lab, officials said. Christesen said Potter did not have the keys to lock the classroom because she is a substitute teacher, so she barricaded her students in the back of the classroom with a couch.
Kassetas said Atchison entered that room and knew there were students in the back. He fired multiple rounds to the wall, but did not hit anyone.
The suspect exited the computer lab into the hallway, at which point police believe he took his own life, Kassetas said.
Christesen praised Thomas Hill, the high school custodian. Hill heard the shots and followed Atchison, screaming at him and at teachers that there was an active shooter on site.
Christesen said law enforcement found a thumb drive on Atchison's body that contained several documents that appeared to reference the shooting. A message was written less than two hours before the incident.
"If things go according to plan, today would be when I die. I waited till the school buses are detected then head out on foot disguised as a student. I go somewhere and gear up, then hold a class hostage, then go ape****, then blow my brains out."
Kassetas said Aztec police shot out a window to gain access to the school. He said he believes that occurred just before Atchison took his own life.
'Parent's biggest nightmare'
Garrett Parker, a sophomore at Aztec High School, told CNN he was in a classroom when he and other students heard what they thought was someone punching lockers. As the noise got louder, they realized it was gunshots.
The students all had to hide until they were told by officials to walk out of the room toward the parking lot, he said.
"I just can't believe this happened in our community," said Garrett's mother, Sabrina Montoya. "This is all a horrible feeling. I'm glad my kids are safe and with us but I am devastated for my community and for the families who didn't get the chance to take their kids home."
Gov. Susana Martinez said there were several acts of bravery from staff, teachers, students and police that saved lives and prevented the incident from becoming deadlier.
"All New Mexicans are with Aztec today," she said.
US Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, said he was distraught to learn of the shooting and called for action to address the "epidemic of gun violence" in America.
"This is a parent's biggest nightmare. Every child deserves to be safe at school," he said.
Why cops need to get out of their cars: Strategies for community engagement
If you can't name and recognize your city council members and community religious leaders, you may have a problem lying in wait
by Nancy Perry
Can you name and recognize your city council members and community religious leaders? Are you meeting members of your community for the first time before or after a major event?
Depending on how you answered these questions you may have a problem lying in wait according to risk management expert and Lexipol co-founder Gordon Graham, who recently hosted a webinar on how to make community/police engagement a reality.
“When we don't know who is in our community, that is a problem lying in wait,” said Graham, who, during his 33-year career as a CHP officer and attorney, made sure he had contact with important community members.
“As a lawyer, I handle tragedies after they occur, but what can we do in front? If you don't know the community you protect and serve, you don't know key contacts and leaders,” said Graham.
While media reports often depict the police and public as pitted against one another, with a chasm of distrust separating them, many law enforcement agencies are achieving significant successes in community/police engagement, said Graham.
One of Graham's guests on the webinar was Chief Robert Jonsen of the Menlo Park Police Department in California, whose agency received the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Cisco Systems Community Policing Award in 2016, which recognizes outstanding community policing initiatives by law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Chief Jonsen, who began his career in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 1986, took over the reins at the Menlo Park Police Department in 2013 after working in several agencies in southern California.
“I came from Los Angeles where resources were unlimited, from an organization with 18,000 employees to one with 70 employees. While we are a small community of 32,000 residents, the town – which is home to Facebook – is both culturally and economically diverse.”
Jonsen notes that when he first arrived in Menlo one of the most pressing problems he had to tackle was gang-related violence in the Belle Haven neighborhood, which had been an issue for many years. While the level of gang violence was not what he had seen in Los Angeles, it was notable in this small town.
“The neighborhood was experiencing 10-12 gang-related shootings a year, which was really significant for the location. One of the first things I had to address was to reduce the fear in the community, but my challenge was that I knew nobody, so I put together a Community Advisory Group to build partnerships with residents, key community leaders and other law enforcement agencies.”
Jonsen used the social media platform Nextdoor – which was relatively new at the time – to assist in pulling together the advisory group. As the Nextdoor app maps out your city into distinct neighborhoods, Jonsen could select a representative from each particular district to ensure all residents were represented.
“The advisory group started meeting once a month, during which time we identified the primary concerns for the 21 neighborhoods that make up Menlo Park. It was a very effective way for us to develop and coordinate plans to help the neighborhoods,” said Jonsen.
At the same time that Jonsen started as chief, the City of Menlo Park had implemented the Belle Haven visioning process to develop a strategic plan for the neighborhood and create the groundwork for future community capacity building. The Menlo Park Police Department then began an extensive community engagement process to coincide with the visioning process.
Top concerns and issues identified were gangs, violence and the lack of a cohesive program for involving the community in the public safety strategy. The outcome of the Belle Haven analysis regarding crime in that neighborhood was relatively shocking, said Jonsen.
“We found that the vast majority of the gang shootings were connected in one capacity or another with just three distinct properties, where the residents were victims or were connected to the suspects. The landlords were out of state, so they were oblivious to what was going on. We assigned personnel to those properties to work with the landlords and tenants and, by the end of 2013, we had resolved a lot of incidents. We have not had a gang-related shooting in the city since November 2013,” said Jonsen.
In addition to resolving the housing issue, several other key developments occurred:
A new highly visible and accessible substation, funded by a private/public partnership with Facebook , was built in the neighborhood;
The police department installed surveillance cameras , which were endorsed by the Community Advisory Group;
License plate readers were implemented, also approved by the Community Advisory Group.
“While it is nearly impossible to say what contributed to the reduction of crime in that neighborhood – some proactive enforcement, some deterrents – what we found was that by reducing fear, our partnership with the community expanded tremendously, and folks worked much better with us as far as addressing issues and becoming involved in their neighborhoods,” said Jonsen.
“The role of the Community Advisory Group role has expanded dramatically since then to where they vet almost every decision we make in regard to what we roll out into the community. We even had them review our body-worn camera policy and provide input and recommendations. We were the first agency within our region to have every police officer, detective and code enforcement officer wear BWCs .”
The results are compelling:
A 47% decrease in crime in Belle Haven;
No gang-related shootings for the first time in more than a decade;
Marked increase in community member involvement.
“A lot of funding has been through partnership with businesses, specifically Facebook, who was very much involved in the building and design of our new substation, as well as funding a school resource officer for us and contributing $12 million to fund six additional police officers,” said Jonsen.
“While I recognize that not every community has an organization like Facebook, agencies can look at developing private/public partnerships in their jurisdictions. I want to let smaller agencies know that you can do a lot even with limited resources. It is the partnership with the community that really makes the difference."
The webinar – How to Make Police/Community Engagement a Reality: Approaches from 3 Agencies – is now available for on-demand viewing. Sample community relations policies can also be downloaded.
As violence mounts, trust in Baltimore police wavers
by Doug Donovan
S taggered by a succession of crises — civil rights violations, corruption convictions and the unsolved killing of a homicide detective — the Baltimore Police Department is closing out its dismal year with a depleted force struggling to contain soaring violent crime while also trying to restore wavering public trust.
While the department flails, city, state and federal officials appear to be operating from competing playbooks — a lack of coordination that law enforcement professionals warn could deepen distrust.
When Gov. Larry Hogan came to Baltimore Tuesday to announce a crime-fighting plan for the city, Baltimore officials stayed away. Mayor Catherine Pugh thanked Hogan, but said the plan offered nothing new.
Also Wednesday, a fifth officer from the formerly elite gun trace task force pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges for his role in a scheme to shake down criminal suspects and innocent citizens. Homicide Det. Sean Suiter had been set to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the task force when he was shot in the head last month.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is still waiting to hear whether the FBI will take over the investigation into Suiter's death. In a letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Davis said he was “growing increasingly uncomfortable that my homicide detectives do not know all of the facts known to the FBI or [U.S. Attorney's Office] that could, if revealed to us, assist us in furthering this murder investigation.”
Edward Jackson is a former city police colonel who serves on the civilian advisory panel appointed by Pugh to assist with the federally mandated reform of the department.
“The community has zero faith in the police department today,” Jackson said. “The Baltimore Police Department is in crisis.”
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the nation's second highest-ranking law enforcement official, and former Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, who presided over a drop in crime in the city from 2007 to 2012, implored city, state and federal law enforcement agencies to return to the coordination that they say worked.
Both also said that political and community leaders must be more vocal in their support of the majority of police officers who risk their lives daily to protect the city without engaging in misconduct or corruption. They said such support needs to overtake the narrative of those police protesters who have sought to tarnish all officers as distrustful based on the criminal and unconstitutional activities of a few.
Rosenstein was U.S. Attorney for Maryland for 12 years before becoming deputy attorney general in April. While in Baltimore, he worked closely with Bealefeld, city prosecutors and state probation and parole officials.
He said criminals have been emboldened by a police department that has become more like an ambulance service than an investigative agency.
“Reactive policing is when the police are the ambulance,” Rosenstein said. “You don't want them sitting in their cars waiting for 911 calls.
Bealefeld said the lack of coordination among agencies has led to a worst-case scenario for police: They feel as unsafe and distrustful as residents.
“It's one thing to be politically vulnerable, but now they feel physically vulnerable,” he said. “When cops feel physically vulnerable, that's really bad.”
Leonard Hamm, commissioner before Bealefeld, said the vulnerability runs even deeper.
“Someone said to me that the streets are much more dangerous than back in the day,” said Hamm, public safety director for the Coppin State University police. “No they're not. The difference is I could trust my side partners. They can't trust their side partners anymore.”
He said the criticism, corruption and Suiter's homicide are all inflicting a heavy toll on police.
“Those guys in homicide are hurting,” Hamm said. “When I went to [Suiter's] funeral, when I was looking at them — emotionally, physically they were useless. They look just terrible.”
A defeated mentality will only fuel brazen criminal conduct, he said, further eroding public trust.
“We cannot be afraid,” Hamm said. “We cannot allow the criminal element to tell us we're not going to do our job. We have to create an atmosphere where [community members] feel comfortable enough to work with us again.”
Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said the relationship with the community is “strained” just as officers need its help the most.
“We need the support of the community, the elected officials, the clergy and the administration,” Ryan said. “Officers don't feel like they're getting support from any of that.”
Davis said he is committed to restoring community trust, but added that most residents already support police. Enacting more effective strategies is difficult with a force that has endured mass resignations since the 2015 rioting.
He disagreed with Rosenstein's assertion that officers are being purely reactive. Suiter was shot pursuing a suspect, he said. Hours after the detective's funeral, another officer was shot in the hand chasing a suspect.
The problem, Davis said, is staffing.
“I have 500 fewer police officers in 2017 then we had in Baltimore in 2012,” he said.
U.S. Justice Department investigators last year reported that widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory policing in Baltimore had “exacerbated community distrust of the police, particularly in the African-American community.”
Davis said the police department is working through the reforms required under the court-enforced consent decree with the Justice Department.
“It takes time to build legitimacy,” he said. “Right now, it's a tough time. We have cops sitting in prison waiting to be sentenced for committing crimes while on duty. It doesn't get worse than that.”
Davis said the criminal prosecutions of officers, the civil rights reform and more civilian oversight should help to build trust.
“We are the good guys,” he said.
J. Howard Henderson, CEO of the Greater Baltimore Urban League, supports Davis' efforts. He said the community must rally behind the police — as long as the department does not resort to the zero-tolerance era of mass arrests under former mayor Martin O'Malley.
“There is lack of cooperation,” Henderson said. “People want to have police in their neighborhoods. They're not against community policing. But they want to be treated with respect, like they're human.”
He called the failure of prosectors to win criminal convictions against any of the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray “a major letdown.”
Gray died in April 2015 after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police van. On the day he was buried, the city erupted in riots, looting and arson.
Sadly, Henderson said, a cynical rhetorical question has been circulating in city neighborhoods: “Who killed Freddie Gray? He killed himself.”
Now the same refrain is being applied to Suiter's death.
“Who killed Detective Suiter? He killed himself,” Henderson said.
Suiter, 43, was shot in the head with his own gun on Nov. 15 and died the next day. Davis has said investigators have not ruled out the possibility of suicide, but stressed that there was no evidence that led them to believe he took his own life.
Henderson said distrust in police must be high if people are connecting Suiter's death to the gun trace task force corruption scandal.
“The trust is not where it should be,” he said.
Rosenstein said the city is at a point where the community has no choice but to trust that most police are not corrupt — something he reiterated every time he indicted Baltimore officers. For now, he said, city officers appear to have pulled back from actively pursuing suspects in a city where so many killings are retaliatory — and could be prevented through aggressive intervention between warring factions.
The nearly 990 homicides over the past three years are rivaled only by the 1,009 people killed during the height of the “crack-cocaine wars” of 1992 through 1994, he said. With 100,000 fewer residents, the current three-year crime rate is the worst in city history.
Police are less likely to be proactive in confronting repeat violent offenders if they fear that their actions will generate complaints that politicians will believe without investigating.
“You can't do good policing in high-crime jurisdictions without generating complaints,” Rosenstein said. “The question is, are they legitimate complaints or not? If not, it's important for police to know they have the support of the political leadership.”
Neighborhood leaders worry that tough talk on crime could signal a return to the zero-tolerance tactics that foster distrust.
Mass arrests “made it impossible for the people to trust the police,” said Lawrence Grandpre, research director for the activist group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. And an aggressive approach has led some officers into corrupt practices, he said.
Rosenstein said “proactive” policing is not “zero tolerance.” Instead, he said, he's talking about the targeted crime-fighting policies in place under Bealefeld. Arrests and crime declined together thanks to local, state and federal agencies working closely with communities and each other to target the most violent, repeat offenders. Under Bealefeld, the city's violent crime rate hit some of the lowest levels in decades.
“The first thing you need to do is to have everyone who is in a position to help be on the same page to reduce crime,” Rosenstein said. He declined to comment on whether the FBI would or should take over the Suiter investigation.
Matthew Gallagher was a top aide to O'Malley as both mayor and governor.
“There is so much interdependence in the work” of public safety agencies, he said. “This is particularly true in the effective management of the most high-risk cases — or, as former city police Commissioner Bealefeld would often say, ‘bad guys with guns.'”
Approximately one third of homicide and nonfatal shooting suspects and victims are under some form of state supervision such as parole or probation, he said.
“Intensively monitoring and proactively managing this population is absolutely critical to reducing violent crime,” Gallagher said. “This requires constant communication and information-sharing to coordinate and prioritize efforts.”
It appears to Bealefeld, Rosenstein and others that the coordination is not where it needs to be.
It's not all woven together like it was,” Bealefeld said. “They need to focus on how, as a collective, they can move forward.
“I fear that politics gets in the way of that and personalities get in the way of that.”
Hogan, in Baltimore on Tuesday, spoke of reinstating policies and practices that were once standard procedure. He would once again get parole and probation officers involved in tracking down offenders. He would also deploy state police in the city.
“It's a problem that has to be solved by city leadership with support from the state and federal government,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said. “And that's what we're trying to maximize.”
Pugh said Davis has built strong ties with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other federal agencies.
She said she is grateful Hogan publicly supported better coordination between the state and city. The Democratic mayor said she hopes the Republican governor's commitment and her efforts will streamline communication.
“When you hear it from the governor, that steps up the pace a little bit more,” Pugh said.
O'Malley on Friday criticized Hogan's plan. In a tweet, he repeated Pugh's assertion that the governor offered nothing new.
“Hogan — totally inept,” the Democratic former governor tweeted. “And people are dying.”
Mayer said O'Malley's “policy of mass incarceration ruined countless lives and directly led to the mistrust between the community and law enforcement.”
Donald C. Fry , CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said the business community “wants city and state politicians to remain hyper-focused” on fighting crime and avoid political bickering.
“Providing for the safety of its citizens transcends political parties or philosophies,” Fry said. “Teamwork is the key.”
Real estate agents who live in the city and sell properties across Baltimore are “absolutely concerned,” said Ross Mackesey, former president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
“Probably most concerning is that the crime has infiltrated the gentrified communities more so than in the past,” Mackesey said.
Bealefeld said all officials need to be selfless in working toward the shared goal of reducing crime.
“In light of the current crisis people are watching Commissioner Davis and the police department squirm,” Bealefeld said. “They need help. As the police department goes, so goes the crime fight. They're it. And they can't just be it by themselves.”
“Coordination certainly exists,” he said. “But it can always get better.”
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said “there is always room for more collaboration.”
“We are committed to working with all stakeholders to increase public safety,” she said in a statement.
When Pugh took office in December 2016, Davis said, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice was “dysfunctional, at best.” He praised Pugh's appointment of former police department chief of staff Drew Vetter to coordinate crime-fighting efforts among city agencies.
Grandpre, of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, said “we have to fundamentally rethink how we handle crime,” regardless of how many homicides occur.
“The question is, even in Baltimore's best year, are you happy with your half a billion dollar investment in the police department?” he said. “If not, let's take 10 percent of that budget and put it into preventative programs.
“We don't know what the crime looks like” when such programming gets that level of investment, he said. “And that should haunt everyone who is making policy on policing in this state.”
Raymond Kelly, leader of the No Boundaries Coalition of neighborhood groups, said he witnessed the citizen cooperation with city police that led to record low crime prior to 2015.
“There was a lot of collaboration with the police,” he said. “All of that stopped after the riots.
“There is no trust with the department now.”
Kelly said crime has spiked because hundreds of officers have retired and not been replaced just as the opioid crisis has hit.
The city needs more officers engaging with neighborhoods to identify repeat offenders, he said, not simply arresting more people.
“It's not one or the other,” he added. “You can't arrest your way out of this.”
The department has a challenging task of rebuilding what union leader Ryan said is “all-time low morale” among officers and restoring community trust while fighting violent criminals.
“I don't ever remember during my lifetime the Baltimore Police Department being this dysfunctional,” said Jackson, the former officer. “That all leads to the belief that the corruption and misconduct is widespread.”
Police officers should be commended for continuing to show up under such conditions, he said.
“We've had horrible periods,” Jackson said. “But not like this. It's as a low as it's ever been.”
NH becomes first state to opt out of broadband public safety network
The state will reject FirstNet, which was created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
by Holly Ramer
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire on Thursday became the first state to say it will reject FirstNet, the nationwide public safety communications system that's been approved in two-thirds of the rest of the country.
The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when some police and fire departments couldn't communicate with each other over incompatible radio systems.
Each state and U.S. territory must decide by Dec. 28 whether to opt in to the broadband network dedicated to public safety being built by AT&T or come up with its own system that would work with FirstNet. Thirty-three states and two territories have opted in so far, including eight that had explored alternative options.
New Hampshire will use another company, Rivada Networks. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu made the announcement at a state police barracks, where he was joined by law enforcement officials including the state attorney general and safety commissioner.
"Rivada has proposed a plan that has the potential to provide immense value to our state, including unparalleled public safety infrastructure investments that will lead to unmatched and near universal coverage for the new public safety network," he said. "If we successfully navigate the opt-out path, New Hampshire will retain a level of control that it would not have enjoyed in an opt-in scenario."
States that use AT&T agree to let it build the network within their states at no cost. Those that opt out get federal grants for construction. Among the states that haven't announced decisions, about a dozen are exploring alternatives to FirstNet, according to the International Wireless Communications Expo.
A committee that studied the issue for two years in New Hampshire voted unanimously in October to recommend opting out, while a group representing businesses in the state urged Sununu to opt in, noting that the state could face hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties if the Rivada system fails.
"This seems unnecessarily risky and could backfire leaving New Hampshire taxpayers on the hook," Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. "We do not believe there is a justifiable reason for taking on such risk with an unproven company when the other choice, opting into the program, is available."
Rivada had sought the federal contract but was eliminated from consideration over concerns that its plan was too risky. A company spokesman said officials ignored the consortium it put together for its bid, and that Rivada's plan offered better coverage and lower subscription fees for first responders.
"We could have made our bid 'less risky' by charging first responders more, by offering less coverage or by shortchanging the network investment, but those did not seem like good tradeoffs for public safety or the network. Unfortunately, the evaluation board saw it differently," said Brian Carney.
An AT&T official, Chris Sambar, said states that have signed on to FirstNet have made the best decision.
"Today, Gov. Sununu has expressed his decision to go down a path not chosen by any of the 35 states and territories before him. We remain hopeful New Hampshire will continue to assess the substantial risks associated with an opt-out proposal of an unproven vendor," he said.
A spokeswoman for FirstNet said it supports New Hampshire's right to choose and will continue to work with state officials.
Teen to earn Eagle Scout badge by building first responder statues
Tyler Richards is working on a project to have three bronze statutes put up in honor of firefighters, EMS providers and police officers
by PoliceOne Staff
RALSTON, Neb. — A teen is hoping to earn his Eagle Scout badge by honoring first responders with three statues.
Omaha World-Herald reported that sophomore Tyler Richards is spearheading a project to have three bronze statues placed at Koch Park, including one of an EMS provider, a firefighter and a police officer.
“I want to recognize those people for all the hard work they've done and I want people to appreciate them,” Richards said. “I don't feel like they get a lot of recognition.”
Richards said they began laying groundwork in August, and he's looking forward to beginning the fundraising phase of the project.
To raise money, Richards will sell bricks that will be engraved with the names of first responders, as well as Support Blue flags, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
“I'm going to enlist the help of other Boy Scouts to help and I know there are plenty of Ralston High students that need to complete volunteer hours,” Richards said. “The planning is long, but I feel like the end result will be worth it.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Nielsen Announces the Establishment of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office
WASHINGTON –Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen today announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office . The CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.
The office consolidates key DHS functions and will lead the Department's efforts to counter WMD threats. It will also allow for greater policy coordination and strategic planning, as well as provide greater visibility for this critically important mission.
“The United States faces rising danger from terrorist groups and rogue nation states who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans,” said Secretary Nielsen. “That's why DHS is moving towards a more integrated approach, bringing together intelligence, operations, interagency engagement, and international action. As terrorism evolves, we must stay ahead of the enemy and the establishment of this office is an important part of our efforts to do so.”
The United States faces a rising danger from threat actors who could use chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents to harm Americans or U.S. interests. Intelligence analysis shows terrorist groups are actively pursuing WMD capabilities, are using battlefield environments to test them, and may be working to incorporate these methods into external operations in ways we have not seen previously. Certain weapons of mass destruction, once viewed as out-of-reach for all but nation states, are now closer to being attained by non-state actors. A terrorist attack using such a weapon against the United States would have a profound and potentially catastrophic impact on our nation and the world.
The CWMD Office will be led by Mr. James McDonnell , who was appointed by President Trump in June 2017 to serve as the Director of the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO).
Next week, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke will deliver remarks regarding the CWMD Office at The Hudson Institute. More information can be found here .
ICE arrests 27 in western Michigan operation targetting criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration violators
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Mexican national in the country illegally, who has a prior conviction for assault on a law officer, is among 27 foreign nationals taken into custody during a four-day operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this week in western Michigan, targeting at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and other immigration violators.
Of those arrested during the operation, which was spearheaded by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), 21, or more than 80 percent, had prior criminal convictions in addition to their immigration violations.
The Michigan enforcement effort comes days after the agency announced a 40 percent spike in administrative arrests nationwide over last year – 92 percent of which had a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge, were an ICE fugitive, or were an illegal re-entrant.
Criminal convictions of those arrested during the Michigan enforcement actions included, but are not limited to assault on a police officer or probation officer, larceny, assault and battery DUI, operating while intoxicated, domestic violence, disorderly person, failure to stop at the scene of an accident, public indecency, indecent exposure, retail fraud and welfare fraud.
Among those arrested were:
A 31-year-old Mexican male with convictions for assault and battery, domestic violence, and indecent exposure. He will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of removal proceedings.
A 23-year-old Mexican male with convictions for assault on a police officer or probation officer, 3rd degree, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident. He will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of removal proceedings.
The just concluded operation targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and individuals who have violated our nation's immigration laws, including individuals who re-entered the country after being removed, other immigration violators, and immigration fugitives ordered deported by federal immigration judges.
“Operations like this one demonstrate ICE's continued focus on the arrest of dangerous criminal aliens as well as those who enter the United States illegally,” said Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ERO in Detroit. “I applaud the dedicated men and women of ICE who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe.”
Five of the individuals arrested during this week's enforcement action could face federal prosecution for re-entry after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Those not being criminally prosecuted will be processed for removal from the country. Individuals who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country.
The arrestees (25 men and two women) included nationals from five countries, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
ICE deportation officers conduct targeted enforcement operations every day in locations around the country as part of the agency's ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.
During targeted enforcement operations, ICE officers frequently encounter additional suspects who may be in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. Those persons will be evaluated on a case by case basis and, when appropriate, arrested by ICE.
ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. However, as ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.
ICE arrests 22 in northern Kentucky during an operation targeting criminal aliens and immigration fugitives
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Federal officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) this week arrested 22 criminal aliens and immigration violators throughout northern Kentucky during a two-day enforcement action.
During this operation which ended Dec. 7, ERO deportation officers made arrests in the following Kentucky cities: Covington (9), Erlanger (1), Florence (6), Newport (4) and Walton (2). Of those arrested, 20 are men; two are women.
Most of the aliens targeted by ERO deportation officers during this operation had prior criminal histories that included convictions for the following crimes: assaulting a police officer, child neglect, forgery, fraud and driving under the influence (DUI); four were known fugitive immigration violators, and six were arrested for illegally re-entering the United States after having been deported, which is a felony.
Aliens arrested during this operation are from Guatemala (16) Mexico (5) and Zimbabwe (1).
Following are criminal summaries of the three worst offenders arrested during this Kentucky operation:
A 35-year-old Mexican man was arrested Dec. 7 in Florence. He was previously convicted of two felonies, one for assaulting a police officer, and the other for fleeing and evading police. Since he has been previously deported and illegally re-entered the United States, he faces prosecution for re-entering the U.S. after deportation.
A 35-year-old Guatemalan man was arrested Dec. 6 in Covington. He has multiple DUI convictions and was previously deported and illegally re-entered the United States. On Sept. 2, 2017, four hours after being arrested, Campbell County (Kentucky) Detention Center failed to honor an ICE detainer and released him back into the community. He faces prosecution for re-entering the U.S. after deportation.
A 39-year-old Guatemalan man was arrested Dec. 6 in Covington. He was previously convicted in Florida for felony fraud-impersonation. He also has numerous DUI convictions along with two other misdemeanor convictions.
Also on Dec. 6, a 25-year-old Mexican man was arrested in Florence. He was previously convicted of felony possession of forged documents. He had been issued an administrative deportation order and remains in ICE custody pending his removal from the United States.
Depending on an alien's criminality, an alien who re-enters the United States after having been previously deported commits a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, if convicted.
“This operation focused on targeting immigration fugitives and criminal aliens in three Kentucky counties, but we routinely conduct operations daily,” said Ricardo Wong, field office director of ERO Chicago. “By removing criminal aliens from the streets, our ICE officers help improve public safety in these communities.”
All of the targets in this operation were amenable to arrest and removal under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
ICE deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement operations daily nationwide as part of the agency's ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.
These operations involve existing and established Fugitive Operations Teams .
During the targeted enforcement operations, ICE officers frequently encounter other aliens illegally present in the United States. These aliens are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and, when appropriate, they are arrested by ICE officers.
From the FBI
10 Years of Digital Billboards
Partnership Brings Safety Messages Directly to the Public
When alleged Florida gang member Demeko Wells was wanted for credit card fraud and identify theft earlier this year, he noticed his own photo on a digital billboard alert in the Tampa area, and he knew his days of freedom were numbered.
The next day, Wells turned himself into police and pleaded guilty to several charges. In October, he was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.
This is just one of many examples of the FBI working with the outdoor advertising industry to place timely, critical information directly in the public's view on electronic roadside billboards. These messages can be produced and posted quickly after a crime occurs or a person goes missing, and they can be targeted to specific geographic areas.
While some billboard alerts focus on wanted criminals, including the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, many also cover important safety reminders, often tailored to the local area. Public safety messages on billboards remind the public to call the FBI with information on issues such as Internet crime, laser strikes, border corruption, human trafficking, and identity theft.
Electronic billboards are also a key tool in getting information from the public in a crisis when investigative speed is critical. In the immediate aftermath of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting on October 1, the FBI posted a seeking information message on billboards around Las Vegas and received more than 4,000 tips from the public.
Created in December 2007, the National Digital Billboard Initiative has directly led to 57 fugitive captures and has assisted with numerous other investigations. The FBI can place information on up to 7,300 billboards in 46 states. Additionally, in some cities, the messages can be broadcast via digital message boards in bus shelters or digital newsstands.
“Our digital billboard program gets results and helps us keep the public safe,” said FBI Office of Public Affairs Unit Chief Christopher Allen, whose office manages the program. “Our private sector partners in the outdoor advertising industry help us target critical messages to the public in a timely fashion. These billboards have helped us solve complex crimes, arrest dangerous fugitives, and raise awareness on threats ranging from sex trafficking to border corruption.”
Outdoor advertising companies donate available space, as a public service, and the FBI's messages rotate in and out along with paid advertising. The FBI messages are visible for approximately 10 seconds.
“Posters empowering the public to help law enforcement pre-date Jesse James,” said Nancy Fletcher, president and CEO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). “As media changed, the FBI has kept pace by using digital billboards and other modern media to communicate with a mobile public on behalf of safety.”