Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio,
for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
Why 2018 could be an especially deadly year for cops
by Emily Shapiro
When Palm Springs police Officer Jose "Gil" Vega, a married father of eight, was gunned down with his partner while they responded to a domestic disturbance call, the 35-year veteran was two months away from his retirement.
Days after the double killing, Vega's soft-spoken daughter, Vanessa, 8, addressed a sea of uniformed officers and other mourners gathered at a vigil for her father, 63, and his fellow slain officer, Lesley Zerebny, 27. Zerebny had just returned to duty after giving birth four months earlier.
Vanessa told the crowd it wasn't her father's turn to die, but added, "He will be watching us -- he won't ever leave."
"He was happy with his life," Vanessa said, adding, "He's in peace now."
Vega and Zerebny were two of 159 on-duty officers killed in the country in 2016, according to statistics kept by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
A troubling increase
While officers die in traffic-related incidents more than any other situation, this year, the deaths of officers by guns has climbed to a "troubling" number.
From Jan. 1 to March 30, 2017, 10 on-duty officers were shot dead. From Jan. 1 to March 30 of this year, 20 on-duty officers were shot dead.
"I do worry about these firearm-related deaths," Steve Groeninger, senior director of communications and marketing at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, told ABC News. "It's troubling."
"It's too soon to know if it's a trend," Groeninger added. "As [the second quarter] plays out and we receive data forms from departments who lost an officer this year, we'll be able to better assess and quantify."
In 2017, 46 on-duty officers were killed by guns, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The year before, it was 67, and in 2015, it was 43.
If this year's pattern continues at its current rate, 2018 could see 80 on-duty police deaths from gun violence .
Former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Steve Gomez called the increase from 2017 to 2018 "disturbing."
"This is a trend that we are seeing with regard to people acting out, people not having self-control, especially when dealing with law enforcement officers. I think it's a symptom of both that lack of control and complying with law enforcement and we are now seeing more people who have [behavioral and mental problems] and they have access to firearms," Gomez said. "That's a deadly combination."
"This has been the deadliest year for law enforcement in many, many years [so far]," said former Dallas police chief and ABC News contributor David Brown. While the trend appears to be on the rise this year, Brown said, he added that overall it hasn't reached the peaks of the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
Officers in small towns are just at risk as officers in cities, Brown said. A police officer in urban Pomona, California, and an officer in rural Clinton, Missouri, were both shot dead this month.
An especially a big fear now is police ambushes, which Brown said are increasing. The uptick has led to more officers being told to wait for cover and not quickly rush in as often when responding to crisis calls, he said.
"There's always a high degree of alert among law enforcement professionals," Groenginer said. "They never know what could be around the corner. They never know when they could be targeted just because they are in a uniform."
But new solutions for dealing with violence are always in the works.
To help combat the increasing number of ambushes, some officers are using heavier ballistic vests.
"New York has been the leader in this because they added some ballistic material to the police cars, to the windows and doors, because they had officers ambushed in their car," Brown said.
There are also car manufacturers installing sensors in the back of police cars to alert an officer if someone is approaching from behind while a car is parked, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Police applications on the decline
"One of the most concerning things is not a lot of people are wanting to be police officers" due to police criticism and heightened dangers, Brown said.
Gomez agreed. He said one official told him departments are "struggling to get qualified candidates to apply" and Gomez thinks it's partly because of what he calls the "Ferguson effect."
In 2014, a white police officer fatally shot an African-American teen in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking large-scale protests
Gomez said Ferguson and similar police shootings have since "continued to impact the perception of law enforcement."
"Potential candidates entering into law enforcement feel that they don't have the support of the public and of government officials," Gomez said.
Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), said that five years ago, there were 100 applicants for every vacancy. Today, that number is down to the low 60s, he said.
Last year, 34-year-old New York City police officer Miosotis Familia was gunned down while she was sitting in her marked police command vehicle, writing in her memo book.
One day after the shooting, the NYPD police commissioner reassured hundreds of recruits at their swearing-in ceremony that they had "absolutely" made the right career choice.
"The work of officer Miosotis Familia is not finished," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said, telling the recruits that it is their job as cops to finish it.
'The profession is on edge'
What's likely contributing to the increase in deadly shootings is some officers are now hesitant to use force in dangerous situations because they feel they no longer have support from the public and the government, Gomez said.
"If you're hesitant in using force, especially deadly force, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage in a dangerous situation," Gomez said.
According to The Washington Post 's database cataloging fatal police-involved shootings, 264 people have been shot and killed by police so far this year. In 2017, 987 people were fatally shot by police, and as of last week, there have been four fewer shootings this year than at the same time last year.
Brown said he thinks there's a decrease in trust of the government and thus a decrease in trust of law enforcement as well.
"I sense a lot of anger" within officers around the country, Brown said.
Many officers feel they can only trust themselves and their partners, Brown said, "and that is not the sentiment you want for a public servant."
"I'm really concerned that the 'us against them' mentality will take over, which is not healthy for delivering the best police service."
"The profession is on edge," he said, "and that is when you make mistakes and overreact."
The shattered families and friends left behind
"Every one of these fatalities represents a shattered family, a department ... often a community," Groeninger said.
"Specifically in the rural areas where you tend to have smaller departments and smaller workforces," Groeninger added. "Not only are you grieving that network that's been shattered due to the death, [but the loss also takes a] big hit to your workforce."
In Dallas, where five law enforcement officers were gunned down by a sniper in July 2016, their fellow officers who survived are "still in that anger and blame phase" nearly two years later, said Brown, who was the police chief at the time of the attack. He retired several months later after 33 years with the department.
That sniper attack was the deadliest day for United States law enforcement since 9/11.
In the midst of their grief, officers in Dallas "still have to do their job every day," and are still dealing with the same criticisms and risks of other officers, Brown said.
"You try to move on to the next call and the next crisis, and it's increasingly difficult," Brown said. "It's not a normal recovery from such a tragedy."
The ultimate sacrifice
For Gloria Vega, one of the adult children of Palm Springs police Officer Gil Vega who was gunned down in October 2016, the past year and a half since his death has been "a big roller coaster."
"The first six or eight months were by far my hardest months I've had," she told ABC News. "I was constantly crying myself to sleep. I had a really bad depression and it was really hard to get out of that."
She said what got her through was her children and her big family because that reminder of her dad -- whom she describes as funny, affectionate and always smiling -- brought her some comfort.
"I miss him daily," she said. "I miss his jokes. I miss him laughing. I miss texting him before I go to work."
Gloria Vega, who has an older brother and an older sister, said her parents divorced when she was young. Her dad later remarried and had another daughter, Vanessa, who was 8 at the time of his death. Gil Vega, a 35-year veteran, died just two months away from his retirement.
Growing up, she said she would always worry if something would happen to him while he was on duty. As she got older, her dad's safety wasn't her main worry and it was just "in the back of my mind," she said.
Gloria Vega said the past few years she'd tell her coworkers, "I'm so glad my dad's so close to retiring, I'm so glad this is something we don't have to worry about anymore. ... And then it happened."
His death "broke my heart for Vanessa," she said, because "as a little girl it was always my biggest fear. And for it to happen to her, it hurt my heart. ... I was fortunate enough to have him for as long as I did."
Vanessa "took it really hard" but "she's in really good spirits," Gloria Vega said. She had "her moments" and cried, but "she's really tough."
Looking back at her father's years on the force, what sticks with her is the mutual respect between him and those he had arrested.
Gloria Vega said after her father once arrested someone, he drove through a Del Taco drive-thru before heading to jail to make sure he'd have food.
Another time, Gloria Vega and her dad were out at a restaurant when a man he had previously arrested stopped by to talk to them and was so friendly that she was shocked.
She said her father told her it was "because 'I treated him like a human. Just because I'm doing my job and I have to arrest him, I didn't have to treat him like he was nothing.'"
"The little things he would do for people, he made a difference," she said, adding he tried to get other officers to follow his lead.
Gloria Vega said she feels like some people "perceive officers just as a badge."
"Maybe they forget they have families," Gloria Vega said. "But they're just like everybody else. The only difference is my dad went out there ... he sacrificed his family, sacrificed us having him, to protect people he doesn't even know."
Florida police failed to unlock phone using a dead man's finger-but corpses may still help in hacking handsets
by Greg Sandoval
Two officers of the Largo Police Department in Florida arrived at a funeral home recently and asked to see the body of a man shot dead last month. They then proceeded with the gruesome duty of trying to unlock the man's mobile phone with his lifeless finger, according to a published report.
The policemen failed to open the phone belonging to 30-year old Linus Phillip, according to a report Friday in The Tampa Bay Times .
The newspaper reported that police wanted to search the handset as part of the inquiry into Phillip's death, as well as a separate drug-related investigation. A Largo police officer shot Phillip after he tried to evade arrest and nearly hit the policeman with his car, according to reports. A representative from Largo PD, located about 25 miles west of Tampa, did not respond to Business Insider's interview request.
A lot of legal and ethical questions are raised here, including whether or not police should treat the dead this way. Phillip's fiancee Victoria Armstrong said she felt violated and disrespected by the officers' actions, the Associated Press reported .
Another question, that at least those who follow technology might ask, is: what made police think that the finger of a corpse would open the phone? This wasn't the first attempt of its kind in the United States.
In November 2016, an FBI agent in Ohio pressed the bloodied finger of Abdul Razak Ali Artan to his iPhone after he injured more than a dozen people at Ohio State University by stabbing and ramming his car into them, according to a report last month in Forbes . In that case too, the dead man's finger failed to open the phone.
Though it's not clear what brand of phone Phillip owned, Engadget years ago concluded that a finger from a corpse would not unlock an iPhone .
The Touch ID system uses two methods to sense and identify a fingerprint, capacitive and radio frequency. "A capacitive sensor is activated by the slight electrical charge running through your skin," wrote Engadget in 2013. "We all have a small amount of electrical current running through our bodies, and capacitive technology utilizes that to sense touch."
And the radio frequency waves in an iPhone sensor would also not open unless living tissue was present.
But according to the same story in Forbes, a workaround may be possible. The magazine quoted unnamed law-enforcement sources who indicated that police in Ohio and New York have found a way to hack a phone using a dead person's fingerprints. Unclear is whether the police already had the fingerprints on file or whether they obtained them from the bodies.
Forbes' sources said "it was now relatively common for fingerprints of the deceased to be depressed on the scanner of Apple iPhones."
And police in Largo might have also contacted companies, such as Cellebrite or GrayShift . They reportedly have the ability to hack into phones without handling corpses.
Regardless of whether police have the legal right to use a dead person's body to open a phone, they might be better served to exhaust some of the other technological options first.
Suspect in deadly Toronto van attack dropped out of military training last year after 16 years
by Tara Fowler, Ben Gittleson and Morgan Winsor
The 25-year-old Canadian man accused of mowing down pedestrians with a van in northern Toronto Monday has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
Alek Minassian, with a stone-faced expression and clad in a white jail jumpsuit, appeared in court this morning in Toronto, which is the sprawling capital of Ontario province. He is scheduled to appear in court again May 10 via video link.
Minassian was arrested and taken into custody Monday as the suspected driver in the van attack, which killed 10 people and injured 15 others, according to the Toronto Police Service.
The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed in a statement to ABC News that Minassian was a member for about two months last year, from Aug. 23 until Oct. 25. He didn't complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the forces after 16 days of the training, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.
Neighbors of Minassian, who lived in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hills, described him as very quiet and odd. They told ABC News they saw him in the neighborhood -- including one neighbor who said he regularly saw him jogging -- but had never spoken to him.
At a news conference in Canada's capital this morning, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided no suspected motive for the attack but said investigators still "have no reason to suspect that there is any national security element to this attack."
"Obviously, all Canadians continue and will continue to have questions about why this happened, what could possibly be the motives behind it,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. "As was indicated last night by our public security minister, at this time we have no reason to suspect that there is any national security element to this attack, but obviously the investigations continue."
Monday's attack began at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue in Toronto's bustling North York neighborhood, police said. The suspect then drove the white Ryder van south for nearly 1 1/2 miles, ramming into more pedestrians at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue. The vehicle finally stopped on Poyntz Avenue, just off Yonge Street.
Witness Ali Shaker saw the van jump the sidewalk and said people walking were "crumbled up," he told Canada's CTV News .
"He's just hitting people one by one, going down," Shaker said. "It was a nightmare."
Visibly frightened by what he saw, Shaker could barely recount the horror he witnessed. He said he was driving when the incident occurred.
"I'm so shaky -- I can't believe this is happening," he said. "This is so unbelievable."
Shaker initially assumed the driver was experiencing some kind of medical emergency, he said, and even attempted to try to stop the driver from causing more carnage.
"I thought he had a heart attack or something so I was trying to chase him on the way, almost trying to catch up," he told CTV News, adding that the driver was moving fast.
"He hit everybody on the sidewalk; anybody in his way he would hit," Shaker added. "The bus stop -- all shattered. There was a lady in there I saw and I stopped and I looked and I went after and all I see is just crumbling one by one."
Phil Zullo, who also witnessed the attack, told CTV News he saw "shoes and hats flown everywhere."
Another witness said he stopped outside of a building for a smoke break and saw a middle-aged man get struck as he was crossing the street.
"As I lit up my cigarette I saw a man walking in the middle of the intersection and a van plowed right into him," the witness, who went by Steve, told CTV News. "I saw the guy go flying. ... It was just clear as day, just saw the guy get hit by the van and pieces of the van fell off."
Afterward, Steve said he rushed into the middle of the street to tend to the injured man "to make sure no other cars struck him."
The victim, he said, was around 50, was unconscious "and could barely move."
The van kept driving and hit others, Steven added, leaving behind pools of blood.
"I saw three or four [people] on the ground around me," he said. "Other people were getting CPR."
He's convinced that stopping for the cigarette break saved him, Steve said.
"I had just stopped to light the cigarette and if I hadn't done that I would have been killed as well," he said. "I would have been right there with that guy."
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto confirmed in a statement that it had received a total of 10 patients from Monday's incident. Two of them were pronounced dead upon arrival. Five others were in critical condition and three were in serious condition, the hospital said.
Images from the scene showed multiple victims on the ground, while video showed the moment a single police officer confronted the suspect on the street.
In the video, taken by an onlooker, the officer draws his firearm and stands off against the suspect, who appears to be pointing an object. The two exchange words, and the suspect eventually yields to the repeated calls to "get down," allowing the officer to handcuff him.
During this morning's press conference, Trudeau called the incident "a senseless attack and a horrific tragedy." He told reporters he spoke with Ontario's premier and Toronto's mayor Monday night.
Trudeau will go to Toronto "as soon as it makes sense to do so," he said, but doesn't want to distract from the investigation for now.
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters Monday afternoon that his "thoughts are with those affected by this incident." He said the beautiful weather meant many people were out on the street.
“There were a lot of pedestrians out," Tory said, "enjoying the sunny afternoon."
Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale called the incident an attack but said he didn't want to speculate when asked whether the terrorism was to blame.
"We cannot come to any firm conclusions at this stage," Goodale told reporters Monday. "The police are conducting their thorough investigation into what happened and why it happened."
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is in Toronto as part of the G-7 Security Ministerial, which is set to conclude today. A senior official with the U.S. Department of State told ABC News the U.S. delegation is safe.
The White House released its first comment on the attack late-Monday night, saying, "The United States stands with the Canadian people in the aftermath of today's tragic event in Toronto, where a van drove into a crowd of people killing several and injuring many more."
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected, and we wish a full recovery to those injured," the statement continued. "The United States Government pledges to provide any support Canada may need."
Ryder, the brand of rental truck involved in the incident, said in a statement it was saddened by "this tragic event" and extended its "deepest sympathies" to those impacted.
The company also stated that it is "cooperating fully with authorities."
After Toronto attack, online misogynists praise suspect as 'new saint'
by NBC News
Before allegedly killing 10 people with a van in Toronto , Alek Minassian appeared to have posted a message on Facebook that linked him to a toxic online community of misogynists that has become the source of a growing pattern of violence.
The Facebook post, which authorities who spoke with NBC News believe came from Minassian, links Minassian to an online community known as “incels,” short for involuntary celibates. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also reported that Facebook confirmed the authenticity of the post.
Self-described incels congregate mostly online, meeting in forums and message boards like Reddit and 4chan, and its offshoot site 8chan, to discuss their hopelessness with women in posts that are peppered with racist and misogynistic rants. “Chads” are incel-speak for good-looking men, who incels believe can't be one of them. “Stacys” are the women who find “Chads” attractive.
The Facebook message also refers admiringly to Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, and left behind a manifesto and videos detailing his sexual frustration as the motivation for his violence.
Rodger has since emerged as a source of inspiration among the incel community.
“Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Minassian allegedly posted.
Minassian's post spread quickly among the incel community, many of whom rushed to embrace him.
“I hope this guy wrote a manifesto because he could be our next new saint,” one poster wrote on incel.me, a forum where incels congregate.
While some posters questioned whether Minassian, 25, was a “fakecel” — the term for someone whose average looks disqualifies him from community membership — most hailed him as a hero of the movement.
“Spread that name, speak of his sacrifice for our cause, worship him for he gave his life for our future,” one poster wrote.
Another poster wondered whether Minassian might have been acting on his own March call to action for incels to commit mass murder and serial rapes, a post on incels.me which has since been removed .
“I want to see some mass food poisoning deaths, maybe a pipe bomb or two, or hopefully somebody finally uses a f---ing truck to just ram down [women] during a school parade or something, mix it up a little,” wrote BlkPillPres, whose username is a nod to the black pill, lingo in the incel community for coming to the realization that a woman will never have sex with them.
Violence perpetrated by men connected to misogynistic online communities has become systemic enough to warrant attention from organizations that track hate groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center added misogynistic organizations to their list of hate groups for the first time this year.
Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, said that the incel community mostly consists of aggrieved young men, who have found a natural home on 4chan and darker parts of Reddit.
“They're young, frustrated white males in their late teens into their early twenties who are having a hard time adjusting to adulthood. They're the same kinds of people you find in white supremacy writ large,” Beirich said. “They have grievances about the world they've placed onto women and black people.“
Beirich places much of the blame on web forums and social media platforms that don't proactively enforce rules limiting hate speech. When asked by a Reddit user earlier this month whether “open racism, including slurs” were against the site's rules, CEO Steve Huffman wrote in a comment on Reddit , “it's not.”
“Reddit has basically just said ‘we don't care if there's bad stuff in these hate forums.' 4chan and 8chan are completely outside the bounds of normality,” Beirich said. “When millions can be exposed to heinous propaganda, you are setting the table for ultimately hate speech and ultimately hate crimes.”
Beirich called incels a subgroup of both the men's rights activist and alt-right movements.
“You'd be shocked at the amount of violence, raping, killing and attacking of women they advocate,” Beirich said. “In the case of Elliot Rodger, there was violence on a mass scale.”
Reddit banned the channel r/incels in November, citing a violation of its “violent content” rules. The shutdown followed a number of posts where members seemed to be advocating for rape and specifically one cross post in the channel r/legaladvice where a frequent r/incels poster appeared to be soliciting tips for how to get away with rape.
Quickly, members of the community moved over to r/braincels, which called itself a “fun, energizing, and thought-provoking atmosphere for incel culture.”
The subreddit, or Reddit community, has been active for over six months, and highlights the difficulty that comes with a whack-a-mole style of enforcement that Reddit and other platforms use to ban extremist groups from their sites.
Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A full day after the attack, a post titled “The post about the Toronto killer being an incel has been proven to be fake” remained pinned to the top of the subreddit, along with a post denouncing the attack.
The third top-rated post on r/Braincels at press time featured a cartoon of a mouse wearing a Nazi armband beneath an oven timer, titled “Hi, lurking journalists!”
Hours after Minassian's rampage, Reddit banned “malecels” — a subreddit for incel discussion where “normies” and women were prohibited that was only live for 19 days.
In one of the final posts to malecels, a user bragged the community would “not be banned anytime soon. Even if we advocate rape.”
“The admins are only competent when they get reports and because we'll be very vigilant of letting outsiders in there's no way admins would ever know what's going in here,” the user wrote. “There are far too many private subreddits for an admin to reasonably monitor.”
Minassian's visible online footprint is small. He was briefly active on the gaming forums Steam, and once released an app through the Android app store that showed users available parking spaces in Toronto.
This wouldn't be the first time a mass murderer blamed involuntary celibacy for his crimes.
In 2009, before the internet gave incels a known place to congregate, George Sodini walked into an L.A. Fitness gym in Pittsburgh and shot up a women's aerobics class, killing four, including himself. Sodini left behind a blog where he detailed his plans and complained of rejection from women.
“There are 30 million desirable women in the US (my estimate) and I cannot find one. Not one of them finds me attractive,” he wrote.
Rodger, who Minassian referenced by name in his Facebook post, listed sexual frustration and a hatred for women as his chief motivation for his killing spree.
In his posts, Rodger spoke in language common among the incel and pickup communities, separating men into groups of alphas and betas and reducing women to entitlements which could be won or stolen.
Rodger closed his manifesto with: “All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back. Their behavior towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy.”
In 2015, Chris Harper-Mercer killed nine and injured seven at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon before turning the gun on himself. In his journal , Harper wrote, “My whole life has been one lonely enterprise. One loss after another. And here I am, 26, with no friends, no job, no girlfriend, a virgin.”
In his writings, he identified with Rodger as well as other mass shooters, whom he described as “people who stand with the gods.”
In February Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who shot and killed 17 students and teachers inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, praised Rodger in a Youtube comment.
“Elliot rodger will not be forgotten,” Cruz wrote.
A man tried to jump off a Detroit overpass. Then 13 truckers saved him
by Brandon Patterson and Brian Manzullo
(Picture on site)
DETROIT -- While you were sleeping, a unique act of heroism took place overnight along I-696 in metro Detroit.
A line of 13 trucks with assistance from Michigan State Police, created a wall on the I-696 freeway near the Coolidge exit to prevent a man from jumping off the overpass.
Chris Harrison, who claims to have been part of the "trucker wall" in a Facebook post on the Twisted Truckers page, said the act of heroism took place between 1 and 3 a.m. Tuesday, starting with one truck.
Harrison, in replying to other Facebook users, said the cops waved 6 or 7 of the truckers through on the eastbound side of the freeway, then did the same thing on the westbound side.
Take a look at this photo to see the finished result.
Due to the joint effort, the man was reportedly talked down from the edge.
Harrison said the highway patrolman walked to each truck, shook the truckers hand and thanked each member for their contribution.
If you or a loved one is experiencing distress and/or depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours a day.
NYPD's Neighborhood Policing Meetings Aren't Reaching Intended Audience
by Roshan Abraham and Angely Mercado
“Cops are hosting meetings in local neighborhoods to find out what's it gonna take to make us all feel safe,” an announcer says in the radio ad. “They want to know what we think, so why not tell them?”
The ads are part of an advertising initiative by the NYPD and New York City Police Foundation to get people to neighborhood-level police meetings called “Build The Block.” Other ads in the series project an identical theme; a chorus of vox populi-style interviews with mostly Black New York City residents who plead with police officers to “just be human,” and show a willingness to cooperate and build trust. In one of five cleanly-produced promotional videos , a man in a beanie asks police officers,”How can we better understand you and not feel like we're the enemy?”
With its $3.5 million Build The Block advertising campaign, the New York Police Foundation seemed eager to reach out to a younger audience who is skeptical of the police. The ads ran most prominently on Hot 97, and the station says 76 percent of their listenership is in the 18-34 demographic , suggesting the NYPD was hoping to reach someone other than those who attend the long-standing Precinct Council meetings, which tend to draw middle-aged to elderly residents who speak English.
But at Build The Block meetings attended by City Limits, skeptics of policing and young people were absent. The meetings, held at public housing developments, senior centers, Police Athletic League facilities and other community spaces, were instead attended by mostly older residents with complaints about parking, marijuana, teenagers loitering, homelessness, and various other quality-of-life complaints, resulting in the type of conversations that already happen in the city's Community Board meetings or those NYPD Precinct Council meetings.
The meetings seem organized to generate such complaints. Each meeting begins with a brief rundown of recent crimes in the neighborhood. Then local officers—called Neighborhood Coordination Officers, or NCO's—lay out a giant sheet of paper on a stand, take out a thick black marker, and begin asking attendees about neighborhood concerns. At the end of the meeting, officers have scribbled those complaints on the sheet of paper, which they roll up and take back to their precinct. The list consists of specific quality-of-life complaints like multiple cars being parked illegally or the smell of marijuana coming from a public housing apartment.
An effort to build trust
“Build The Block” meetings are the newest element of a wider initiative called “Neighborhood Policing,” a restructured version of the “community policing” strategy of the 1990's. Then, as now, the NYPD sought to build neighborhood-level contacts in communities to address crime and quality-of-life complaints and improve community relations. But the in-person meetings of this newest initiative appear also to also be meant to build a gentler image for the nation's largest police department amid increased scrutiny.
Part of the edict of Neighborhood Policing—as described by Commissioner William Bratton—is to collaborate with community members on solving problems without the traditional law enforcement tools of arrest or summonsing. But in meetings attended by City Limits, officers often merely explained existing levels of enforcement—and often defended against complainants' suggestions it was not enough. Police officers at these meetings were left to explain to residents why they weren't going to dole out more harsh enforcement around parking or marijuana smoking. (At several of the meetings attended by City Limits, an officer had to explain to complainants that they can't arrest someone for smoking marijuana in their own home.)
At many Build The Block meetings, participants urged police to push the kind of quality-of-life enforcement that activists and police skeptics are most interested in pressuring the city to end.
At one meeting on March 23 for at the Lindsay Park Co-Op in Williamsburg, a group of older residents complained about homeless residents sleeping on the street.
Neighborhood Coordination Officers Joanna Terepka and Tara Tizzio defended the lack of enforcement, saying that they wished trying to treat homeless residents fairly. Terepka was familiar with the resident that neighbors were complaining about.
“It's really sad but we are trying to help him,” she said, adding of the homeless, “they have rights, too, just like everyone else.”
Alex Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College and author of “The End of Policing”, argues meetings like these socialize residents to view the police as their first and best option rather than addressing underlying social problems. “It tends to reinforce the idea that all community problems should be solved by the police department,” he says.
Scrutiny of street vendors
Among the groups saying they haven't benefited from the NYPD's attempt at reaching across the divide are the city's street vendors.
The city has capped the number of vending licenses since the 1980's, leading to a large informal sector of illegal vendors numbering over 10,000 by some estimates. Legislation intended to increase permits and fix other outdated restrictions was abruptly killed last December.
Eliana Jaramillo, a 69-year-old food vendor who has been selling in NYC for over 30 years, still remembers the first time a police officer confiscated her cart in 2009.
“They should just treat us better in the streets, treat us with more respect,” she said in Spanish through her lawyer. “They should protect us. Instead they treat us like criminals.”
As a member of the Street Vendor Project, a group at the nonprofit Urban Justice League that works with over 2,000 vendors across the city, she's met with the police hoping to get a more understanding approach, but has not been satisfied. Matthew Shapiro, Jaramillo's lawyer, says it's an area of law enforcement where cops have latitude to take different approaches.
“They have a large amount of discretion in what they enforce,” he said, citing jaywalking as an example. “They could decide not to write thousand-dollar tickets, not take vendors property and throw it in the garbage.”
The NYPD says they only act against vendors because of calls from community members, mostly representatives from Business Improvement Districts and restaurants who fear food vendors will take business from them. And some of these business interests have been making their cases at Build the Block meetings, where they have the ear of police officers.
At a March 30 Build The Block meeting at the Police Athletic League in the West Bronx, Jessica Gordon, a marketing manager of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, was one of only two attendees. The other, Denese Mars, was the Director of the Police Athletic League. (Police said the low attendance was because it was Good Friday evening, and that a previous meeting in the neighborhood had 35 attendees.)
Gordon argued forcefully to NCOs Daniel Iacovides and Rahmaan Wiltshire from the 46th Precinct that more enforcement should be launched against food vendors, and grew frustrated with what she saw as the officers' lack of response. She suggested that electronics vendors operating illegally were taking money away from P.C. Richards and Best Buy, two stores that the Neighborhood Coordination Officers had to explain were not even in the meeting's ordained boundaries.
Iacovides said he had checked with their legal department and were unable to find any need for enforcement.
“I think we were trying to find the actual law that says they can't do that, that's the thing we can't find that. If you could help us with that,” the officer said.
Gordon finally suggested that what she wanted was the air of authority that being associated with police officers could bring. She asked the officers if she could walk down Fordham Road with the police by her side.
“How about we walk down the street one time together?,” Gordon asked the NCO.
“I think that can be arranged,” he replied, while insisting that they would only make sure everyone was in compliance and not take sides.
Shapiro, Jaramillo's lawyer, said that these community meetings are both more likely to attract representatives from business improvement districts than vendors, and that there's a power imbalance that makes it more likely those businesses will be heard.
“They may not even know these meetings are happening,” Shapiro said of the vendors, and often don't have the free time to attend, since they work long hours and tending to their families. A Business Improvement District, on the other hand, might have a spokesperson whose job it is to attend meetings. Gordon, from the Fordham Road B.I.D., said she had been to several other Build The Blocks for the neighborhood in the past week, as well as Precinct Council meetings, and had complained about vendors at all of them.
Save for one event where the officer in charge spoke a few lines of Spanish, none of the Build The Block Meetings attended by City Limits had Spanish language translators, something Shapiro said had been an issue in communication between vendors and NYPD.
A new wave, an old idea
Most of the elements of the Neighborhood Policing plan are not new but are refurbished versions of older strategies. During his first stint as NYPD commissioner, Bratton implemented a Community Policing strategy in the 1990s under Mayor Giuliani, the driving principle of which was that the NYPD should create stronger partnerships with local community groups while targeting quality-of-life crimes.
Bratton returned in 2014 under then newly-elected Mayor de Blasio, reintroducing the idea as Neighborhood Policing. The plan, laid out by then Chief of Department James O'Neil, would address what Bratton felt were failures in previous community policing strategies in New York, according to a Plan of Action he penned in 2015 .
The plan Bratton laid out divides each precinct into four or five sectors, which should ideally represent the boundaries of existing neighborhoods. Prior to the plan, each precinct had 8 to 10 sectors that were not individually staffed, with a single patrol car sometimes covering several at once. Under the neighborhood plan, each sector has two Neighborhood Coordination Officers assigned to gather information about crime in neighborhoods by developing relationships in the community. In addition, two patrol officers are assigned on rotating shifts with 24/7 coverage of each sector, and two precinct-wide patrols provide additional support. Each of these officers devotes 33 percent of their patrol time to community engagement outside of just answering calls.
The purpose of the program is to “break down, once and for all, the barriers between two parties who should be natural allies: the police and the people they serve,” Bratton said at the time, and the end result would be “Communities will have a voice, at the most local level, in how they are policed.”
To that end, the program also relies on what the NYPD calls “community partners,” unpaid volunteers who reside in the sectors and act as liaisons between the police and residents.
One such person is Leona Fredericks, 69, an East Harlem resident who serves as a community partner for the 23rd Precinct's Sector A, which stretches from 96th Street to 110th Street and is bordered by Second Avenue and the East River. Fredericks had a previous relationship with the police, having attended Precinct Council meetings for four years. She's also undergone Citizens Training , a program the NYPD has had since the 90's that exposes civilians to the type of training that police receive.
Speaking after a March 29th meeting held at the East River Landing apartments, Fredericks said she finds the Build the Block meetings are more interactive than Precinct Council meetings, saying “you're able to be heard.” But she lamented that even many residents of the apartment complex, for which she serves on the tenant association, weren't coming to the meetings. The meeting that had just concluded had a smattering of people, fewer than 15, many of whom were older residents living in the apartment complex or in neighboring complexes.
“I just wish more tenants would come,” she said. “You're targeting the issues of the area.”
Despite the lack of attendance, she counts herself a supporter of the NYPD's strategy to overcome the pervasive distrust of the police in her area. She's already seen an impact on people in the neighborhood, she says.
“Most of the community, now that they see the officers, they know them by name,” she says, adding “the same ones [that are] going to be coming out to the 911 calls.”
Appealing wider, charting impact
Sector officers find attendees for meetings by knocking on doors, handing out flyers in apartment complexes and personally inviting people in the neighborhood.
Attendees of a Corona Build The Block Meeting on March 13th, said they had been enticed to come by flyers posted by police in their housing complex. One resident, Patrick O'Toole, a banker living in a neighboring co-op, said he came to the meeting out of curiosity and said he felt better informed afterward.
Some sector officers are aware of the lack of young people and have made efforts to bring them in. At an April 5 Build The Block meeting in Harlem's 32nd precinct, PO Peter Diviesti said they had gone to meetings at local schools to hear students' concerns about policing. He wants those conversations to continue, he says.
Like many NCO's, Diviesti expressed a sense of urgency about building trust with communities.
“It's become more personal, we're more invested,” he says. “We can go back and make sure the situation was actually taken care of and that people are getting help.” He says he's mediated discussions between neighbors who complain about each other and has checked in on homeless shelters to see what the next steps would be in getting people help.
The New York City Police Foundation has touted data regarding Neighborhood Policing, suggesting that the program has brought down both crime and arrests since it was rolled out. On their website , the Foundation claims that “In Neighborhood Policing Communities, shootings are declining 58 percent faster than in the rest of the city,” and “arrests are declining 10 times faster than in the rest of the city.”
Reached by City Limits for clarification on which neighborhoods were deemed Neighborhood Policing for the purpose of these statistics, DCPI sent a list of dates and precincts for when the Neighborhood Policing program was rolled out. That list says that the earliest Neighborhood Policing precincts were the 33rd, 34th, 100th, 101st in May of 2015. The statistics from those precincts sent by DCPI, particularly a decrease in arrests, are notable.
From 2015 to 2017, shootings remained more or less the same in the 33rd and 34th Precincts, but decreased by more than half in the 100th and 101st. Arrests dropped in all four precincts in the same time period. In the 33rd precinct, arrests dropped by 5 percent, from 4,175 to 3,947. In the 34th, they dropped by 9 percent. In the 100th, by 12 percent, from 2,110 to 1,856. In the 101st, by 13 percent, from 3,180 to 2,750.
But a glance at NYPD's historical data from 2015-2017 shows a more mixed picture, by other metrics. In the 34th Precinct, for instance, robberies declined, but overall, the total of seven major index crimes had increased; grand larcenies had increased in the 34th Precinct by over 22 percent during this period. The 33rd precinct, in Washington Heights, did see an overall decline in the seven categories, despite a slight uptick in murders, from one to two. In the 100th and 101st Precinct, there was a small decline in the total seven index crimes, although burglaries and grand larcenies had increased in the 100th Precinct since Neighborhood Policing was rolled out.
But the real change the NYPD seems to want from Neighborhood Policing and Build The Block is an increase in public trust and cooperation from communities hesitant to call the police, something more challenging to measure. If Build The Block meetings offer any evidence, the NYPD has a long way to go before the program can claim to have closed those gaps.
Similar programs have been tried across the country, including Los Angeles, in an initiative also shepherded by Bratton, who was then police chief. That program, the Senior Lead Officer program, provided a blueprint for the NYPD's NCO program and is still used today.
In Camden, New Jersey, a 2013 set of community policing reforms preceded a drop in the murder rate to its lowest level since 1987. But that program was more radical, as Police Chief J. Scott Thompson disbanded the police department and reformed it with a smaller number of officers. And even those reforms have had mixed results: Despite the dramatic decline in homicides, violent crime is overall still high. The decline in the homicide rate can partially be attributed to a policy in which police officers transport shooting victims to hospitals personally, called “scoop and go.”
Vitale says Camden's continued crime problems point to the failure of focusing on more professional, courteous policing rather than deeper social problems. He says the state government in New Jersey does not fund Camden adequately to address any of those broader issues. “The rest of New Jersey just kind of dumped their problems onto Camden, and left them to wallow, he said. “What I would want to see is state government step in to do something about the entrenched racialized poverty there.”
Advocates weigh whether to join in
Activists skeptical of Neighborhood Policing point to an increase in the ranks of uniformed officers as part of the problem, not the solution. The NYPD has around 36,000 “sworn officers” today, after the mayor added 1,300 in 2015.
“The Build the Block program is a superficial effort to deal with a deep-seated problem,” Robert Gangi, with the Police Reform Organizing Project, told City Limits. “Money spent on the NYPD could go to services and programs that improve quality of life for areas that need better safety.”
Establishing public trust and lowering arrests while keeping crime down has been a
priority for many big city police departments in the past few years. But for some critics,
so-called community policing programs miss the mark by asking communities how they would like to be policed, rather than asking if the police are the appropriate tool for certain problems.
Imani Henry is an activist with Equality for Flatbush and a social worker vehemently opposed to the city's Build The Block meetings. He has organized with food vendors, among other groups, bringing them to Precinct Council meetings to talk with the police, but was unimpressed with the outcome.
“I have been in private meetings with police and vendors, I've watched those meetings go awry. There's this understanding of ‘We don't respect you, we're here to punish you,'” he said.
He has been to Build The Block meetings—he said the leading complaint at a meeting he attended in Flatbush was “dog poop”—but wasn't swayed by the gentler approach, believing it to be an intrusion into the community. He feels the true purpose of the program is to cultivate informants.
“Snitch and dime on people, that's what's being put forward,” says. “We say no.”
He thinks the elders in communities who have been attending Build the Block meetings are misguided. Henry points to the killing of Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old woman killed in the Bronx by an NYPD officer, as indication that they too should be fearful of police.
Others in the police reform debate have been proponents of in-person mediations and conversations as a method of creating more positive relationships. Norman Siegel, a veteran civil liberties lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, hosted a series of town halls on policing in 2015 with Borough President Eric Adams. At one town hall, O'Neil presented a plan for what would eventually become Neighborhood Policing. Siegel was impressed with the proposal on paper at the time.
Siegel believes even imperfect meetings are worth activists' giving them a try, although he views any potential change as incremental. He calls the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent disciplinary body which he helped found 25 years ago, a “huge mess” that has mostly failed at its aims, but says it's still worth it for activists to attend those and other meetings, to show that they are engaged and not going away.
“The disconnect between the NYPD and certain communities, it didn't happen overnight,” Siegel says. “It's been years and it's going to take more than one meeting or even a few meetings to begin to change that dynamic.”
He says the success of community meetings rests on whether they're just “window-dressing” or whether they dare to touch radioactive issues like racism and classism that the NYPD has been hesitant to address. And if community meetings don't yield success, other avenues should be pursued.
“If you make this good-faith effort, and there's no response, you have to make other efforts. If you don't show up, you're allowing the NYPD to continue the status quo, and you're giving them a free pass.”
Why trust them?
Yet harrowing incidents of the past—the distant and the very recent—fuel the reluctance by some advocates to do anything that legitimizes the NYPD. Henry says his perception is also driven by personal experiences as a social worker for 20 years, watching incidents where police intervened with someone who just needed help. In one incident, he recalls a woman acting erratically after leaving a party at 4 AM. He says police were being hostile, talking down to her and calling her crazy, and were close to arresting her. Henry tried to speak with her calmly and learned the woman had possibly been assaulted at a party. An EMS worker finally intervened and the woman was taken to a hospital.
“Why are we supposed to believe they're going to be loving and kind to us?,” he asked.
“They have no mental health training and a license to kill us.”
In the days after police killed Saheed Vassel, a 34-year-old Crown Heights resident with bipolar disorder wielding what police say was a silver soldering rod as if it were a gun, conversations about whether it makes sense to contact police—a topic of discussion after earlier killings of emotionally disturbed persons—again emerged.
Henry and other social workers had helped put together a document called “Suggestions And Tactics as an Alternative to Calling 911” after the killing of Dwayne Jeune in the Flatbush Gardens Apartments in June 2017. The document began re-circulating on Facebook in the days after Vassel's death.
“Social service workers, we need to put ourselves out there. We say that everyone get mental health training. We have to advocate for ourselves in our own community, because they're not listening to people in crisis,” Henry said. Self-reliance is what's needed, he said, not a call to 911.
The sentiment is not unusual for heavily policed communities. Many food vendors share the feeling that attempts at NYPD outreach and community-building are meaningless without decreased enforcement. Vendors say they're in a limbo created by regulations out of their control and enforced too rigidly; they're fearful of police and reluctant to turn to them for help.
One vendor who spoke to City Limits outside of Corona Plaza in Queens gave her name as Mercy and said she has been vending for 17 years, since she arrived from Ecuador.
Mercy said she has received two $1,000 tickets from police since the beginning of this year, and that 2018 has seen the worst enforcement of food vendors she has ever seen in the nearly 20 years she's been vending. She's frustrated that only local activists are sticking up for her, not the city.
“I wish the city would help us and see that we're trying to be as clean and lawful as possible,” she said in Spanish.
At the March 13th Build The Block meeting for the 110th Precinct, which covers the corner where Mercy vends, the sector's NCO's described four recent enforcement operations with the Department of Health in which they ticketed food vendors along Roosevelt Avenue. No Spanish translation was available at the meeting and no food vendors, or any other dissenters, were present.
The officers who ticket her don't speak Spanish, Mercy said, although she believes one of the officers understands her. She's been to Precinct Council meetings to complain about enforcement with organizers in tow, but said that the ticketing continued. Now she and the other vendors have taken to texting one another when they see an officer, so they're prepared.
“We try to protect each other,” she said in Spanish.
Community engagement key
by Meghan Balogh
NAPANEE - Police Foundations students at Loyalist College are getting an up-close-and-personal chance at community engagement, thanks to a new placement designed by a former Napanee Ontario Provincial Police inspector.
Pat Finnegan, who retired as the Napanee OPP detachment commander in December 2017, is putting his continued passion for community policing to good use as a teacher at Loyalist College.
Finnegan designed a brand-new placement opportunity for second-year Police Foundations students, and the first group is nearly through their three-week placement. The students have been rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty at a grassroots community level.
“In second year, students are placed at a police agency and they go on patrol, go on calls, and that's great, but they'll see a lot of that down the road,” Finnegan said. “What they won't necessarily make (through that experience) is the connection to community and why it matters.”
Finnegan has been taking his group of students around the Napanee area completing community service projects.
On Saturday, the students were cleaning up trash alongside a Napanee 401 on-ramp as part of the Good Friends of the Earth 2018 cleanup day.
They also spent time last week building shelving units for Morningstar Mission in Napanee. They shared a meal with some of Morningstar's clientele, some of whom have mental illness and others who are living in poverty or who experience homelessness.
It's a demographic police officers deal with on a daily basis, and the interaction over a meal helped humanize the community, Finnegan said.
“I think they really had their eyes opened,” he said. “I'm trying to teach them that every person they deal with, there's potential there, there's a spark.”
Police interactions with the public are often based on socioeconomic factors, and Finnegan said as much as three-quarters of police calls aren't criminal offences.
“About 75 per cent of what police respond to is not chargeable, but social disorder calls, and the root causes have to do with social determinants such as living conditions or employment,” he said. “The idea is that people are born into these circumstances, and there are all sorts of services available to help them free of charge, and if the police don't have those tools, then referrals get made. It's a connection and collaboration with the community.”
The word “community” is important to Finnegan, and he wants his students to understand the correlation between their personal lives and their future careers in policing.
“I want to instil in them that they are born into and become a member of a community, they're raised in a community, and then they become a police officer, which is a specialized sector of the community,” Finnegan said. “You do your 30 years and then you go back to the community. You are a community member first and a police officer second.”
Finnegan admits his placement isn't the “cool one.” His community policing placement takes some of the romanticism out of policing and shows students not only what the daily grind looks like but also what good community outreach should look like.
But, Finnegan said the placement will fill an important role in the young police officers' training.
“It's one thing to talk about these things in a classroom, but then you go out and make it real,” he said.
Classroom learning is still important. Real-scenario problem-solving, principles of community mobilization and engagement, and cultural views of police are topics examined by the students in preparation for community outreach.
Look online, Finnegan said, and you'll find an array of opinions about police officers in general.
Students research both ends of that spectrum and present arguments for each.
“We study how fragile the public faith in police is,” he said. “Go online, find stories that prove police are corrupt, antisocial, egotistical, self-centred, or overreacting. Then go make the case that police are trustworthy, compassionate, sincere, loyal and kind people who want to help.”
Finnegan admits there are both kinds of police officer out there. He hopes that by educating his students about the value of compassion and kindness, if they end up in a learning situation with a person who is less than kind, they will have some context.
“They could end up in a cruiser with a cop, and you see those guys who pick up the phone and say, ‘What does this a------ want?' Policing can do this to you, if you're not careful,” he said. “We want to find these things to do to give back, to build up the emotional bank account and the compassion.
“Some day you might end up having to take a life, and all the good things you've done just might get you through it. You won't just pull the trigger and walk away; this will stay with you for the rest of your life. The question is, are you a good person? If you've been an outstanding member of your community and have given from your heart, it'll get you through.”
Ultimately, Finnegan hopes the community placement will give his students a dose of reality.
“I'm trying really hard to reach them at some place where no one has reached them before,”
he said. “I want to deglamorize a job that can be tough and require a lot of compassion. It's not all lights and sirens.”
To catch a paedophile, you only need to look at their hands
When a paedophile or rapist films their crime, professor Sue Black can track them down using nothing more than the veins, scars and other markings on their hands
by Richard Benson
O ne day in 2006, Sue Black, a professor at the University of Dundee's department of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology , received a phone call from a man called Nick Marsh. He was a forensic photographer who had worked with Black 17 years earlier as part of a team sent by the Foreign Office to examine the bodies of victims of war crimes in Kosovo. Marsh knew that Black had a talent for identifying people from scraps of flesh and bone. Now he had evidence of a different kind and wondered if she could help.
The piece of evidence was an eight-second-long digital video clip. Marsh had been working on a case involving a teenage girl who had alleged that her father had been coming into her bedroom at night to molest her. When her mother refused to believe her, the girl left her webcam running all night, pointed at her bed. The camera captured a person's hand and forearm touching her. Her father denied that he was the person in the video. "It was one of the spookiest and scariest things that I have ever seen," explains Black. "A real sort of horror movie."
Marsh asked Black if there was a way to identify the perpetrator. She didn't have clue. "I'd never done anything like that before. I'd never identified anyone using a hand," she says. But after studying the footage, Black noticed something that had escaped her before: the veins on the back of the man's hand were visible. In the dark, the camera had reverted to infrared mode, and in those conditions the deoxygenated blood in veins shows up as black lines. Black, an expert in anatomy, knew that hand-vein patterns are unique from person to person, even in identical twins. She asked the police to take photographs of the father's hand and forearm. The vein patterns matched.
Black appeared in court as an expert witness for the prosecution, presenting her vein-pattern analysis. It was the first time in British legal history that evidence of this kind was presented in court proceedings. When she was introduced, the judge had to stop the trial for 90 minutes to ask her to explain the principles behind her analysis. Black explained her rationale, but conceded that she didn't have statistics showing the likelihood of the hands matching. "That research had never been done. I could say no more than everything matched, and we couldn't say it definitely wasn't him," she says.
Still, it was strong evidence and the prosecuting barrister expected the father to be found guilty. However, he was acquitted.
"I asked the barrister if there was something we had done wrong or something in the science that I had not been able to convey," Black recalls. "She said, 'No, there was no problem with the science. The jury had just not believed the girl. They thought she didn't seem upset enough.'"Black was dumbfounded.
Shortly after the trial of the girl's father, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) asked Black if she could help with an ongoing police investigation called Operation Ore . It was a long-running investigation of more than 7,000 British people suspected of downloading indecent images, after the FBI had found their details on the database of a child-porn distributor in Texas.
The operation became the UK's largest-ever computer crime investigation, involving the arrest of more than 3,700 people, including several public figures such as The Who guitarist Pete Townshend and The Thick of It actor and writer Chris Langham.
Black was again asked if she could identify people in the images. "Operation Ore was the first time I realised these kind of cases could have such a volume," she says. "I was naive. I thought it was all about isolated people in isolated cases." According to Black, about a million images of child abuse are uploaded to the dark web every day. When police seize mobile phones and find indecent images, they discover, on average, about 100,000 individual images. "It is a huge problem, and the police can't get near looking at them all, nor arresting their way out of it," Black says.
In the end, she worked only briefly as a consultant on Operation Ore, which soon became mired in controversy when journalists revealed flaws in police methods.
Nevertheless, it was a turning point for Black. During Operation Ore, she became fully aware of a problem that she didn't realise existed and that she might be the person who could do something about it.
But in the months after the trial, it occurred to her that she might have stumbled across a new idea. Marsh had mentioned that the police were seeing an ever-increasing number of indecent images and videos of children. Abusers often appeared themselves: "Sexual abuse of children is often about power, and the touching is a part of that," says Black. "When a perpetrator views an image of themselves abusing a child, they are reliving the enactment. If there's a part of them present in the image, it gives them an extra feeling of involvement."
The problem was that, in most cases, the only visible parts of the abusers' bodies were their hands and genitalia. Previously it had been widely assumed that such evidence was not enough to incriminate someone. But Black was unconvinced. "There was a research route that had never been fully explored," she says. "I had been involved in crimes where the victim was dead but these cases had live victims and perpetrators. I thought there might be something we could extract from those images and use in a meaningful way. I thought, 'We should be researching it.'"
Sitting in her 70s office with its high windows to let in light, Black looks very much the academic in a cardigan, with her hair plaited. Her manner is no-nonsense but affable.
Black grew up the youngest of two daughters in a blue-collar Inverness household, and was the first of her family to attend university - she studied biology then human anatomy at Aberdeen. She began her career teaching at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Stints of body-identification work for the police, then the Foreign Office, led to her working in Kosovo, for which she was awarded an OBE in 2001. She has since worked in conflict zones in countries such as Iraq, and in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami.
In 2003, Black took over the University of Dundee's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification and began developing the links between anatomy and forensic science. In 2016, in recognition of her services to forensic anthropology, she was made a Dame.
The teams that work on forensic cases are, Black says, "very close knit. At the end [of a case] we will sit and talk it through. Counselling is always available, though we haven't needed it yet. We are very tuned in to each other, and if someone is uncomfortable we deal with it there and then. When a team is exposed to this sort of thing, which is as bad as it gets, each of you has to know that each member is not suffering themselves."
After Operation Ore, Black realised that hand analysis would be taken seriously only if it had a genuinely scientific foundation, rather than being based on ad hoc comparisons. It was fine to show the vein patterns of an abuser and the accused matched, but if the accused contended that many people had matching veins, Black wouldn't be able to back up her argument with any scientifically validated evidence. In other words, she would need a substantial database of hundreds of people, compiled with a minuscule budget.
In April 2007, Black's department won a contract to teach more than 550 police officers, coroners and legal officials about disaster-victim identification. Black asked attendees to have photos taken of their hands, forearms, feet and legs. Most agreed.
More recently, she helped a mother's fight to prove what had happened to her son's body. She carried out an exhumation at his burial plot in Edinburgh , and confirmed that no humans reminds were inside the coffin.
By 2008, she'd published a study confirming the validity of vein-pattern analysis. Shortly after, she was asked to help in another case. The defendants were eight men belonging to Scotland's largest-known paedophile network. For years, they'd colluded to rape and sexually abuse children, and shared at least 125,000 images of the abuse. The details were so harrowing that during the hearing, the public and media were barred from seeing the images, and counsellors were made available. At one point, the jury heard that one of the accused had circulated a request for "porn with young Down's syndrome or learning-difficulty kids".
Many images featured men abusing the children of friends. A key photo - later known as "the Hogmanay image" - showed one of the two ringleaders, Neil Strachan, 41, attempting to rape an 18-month-old boy whom he was babysitting on New Year's Eve in 2005. The only parts of Strachan's body visible were his penis and left hand. It was this image that Black analysed.
She was aided by a mistake on Strachan's part. His defence team ordered that photographs be taken of his thighs, their intention presumably to show that body parts could not be used to identify someone. However, when the photographer was taking the picture, he asked his subject to hold the photographic scale, which, says Black, "gave us a beautiful view of the accused's thumbs".
Black compared the left thumb in the picture with the Hogmanay image and found matching details, including an unusually shaped lunule, the white area at the base of the nail. "This time, I was able to go back to my database and put statistics to the data." In October 2009, Strachan was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 16 years, cut on appeal to nine years.
Hands can be used to verify a person's identity in two ways. First, they pick up marks and injuries - more than 20 per cent of people attending A&E in the UK have hand injuries. Second, it has in-built morphological features which are unique to the individual - fingertip whorls, palm prints and vein patterns. When a body is growing inside the womb, cells assemble spontaneously, rather than following a pre-established blueprint. This means vein patterns are one-offs. Veins also have the advantage of being enclosed by skin and, unlike fingerprints, can't be altered.
Black analyses mainly the backs, or the dorsum, of hands, as these tend to be predominantly visible in the footage she works with in criminal cases. She first maps a grid of 24 cells on to the hand, covering everything from fingernails to wrist. Then she analyses each cell, looking for identifying marks and studying vein patterns, drawing dark lines over them on-screen to make them more visible. The features she most commonly checks are veins, scars, freckles, birthmarks, moles, nails and skin creases on knuckles. Each one is scrutinised. For example, scars will be classified according to whether they are linear or non-linear, or surgical or accidental, and then by the direction in which they run. When she compares the accused's hand with the database, she can use geometrical formulae to work out the chances of anyone else having the same markings and vein patterns.
Black's database - she has now analysed 1,000 hands - throws up fascinating insights. For instance, you are most likely to get a linear scar on the tip of your second finger, or the middle of the back of your hand. No one seems to get moles on their little fingers, and if you have moles in the same places on both hands, it will be somewhere in the lower half of a triangle drawn between the knobs of your wrists and second knuckle.
On average, men have 50 per cent more scars than women, but right-handed men are more likely to scar their left hands, while right-handed women tend to scar their right - no one knows why. Black is fascinated by the stories that the hands in her database tell. One of her papers quotes lines from Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet: "By a man's finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees," declares Sherlock Holmes, "by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuff - by each of these things a man's calling is plainly revealed."
Sometimes a case challenges Black's methodology. In 2014, the Greater Manchester Police asked her to work on the case of paedophile Jeremy Oketch, a 30-year-old pharmacist who had twice raped a two-year-old girl and filmed the assaults. Although it was impossible to prove, the child's silent compliance suggested that she had been drugged. And although the police had 55 minutes of footage to examine, the only visible parts of the rapist were a hand and his penis.
The video was so distressing, recalls Black, that when judge Hilary Manley left the courtroom to view it, she returned visibly shaken. Was Black affected herself? "Images of child abuse affect everyone who views them," she says. "I feel anxious watching video because you don't know what's coming next. But you have to stay objective. It's not my place to go back to analyse the incident, it's my job to find something of value to the investigation."
The Oketch case presented her with two technical problems. First, he was black, "and all the people we had looked at previously had been white. I didn't know if all the features would be as visible on black skin, but they were." Second, a lot of the footage was clear, the matches were numerous and potential divergences almost totally absent. That sounds ideal, but such apparent certainty brings its own risks. Black takes a file from a cabinet and slips out her report on Oketch to show me (it is in the public domain, having been used in a Crown prosecution). Information is tabulated. Under "Hand" appears a long list of features: "Hand morphology", "Thumb nail groove from asymmetrical lunule", "Vein pattern" and so on. Under "Penis", a similar list: "Penile morphology", "Vein pattern", "Lateral deviation". Each feature is marked to show whether it's the same on the rapist and the suspect. They all are. "And as I learned, that can be a challenge, because it makes you ask yourself if you're really seeing everything. Part of this work is knowing how to look; asking yourself what you might not be noticing," Black says.
In the end, the match appeared strong. When presented with Black's report, Oketch changed his plea from not guilty to guilty; he got 15 years. That plea change was important, Black says. It meant money that would otherwise have been spent on trials was saved. It also meant the child was spared from having to give evidence in court.
Black's team helps police forces around the world - including the FBI, Interpol and Europol - and works on 30 to 50 cases a year. In the cases Black has worked on since 2006, the percentage in which the accused have changed their plea to guilty in response to her analysis stands at 82. Black also takes on cases related to circumstances such as those in which the perpetrator has disguised their face. Grants have helped expand the database and her team have reduced the time it takes to compile a report.
When a case comes in from the police, Black administrates the project, but the client pays the university; any payment to Black's team could be seen to compromise its objectivity. Images or video material are delivered on encrypted drives and handed to her in person. Black works in a team of three but she first views all video evidence herself, absorbing the initial shock on behalf of colleagues. "You have to view it all the first time to know what's coming," she explains. "Then you can narrow it down and look at parts that are more important for the job you have to do."
After that, she shares material she thinks is important with Lucina Hackman, a senior lecturer in human identification at the department, and both women independently single out the pictures that best highlight key anatomical features. Then they agree about the offender's important features and a photographic specialist on the team, Chris Rynn, will enhance the images digitally. Once they have established the offender's features, they study images of the suspect, trying to establish a match.
Roughly speaking, the degree of certainty on any biometric is dictated by the size of a data set. Black's is not yet big enough to justify stating a statistical probability, so instead she follows the system used by the judiciary, which objectively grades the possibility of a match.
Even with clear images of a suspect's and perpetrator's hands, it is impossible to scientifically guarantee a match, as that depends on all the anatomical features present. A suspect can be excluded with 100 per cent certainty, but a match can only carry a grade of "strong support" that the suspect and the offender are the same person. This equates to between a 1-in-1,000 to 1-in-10,000 chance that it could be someone else.
Often this is enough for the accused to change their plea as there is normally additional evidence to implicate the person. If you're wondering why no one is investing billions to create million-strong data sets, Black says it's because there's no money for research into catching child abusers. In the forensic field, most research funding goes into DNA, because it's what they know and trust and there's a drive to do things quicker and cheaper.
"We've looked at vein patterns on the right and left hands of all individuals on the database and we haven't been able to find any two that match," Black says. "We have expanded the database many times since we began, but we need much bigger databases to establish greater degrees of certainty. We think we might get to something that's as good as fingerprinting." Black is attempting to automate the process of searching for repeated patterns, creating algorithms that are able to extract the features from millions of stills or video images. "We've done the pilot project, which shows that we can extract vein patterns and pigment patterns. We're now looking at whether we can do skin-crease patterns on knuckles," Black says. "When you layer all these features and patterns, you increase the probability of identifying the right individual to the fingerprint level, or even perhaps the DNA level of certainty. It could allow us to identify and look for the first-generation producers. It would also mean reducing the strain that these images places on officers. They take a terrible toll."
When asked about the possibility that, as forensic hand analysis becomes more common, paedophiles will start wearing gloves, Black is adamant: "They won't. Most people who commit crimes aren't very bright. They think they'll never get caught."
Case study: Dean Lewis Hardy (Pictures on site)
During a trip to Thailand in 2004, Kent-based Dean Lewis Hardy took indecent photos of four girls aged eight to ten years old, including images of his hand touching them. Five years later, he was found guilty of indecent assault after being identified through an analysis of the images of his hands. He received a six-year sentence. Prosecutors said it was the first case to use hand analysis. Black found Hardy's scars matched that of the suspect, along with his freckle pattern and thumb skin creases. "Scars and creases are accidental," Black explains. "Freckle patterns are random, but their presence indicates a genetic predisposition to freckle formation. Therefore, we had features of different aetiology."
The left index finger of the offender is on the right, and that of the suspect (Dean Lewis Hardy) on the left. It highlights the freckles and a four-point punctuated scar.
The index finger of Hardy is on the right and the offender on the left. A filter has been used to make the freckles more obvious, then grouped into patterns that can be compared between the suspect and the offender.
Both images feature the thumbs of the suspect. The creases of the skin, nails and lunule - the crescent-shaped marking - have been outlined to assist the comparison with the images of the offender.
In June 2016, Black was asked by Kent Police to work on the case against Richard Huckle, one of the worst predatory paedophiles in British history. Between 2006 and 2014, Huckle had groomed and abused up to 200 Malaysian children, including babies, in Kuala Lumpur, while masquerading as an English teacher and philanthropist. Images and videos of his rapes and assaults had been shared with paedophiles on the dark web.
In December 2014, National Crime Agency officers arrested him when he arrived at Gatwick Airport to spend Christmas with his parents, and found 20,000 indecent pictures and videos on his laptop. Officers from the NCA's Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) division viewed every picture and film clip. The material was deeply disturbing: although 23 children would be identified in the charges, the number of victims was believed to be far higher because detectives found on his computer a ledger on which he awarded himself "pedopoints" for 15 levels of abuse rated from "basic" to "hardcore". He had also compiled a 60-page manual, "Paedophiles and Poverty: Child Love Guide", which focused on selecting deprived victims without being caught, and was found on his laptop. He'd planned to publish it online and wanted to create a paedophile wiki guide. "I'd hit the jackpot," he wrote, "in a three-year-old girl as loyal to me as my dog, and nobody seemed to care."
When Black analyses the backs of hands in footage she maps a grid of 24 cells, then looks for identifying marks and highlights in the vein patterns
CEOP officers selected material they felt was clearest and passed it to Black. "Some of it was quite old, so it was degraded, but we didn't need to study that," she says. "Advances in camera technology mean that paedophiles are taking clearer pictures these days. It can make them easier to identify." Even looking at this selection took her team a long time. "It took us about four days to view it all, seeing what we could use, isolating the parts to be used."
In the end, Black's team were able to present evidence to show that Huckle was likely to be the perpetrator, and as the evidence mounted against him, as with Oketch, he changed his plea to guilty. This resulted in the conviction of a man who judge
Peter Rook QC said had almost certainly blighted the lives of his
victims and caused them severe psychological harm.
"The significant thing about that case was the scale of the sentencing", Black explains. "He was given 22 life sentences for 71 offences, which was a way of the courts saying, 'We are serious about this, we are not going to take it lying down.'" Black doesn't dwell on the horrors of individual cases but prefers to talk about what can be done to stem the sharing of child-abuse images online. "Can't our phones recognise parts of a body and stop the image being taken?" she asks. "That's the challenge I want companies such as Apple to take up, to stop technology being a mechanism by which our children's innocence is being stolen. Because, you know, the statistics say that one in six people have had unwanted sexual attention as a child. One in six. I cannot think of a crime that is more important. Can you?"
Suspected gunman in custody after 2 Dallas police officers shot, critically wounded, department says
by Elizabeth Zwirz
The suspected gunman was in custody Tuesday night, hours after two officers with the Dallas Police Department and a civilian were shot, police said.
The shootings took place around 4 p.m. near a Home Depot in Dallas off Forest Lane and Central Expressway, Fox 4 reported.
The police department said on Twitter that two officers were “critically wounded,” however the status of the civilian was “unknown.” All three were out of surgery late Tuesday, Dallas police Chief Rene Hall told Fox 4.
The civilian was a loss-prevention officer from the store, Hall said during a news conference.
The suspect was identified as Armando Juarez, 29, who was believed to have left the location in a white pickup truck, Hall said. He was apprehended after a five-hour man hunt involving a high speed chase, according to reports.
During a press conference, Hall said Juarez was arrested on multiple counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and wanted on a felony theft warrant.
The two officers who arrived at the scene were responding to a call from an off-duty officer working at the Home Depot who called for assistance for an arrest, Hall said. The two responding officers were reportedly shot shortly after arriving.
"We were just checking out people until we started hearing people like 'There's a shooting. They're shooting,'" witness Mercedes Goledo told Fox 4. "From there, they were just telling us to get out of the building. Get out the building. But then they found out that he had went outside."
"It sobers us to realize what officers walk into day in and day out and how quickly they can become victims," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said during the news conference.
He added that law enforcement was fighting a "two front battle": at the hospital for the health of the injured officers and in the community searching for Juarez.
Rawlings said neither the names nor the conditions of the injured would be released.
Authorities asked for prayers for officers, their families, and the police department.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said it was responding to the shooting scene.
Rawlings previously tweeted that his team was "closely monitoring the situation in northeast Dallas and praying for our officers and their families."
Dallas police officer dies day after shooting
Mayor Mike Rawlings announced that Officer Rogelio Santander succumbed to his wounds at a Dallas hospital
Duty Death: Rogelio Santander - [Dallas, Texas]
End of Service: 04/25/2018
by David Warren
DALLAS — The gunman accused of opening fire at a Dallas home improvement store — killing one police officer and critically injuring two others — was initially detained because he was acting suspiciously and may have tried to steal from the store, an arrest warrant revealed Wednesday.
An off-duty officer who was working a part-time job at the Home Depot store in the north of the city learned Armando Luis Juarez, 29, had an outstanding felony warrant after he was detained by store officials for suspected shoplifting, according to the arrest warrant.
Two on-duty officers, Rogelio Santander and Crystal Almeida, were called to the store and, along with a Home Depot loss-prevention officer, were speaking with Juarez in an office. The off-duty officer stepped away, heard a report of "shots fired" broadcast over the police radio and then rushed back to the office to find the officers and loss-prevention employee on the ground with gunshot wounds, according to the warrant.
Investigators later reviewed police body-camera footage that showed Juarez pulling a handgun from his pocket as Santander and Almeida attempted to take him into custody, the warrant alleges.
Santander died Wednesday of his injuries and Almeida and the loss-prevention officer, Scott Painter, were in critical condition.
Juarez was arrested late Tuesday on charges of aggravated assault on a public servant and felony theft. He was subsequently charged with capital murder. Juarez was being held on a bond in excess of $1 million at the Dallas County jail.
Police Chief U. Renee Hall said at a brief news conference Wednesday that Almeida and Painter are "making remarkable recoveries" following surgery.
"This is going to be a trying time for us, so we're just asking you for your support at this time," Hall said.
Police were called to the Home Depot in Lake Highlands at around 4 p.m. Tuesday to remove Juarez from the store. Hours after he escaped, his white pickup truck was spotted by police and a high-speed chase ensued, eventually resulting in his capture just before 10 p.m.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said late Tuesday that he was "upset at the lack of respect for our police in this city and in our country."
The next day, speaking at a city council meeting, Rawlings said, "I hope that we have a degree of respect and honor for our police and first responders today in everything that we do."
In 2016, four Dallas police officers and a transit officer were shot dead by a sniper in an ambush that came toward the end of a peaceful protest over the police killings of black men in other cities.
Relatives of Juarez said they couldn't believe he would be involved in such a violent episode.
"There's no way my son could've done this," Ruben Juarez told The Dallas Morning News, adding that he didn't think his son owned any guns.
Armando Juarez's grandmother, Janie Longoria, told reporters Tuesday that her grandson is a "sweet, lovable person," but that his friends are a bad influence.
Juarez was arrested in January on a charge of unlawful use of a motor vehicle after authorities say he was found in a stolen vehicle. He also pleaded guilty to a drug-possession charge.
"And I told him to stay away from those people," Juarez's grandmother said.
A Home Depot spokesman told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the shooting sent a wave of horror through the home improvement store chain's corporate headquarters in Atlanta.
"We're heartbroken," said spokesman Stephen Holmes. He added that the chain's leadership team has been actively supporting Painter's family and offering counseling to his co-workers.
Otherwise, Holmes said the company is referring to police all questions about the shooting and the run-up to it.
Maine sheriff's deputy fatally shot; suspect at large
Police continue to search for 29-year-old John Williams, who they say killed Cpl. Eugene Cole
Duty Death: Eugene Cole - [Somerset County, Maine]
End of Service: 04/25/2018
by Marina Villeneuve
NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine — Law enforcement officials are vowing to maintain a heavy police presence overnight as the search continues for a man accused of killing a deputy in Maine.
Police are searching for 29-year-old John Williams, of Madison, after they say he killed Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole early Wednesday, stole his cruiser and robbed a convenience store. The cruiser was later abandoned.
State Police Lt. Col. John Cote said late Wednesday afternoon that dozens of agencies have been in the Norridgewock area. He says residents can rest assured that police will maintain a strong presence overnight as the search continues.
Cote says police have received a lot of leads but they're still seeking information from the public. He says anyone who's had contact with Williams within the last 24 hours should contact police.
NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine — A man scheduled to appear in court to face gun charges Wednesday killed a sheriff's deputy in Maine, stole his cruiser and robbed a convenience store, officials said.
The fatal shooting of Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole around 1:45 a.m. on U.S. Route 2 in Norridgewock triggered an intensive manhunt for the shooter in and around the heavily wooded rural town about 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Bangor.
Aircraft and armored vehicles were seen around Norridgewock, and schools were locked down as federal, state and local law enforcement officials searched for 29-year-old John Williams, of Madison, Maine, who police said abandoned the cruiser after robbing the store.
"Many times we're able to say that there is not an ongoing threat, but that's not the case today," said State Police Lt. Col. John Cote. "There certainly is an ongoing public threat. He's considered armed and dangerous."
Cole's death is believed to be the first killing of a law enforcement officer in Maine in nearly 30 years. The last time an officer was killed in the line of duty was in 1989, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety.
On Wednesday afternoon, police escorted Cole's body to the state medical examiner's office in Augusta. Police at intersections along the way paid tribute as the vehicle carrying Cole's body passed by.
Police said Williams is 5-foot-6, 120 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair in a ponytail. Maine records didn't indicate a lengthy criminal record, but Williams was arrested last month in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and charged with improper storage and carrying a firearm without a license.
He was found with a 9mm handgun and a 16-round magazine after he told the police that he dozed off while driving on Route 495 and drove into a ditch. An officer wrote in the report that Williams appeared tired and impaired, but denied having consumed any alcohol or illegal drugs.
Police also found containers with a powder residue, a pocket knife, razor blade and short drinking straw. The report noted that razor blades and straws are commonly used when snorting lines of narcotics. Williams was not charged with any drug offenses.
A judge gave Williams $7,500 bail, which was lowered by a Superior Court judge to $5,000. He posted bail on March 31 and was due to return to court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing.
Residents in Norridgewock, a town of about 3,500 huddled in the rain, as state police cruisers and federal agents investigated a blue-grey home believed to where Williams lived with his girlfriend.
"We're a little on edge. It's unnerving knowing there's a guy running around out there," said Tasha Raymond, who was home with her two children.
Gov. Paul LePage expressed his "deepest condolences" to Cole's family in a tweet. "If you live in Somerset County and the surrounding area, please cooperate with law enforcement and stay safe," the Republican governor said. LePage also directed all U.S and state flags to be flown at half-staff for at least three days.
Cole has a son who also is a Somerset County deputy. Sheriff Dale Lancaster called Cole, a 13-year veteran of the department, an "outstanding employee, one of the finest deputies."
A relative described Cole as a lover of music who was well-known throughout the community for his generous and peaceful ways.
"He was one of the most caring and considerate people that I had the pleasure to know," said Madison resident Scott Bishop, whose mother had been married to Cole's brother.
Long, tortured hunt for Golden State Killer leads to arrest of ex-cop
by Melanie Mason, Richard Winton, Joseph Serna and Joe Mozingo
He slipped in through backdoors and windows in the dark. First he struck in the foothills east of Sacramento, raping at least 46 women, before he began killing and headed south.
From 1978 to 1986, he killed 12 people in attacks ranging from the Sacramento County city of Rancho Cordova to the Orange County cities of Irvine and Dana Point. In Ventura, he tied up a couple with a drapery cord and raped the wife before fatally bludgeoning them with a fireplace log. In Goleta, he bound a doctor and his wife, a clinical psychologist, and shot them both.
The unsolved slayings were not linked with each other for years, and not linked to the rapes until 2000.
Science allowed authorities to connect the crimes but did not lead to a suspect. Victims' families speculated that the unidentified killer might have died unpunished.
But on Wednesday, a local and federal task force announced it had arrested a man suspected of being the so-called Golden State Killer Tuesday afternoon at his home in the Sacramento suburbs. Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 72, a former police officer, was charged with eight counts of murder.
Throughout Wednesday, authorities scoured his beige, single-story home in Citrus Heights, removing two cars, a boat and a motorcycle from the garage.
Four initial charges are for the slaying of two married couples — Brian and Kate Maggiore, who were killed in Rancho Cordova in 1978; and Lyman and Charlene Smith, who were killed in Ventura in 1980.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said the task force had been conducting surveillance on DeAngelo and secretly retrieved his DNA from a discarded item, such as a soda can. The DNA matched the samples left by the killer. Authorities would not say how they initially came to see him as a potential suspect.
Sean Ragan, special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento office, said DeAngelo was a police officer decades ago, first in Exeter, Calif., near Visalia, and then in Auburn, near Sacramento. "The time frame of the crimes supports that the suspect was a police officer when he committed some of these crimes," Ragan said.
A front page article in the Auburn Journal dated August 29, 1979, says DeAngelo was dismissed from his position as an Auburn policeman for stealing a can of dog repellent and a hammer from a Sacramento drugstore.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas' office announced Wednesday evening that charges were filed against DeAngelo in four additional homicide cases. They include the killing of a couple in Dana Point and two separate slayings in 1981 and 1986 in Irvine.
"Finally, after all these years, the haunting question of who committed these terrible crimes has been put to rest," Rackauckas said.
On August 19, 1980, the killer entered the gated neighborhood of Niguel Shores in Dana Point and bludgeoned Keith and Patrice Harrington with a blunt object. The couple had been married just three months. He was a medical student at UC Irvine, and she was a nurse. Crime was unheard of in their community, surrounded by empty hills. Neighbors left their doors unlocked, and kids rode bikes and skateboards to the beach.
The slayings shocked then-sleepy south Orange County. The victims' families were in disbelief and spent the last 38 years trying to drum up information about the killer. They offered rewards and held news conferences.
In 2003, Bruce Harrington, Keith's brother, spearheaded a state ballot initiative to help solve cold cases by requiring all felons or people arrested of certain crimes to submit DNA to a state database. Proposition 69 overwhelmingly passed the next year.
Hope faded with every passing year, but never flickered out.
"It is time for all victims to grieve and to take measure one last time," said Harrington, speaking in Sacramento at the announcement of DeAngelo's arrest. "It's time for the victims to begin to heal. So long overdue.
"Sleep better tonight, he isn't coming through the window," Harrington said. "He's now in jail and he's history."
A number of people inside and outside of law enforcement refused to let the case go.
Crime writer Michelle McNamara became obsessed with the serial killer in 2007 and spent years writing about the case while trying to solve it. She dubbed him the Golden State Killer and wrote magazine articles about the case. She died unexpectedly before her book was finished, but her husband, comedian and actor Patton Oswalt, helped piece together the incomplete parts with her notes.
The book, "I'll be Gone in the Dark," published in February, was an instant bestseller.
On Wednesday, Oswalt said, "I think you got him, Michelle."
Until recently, the case had not gained much notoriety, mainly because the murders and rapes were not connected until years later. And the crimes came as other serial killers were sowing nightmares up and down the state.
William Bonin, the Freeway Killer, dumped the boys and young men he raped and murdered by freeways, as did Randy Kraft. The two Hillside Stranglers preyed on young women. The Grim Sleeper murdered prostitutes in South Los Angeles. Charles Ng tortured people in his "dungeon" at a cabin in the Sierra foothills. And the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, launched his satanic spree of mutilation, hitting suburban homes from Mission Viejo to San Francisco.
Ramirez sparked widespread fear in California, killing at least 13 people in a year, seven just during two summer months in 1985.
In 2000, when detectives connected the Harrington case to other unsolved murders, they dubbed the killer the Original Night Stalker, because he first struck six years before Ramirez. He was alternatively known as the East Area Rapist for the rapes between 1976 and 1979.
Marcus Knutson, a case agent on the East Area Rapist investigation for the FBI's Sacramento Division, described the hunt for the killer in a 2016 interview posted by the agency on YouTube.
"If you lived in Sacramento during that time frame, you have a story of what happened and where you were and what was going on," Knutson said. "Everybody knows about East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer here in Sacramento. During that time frame, everybody was in fear. We had people sleeping with shotguns. We had people purchasing dogs. I think locksmiths' business went way out of control because of the fact that everyone was changing locks on their doors."
The series of attacks began in June 1976 with the rape of a woman in the Rancho Cordova-Carmichael area of Sacramento. From there, the string of crimes extended to "24 different attacks here in Sacramento," Knutson said. The man would pry open windows and rear doors and proceed to the bedroom where either a single woman or a couple would be sleeping. He would then shine a flashlight in their eyes.
"They would see a dark figure with the ski mask on. He would then bind, have the female bind, the male individual," Knutson said. "He would then bind the female individual with shoestrings or whatever he could find. He would then proceed to retie the male victim."
At that point, Knutson said, the attacker would ransack the house. Small items — rings, coins, sometimes cash — would be taken.
"Whatever he could find," Knutson said. "This individual also had the audacity to go through people's refrigerators and eat inside their residences while the victims were tied up."
After eating, he would grab his female victim and bring her down the hallway. Sometimes, he would place plates or cups on the backs of the men and tell them that if they moved, or if he heard the plates fall, he would come back and kill him.
"The female would be raped in a separate room and then brought back to her male companion or, if no one's there, left alone." Knutson said. "And then our guy would vanish in the middle of the night."
It is unclear why the assailant moved on to murder in 1978, or why he apparently stopped the attacks in 1986, after fatally bludgeoning 18-year-old Janelle Cruz in her family's Irvine home.
Jones, the Sacramento County sheriff, said he knew of no recent criminal record for DeAngelo. "He has a couple of minor things in his past…. Nothing of the magnitude that would raise a red flag."
He said investigators were scouring his house for physical evidence.
"There is a lot of material in his house," Jones said. "We're looking for mementos, things that might tie him back — whether it's a firearm, whether it's ammunition. Whatever it is, we're going to be looking for it."
Jennifer Carole didn't know how to react after hearing that someone had been arrested for fatally bludgeoning her father and stepmother, Lyman and Charlene Smith, in their Ventura home in 1980.
She half-figured the killer was dead.
But sometimes she feared he might still be out there, and she opted to use her previous name, Jennifer Smith, anytime she discussed the killings publicly.
"I've been afraid this whole time. I didn't ever want him to find me," she said Wednesday. "I didn't actually believe he was still alive, and to find out he's alive and they got him — it's hard to know what to feel."
Carole and her siblings lived with their mother at the time of the slayings. They remained in the Ventura area before they all moved back to the Sacramento area, where the family is originally from.
Carole and her family assumed — until the different slayings were connected — that her parents had been killed by a business partner or even a stalker obsessed with Charlene.
To find out he was not only alive, but living among them in Sacramento, was an overwhelming revelation, she said.
"It's unbelievable," she said. "How can he have just been here?"
A crush of police vehicles and media filled the quiet subdivision of winding roads and cul-de-sacs.
Residents said they were familiar with the story of the Golden State Killer and were shocked to learn that the suspect had lived among them.
"It's a little surreal," said Richelle Taylor, 42.
Jack Haddad, 51, and his wife, Hala Doumat, 35, live within view of DeAngelo's driveway. Neither knew him, but Doumat said she regularly walks by his house with her three kids.
The couple said they had recently watched a documentary on the Golden State Killer. "I knew there was a $50,000 reward," Doumat said.
Her husband said he was shocked it had taken so long to solve the case.
"I have mixed feelings," Haddad said about the arrest. "If something so horrific can happen so close to you, anything goes."
Migrants Gather in Mexico, Prepare to Seek U.S. Asylum
Arrival of hundreds more Central Americans expected in Tijuana soon
by Alicia A. Caldwell
TIJUANA, Mexico—Sitting in a crowded, tin-roofed migrant shelter within sight of the U.S., Ana Suaso said she was ready for her monthlong journey from Honduras to end.
She and her three children have covered more than 2,000 miles by foot, by train and finally by bus with hundreds of other Central Americans who made up a caravan of migrants that has caught the attention, and raised the ire, of President Donald Trump.
Ms. Suaso and nearly 130 other Central Americans arrived at the Tijuana shelter Tuesday. She said they were fleeing violence, corruption and poverty in their home countries. As many as 300 more Central Americans are expected to reach Tijuana in the next day or so. They plan to head through the sprawling border city's downtown to the international crossing point on Sunday. Nearly all are expected to ask for asylum.
This isn't the first time a large group of Central Americans have made the trip together, but this effort gained attention after Mr. Trump repeatedly denounced the group on Twitter and said it was evidence of a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Earlier this month, he ordered thousands of National Guard troops to be sent to the international boundary.
“I have instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country,” Mr. Trump tweeted Monday. “It is a disgrace. We are the only Country in the World so naive! WALL.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement late Wednesday that agency officials are monitoring the caravan's travels and are “doing everything within our authorities to secure our borders and enforce the law.”
“If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution. If you make a false immigration claim, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution,” Ms. Nielsen said.
Cynthia San Gabriel, a 42-year-old from Las Vegas volunteering at the Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter, said the caravan was an annual event that in the past barely drew notice from anyone.
“This is my third one,” said Ms. San Gabriel, who said she has been helping at the shelter for about a year and has volunteered in Mexico for about five years. She said about the only difference she has seen with this year's caravan is that there are more women and children.
The number of people caught crossing the Mexican border illegally reached record lows in the first few months of Mr. Trump's presidency. Though arrest figures, the best estimate of how many people are trying to sneak into the U.S., have steadily risen since last summer, they remain at lows last seen in the early 1970s.
Ms. Suaso said she decided to flee with her children, a girl and two boys ranging in age from 8 to 14, because of the gang violence in Honduras. Various groups, including Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, had threatened her family and killed other relatives.
Ms. Suaso said she had heard that Mr. Trump doesn't want her and others in her group crossing the border. That won't stop her, she said, adding that she has the right to ask for asylum in the U.S.
“It's not up to Trump if I make it,” she said in Spanish. “It's up to God.”
Another Honduran migrant, 27-year-old Gabriela Hernandez, said she and her two young children fled their home after the children's father became abusive. Ms. Hernandez said the man is a mechanic and would sometimes help gang members with auto repairs, so when he started hitting and threatening her, she decided it was time to leave.
Ms. Hernandez said she had planned to travel on her own with her two young sons, ages 6 and 2, intending to hire smugglers if necessary. Then she found the caravan in Tapachula, Mexico.
“It was safer to go with them,” she said, adding that there were other children for her boys to play with along the way.
Trump administration officials and some lawmakers have called for an overhaul of the U.S. laws and policies that govern how asylum seekers, families and unaccompanied immigrant children are treated. Mr. Trump and Ms. Nielsen have said legal “loopholes” make it difficult to quickly deport asylum seekers who don't have permission to be in the U.S.
Caravan of migrants reaches US border, temporarily turned away by Border Patrol
by Ben Gittleson and M.L. Nestel
The quest for asylum for the caravan of Central Americans was put on pause after Border Patrol authorities declared that they were unable to process them due to space constraints.
"CBP facilities at capacity at San Ysidro. They won't be taking any more until space becomes available," U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "At this time, we have reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry for CBP officers to be able to bring additional persons traveling without appropriate entry documentation into the port of entry for processing."
He then assured that once space opens up and "resources become available" officers "will be able to take additional individuals into the port for processing."
Alex Mensing, an organizer for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told ABC's "Start Here" podcast on Sunday that caravan members were told, "Twenty people can wait next to the door, but they would not be processed, and they would not say how long we will have to wait."
He said 20 people will be camped outside, rotating in shifts, until everyone is processed. In the early morning hours Monday, the migrants were sleeping on threadbare blankets on the concrete floor.
"We've got blankets, we've got people bringing clothing and food from the community. ... The police have set up kind of a ring of fencing around it. Everyone is out here, organizing a security commission, and everything they need to be able to spend the night."
As of 9 p.m. local time Sunday, he said, "No one has been processed at all. Nobody has set foot in the United States."
If admitted, the migrants would be taken to a detention center elsewhere and then interviewed by an asylum officer in what is called a "credible fear interview."
The news of a delay for the dwindling group of Central Americans caravaning to the busiest border crossing in the U.S. to seek asylum was met with frustration and anger.
One rejected migrant blamed the U.S. government for failing "to get sufficient agents and resources" to process the refugees.
"The United States government is the most powerful government on the planet," the migrant said. "One of the most richest governments on the planet. We can build a base in Iraq in under a week, [yet] we can't process 200 refugees? I don't believe it."
Before it was announced that San Ysidro was at capacity, an attorney representing a caravan migrant told ABC News that approximately 150 to 180 people would present at the official port of entry and seek asylum today.
She said most were children.
"The majority of those that will be presenting are children coming with their families," said Nicole Ramos, an attorney with the organization Al Otro Lado, which directs the Border Rights Project. "Some of them are coming with just their mothers, some of them are coming with just their fathers, and them some of them are coming with both parents. We also have several children who are unaccompanied minors who do not have parents or family to take care of them, and they will obviously be coming by themselves."
The border at San Ysidro has for weeks been built up as a flashpoint where the caravan of emigrants hoped to make the 15-minute walk over the pedestrian bridge and gain entry into the U.S.
But it was unknown if border authorities would welcome them with open arms or turn them away.
The nearly 400 migrants -- many mothers carrying infants children who filled five old school buses and at one point numbered over 1,000 strong slogging from as far as Guatemala -- arrived in Tijuana last week. Some secured pro bono legal counsel and have been staying in shelters in Tijuana near the U.S. border in San Diego.
The vast majority of emigrants that make up the caravan come from violence-ravaged Honduras.
A large caravan arrived in Tijuana within the last week and had waited until Sunday to cross the border into San Diego.
Supporters on both sides of the border held celebrations and demonstrations.
Attention on their flight and plight has reached a fever pitch, with President Donald Trump painting the caravan as a direct threat to the U.S.
During a Saturday night rally in Washington, Michigan, Trump railed against the caravan as proof that the country's laws were too lax.
"Are you watching that mess that's going on right now with the caravan coming up?" he asked the crowd.
Already this month, Trump called for more manpower to be deployed by the National Guard in Arizona, New Mexico and California to secure the border.
He said Saturday that it was clear that for too long immigration laws were "so weak" and the country's borders too porous.
"We don't have borders," he said. "We're going to build the wall. We're getting it. We have already started."
Viridiana Vidal, a spokeswoman for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group behind the so-called migrant caravan, said she expected approximately 100 to 200 people to attempt to cross from Mexico to the U.S. at the San Ysidro border crossing, where they planned to request asylum.
The group vowed in a statement that the 1,500 men, women and children who have at times joined the long journey were seeking peace and "fighting for a safe and dignified life."
"Now that our journey is ending, we demand that our rights as refugees, migrants and human beings be respected,” the group said in a statement.
They called the effort by President Trump to deploy the National Guard as a way to "further militarize the U.S. southern border."
Late last week, another organizer told ABC News that the caravan had been reduced to 375 migrants -- and stressed that not all of the remaining members were seeking asylum in the United States.
On Sunday afternoon, at least a dozen people climbed to the top of the border fence from the Mexican side and sat or stood on top. It isn't clear how many of them were part of the caravan group or inspired supporters.
They appeared to protest and also celebrate the caravaners coming to the United States.
U.S. authorities on Sunday stated that some immigrants crossed over an especially vulnerable section of the border into the country over the past 24 hours to wade through a dangerous canyon.
Rodney S. Scott, chief patrol agent at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, condemned members of the Central American caravan and accused them of having "illegally entered the United States without immigration documents by climbing over the dilapidated scrap metal border fence on either side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry."
He lambasted the caravaners who are mothers for putting themselves and their children in peril to traverse "illegally through a dark, treacherous canyon that is notorious for human and drug-smuggling."
"As a father myself, I find it unconscionable that anyone would expose a child to these dangerous conditions, especially when there is a legitimate Port of Entry within a few miles of these dangerous canyons," Scott stated.
There have been counterprotests by a group calling themselves San Diegans for Secure Borders, who planned to make their presence known at Friendship Park that the asylum seekers are not welcomed, according to ABC News station KGTV.
Also, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned anybody attempting to breach the border illegally that they could face legal consequences and their cases could be adjudicated.
"If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution. If you make a false immigration claim, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution. If you assist or coach an individual in making a false immigration claim, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution," she wrote in a statement released last week.
Waffle House shooting hero James Shaw Jr. raises more than $150,000 for victims
by Faith Karimi
Just hours after he pried a rifle from a gunman who'd opened fire at a Waffle House in Tennessee, James Shaw Jr. launched a fundraiser to help the victims' families.
That GoFundMe campaign by early Thursday had raked in more than $150,000 -- more than 10 times its goal -- since the attack Sunday left four people dead.
Meantime, the Antioch, Tennessee restaurant has pledged to donate all its proceeds for the next month to the families of living and deceased victims of the attack.
And a New York man launched an online fundraiser to benefit Shaw that by early Thursday had raised nearly $165,000 from more than 5,000 donors.
Tennessee lawmakers this week also paid tribute to Shaw, 29, for his heroism and his compassion for the victims . The state General Assembly officially recognized his heroism, along with his "penchant for honesty," in a joint resolution .
"You are my hero," state Rep. Jason Powell said, "and Tennessee's hero."
Ambushing a killer
Shaw was sitting with a friend at the Waffle House counter early Sunday when a gunman wearing only a green jacket opened fire outside the diner, police said.
Shaw bolted from his seat and slid along the ground to the restroom, he recalled. He kept an eye out for the gunman, and as soon as there was a pause in the shooting, Shaw ambushed him.
"I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it," he told reporters Sunday.
Shaw charged at the man with the rifle, and they tussled for what felt like a minute, Shaw said.
The barrel of the rifle was still hot when Shaw managed to wrestle it away, he said. He tossed it behind the counter, and the gunman fled.
The encounter left Shaw with a burn on his hand and a wound on his elbow where a bullet grazed it.
Nearly 36 hours later, police arrested alleged shooter Travis Reinking . He's charged with four counts of criminal homicide. He also faces four counts of attempted murder and one count of unlawful gun possession in the commission of a violent felony.
Baltimore commissioner apologizes for '200 years' of policing
Commissioner Darrly De Sousa addressed a crowd at a hip-hop concert and apologized "for all the things that the police have done dating back 200 years"
by PoliceOne Staff
BALTIMORE — Baltimore's police commissioner took the stage at a hip hop show to issue an apology to the crowd.
On April 18, Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa addressed a crowd attending a concert for hip-hop group Eric B & Rakim, the Washington Times reports . De Sousa apologized for how police treated black communities since the nation's founding, according to the Baltimore Sun .
“I want to take about 20 seconds to apologize for all the things that the police have done dating back 200 years,” De Sousa said. “Two-hundred years ago, all the way to civil rights. All the way to the ‘80s where crack was prevalent in the cities and it affected disproportionately African-American men. All the way to the ‘90s. All the way to the 2000s when we had zero tolerance.”
The commissioner received a round of boos and a few rounds of applause after his address.
Gene Ryan, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3, said he didn't believe the commissioner's apology was appropriate.
“Law enforcement was created to protect and serve the citizenry despite race and that is what we strive to do, daily,” the union president wrote. “Are we perfect? No, of course not, but as a profession we work very hard to care for all of our citizens.”
Ryan added that he's still willing to give De Sousa a chance.
Death toll rises to 9 in China school stabbing attack
by the Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — The death toll has risen to nine in Friday's stabbing attack outside a middle school in northwestern China allegedly carried out by a former pupil seeking revenge for having been bullied.
The Mizhi county government in Shaanxi province reported that another 10 people have been hospitalized with injuries resulting from the rampage outside the No. 3 Middle School in the rural area that took place as classes were being dismissed for the evening.
Police have arrested a 28-year-old suspect identified by the surname Zhao who had been a student at the school and was apparently seeking revenge for having been picked on, the Mizhi government's official microblog said on Saturday.
China tightly restricts private gun ownership, making knives and homemade explosives most common weapons in violent crimes.
Many schools have beefed up security at access points following violence against students and family members. In 2010, nearly 20 children were killed in knife attacks outside school gates, casting light on the medical system's ability to diagnose and treat mental illness.
In June last year, a 22-year-old man made the bomb that exploded at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China, killing eight people, including himself.
Legacy Museum opens in Montogomery, Alabama, to highlight slavery, lynchings
by NBC News
The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration opened this week on the site of a former slave pen in Montgomery, Alabama, where black people were once imprisoned before being sold at auction.
An unflinching reminder of America's racist legacy, the 11,000-square-foot facility will serve as a place of learning for visitors by detailing the tragic history of the slave trade and following through to current-day problems associated with mass incarceration.
The Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery nonprofit that provides legal aid to people who may be wrongly convicted, said it raised more than $20 million in private donations to fund the project.
A National Memorial for Peace and Justice is located a few blocks from the museum, and features more than 800 steel monuments that bear the names of lynching victims throughout the country. In its creation, organizers discovered the names of 4,400 black people who were lynched or died in racial killings between 1877 and 1950.
For some visitors to the museum and memorial, seeing the stark and plaintive tributes to the past was painful. "I'm a descendant of three lynching victims," Toni Battle, who drove from San Francisco for Thursday's opening in the rain, told The Associated Press. "I wanted to come and honor them and also those in my family that couldn't be here."
Arizona police officer killed, suspect arrested after stealing 3 cars
A police officer in Arizona is dead and a suspect is in custody after stealing three cars in a violent series of incidents Friday in Tucson.
According to Nogales police, officer Jesus Cordova was shot multiple times and killed after pulling over a driver following an armed carjacking at about 2:40 p.m.
The suspect exited the car and shot at Cordova after being pulled over, police said. He then allegedly stole two more cars during a police chase, authorities said.
The suspect was identified by police as David Ernesto Murillo, 28, who was later arrested in a trailer park after police located the stolen car.
"We come here today with a heavy heart as we mourn the loss of one of our officers," Nogales Police Department Police Chief Roy Bermudez said in an emotional press conference Friday. "We ask for prayers for his family, friends, members of the Nogales Police Department and the community as a whole."
Cordova, 44, was engaged and the father of three children. His fiancee is 5 months pregnant with their fourth child.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety will take over investigation, Bermudez said. The investigation will be complicated, with seven different crime scenes, due to the carjackings, shooting and eventual capture, police said.
Bermudez refused to give any information about Murillo during the press conference, saying, "I'm not going to give him the time of day to talk about him on television."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said flags would fly at half staff on Monday to honor Cordova.
"My prayers and condolences go out to Officer Cordova's family and loved ones and the entire Nogales community," Ducey said in a statement. "This tragedy is a solemn reminder of the sacrifices that police officers make daily to keep our communities safe."
Cordova had worked for the Nogales Police Department for just one year after joining the department from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office in California.
"He was an exemplary police officer, sir," Bermudez said. "I was glad to take him in because of the reputation he had."
Calif. DA candidate: Cop killers shouldn't get death penalty
Lawrence Strauss said he would't seek the death penalty against defendants who've killed a police officer because, "it's part of the risk they take"
by Nate Gartell and Aaron Davis
MARTINEZ, Calif. — A candidate for Contra Costa District Attorney said during a forum this week he wouldn't seek the death penalty against defendants who've killed a police officer because, “it's part of the risk they take.”
The comments by attorney Lawrence Strauss — one of three candidates in the June DA election — were promptly slammed by local police union presidents, one of whom said Strauss' name shouldn't be on the ballot.
Strauss was responding to a question during an April 24 forum at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, which asked Strauss, interim DA Diana Becton, and senior deputy district attorney Paul Graves if they would seek the death penalty against cop killers. Of the three, Strauss was the only one to give a direct answer.
He began his comments saying that when an officer is murdered it affects not only his family, but “a nationwide network of police officers.” He added, however, that people who kill single officers shouldn't be death-penalty eligible. He cited the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing as an example of a death penalty case he'd support.
“I feel sorry for the officer. It's part of the risk they take as being an officer of the law,” Strauss said. He added that he trained police officers as a prosecutor in Hawaii and always told them to approach every traffic stop with caution because someone could pull a gun out at any time.
Contra Costa Sheriff Sgt. Sean Welch, president of the agency's officer union, called the comments “archaic” and “extremely inappropriate.”
“Law enforcement officers are hired to ensure the public's safety and enforce the constitution and laws of the state. We are not pawns for a brutal dictator,” Welch said. “Strauss' performance last night should have made it clear to anyone voting in the primary election that he should not even be on the ballot for district attorney.”
Officer Ben Therriault, president of the Richmond Police Officer's Association called Strauss “tone-deaf” when it came to public safety, adding that “the men and women in our profession don't sign up to be hurt or killed or receive less justice than our fellow citizens we protect.”
The other two candidates seemed to hedge the question, with Graves saying death cases are reserved for “the most heinous crimes,” and Becton saying, “Yes, to answer your question, whenever there is a case in our system where the crime in heinous or serious, the death penalty is the law in California.” Both said they'd use an existing committee that makes decisions on each potential death case.
Strauss has operated a private practice for 23 years and spend nearly two years as a prosecuting attorney in Hawaii, according to his online biography. His priorities include ending “wealth-based disparities,” excessive sentences, and quashing the War on Drugs, increasing transparency and accountability, and promoting polices “that aid undocumented communities,” according to his response to a candidate questionnaire.
Asked to respond to Welch's comments, Strauss put out a two-page written statement in which he says he's seen firsthand the impact when officers are killed in the line of duty, and thanking police for their service. He said people who kill single officers should receive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Read Strauss' full statement here.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks on the Drug Crisis in America
Thank you, Kurt for that kind introduction. Thank you for your seven years of service to the Department of Justice and for your leadership now as United States Attorney.
I want to thank Lenette for hosting us here today. And thank you for all of the work that you do to help people walk the difficult road to recovery. And thank you to the other compassionate treatment providers who are here.
It is an honor to be with you all. I am here today to discuss some of the actions that the Department of Justice has taken to help end our nation's drug crisis—actions that I believe benefit us all.
But before I do that, I want to say thank you to everyone here who helps us fight the drug epidemic—especially our fabulous law enforcement officers.
I want to thank Tim McDermott of the DEA, Acting U.S. Marshal Rod Ostermiller, Ian Blair with the Secret Service, Supervisory Probation Officers Marty Hylland and Brian Farren, Steven Osborne of the IRS, Greg Kosiarek with our Postal Inspectors, Michael Stewart of Customs and Border Protection, Montana Chief Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion, and Colonel Tom Butler of the Montana Highway Patrol. Thank you for your service.
There can be no doubt that this is the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Approximately 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2016 – the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history.
That's nearly the population of Missoula—dead in one year from drug overdoses.
Preliminary data show another—but what appears to be a smaller—increase for 2017. Amazingly, for Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.
We recognize that the drug crisis is taking a toll on our Native American tribes. According to one report, Native Americans had the highest drug overdose death rates in 2015. I know that Kurt and his team have prosecuted a number of drug trafficking cases affecting Indian country here. I heard about Operation Glacier Melt, for example. The U.S. Attorney's Office, FBI, IRS, BIA, and DEA formed Operation Glacier Melt, which was an OCDETF operation around the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. In that operation alone, you put 22 defendants in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Here in the West, there is also the threat of methamphetamine.
In 2016, more than 7,500 Americans lost their lives to a methamphetamine overdose. And this number is a sharp increase as well.
Most of our DEA agents in the West tell us that methamphetamines are a bigger problem in their area than heroin is.
But both of these threats are growing. According to the Montana Department of Justice, methamphetamine violations in this state rose by more than 400 percent from 2010 to 2015. Meanwhile heroin violations increased 1,500 percent.
These are not just numbers. When we talk about drug abuse and addiction, we are talking about the lives of moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends, and neighbors. We are talking about the lives of fellow Americans.
That includes Natalie Dietrich, a student at Montana State, who was given a synthetic opioid at a concert in Bozeman. She was an economics student. She had a promising life ahead of her, but now that is a future we will never see.
It includes Caden Fowler, from Hamilton, Montana, who was found dead at home of an opioid overdose at just 16 years old. Caden's mom Brandi is an outspoken advocate who is working to prevent the spread of drug abuse, and I want to commend her for that.
And we also remember the story of Kenzley Olson, of Poplar, Montana. Kenzley was a 13-month old baby who was sick with the flu. She wouldn't stop crying. The woman who was watching her was high on methamphetamine and, in a fit of rage, beat her to death.
There are many stories like these—stories that are heartbreaking.
But we are not going to accept the status quo. This is not business as usual.
Ending the drug crisis is a top priority for the Trump administration.
President Trump has a comprehensive plan to end this national public health emergency.
He wants to improve our prevention efforts by launching a national awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid abuse. He has set the ambitious goal of reducing opioid prescriptions in America by one-third in three years.
At the Department of Justice we embrace that goal. As a nation, we prescribe too many opioids. In 2015, for every 10 Montanans, there were nine opioid prescriptions.
Tomorrow the DEA will hold its semiannual National Drug Takeback Day. Last year's two events took more than 900 tons of potentially dangerous drugs off of our streets. And so I urge all Americans to participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day tomorrow.
For example, early last year DEA, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement executed search warrants on the residence of an alleged drug trafficker in Great Falls, Montana. They seized numerous firearms, 15 pounds of methamphetamine, and nearly $250,000 in cash. Now that trafficker has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Back in August, DEA worked with state and local law enforcement to seize 17 pounds of methamphetamine that was on its way to Billings from the Southwest.
Just a week ago, DEA and Customs and Border Protection agents seized more than 85 pounds of suspected methamphetamine that was allegedly being trafficked by the Sinaloa Cartel.
But the number one killer drug in the United States as a whole is fentanyl. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl killed 20,000 Americans in 2016.
Most fentanyl doesn't come from here. The vast majority of it is made in China and then shipped here either through the mail or brought across our porous Southern border.
Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin. It's so strong that just a few grains—the size of a pinch of salt—can be fatal.
That's why this Department of Justice has had a special focus on fentanyl, tripling fentanyl prosecutions from 2016 to 2017.
In October, the Department announced the first-ever indictments of Chinese nationals for fentanyl trafficking in the United States.
And earlier today I announced the unsealing of two indictments charging 10 additional defendants, including four Chinese nationals and six defendants from the East Coast of the United States. In total, 32 defendants have been charged as part of this law enforcement operation.
The defendants allegedly sold fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in 11 states from coast to coast—from Oregon to Ohio to Florida.
They and their co-conspirators allegedly shipped fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China through the mail—and it killed people in North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon, and North Dakota.
While we have suffered the worst drug crisis in our history, we've also seen violent crime on the rise. I don't think that's a coincidence.
If you want to collect a drug debt, you collect it with the barrel of a gun. As surely as night follows day, violence and death follow drug trafficking.
From 1992 to 2014, crime declined in America. But from 2014 to 2016, however, the trends reversed. The violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent. Robberies went up. Assaults went up nearly 10 percent. Rape went up by nearly 11 percent. Murder increased by more than 20 percent.
Here in Montana, the violent crime rate went up nearly 14 percent; rape increased nearly five percent; aggravated assault increased nearly 15 percent, and robbery increased by nearly 30 percent.
According to a Department of Justice study, nearly a quarter of the increase in homicides is the result of the increase in drug-related homicides.
That study's findings are reaffirmed by what Kurt tells me, that that methamphetamine trafficking is driving much of the crime here in Montana.
Some people will tell you that law enforcement doesn't make much of a difference. They think that crime is like the tides, going up and down and we just can't do anything about it.
I utterly reject that view.
At the Department of Justice, we believe that through legal reforms, more sophisticated policing strategies, and investment in our officers, we can reduce crime in America.
The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me an Executive Order that directs us to reduce crime in America—not to preside over ever-increasing levels of crime.
The centerpiece of our crime reduction strategy is a tested and proven strategy called Project Safe Neighborhoods.
Here's how it works. First of all, I've ordered Kurt and our other United States Attorneys to target and prioritize prosecutions on the most violent people in the most violent areas.
Second, I've ordered them to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders—from police chiefs to mayors to community groups and victims' advocates—in order to identify the needs specific to their communities and develop a customized violent crime reduction plan. This builds on another executive order from the President – Back the Blue.
PSN provides a framework that can be adapted to the situation on the ground in local communities across the country.
And, like I said, it has been proven to work. One study showed that, in its first seven years, PSN reduced violent crime overall by 4.1 percent, with case studies showing reductions in certain areas of up to 42 percent. There are Americans who are alive and well today because this program made a difference. We've asked congress for $140 million for local grants to use for cooperative crime fighting initiatives.
I believe that it will work again—including right here in Montana.
When we invest in our law officers and work with local communities, we get results.
And so I want to close by reiterating my deep appreciation and profound thanks to all the women and men of law enforcement – federal, state, local, and tribal – as well as their families, for sacrificing so much and putting your lives on the line every day so that the rest of us may enjoy the safety and security you provide. You do make a difference. You make a difference every day.
The work that you do is essential. I believe it. The Department of Justice believes it. And President Trump believes it.
You can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.
From the FBI
Sexual Assault Aboard Aircraft
Raising Awareness About a Serious Federal Crime
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the FBI is taking that opportunity to alert the public about a serious federal crime that is on the rise: sexual assault aboard aircraft.
Compared to the tens of millions of U.S. citizens who fly each year, the number of in-flight sexual assault victims is relatively small, “but even one victim is unacceptable,” said FBI Special Agent David Gates, who is based at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and regularly investigates these cases. “We are seeing more reports of in-flight sexual assault than ever before,” he said.
Sexual assault aboard aircraft—which usually takes the form of unwanted touching—is a felony that can land offenders in prison. Typically, men are the perpetrators, and women and unaccompanied minors are the victims. “But at LAX,” Gates said, “we have seen every combination of victim and perpetrator.”
In fiscal year 2014, 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to the FBI. In the last fiscal year, that number increased to 63 reported cases. “It's safe to say that many incidents occur that are not reported,” said Gates, one of the FBI's many airport liaison agents assigned to the nearly 450 U.S. aviation facilities that have passenger screening operations regulated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In larger airports such as LAX, multi-agency task forces are on location to investigate a variety of criminal and national security matters, from sexual assaults to terrorism and espionage.
Crimes aboard aircraft fall within the FBI's jurisdiction, and in the case of in-flight sexual assaults, agents describe elements of these crimes as being strikingly similar. The attacks generally occur on long-haul flights when the cabin is dark. The victims are usually in middle or window seats, sleeping, and covered with a blanket or jacket. They report waking up to their seatmate's hands inside their clothing or underwear.
One victim, a mother of two who was attacked in 2016 on a flight from the West Coast to Africa via Europe, recounted her ordeal. “I fly overseas often,” she said. “The flights usually leave around 6 p.m. I have dinner, watch a movie, and go to sleep. I was dozing off toward the end of the movie, and all of a sudden I felt a hand in my crotch.”
The woman instinctively said, “No!” and pushed the man's hand away, but he came at her two more times before she was able to remove her seatbelt and get away, even as her attacker used the full weight of his body trying to detain her. As the assault was happening, she recalled, “it didn't make sense to me. It was all so disorienting and confusing.”
She ran toward the bathroom. Seeing her condition, passengers thought she was experiencing a medical emergency. Barely able to breathe, the woman explained what had happened and that she needed a flight attendant. After the crew responded, while she was waiting to be reseated away from her attacker, she was told by members of the crew that sexual assaults in the air were fairly common. One sympathetic flight attendant said that she, too, had been groped in the past.
“I was horrified,” the veteran flyer remembered thinking. “How can this be and I have never heard about it?”
“Unfortunately, people don't think things like this happen on airplanes,” said Caryn Highley, a special agent in the FBI's Seattle Division who investigates crimes aboard aircraft. “There is a perception on an airplane that you're in a bubble of safety,” Highley said. But particularly on overnight flights, where people may consume alcohol or take sleeping pills, and a dark cabin and close-quarter seating can give the perception of privacy and intimacy, offenders are tempted by opportunity.
That is one of the reasons why the FBI is trying to raise awareness about this issue—so people can protect themselves and report incidents immediately if they do occur. “There are all sorts of people in the air, just like on the ground,” Gates said. “Flyers need to be aware of their surroundings and take a few simple precautions to stay safe.”
Among suggested precautions:
Trust your gut. Offenders will often test their victims, sometimes pretending to brush against them to see how they react or if they wake up. “Don't give them the benefit of the doubt,” Gates said. If such behavior occurs, reprimand the person immediately, and consider asking to be moved to another seat.
Recognize that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills or other medication on an overnight flight increases your risk. “Don't knock yourself out with alcohol or drugs,” Gates said.
If your seatmate is a stranger, no matter how polite he or she may seem, keep the armrest between you down.
If you are arranging for a child to fly unaccompanied, try to reserve an aisle seat so flight attendants can keep a closer watch on them. Highley has seen victims as young as 8 years old.
If an incident happens, report it immediately to the flight crew and ask that they record the attacker's identity and report the incident. “Flight attendants and captains represent authority on the plane,” Gates said. “We don't want them to be police officers, but they can alert law enforcement, and they can sometimes deal with the problem in the air.” The flight crew can also put the offender on notice, which might prevent further problems.
If alerted in advance, FBI agents can be on hand when the plane lands to conduct interviews and take subjects into custody. FBI victim specialists can respond as well, because victims of federal crimes are entitled by law to a variety of services.
“It doesn't matter when you report an in-flight sexual assault—we take it seriously, and we will pursue it,” Gates said. “But after the fact, these cases are much more difficult to prove.”
In most cases, when assaults are immediately reported to the flight crew, law enforcement on the ground will be notified and will be waiting to respond when the plane lands. If law enforcement is not able to respond on the ground, victims are encouraged after landing to contact the nearest FBI office.
Investigators point out that offenders take advantage of the fact that some victims might not report an incident because they are embarrassed, don't want to cause a scene, or try to convince themselves the assault was accidental.
“These are not accidents,” Gates said. “We see the same pattern of behavior over and over again.”
The victim of the 2016 attack—whose case remains open—has used social media to raise awareness about in-flight sexual assaults and has heard the stories of many victims. She agreed that assaults should be reported immediately.
“A lot of women don't come forward because they are embarrassed,” she said. “It is embarrassing in the moment. It's awkward when the flight crew starts asking you all these questions and passengers are staring at you. The burden has been placed on you instead of the person who just inflicted this on you,” she explained. “Recognize and understand that. People should not be able to get away with these crimes.”