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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Advocacy Group Launched After Teen Shot During Welfare Check

Advocacy Group Launched After Teen Shot During Welfare Check

 

 

 

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An advocacy group, JOCO United- has recently launched by friends and supporters of the parents of a suicidal teen killed by police during a welfare check.  On Jan. 20, 2018, police were dispatched to the home of 17 year old John Albers at about 5:35 p.m. on a report that he was home alone and suicidal.  Albers had no criminal history but a history of mental health issues, was shot as he was backing the family’s minivan down the driveway by one of the first Overland Park officers to arrive at the home, Clayton Jenison.  Jenison resigned shortly after the shooting for personal reasons.  A month later, after a multi-jurisdictional investigation, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe concluded the officer reasonably feared for his life, deeming the shooting justified.  Dashcam footage was released and shown at the press conference when Howe announced that no charges would be filed.

Howe and Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said they thought the officer’s actions were not unreasonable and that investigators could not determine if Albers was killed by the first two shots or the subsequent shots.  The release of the video touched off intense debate among the public, especially parents wondering whether calling the police for help with mental health issues was even a safe option.  The video shows two different dashcam recordings of the shooting and begins with the view of a police vehicle as it drives toward the Albers home.  The Albers home comes into view and the family minivan is backing out of the garage into the driveway with Albers at the wheel.  Overland Park Police Officer Clayton Jenison stands to the rear of the van and shouts “Stop!” As the van continues, Jenison fires two shots at it.  The van pauses and then continues backing down the driveway past the police officer, making a U-turn in reverse back toward the house.  The officer shouts “Stop the car!” as another police vehicle pulls up to the entrance of the driveway.  Officer Jenison shoots at the van 11 more times and another officer runs toward the driveway. One of the officers shouts “Shots fired! Shots fired! ”  The van rolls forward into the street and one of the officers shouts “Stop! Stop, John, stop the car!” The van rolls across the street into a neighbor’s front yard as other officers run to the van.  One officer calls for medical assistance “Shots fired, He’s down, we need medical ASAP.”  An officer talks to Albers. “John, John, John, John. God damn it! Glove up, glove up!”  The officer continues talking to Albers. “John, are you all right? Ah, (expletive).

Another video, taken from a dash cam in a vehicle parked on the opposite side of the Albers home, begins before the shooting.  It shows the first two officers arrive first and walk up to the house.  One officer walks back down the driveway while Officer Jenison stays at the front of the house.  Jenison walks into the driveway as the garage door opens.  The van starts backing out of the garage toward the officer.  The officer shouts “Stop!” three times while stepping backward down the driveway and into the grass.  Officer Jenison pulls his gun, firing twice and the van briefly stops in the driveway.  The van continues backing down the driveway and the officer steps to his right to avoid the van. The van makes a U-Turn in reverse into the yard as another police vehicle pulls into the driveway.  Officer Jenison shouts “Stop the car!” and fires 11 more times at the van as it backs up through the yard toward the house.  As other officers run toward the van two officers walk away.  “Hey, deep breaths, man,” one officer says to Officer Jenison. “Deep breaths.  “Come here, buddy, come over here,” one officer says.  Jenison, who sounds obviously shaken says “I thought he was going to run me over, man.” Another officer answers, “I know.”

 

 

 

 

 

Many people were disturbed by the shooting and by the district attorney’s findings, said Mark Schmid of Overland Park, who helped found JOCO United.  “We want to bridge the divide standing between us and the city’s police and political leaders so we can work together.”  One goal is to improve how officers respond to people with mental illness or are in mental distress.  Steve and Sheila Albers told news outlets “People from all walks of life were devastated and shaken by such a senseless act and the exceedingly poor response.” Sheila Albers filed a lawsuit in April, suing the officer who shot her son and the city of Overland Park.  The court documents state that the officer “acted recklessly and deliberately” when he shot and killed Albers, who may not have known police were at his home and was “simply backing his mom’s minivan out of the family garage, Aavehicle passing a police officer does not give that officer an ongoing license to kill an unthreatening citizen.”   The lawsuit is pending.

 

 

 

 

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Man Arrested At New Mexico Compound Allegedly Training Children For School Shootings

Man Arrested At New Mexico Compound Allegedly Training Children For School Shootings

 

 

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The father of a missing 3-year-old who was arrested at a New Mexico compound linked to “extremist Muslims” was training children to commit school shootings.  Prosecutors allege Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39, was conducting weapons training on the compound, where 11 children were found hungry and living in squalor.  Wahhaj, who is being held without bail, is the son of a Brooklyn imam, also named Siraj Wahhaj, who was named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.   His father, who heads Masjid At-Taqwa mosque, was also a character witness in the trial for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the notorious “blind sheikh” who was convicted in 1995 of plotting terror attacks in the U.S.

Authorities raided the compound after a months-long investigating into the disappearance of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, a boy with severe medical issues who went missing from Georgia in December.  Wahhaj told the missing boy’s mother that he wanted to perform an “exorcism” on his then-3-year-old son because he was “possessed by the devil.” The child reportedly suffered from seizures and couldn’t walk.  The child’s remains were found on the property but authorities have not confirmed a cause of death.

The compound was located near the Colorado border shielded by old tires, wooden pallets and other debris. Upon authorities’ arrival, Wahhaj was “heavily armed with an AR15 rifle, five loaded 30 round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket when he was taken down,” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.  Lucas Morton, Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35, were also arrested on the property and all face child abuse charges.

The search at the compound came amid a two-month investigation that included the FBI. Hogrefe said federal agents surveilled the area a few weeks ago but did not find probable cause to search the property.  That changed when Georgia detectives forwarded a message to the sheriff that he said initially had been sent to a third party, saying: “We are starving and need food and water.”

The sheriff said the children, ages 1 to 15, “looked like third world country refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing.”  Jason Badger, who owned the property where the compound was built, said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group after becoming concerned about the children.  The group had built the compound on their acreage instead of a neighboring tract owned by Lucas Morton, one of the men arrested during the raid.

Documents filed in 8th District Court in Taos County quoted the foster parent of one of the 11 children as having told investigators that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, was conducting weapons training at the squalid compound.  According to the document, Wahhaj “had trained the foster parent’s child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings.”   The foster parent’s accusations have not been verified and are still under investigation.

 

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Pennsylvania Officer Charged With Manslaughter In Fatal Shooting

Pennsylvania Officer Charged With Manslaughter In Fatal Shooting

 

 

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In Pennsylvania, South Whitehall Township Police Officer Jonathan Roselle has been charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting 44-year-old Joseph Santos.  The shooting happened July 28 along a busy highway near Dorney Park in South Whitehall Township.  Officer Roselle was investigating reports of a Latino man interfering with traffic when he encountered Santos.

Officer Roselle was initially monitoring traffic when a woman came to him about a man who had approached and tried to enter her vehicle.  At least one other driver told the officer that a Latino man was jumping on cars and interfering with traffic.  When Roselle encountered Santos, the officer found him bleeding.  Roselle notified dispatchers of a man with possible mental issues and requested more units at the scene.

According to several videos captured by bystanders, Santos went on to hit and jump on the officer’s car.  Santos is seen walking away from Roselle and his vehicle. At some point, Santos struck the driver side of the officer’s SUV and jumped on the hood of the vehicle. Once off the hood, Santos continued to hit the side of the vehicle, eventually leaning on the SUV.  Roselle ordered Santos during this time to back away from the SUV.  Some of the bystander videos of the encounter captured this.

They also show Santos walking away from the Roselle’s vehicle and then turning back around to walk toward the officer. Roselle is heard yelling for Santos to “get on the ground,” but Santos does not comply. Shortly after, Roselle shot Santos five times and Santos is seen falling to the ground.

While announcing the charges at a press conference, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin told reporters that “in this case, there is no evidence that Mr. Santos was armed with any weapon and no evidence that he had committed or attempted a forcible felony.”  Officer Roselle, 33, who was on patrol by himself for fewer than five months, “killed under an unreasonable, mistaken belief that he was justified” in fatally shooting Santos, Martin added.

Officials said Roselle remains on administrative leave, while the investigation into the shooting continues.  The rookie cop previously served in the U.S. Army and did a tour in Afghanistan.  Roselle graduated from the Allentown Police Academy last year and completed about 13 weeks of field training before being allowed to patrol by himself, the district attorney said.  Martin acknowledged Santos’ bizarre behavior but added that when Santos walked toward the officer again, “he was not running or rushing toward the officer. He did not have anything visible in his hands. He was not clenching his fists. He did not present a threatening posture. He was plainly not armed with any type of weapon.”  Martin also said Santos was heard saying “Don’t do it” before Roselle shot him.

Though Santos failed to comply with the officer’s “legitimate” demands to get on the ground, Martin said, there is nothing objective that shows Roselle “was in danger of imminent serious, bodily injury or death.”  Martin added that Roselle told the first responding officer immediately after the shooting that he thought he “f****d up,” and that he didn’t know what to do because Santos kept advancing toward him. He repeated his “f****d up” comment to his shift supervisor at the scene.

After Santos’ death, family members and community leaders asked why the officer didn’t first use non-lethal force to subdue him. Martin confirmed that Roselle was equipped with a baton, pepper spray and a Taser.  All items were examined and found to be functional.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Minneapolis Police Officers Won’t Be Charged In Shooting of Thurman Blevins

Minneapolis Police Officers Won’t Be Charged In Shooting of Thurman Blevins

 

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Minneapolis prosecutors have announced there will be no charges filed against Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, the two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot 31-year-old Thurman Blevins as he was running away.  His death on June 23 led to protests across the city as activists decried the killing of yet another black man at the hands of white police officers.  The incident was captured in body-camera footage released by the city of Minneapolis a little over a month after Blevins was killed.

The officers were responding to a 911 call of a man who looked intoxicated, firing a gun in the air and at the ground.  The description given in the call was of a black male with a black backpack and a bottle of gin. Six feet tall, 180 pounds, tapered hair, wearing a white-and-gray tank top.  One video begins as Officers Kelly and Schmidt drive through a neighborhood in northern Minneapolis looking for the suspect.  “That’s kind of a really good description for that to be an actual legitimate call,” Schmidt says in the video. “But . . . then again.”

A few blocks from where the caller reported seeing the man, they spot Blevins sitting on the curb with a gray dog.  “He’s got a bottle of gin,” Schmidt says. “Is he . . . black tank top, tapered hair . . . yeah.” Then, with considerably more urgency in his voice, Schmidt says, “He’s got a gun.”  The car comes to an abrupt stop and both officers jump out.  Blevins springs from the curb and starts running, dropping the dog’s leash and nearly knocking over a woman with a stroller.   “Put your hands up! I will f—ing shoot you!” Schmidt yells.

Both officers chase after Blevins, shouting at him to stop and put his hands up.  “Come on, man. Come on, man. I didn’t do nothing, bro,” Blevins says as he runs.  “You’ve got a gun,” Schmidt responds.  “I don’t,” Blevins calls back.  “Yes, you do,” Schmidt replies “Put it down.”  Sprinting past a white picket fence, Blevins rounds a corner and turns down an alleyway.  “Homie, please,” he pants. “Please, don’t shoot me. Leave me alone.”  About 45 seconds into the chase, Schmidt starts firing and Blevins collapses. When the officers get closer, what appears to be a small handgun is lying on the ground near Blevins’s right hand.

In addition to the two officers’ body-camera videos, the city also released an “enhanced” version of the footage in which the gun police say he was carrying has been circled. The object is visible in Blevins’s pocket when the officers arrive at the scene, then in his hands when Schmidt opens fire.  Reactions to the video were mixed. Some argued that the officers had been justified in shooting Blevins, because he appeared to have a gun and had refused to drop it despite multiple warnings. Others argued that police should have done more to de-escalate the situation when they arrived at the scene.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the decision at a news conference that was interrupted by protests.  In Freeman’s prepared remarks, which were released by his office, the prosecutor said there was “no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer,” because Blevins “fled from the officers with a loaded handgun, refused to follow their commands for him to stop and show his hands, and then took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers.”  Freeman’s office also released a 21-page report further explaining the decision and concluding that Blevins “posed an immediate threat to the officers’ safety.”

The report outlined the findings of a state investigation, which included analyzing the body-worn cameras, forensic analysis of the gun and interviews with officers involved, along with witnesses. The findings were sent to Freeman, who reviewed it with three senior prosecutors to make the decision not to charge the officers.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on BodyCam Footage of Harith Augustus Shooting Released

BodyCam Footage of Harith Augustus Shooting Released

 

 

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Violent protests erupted in Chicago after police officers shot and killed a 37-year-old African-American man on the South Side of Chicago. Harith Augustus was a well-known barber and the father of a 5-year-old daughter. Hundreds took to the streets to protest his killing.  Protesters and police clashed with protestors throwing rocks and bottles, some filled with urine at officers.  Four people were arrested, several officers were treated for minor injuries and two patrol cars were damaged.

The day after the protests, police released a 30 second clip with no sound of an officer’s body-cam footage.  Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said it was the quickest he had ever ordered such video released and that he hoped to dispel rumors Harith Augustus, 37, was unarmed.  He also said he hoped making the 30-second clip public would prevent another violent confrontation between residents and officers.  “The community needs some answers and they need them now, we can’t have another night like last night.”  Mr Johnson told reporters.  He said Mr Augustus’s family was in favor of releasing the video for the same reason.

The edited clip of body camera video shows at least three officers approaching Augustus as he is talking to another officer outside a store in the city’s South Shore neighborhood.  The first officer points at his waistband and Augustus backs away while reaching into his back pocket.  As Augustus pulls his wallet from his pocket, three officers try to grab his arms.  Augustus tries to get away, backing into a police cruiser as his shirt flies up, showing the gun.  The footage pauses and zooms in on the weapon, which police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said was done to ensure a semi-automatic handgun in its holster and two bullet magazines tucked into Mr Augustus’s waist could be seen clearly.

Augustus then runs into the street as a police SUV drives up. He spins away from the SUV and darts between the SUV and the police cruiser as he reaches towards his waist.  At that point, an officer opens fire, hitting Augustus multiple times.  Augustus did not fire his weapon and the footage does not show him pulling the gun out of its holster.  Police also released a 50-second, slow-motion clip showing Augustus reaching towards his waist. It was not clear if he was going for the weapon but it does appear he was grabbing for something at his waist.

Records show Augustus had a legal permit to carry a firearm and no recent arrest history. Augustus was known in the Grand Crossing neighborhood as “Snoop” — worked at a barbershop and had a five-year-old daughter.  A police spokesman said more videos will be released within 60 days but declined to say how many different angles exist or whether any of the officers’ cameras captured audio.

While the snippet of video released seems to have calmed some tensions, some pointed out that Augustus, a quiet man with only a few minor arrests from years ago, appeared to be trying to show the officers some sort of identification during the street stop, possible his firearm permit.  Experts on use of force have focused on how Augustus tried to evade arrest, twisting away from officers and fleeing into the street with his right hand hovering near his holstered gun.  The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates police-involved shootings, will try to determine if the officers followed policy and if any training issues need to be addressed.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

Three Year Old Refugee Girl Killed At Birthday Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 3-year-old child refugee from Ethiopia attacked at her birthday party by a knife-wielding man has died of her injuries. Ruya Kadir died at a trauma center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she was flown for treatment.  Police said five other children and three adults were wounded in the stabbing attack.  Police have arrested a 30-year-old man from Los Angeles who had been staying in the same apartment building.  Seven of the other eight victims remain in the hospital, many with serious or critical injuries, and one child was treated and released. The wounded children ranged in age from 4 to 12 years old.

The suspect, Timothy Kinner, 30, was initially charged with nine counts of aggravated battery, and six counts of injury to a child.  Kinner was arraigned in Ada County Court in Boise when a judge informed him that the charges had been amended and that he’s now facing one count of first-degree murder.  Kinner has an extensive criminal record spanning multiple states and has spent time in prison for previous violent offenses.  If convicted, Kinner could be eligible for the death penalty under Idaho law. Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts said her office has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty, saying those “high-level decisions” are made only after all the facts are in.

Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said during an emotional news conference that the suspect’s motive was “vengeance” for being asked to leave an apartment in the complex due to his behavior.  Bones said Kinner had been invited to stay for a few days at the apartment of a renter who had shown him compassion but was asked to leave on Friday due to his disruptive behavior.  According to Police Chief Bones, Kinner returned to the apartment where he had been a guest on Saturday and found nobody home.  Around 8:45 p.m. Kinner went a few doors down to where the party was going on and allegedly stormed the apartment, stabbing the people with a folding knife.

Zine Mutlack, the 8 year old boy who was treated and released from the hospital said he first saw Kinner hiding near the party.  “Then he popped up and I was in front of my aunt,” Zine said. “He just came to me and stabbed me in my belly. Then he went to her, made her fall on the ground, then he stabbed her lots of times and I heard her yelling.”  In the chaos that followed, Zine said his mother was stabbed in the neck and his father told him to run home and call the police.  “I said, ‘Somebody is stabbing people in the apartment,'” Zine said. “They said they were already on their way.”

The attack took place at an apartment complex that is home to refugee families. Kinner is not a refugee but he temporarily lived at the complex until he was asked to leave the day before his attack.  The chief said the victims were all refugees from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia who had escaped violence in their homelands only to be confronted with it in America. The victims were placed in Boise as part of the refugee resettlement program.  International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband said his group settled Ruya and her mother in Boise from Ethiopia in December 2015. Her father is in Turkey.

Monday evening, around 1,500 people turned out at a vigil honoring members of refugee families targeted in the stabbing.  People wept, sang and shouted their support for the refugee community, and many brought bouquets of white flowers intended to symbolize peace. By the end of the rally, hundreds of bouquets filled dozens of baskets on the steps of Boise’s City Hall.

A 3-year-old child refugee from Ethiopia attacked at her birthday party by a knife-wielding man has died of her injuries. Ruya Kadir died at a trauma center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she was flown for treatment.  Police said five other children and three adults were wounded in the stabbing attack.  Police have arrested a 30-year-old man from Los Angeles who had been staying in the same apartment building.  Seven of the other eight victims remain in the hospital, many with serious or critical injuries, and one child was treated and released. The wounded children ranged in age from 4 to 12 years old.

The suspect, Timothy Kinner, 30, was initially charged with nine counts of aggravated battery, and six counts of injury to a child.  Kinner was arraigned in Ada County Court in Boise when a judge informed him that the charges had been amended and that he’s now facing one count of first-degree murder.  Kinner has an extensive criminal record spanning multiple states and has spent time in prison for previous violent offenses.  If convicted, Kinner could be eligible for the death penalty under Idaho law. Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts said her office has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty, saying those “high-level decisions” are made only after all the facts are in.

Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said during an emotional news conference that the suspect’s motive was “vengeance” for being asked to leave an apartment in the complex due to his behavior.  Bones said Kinner had been invited to stay for a few days at the apartment of a renter who had shown him compassion but was asked to leave on Friday due to his disruptive behavior.  According to Police Chief Bones, Kinner returned to the apartment where he had been a guest on Saturday and found nobody home.  Around 8:45 p.m. Kinner went a few doors down to where the party was going on and allegedly stormed the apartment, stabbing the people with a folding knife.

Zine Mutlack, the 8 year old boy who was treated and released from the hospital said he first saw Kinner hiding near the party.  “Then he popped up and I was in front of my aunt,” Zine said. “He just came to me and stabbed me in my belly. Then he went to her, made her fall on the ground, then he stabbed her lots of times and I heard her yelling.”  In the chaos that followed, Zine said his mother was stabbed in the neck and his father told him to run home and call the police.  “I said, ‘Somebody is stabbing people in the apartment,'” Zine said. “They said they were already on their way.”

The attack took place at an apartment complex that is home to refugee families. Kinner is not a refugee but he temporarily lived at the complex until he was asked to leave the day before his attack.  The chief said the victims were all refugees from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia who had escaped violence in their homelands only to be confronted with it in America. The victims were placed in Boise as part of the refugee resettlement program.  International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband said his group settled Ruya and her mother in Boise from Ethiopia in December 2015. Her father is in Turkey.

Monday evening, around 1,500 people turned out at a vigil honoring members of refugee families targeted in the stabbing.  People wept, sang and shouted their support for the refugee community, and many brought bouquets of white flowers intended to symbolize peace. By the end of the rally, hundreds of bouquets filled dozens of baskets on the steps of Boise’s City Hall.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

FDA Approves First Cannabis Based Drug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a cannabis-based drug.  The drug, Epidiolex, has been approved to treat two types of epileptic syndromes. The drug’s approval comes as an increasing number of states have approved medicinal and recreational marijuana use.  Epidiolex was recommended for approval by an advisory committee in April, and the agency had until this week to make a decision.

The twice-daily oral solution is approved for use in patients 2 and older to treat two types of epileptic syndromes: Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that begins in the first year of life, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between 3 and 5.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement “This is an important medical advance because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery.”

The drug is the “first pharmaceutical formulation of highly-purified, plant-based cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid lacking the high associated with marijuana, and the first in a new category of anti-epileptic drugs,” according to a statement from GW Pharmaceuticals, the UK-based biopharmaceutical company that makes Epidiolex.  Justin Gover, chief executive officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, described the approval in the statement as “a historic milestone.”

He added that the drug offers families “the first and only FDA-approved cannabidiol medicine to treat two severe, childhood-onset epilepsies.”  “These patients deserve and will soon have access to a cannabinoid medicine that has been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, manufactured to assure quality and consistency, and available by prescription under a physician’s care,” Gover said.  He said Epidiolex will become available in the fall would not give any information on cost, saying only that it will be discussed with insurance companies and announced later.

Cannabidiol is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals, yet unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it does not produce a high.  The FDA has approved synthetic versions of some cannabinoid chemicals found in the marijuana plant for other purposes, including cancer pain relief.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, up to one-third of Americans who have epilepsy have found no therapies that will control their seizures.  With this approval, Epidiolex could be a new option for those patients who have not responded to other treatments to control seizures.

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

Officer Charged in Antwon Rose Shooting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old unarmed African-American high school senior who was shot and killed on June 19th by an East Pittsburgh police officer.  Rose was shot in the back as he was trying to flee a traffic stop by Police Officer Michael Rosfeld.  Officer Rosfeld came upon Antwon and another teenager, Zaijuan Hester, when he stopped a car they were riding in that had been seen leaving a drive-by shooting in the nearby town of North Braddock.  Zaijuan, 17, was charged in connection with that shooting.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged Officer Michael Rosfeld with criminal homicide for the fatal shooting.  The charge against Officer Rosfeld capped days of protests in the Pittsburgh area, and came two days after the funeral for Antwon at Woodland Hills Intermediate School, in Swissvale, Pa., where he was a rising senior.  Allegheny County district attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said that Officer Rosfeld had failed basic police procedures in the moments before Antwon was shot, gave statements to investigators that were contradicted by witnesses and had a troubling employment history with other police departments.  Zappala said he’d ask a jury to consider first-degree murder charges against Rosfeld, though the charge of criminal homicide opens the door for a possible conviction on lesser charges—including involuntary manslaughter. Rosfeld surrendered to authorities and was released after posting $250,000 bail.

Officer Rosfeld pulled over the Chevrolet Cruze that matched the description of a vehicle seen near an earlier drive-by shooting in North Braddock, in which a 22-year-old man was struck in the abdomen.  Without waiting for backup, Officer Rosfeld approached the driver’s side of the car and had the driver step out. As he was placing the driver in handcuffs, Antwon, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Zaijuan, who was in the back seat, jumped out.  Witnesses said Antwon flashed his hands in the air, showing that they were empty, and then turned to run away.

A video of the encounter posted on Facebook shows the teenagers running from police vehicles as three shots are fired, and Antwon falling to the ground.  Witnesses told the police that they heard Officer Rosfeld fire three shots — all of which hit Antwon. One struck the right side of his face, another hit his right elbow and a third, which was the fatal wound, hit his back and then struck a lung and his heart, an autopsy found.

Officer Rosfeld initially told investigators that Antwon had turned his hand toward him and was holding “something dark,” and that he thought it was a gun.  Yet when he was asked again about what had transpired, Officer Rosfeld said he did not see a gun.  According to the criminal complaint, “When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was.” “Officer Rosfeld stated that he was not certain if the individual who had his arm pointed at him was still pointing at him when he fired.”

An empty 9 millimeter magazine, which fit into a 9 millimeter pistol recovered under the car’s front passenger seat, was found in Antwon’s front right pocket. The pistol had been reported missing in Monroeville, Pa., that same day.

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

Judge In Brock Turner Case, Aaron Persky Recalled

 

 

 

Aaron Persky, the California judge who drew national attention in 2016 when he sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, was recalled on Tuesday.  He is the first judge recalled in California in more than 80 years.  Almost 60% of voters were in favor of removing Judge Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he had served since 2003. Prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson was elected to replace him.

The recall stemmed from the case of Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting a woman near a dumpster in 2015 after she had blacked out from drinking. In 2016, a jury found the 20 year old Stanford swimmer guilty on all three felony charges against him: sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person, and intent to commit rape.

The maximum sentence in Turner’s case was 14 years but Judge Persky had sentenced him to six months.  During sentencing Judge Persky said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him.  His decision along with the fact that he did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim, outraged victims’ advocates nationally.

Turner served only three months before being released in September 2016.   He also received three years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender.  Stanford forced him to withdraw and barred him from campus.  His victim, known publicly only as Emily Doe, described her suffering in a more than 7,000-word statement that went viral soon after it was published.  The sentence and resulting backlash, prompted California lawmakers to change the law. Within four months, they enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases and closed a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist.

Talk of a recall campaign began immediately after he handed down his sentence.   The recall campaign was led by Ms. Dauber, whose daughter is friends with Emily Doe — had collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.  In a statement, Judge Persky said he had a legal and professional responsibility to consider alternatives to imprisonment for first-time offenders.  LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and a spokeswoman for Judge Persky, called the recall an attack on judicial independence and said it had “encouraged people to think of judges as no more than politicians.”

Among the effort’s most prominent backers were Anita Hill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  Ms. Dauber said the results “demonstrated that violence against women is a voting issue,” and that “if candidates want the votes of progressive Democratic women, they will have to take this issue seriously.”

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4 months ago · by · 0 comments

Two Journalists Killed Covering Subtropical Storm Alberto

 

 

 

Two journalists in North Carolina died while covering the landfall of Subtropical Storm Alberto, which brought heavy rain and flash flood warnings to swaths of the Southeast.  News anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer of the NBC affiliate WYFF died when a tree fell on their news truck.  Authorities said a tree became uprooted from rain-soaked soil and toppled on the news team’s SUV, killing the two instantly.  “All of us at WYFF News 4 are grieving,” the station said. “We are a family and we thank you, our extended family, for your comfort as we mourn and as we seek to comfort the families of Mike and Aaron.”

Anchor Carol Goldsmith broke the news of their deaths on air “Anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer both had worked in the Greenville market for more than a decade.  Mike and Aaron were beloved members of our team — our family,” Goldsmith said.  McCormick was a weekend anchor for the Greenville station-covering Spartanburg and surrounding areas. He came to the station in April 2007.  Smeltzer had worked in Greenville for more than a decade, winning four Emmys during his career.

The men were driving on U.S. Highway 176 near Tryon around 2pm when the large tree fell on their vehicle, North Carolina Highway Patrol Master Trooper Murico Stephens said.  McCormick and Smeltzer had just interviewed Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant. They told Tennant to be careful with Alberto’s remnants expected to bring more heavy rains and mudslides to North Carolina. He told them to be careful too.

“Ten minutes later we get the call and it was them,” Tennant said at a news conference, his voice cracking.  The fire chief said the roots of a large tree were loosened in ground saturated by a week of rain. The TV vehicle engine’s was still running and the transmission was in drive when crews found it.  Tennant estimated the tree to be about three feet in diameter.

WYFF anchor Mike McCormick, 36, is survived by his parents, his partner, Brian Dailey and Brian’s daughters, Katy and Emma Dailey; brother, Kevin McMullen (Novi); and nieces, Holly and Kaylee.  He is  remembered as a compassionate journalist who knew how to make everyone around him comfortable. McCormick graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in broadcast journalism and theater arts, WYFF said.  McCormick enjoyed cooking with local, fresh ingredients from the Hub City Farmers’ Market, as well as spending time with his family and two dogs.  McCormick started at WYFF in 2007 as a reporter and became a weekend anchor in 2014.

Photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer, 35, is survived by his fiancée, Heather Michelle Lawter of Inman, South Carolina; Mother and Father-in-law, Stephen and Debbie Lawter of Inman, South Carolina; two brother-in-laws, Matt Lawter and his wife Mandy and Chris Lawter and his wife Angel; two nephews, Trent Lawter and Reec` Marlow and his beloved fur babies, Diesel and Mollie.  He is remembered as a talented photojournalist and an unfailingly kind friend that would make you feel like you were his best friend as soon as you met him.

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