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10 hours ago · by · Comments Off on El Chapo Found Guilty

El Chapo Found Guilty

 

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A New York City federal jury rendered a guilty verdict on all 10 federal criminal counts against notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, after a 3-month trial. The counts include conspiracy to launder drug money, international distribution of drugs, the use of firearms and engaging in a criminal enterprise.  The 61 year old faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for the guilty verdict of leading a continuing criminal enterprise, and a sentence of up to life imprisonment on the remaining drug counts.  He will be sentenced on June 25.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera once headed a criminal enterprise that spanned continents and triggered waves of bloodshed throughout his native Mexico, claiming more than 100,000 lives in drug-related violence.  During the more than 200 hours of testimony at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, 56 witnesses took to the stand with stories of murder, violence, spying, widespread corruption and even one tale of the drug lord escaping arrest in 2014 by climbing naked through a sewer alongside a former lover.   The kingpin is just as notorious for leading the violent cartel as he is for his extensive measures of escaping arrest and daring prison escapes.  Since Guzmán’s capture in 2016 and extradition one year later, he has been kept in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison with little to no human interaction for as many as 23 hours a day.

Over 2½ months, the partially sequestered and anonymous jury sat through testimony from 56 witnesses about unspeakable torture and ghastly murders, corruption at nearly every level of Mexico’s government, narco-mistresses, gold-plated AK-47s and monogrammed, diamond-encrusted pistols.  Fourteen of those witnesses — mostly admitted drug traffickers and cartel associates — cooperated with prosecutors in hopes of reducing their own prison sentences.  There were also surveillance photos, intercepted phone calls and text messages involving Guzmán, as well as evidence showing extravagant firepower and bricks of cocaine that dropped with the force of potato sacks.

The jury deliberated roughly 34 hours over six days before rendering guilty verdicts on all 10 counts.   Jurors did not look at the defendant, who reportedly pocketed nearly $14 billion in cash proceeds as the decades-long head of the Sinaloa cartel.  Under El Chapo, the Sinaloa cartel smuggled narcotics to wholesale distributors in Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York.  Federal prosecutors said they will seek a forfeiture judgment for billions of dollars constituting the cartel’s illegal drug-trafficking proceeds.

One of Guzmán’s lawyers described him as “extremely upbeat” after the verdict, “He’s a fighter, he’s not done yet by far” defense attorney Michael Lambert said.  After jurors left the room, Guzmán waved and smiled at his wife, Emma Coronel, a former beauty queen and courtroom regular who smiled back and touched her hand to her heart.  Another member of the defense team, Jeffrey Lichtman, said they waged a vigorous defense and are disappointed in the jury’s verdict but they plan to file an appeal on a number of issues.

According to experts, his conviction will not diminish the power and reach of the Sinaloa cartel.  According to researchers, the violent crime group has not been affected despite the arrests of some of the cartel’s top leaders and important associates.    El Chapo created an extraodinary criminal organization that operates in more than 40 countries and was designed to carry on even in his absence.  Once El Chapo started running from authorities, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, who lead a faction of the cartel, made sure the cartel still functioned, which he still does to this day.

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2 days ago · by · Comments Off on Investigation Reveals 20 Years of Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Church

Investigation Reveals 20 Years of Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Church

 

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sexual abusesbc.jpgAn investigation led by Robert Downen, a Houston Chronicle reporter, reveals 20 years of sexual abuse allegations within the Southern Baptist Church (SBC).  The joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News- includes over 700 victims, including many children—some as young as 3 years old.  With about 15 million members, the SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the country and the shocking report has prompted calls for investigations into the church and their role in covering up and enabling the abuse.

Three hundred eighty Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have been accused of rape, abuse and various forms of sexual misconduct.  Around 220 of those have been convicted of sex crimes or were given plea deals.  Of those 220, 90 remain in prison and 100 are registered sex offenders.  The report also found that members of the church pressured some women to get abortions after becoming pregnant as a result of assault, or threatened to shun them from the church.

The investigation comes as other religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, face accusations of widespread sexual abuse of its members, especially children, over decades.  The investigation of the SBC began because of Debbie Vasquez, who was 14 years old when she was first molested by the pastor of her church and at 18 she became pregnant with the pastor’s child.   In 2008, she and others started asking SBC leadership to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers but the church’s leaders resisted such reforms.  As a result, Lise Olsen, deputy investigations editor at the Chronicle, says the newspaper created its own database of abusers.

Olsen says it was easier for the abuse to stay a secret because of the church’s culture which does not allow women in leadership positions or condone same-sex relationships.  She says many of the victims are either young women who are told it’s a sin to have sex before marriage, even if you’re forced to by your pastor or they’re young men who are being forced into homosexual acts with pastors and other leaders, and then are stigmatized.  These “purity teachings” leave victims feeling un-empowered to come forward, with some victims losing their faith and even becoming suicidal.

Abusers in religious organizations often don’t just groom victims, they groom communities, preparing them to rise up and protect them.  Those who speak out about sexual abuse in authoritarian religious communities are often shamed in an attempt to quiet them with accusations seeking attention or of trying to bring down a godly man.  They may be told they’re selfish — indulging in their own pain when they should be paying attention to the pain they are causing others, including the people who will turn away from the church and spend an eternity in hell because of the poor light they’ve portrayed the church in.

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, who was elected last June, responded to the newspapers’ investigation with a series of tweets:  “The abuses described in this @HoustonChron article are pure evil.”

“There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable. The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists.  As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to ‘do better’ and expect that to be enough. “It’s time for pervasive change, God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (prevention), respond during disclosure (full cooperation with legal authorities), and act after instances of abuse (holistic care).”

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3 days ago · by · Comments Off on Measles Outbreak In Pacific Northwest

Measles Outbreak In Pacific Northwest

 

 

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As the measles outbreak continues into 2019, the World Health Organization has said that people who choose not to get themselves or their children vaccinated constitute a global health threat.  More than 270 people across the country, mostly small children, have been infected by the highly contagious and sometimes deadly pathogen since last fall with 100 of those cases being confirmed since the start of 2019.  Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills over 100,000 children worldwide each year and the virus had been eliminated in the US by the year 2000, thanks to the measles vaccine but as the Anti-Vax movement has grown, the disease has resurfaced in the US.

Many are blaming policy failure and calling for a re-examination of laws that allow people to opt out of the vaccines on behalf of their children.  Every state allows medical exemptions for people who might be harmed by a vaccine, such as those with weakened immune systems because of an illness or allergies to vaccine ingredients.  While all 50 states have legislation requiring vaccines for students entering school, almost every state allows exemptions for people with religious beliefs against immunizations.

Most of the people with measles right now weren’t immunized from the virus. They all live in places that permit a variety of nonmedical — religious or philosophical — exemptions from vaccines.  Eighteen states grant philosophical exemptions for those opposed to vaccines because of personal or moral beliefs.  Mississippi, California, and West Virginia have the strictest vaccine laws in the nation, allowing only medical exemptions.  Right now, in 45 states, even without an exemption, kids can be granted “conditional entrance” to school on the promise that they will be vaccinated, but schools don’t always bother to follow up on vaccination records.

In Washington State, where at least 55 cases were confirmed since the start of 2019, Governor Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency and lawmakers are considering changes to vaccination laws.  Public health officials say the recent rise in measles cases in the Pacific Northwest is due to laws in Washington and Oregon that allow parents to easily opt out of vaccinating their children. One-quarter of kindergarten students in Clark County, which is at the heart of the recent outbreak, did not receive all their recommended vaccinations.

In Oregon, where the Portland area has experienced a recent outbreak, the percentage of children unvaccinated for measles varies widely from school to school.  Most schools are at or near the 93% threshold protection levels that epidemiologists say keep the virus at bay.   Still, at some Portland schools, 10 to 20 percent or more of their students are unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons.  Around 7.5 percent of Oregon kindergartners are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority — the highest rate in the country.  At least seven schools in the Portland area have measles vaccination rates below 80 percent, lower than some developing countries like Guatemala.  The rate of unvaccinated children is even higher in specialty and private schools with some having a low rate of only 40% of students vaccinated.  Oregon lawmakers are working on legislation that would eliminate a provision of Oregon law that allows parents to forego vaccinations for their kids because of religious or philosophical reasons.

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Trial Underway for Insys Execs Kickback Scheme

Trial Underway for Insys Execs Kickback Scheme

 

 

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A trial is underway in Boston against pharmaceutical executives who prosecutors say ran a criminal scheme of bribing doctors to prescribe its’ highly addictive fentanyl spray, Subsys, to patients who didn’t need it. John Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics and former CEO, and other drug executives are accused of organizing fake speaking events to pay and influence doctors. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug.
Subsys is a powerful pain killer used to treat cancer pain in terminally ill patients. The drug, which is made from fentanyl, is incredibly powerful, about 100 times more powerful than morphine. More than 900 people have died while using Subsys since it was approved in 2012. Kapoor, was charged by the government in 2017. The indictment against Kapoor and the other former Insys executives allege that they “conspired to mislead and defraud health insurance providers” who did not want to approve payment for Subsys when it was prescribed for patients who did not have a cancer diagnosis. The U.S. Department of Justice said the company executives were able to get around those concerns by setting up the “reimbursement unit,” which was dedicated to obtaining prior authorization directly from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
The executives — Sunrise Lee, John Kapoor, Michael Gurry, Richard Simon and Joseph Rowan — deny wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy. They have argued that prosecutors are trying to make an example of Insys, a small segment of the pharmaceutical industry they say is unfairly maligned by a government trying to show it is making a dent in the opioid crisis. The government also charged former CEO and company president Michael Babich and Alec Burlakoff, the former vice president of Sales. Burlakoff and Babich have pled guilty to charges tied to the racketeering and conspiracy case and have agreed to cooperate with the government. They are expected to be star witnesses for the government during the trial.
“In exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the practitioners wrote large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer,” the government said in its 2017 announcement. Prosecutors and court documents say, Subsys’s pharmaceutical sales team used a playbook of scandalous incentives to get the drug prescribed. They hired attractive sales reps in their 20s and 30s and encouraged them to stroke doctors’ hands while “begging” them to write prescriptions.
The company offered doctors hefty speaking fees, often for events attended only by buddies and people who worked in their practices. How frequently a doctor participated in the company’s lucrative speaker program was based on how frequently doctors wrote Subsys prescriptions, prosecutors said. Insys made 18,000 payments to doctors in 2016 — a total of more than $2 million that went to headache doctors and back pain specialists.
Prosecutors say Sunrise Lee, a former dancer at a Florida strip club was hired as a sales executive despite having no academic degree and her only management experience was running an escort service. Prosecutors say Lee rose to become Insys Therapeutics’ regional sales director and once gave a doctor a lap dance during one of the speaking events. Holly Brown, the Insys sales rep who recounted the lap dance story to federal jurors, testified that Lee frequently wore low-cut tops and frequently handed out her business card to doctors “ if they wanted to discuss the Fentanyl Spray ‘in private.’ ”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Hundreds Still Missing After Dam Collapse in Brazil

Hundreds Still Missing After Dam Collapse in Brazil

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Police have arrested five people over the devastating dam collapse in Minas Gerais, Brazil that killed at least 65 people, with nearly 300 still missing. Three of those arrested work for Vale, the mining company that owned and operated the dam. The other two worked for a German company that carried out inspections on the dam last year.  Attorney General Andre Mendonca said Vale is responsible for the disaster, the second of its kind in three years involving the mining company.

Authorities called the 2015 Mariana dam collapse the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history. That collapse killed 19 people and wreaked havoc on the environment, leading mining company Samarco — a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton — to reach a deal in 2016 with the Brazilian government to pay up to $6.2 billion.  In a video over the weekend, Vale chief Fabio Schvartsman called the Brumadinho dam break “inexcusable” and asked the Brazilian public for forgiveness. He said the company will aid victims and noted that Vale put “immense effort” into improving its dams after the disaster in Mariana.

Soon after the most recent collapse, the state judiciary froze more than $260 million from Vale, with a presiding judge citing the company’s responsibility for the disaster. The money will be deposited into a judicial account to compensate for any costs to the state as a result of rescue operations or victim support. Minas Gerais state has fined Vale $99 million for damage caused by the dam break and said the money will be used for repairs.

The Civil Defense of Minas Gerais said 291 people were still missing and 192 people have been rescued from the area.  Authorities say 427 people were in the Córrego do Feijão mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais when the dam burst.  Hundreds of people are still missing and the collapse buried most of the mining town-Brumadinho.  The disaster shed light on potential risks at nearly 700 other mining dams in the state of Minas Gerais and drew attention to what some described as a lack of appropriate regulation.

The collapse unleashed a muddy sea of mining debris into the region and the extent of the damage is still being calculated.  Authorities temporarily halted search and rescue and placed 3,000 people under evacuation orders amid fears that another dam nearby was about to rupture. The orders were lifted after authorities determined dam VI was no longer at risk of bursting.  In an effort to find missing people, the Federal Attorney General’s Office obtained an injunction in the Federal Court of Minas Gerais ruling that mobile carriers should provide data from the cell phone signals of people who were in the region where the dam broke.

Officials say they expect to contain the sludgy mine waste known as tailings within two days. The Brazilian National Water Agency said they are monitoring the tailings and coordinating plans for supplying water to the affected region.  Officials said during a press conference that the priority now is assisting victims and their families. After that, officials said they’d focus on environmental damage and the mining process.

Several videos circulating of the disaster show the devastation of the dam collapse.  One video shows the exact moment the dam collapsed, sending a sea of mud and debris swallowing up the area as unsuspecting cars are scene, likely for the last time.   Videos of the rescue efforts show helicopters hovering feet above the ground as firefighters’ pluck people from the muck.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Two Men Admit Role in Minnesota Mosque Attack

Two Men Admit Role in Minnesota Mosque Attack

 

 

 

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Two members of an Illinois militia group admitted to bombing a Bloomington mosque in 2017 in a bid to terrorize Muslims into leaving the United States.  Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris rented a truck and drove more than 500 miles to bomb a Minnesota mosque.  Both men pled guilty to five counts related to the mosque attack, as well as the attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic and other crimes.  A third suspect, 47 year old, Michael Hari, whom prosecutors said directed the bombing, remains in federal custody.

Hari is a former sheriff’s deputy from Illinois who runs a security company and submitted a bid to build President Trump’s border wall.  The plea agreements portray Hari as the ringleader of a militia group called the White Rabbits, which included Hari, McWhorter, Morris and at least five other people. Hari’s trial is set for July.  The plea agreements say the men targeted the mosque to interfere with the free exercise of religion by Muslims and to let Muslims know they were not welcome in the United States.

According to the plea agreements, the men were headed toward Minnesota when Hari told McWhorter and Morris that he had a pipe bomb in the vehicle and they were going to bomb a mosque.  When the three men arrived at Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017, Hari gave Morris a sledgehammer and told him to break a window.  McWhorter then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it inside.   Morris then threw the gasoline mixture inside, causing an explosion, fire and extensive damage.  No one was injured in the attack, which happened just as morning prayers were about to begin, terrifying members of the local Muslim community.

Hari allegedly picked Dar al-Farooq because it was far enough away from the White Rabbits’ central Illinois hometown that he thought they wouldn’t be suspected. He also allegedly believed it was a focal point for terror recruiting, a claim that law enforcement has not substantiated.    Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said Morris merely followed the lead of Hari, a man he’d known as a father figure since he was 9.  “Hari essentially weaponized Joe Morris,” Richman said.

McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty to their roles in a failed attack on a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017. A pipe bomb that Morris said he and Hari threw into the clinic did not explode.  Court documents also state that Hari, McWhorter, Morris and others also participated in an armed home invasion in Ambia, Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.  Morris and McWhorter also admitted to attempting to extort Canadian National Railway by threatening to damage tracks if the railroad didn’t pay them money.  Morris and McWhorter could each face at least 35 years in prison.  A fourth man, Ellis Mack of Clarence, already pled guilty to two counts in Illinois and is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

 

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Four Charged With Plotting To Attack Islamic Community In NY

Four Charged With Plotting To Attack Islamic Community In NY

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Three men and a teen were arrested for allegedly plotting to attack Islamberg, a small predominantly Muslim community near Binghamton, New York.  Brian Colaneri, 20, Vincent Vetromile, 19, Andrew Crysel, 18, were arrested along with a 16-year-old in connection to the alleged plot.  The suspects were said to be in possession of multiple improvised explosive devices and firearms, and were charged with criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy.

Police uncovered the plot when the 16-year-old boy was reported to police in Greece, New York, for  making a lunchroom comment.  He allegedly showed another student a photo of a schoolmate who, he told others, looked “like the next school shooter.”  While interviewing the boy about the comment he made investigators were told that he was allegedly working with three men to attack Islamberg.  Greece Police Chief Patrick D. Phelan said “The initial investigation was about the comment made by the student and then our investigation took us to this plot that we had no idea about.  I don’t know that there was a specific date. They had a plan in place,” Phelan said.

Phelan told reporters that three improvised explosive devices in the shape of mason jars wrapped in duct tape were found at the home of the juvenile.  “They were homemade bombs with various items – black powder, BBs, nails, inside a container,” Phelan said.  The bombs are currently being examined by the FBI to see if they would have been capable of detonating.  Police searched five locations and seized 23 weapons and numerous electronic devices, including phones and computers.   Some of the guns were owned by the suspects and others were owned by family members but the suspects had access to them.

Colaneri, Vetromile and Crysel are each charged with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree and one count of conspiracy in the fourth degree. Information about the 16 year old was not released by police due to his age.  Phelan credited the students who reported the lunchroom comment with saving lives.  “If they had carried out this plot, which every indication is that they were going to, people would have died,” the chief said. “I don’t know how many and who, but people would have died.”

Islamberg is a rural community in Delaware County that is operated by The Muslims of America, an indigenous American Muslim organization based in the U.S.  It was settled by followers of Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarik Gilani in the 1970s to escape crime and crowding in New York City.  It’s a gated community with dirt roads and several dozen small homes in New York’s Catskills Mountains.  There are  200 or so members of the community, where children are home-schooled and residents worship at a mosque built on the 70-acre property.   Police and analysts have dismissed accusations that the community is a terrorist training ground, but the claims have persisted for decades.

This is not the first time Islamberg has been the target of an alleged hate crime plot.  In 2017, a Tennessee man was convicted on federal charges for what authorities called plans to burn down Islamberg’s mosque in 2015. Robert Doggart, now 67, is serving a 20 year sentence in federal prison.  Doggart was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in April 2015 after saying in wiretapped telephone calls that he planned to recruit a militia and travel to Islamberg for an attack.  While there, he intended to “carry out an armed attack” that included burning down a mosque or “blowing it up with a Molotov cocktail or other explosive device.” The wiretaps also recorded him saying “I don’t want to have to kill children, but there’s always collateral damage.”

 

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Three Officers Acquitted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

Three Officers Acquitted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

 

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A Chicago judge has acquitted three police officers accused of covering up the 2014 murder of 17 year old Laquan McDonald by a fellow officer Jason Van Dyke.  Van Dyke was convicted in October of the second-degree murder of Laquan McDonald, which was captured on an infamous police dashboard camera video.  McDonald was shot 16 times, including numerous times as he lay wounded in the street.  The three police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — contradicted what the video showed and prosecutors alleged it was part of a cover-up.  None of them fired any shots that night. Several other officers had witnessed the shooting and given questionable accounts, but a grand jury declined to indict any others.

The acquittal came despite discrepancies between the three officers’ police reports and dash cam video showing that McDonald posed no threat and walked away from officers before he was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.  Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson rejected the prosecutors’ arguments that the officers had shooed away witnesses and then created a narrative to justify the 2014 shooting, which prompted citywide protests, the firing of the police chief and a wide-ranging federal investigation into the police force.  Prosecutors repeatedly cited the footage as they built a case against the officers on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

Judge Stephenson said that even though the officers’ accounts of the shooting differed from the video, that it did not amount to proof that they were lying. “Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event,” she said, and still describe it differently.  The judge said that key witnesses for the prosecution had offered conflicting testimony, and said there was nothing presented at trial that showed that the officers had failed to preserve evidence, as prosecutors allege.  Challenging the point that officers had shooed away a witness as part of a cover-up, the judge said it was not obvious that the police had known the witness had seen the shooting.

The witness in question, Alma Benitez, had stopped for a bite to eat at a nearby Burger King, on her way home from her night shift at a sandwich shop.  Benitez was interviewed by television news crews at the scene and featured in several news reports the next day saying McDonald was clearly not a threat to the officer. She told new crews that Van Dyke had no reason to open fire.  “It was super-exaggerated, you didn’t need that many cops to begin with. They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face to face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him.”

In a federal lawsuit filed in September 2016, Benitez alleges she had tried to take photos and video of the scene with her cellphone but wasn’t sure the recordings worked.  Once police “became aware” she was trying to record the incident, they demanded she surrender her phone and accompany officers to the detective headquarters, where she was detained and questioned for six hours.  Benitez claims she was allowed to leave the station around 4am, only after she demanded to see a lawyer and that she was “threatened and harassed” on multiple occasions after she was featured in news reports.  The suit accuses several officers and detectives of then writing false reports misstating what Benitez and other witnesses at the scene had told them.

Weeks before the city agreed to pay $5 million to McDonald’s estate, a letter written by lawyers representing McDonald’s family alleged that at least two other witnesses to the shooting were treated in similar fashion.  The letter alleged that all three were questioned for hours at the Area Central police headquarters and pressured into changing their accounts to match the official police version.  The letter also reported that Benitez was so appalled by what she witnessed that she actually screamed out ‘stop shooting!’ as Officer Van Dyke continued to discharge his weapon while Laquan was laid in the street.”

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Kenya Hotel Attack Leaves 21 Dead

Kenya Hotel Attack Leaves 21 Dead

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A terrorist attack at a luxury hotel and office complex in the Westlands area of Nairobi, Kenya has left 21 civilians dead and dozens more wounded or missing.  Five attackers were also killed during the siege that began around 3pm on Tuesday, January 15th and ended just before 10am the next day.   More than 700 people were safely evacuated during the attack.  In a statement, the Somalia-based Al-Shabab group claimed the assault was retaliation for President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  The attack began at a bank inside the compound after a car bomb explosion ripped through three vehicles in the parking lot, followed by a blast from a suicide bomber in the lobby of the seven-story Dusit Hotel.  The explosion triggered vehicles parked nearby to burst into flames. After the blast the remaining terrorists opened fire on guards, forcing them to open the gates of the complex at 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenyan authorities believe there were four to six attackers armed with guns and grenades.  Security camera footage released to local media outlets showed at least four armed men inside the complex as well as footage of the suicide bomber who calmly walked into the lobby and self-detonated a suicide vest.  The coordinated attack lead to a standoff that continued through the night, with people trapped in various parts of the buildings hours later.  The Recce company, the anti-terrorism unit of the Kenya Police, were sent in to combat the militants.  A member of the British SAS and an unspecified number of United States Navy SEALs, who were in the country to conduct training, also took part in the response.  Australian embassy security detail also exchanged fire with the terrorists as they made their way into the complex.

According to Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett, sixteen Kenyans, one Briton, one American and three unidentified people of African origin are among the dead and twenty-eight others have been hospitalized.  Among the dead was U.S. businessman Jason Spindler, who in 2001 survived the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  He was co-founder and managing director of I-DEV International, a firm advising on business strategy for emerging markets.  A British man is also among the dead and was later identified by the development organization Gatsby Africa as Luke Potter, head of its forestry and tea portfolio.

A few of the victims identified in the attack were: James Oduor, who worked at one of the offices inside the complex.  Oduor was trapped inside the complex in the hours after the initial blasts and sent out a tweet at 2:05am that read “Waaah. What’s happening at 14 Riverside fam? Any news from out there?”  Another victim, Bernadette Konjalo, worked at the Dusit Hotel, and was shot as she ran away from an armed attacker after helping hotel guests find safety.  Also killed were Kenyan development consultants Feisal Ahmed, 31, and Abdalla Dahir, 33, who worked for Adam Smith International (ASI).  Described as “inseparable buddies’ by friends, the two were killed as they were having lunch at the Secret Garden restaurant in the grounds of the hotel when the suicide bomber struck.  Mr Ahmed’s widow is reportedly seven months pregnant.

After the attack, the militant group Al-Shabab, said “In a response to the witless remarks of US President Donald Trump and his declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the group targeted “Western and Zionist interests worldwide … in support of our Muslim families in Palestine.”  In 2013, Al-Shabaab militants targeted the luxury shopping center of Westgate, which is 2 miles away from the site of Tuesday’s attack, killing 67 people in a siege that lasted several days. The group also killed nearly 150 people, most of them students, in an attack on Garissa University College in Kenya in April 2015.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Two Men Arrested In Killing of Jazmine Barnes

Two Men Arrested In Killing of Jazmine Barnes

 

 

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Two arrests have been made in the killing of 7 year old Jazmine Barnes in Houston, TX.  Eric Black Jr., 20, and Larry Woodruffe, 24, have both been charged with capital murder.  Police say the shooting was a case of mistaken identity after both men mistook the family’s car for that of someone they had gotten into an argument with at a club the night before.  Police say Black was the driver and Woodruffe fired the shots.

On the morning of December 30th 2018, the shooting occurred around 6:50am as LaPorsha Washington, was pulling out of a Wal-Mart parking lot in Cloverleaf, Texas onto a highway road when someone shot into their vehicle.  Jazmine was riding in a car with her mother and three sisters when she was shot in the head.  Washington was shot in the arm, the youngest was injured by shattered glass and the other two girls were physically unharmed.

The shooting was originally feared to be a hate crime because Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington, identified the shooter as a white male in his 30’s or 40’s with piercing blue eyes who was driving a red pickup truck.  Investigators distributed a sketch of the shooter based on Washington’s description and the killing was initially investigated as a possible hate crime.  Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez had said he was aware of these concerns and investigators looked into the possibility that race could have played a role.  Gonzalez declined to state a specific motive for the shooting before any arrests were made.

Police say they apprehended Black after receiving a tip from journalist and civil rights activist Shaun King that sent the investigation in a new direction.  The tip implicated two black men in the shooting.  Prosecutors allege that Black told investigators he was driving the SUV from which an unidentified passenger fired the shots.  Black implicated Woodruffe and he was arrested on an unrelated drug charge.  Woodruffe denied involvement, but his phone records put him “in close proximity” to the scene of the shooting, according to court documents.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said there was, in fact, a red pickup truck driven by a white man seen at a stoplight just before the shooting, but the driver didn’t appear to have been involved. The sheriff said it was dark, the shooting happened quickly, and the red truck was probably the last thing seen by Jazmine’s family. He said authorities believe Jazmine’s family has been truthful during the investigation.  Several other witnesses placed a red pickup truck at the scene during the shooting.

On Woodruffe’s now-deleted Instagram, a photo was posted after the deadly shooting of the co-defendants. In it, Woodruffe is showing off a fan of cash. Black is flashing gang signs.  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott retweeted Houston Police Officers Union President Joe Gamaldi saying, “There are too many gangs in Houston. We must expand the Texas Anti-Gang Task Force in Houston to clean our streets of this trash and restore safety.”

“The family wants to thank all of those that helped capture the suspects, all police agencies and the general public whose tips lead to their capture,” said Dr. James Dixon II of Community of Faith Church.

 

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* State specific differences may apply to each insurance carrier or benefits provider, and each entity is responsible for their own contractual and financial obligations. Insurance products offered through HI4E.Org, Health & Life Solutions, LLC, and Health Insurance 4 Everyone, are not available to residents of New York or Oregon.

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