Tag Archive: Blue Cross Of MN


 

 

 

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Enfield, CT Police have made a second arrest in connection with the death of 16-year-old Justin Brady, who was fatally stabbed during a fight with another teen outside an Enfield home late Sunday evening.  Police have charged 20-year-old Michael Joseph Cerrato, who lives at the home where Brady was killed, with hindering prosecution in connection with the murder.  On September 11th, an 18-year-old Hartford teen identified as Shyheim “Trey” Adams was charged with manslaughter in the first degree and is being held on $1 million bail.  The most profound question is why no one called 911 sooner.

Shortly after midnight on September 10th, Enfield Police responded to calls of several teens standing around someone laying on the ground.  In one call, a neighbor tells the dispatcher that some of the teens kept going in and out of the house next door.  Officers found Brady bleeding from multiple stab wounds, clinging to life in a front yard near 15 Hoover Lane.  Brady, who was a junior at Enfield High School, where he played football and basketball, was rushed to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Michael Cerrato’s father, the Enfield Assistant Town Attorney, Mark Cerrato, who lives at 15 Hoover Lane where the killing took place, was placed on indefinite paid leave pending the investigation.  Mark Cerrato told police he went to bed around 11pm just after telling his son, his son’s girlfriend and a friend he knows as “Trey” to keep the noise down as they were playing video games.  In his first interview, Cerrato told police he was awakened shortly after by a knock at the door and a “tall kid was at the door holding 2 phones in his hand saying that his friend needed a doctor and asked Mark if he could bring him.”   Cerrato told police he tried to use one of the phones but couldn’t dial because it was locked.  In his second interview he told police that he was awakened when he heard the garage door open and saw his son taking his Toyota Rav4.  Police searched the home and removed blood stained clothing found in the basement and a knife that was hidden under a mattress in a bedroom.

Police said Brady and Adams had been arguing on social media throughout the day and eventually met outside the Hoover Lane residence to fight.  In initial interviews, Michael Cerrato claimed he didn’t see anything and left the house around 11pm.  He later admitted that Trey and Brady had been arguing over the phone and thru Snapchat.  Trey left the room to take a call and returned saying Brady was on his way over to fight.  Cerrato stated that he didn’t believe Trey because he lies a lot and that Justin Brady had previously called him out on it.  Cerrato said Brady arrived 15 minutes later and they went outside.  Brady and Trey were in the street yelling at each other when Brady hit Trey in the chest.  They were wrestling and ended up on the ground.  Cerrato says that he heard Brady yell “he’s cutting me” and witnessed his friend stabbing Brady fast from about 10 feet away.  Trey took a step back and Justin looked down and was covered in blood, yelling to call 911.  Trey ran inside the house and Cerrato followed and saw him washing his hands.  Cerrato, who never called 911, says the knife came from inside his home but he did not know Trey had it until the stabbing occurred.  Cerrato and his girlfriend left in his father’s SUV and dropped Trey off in Hartford.

Another witness says that after the fight he went into the house through the garage and witnessed Trey and Mike in a room, Trey was changing his pants and Mike kept saying “we gotta get out of here”.  The witness went back outside to check on Justin and that Tre, Mike and his girlfriend came out saying to get Justin out of there.  After they left the witness started banging on the front door of the home for help after he saw Mike’s father close the garage door.  He says Mike’s father came to the door and when he asked for help, Cerrato’s father told him “I don’t know what to tell you.”  He says Cerrato’s father started to call 911 but stopped halfway thru.  Thirty minutes had elapsed between the time the trio left the scene and officers arrived and found Brady.

What are your thoughts on this tragic story?  Let us know in the comments.

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Many are outraged after a Dallas police officer has only been charged with manslaughter after shooting and killing 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean in his own apartment.  Police Officer Amber Guyger, who was off-duty at the time of the shooting, says she thought she was in her own apartment and fired after thinking she was confronting an intruder in the dark apartment.  She turned herself in and was released on $300,000 bond.  Investigators have taken a blood sample from the officer to test for drugs and alcohol but the results have not been released.

As more details of what happened that night are released, the incident seems more and more confusing, adding to the mystery of the case.  According to Guyger’s account, she arrived home around 10pm after working a 15-hour shift to the South Side Flats apartments on September 6th.  She didn’t realize she had parked her car on the wrong level of the parking garage and entered the wrong floor of her building.  Guyger lives on the fourth floor while Jean lived on the third floor.  Once she entered what she thought was her own apartment, she says she saw a “large silhouette” in the dark apartment and she thought she had walked in on a burglary.  She fired, hitting Jean in the chest, ultimately killing him and only realized that the apartment was not hers when she turned on the lights in the apartment.  She then called 911 and checked the apartment number outside the door as she explained what occurred to the dispatcher.

Details of a September 9 arrest affidavit filed after Guyger turned herself in only add to the confusion.  The affidavit, which was written after an interview with Guyger, states that Jean was actually shot farther into his apartment.  In that account, after Guyger returned home and entered the wrong floor of the building, she attempted to use an electronic key to open the apartment front door. However, the door was slightly ajar and the force of using her key pushed the door open, despite the fact that her key did not open the lock.  Guyger then entered the apartment and after seeing a “large silhouette” issued verbal commands and then fired twice.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family, said they are skeptical that Jean would have left the door to his apartment ajar, saying the PricewaterhouseCoopers worker was a “meticulous” person who would have made sure his door was locked for his own safety.  Merritt also said that two sisters who live in the building had come forward giving details that contradict the affidavit.  The sisters claim that before the shooting, they heard knocking followed by a woman’s voice saying, “Let me in. Let me in.” Then they heard gunshots, followed by a man’s voice saying, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”  One of the women also took a video after the shooting, which shows what appears to be Guyger pacing outside the apartment as emergency responders arrive.

The case is still under investigation by the Texas Rangers and separately by the district attorney’s office– and will be presented to a grand jury.  A grand jury will decide whether to indict Guyger on a different charge than manslaughter or not to indict her at all.  Jean’s family and community members have raised a number of concerns about the pace of the investigation and how it is being handled.  They argue that Guyger is receiving deferential treatment that a civilian suspect would not receive, noting that she was charged with manslaughter rather than murder and that the charge did not come until three days after the shooting.

 

Do you think this officer received special treatment?  Let us know in the comments section.

 

 

 

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Former Balch Springs, TX police officer Roy Oliver, 38, was found guilty of murder in the shooting of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed teen who was a passenger in a car that had left a party.  Oliver was fired by the Balch Springs Police Department just days after the shooting for violating several departmental policies.  A Texas jury sentenced Oliver to 15 years in prison and imposed a $10,000 fine for the murder of the 15-year-old honor student.  The jury found Oliver not guilty on two counts of aggravated assault.

During the trial Oliver claimed that he fired at the car after seeing it move toward his partner, Officer Tyler Gross, and thought Gross’s life was in danger.  Officer Gross testified that he did not fear for his life and didn’t feel the need to fire his own weapon.  Oliver faced up to life in prison on the murder conviction.  Prosecutors were pushing for at least 60 years in prison, while defense argued for 20 years or less.  Oliver’s mother and wife asked for a lenient prison sentence.  His wife, Ingrid Llerena, testified that she’s concerned about their 3-year-old son, who is autistic, and the boy’s future without his father at home.

In April 2017, the police were responding to a call about a house party when they encountered Jordan, his brothers and his friends in their car, attempting to leave. The officers first claimed that the boys were “backing down the street toward officers in an aggressive manner,” before later retracting that statement and acknowledging that the teens had been driving away.

Police body cam video shows Oliver fired his assault rifle into the car carrying the five teenagers as they drove away from the officer, hitting Jordan in the head.  One of the car’s passengers says the officer never even ordered the boys to stop driving before opening fire. Edwards, was shot in the head as he was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car, along with his two brothers and two friends.

Jordan’s father Odell, said that his son Vidal, continued driving away so that no one else would be shot.  He stopped the car two blocks from the party and called his father while his two friends in the back seat called their parents.  “All I could hear was screaming and crying and the boys saying that police had just shot and killed Jordan.   Jordan Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School and a straight A student with a 4.0 GPA who played quarterback and receiver on the football team.  He lived in an upper middle class neighborhood in Balch Springs with his parents, two older brothers and younger sister.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson described Oliver as a “killer in blue” who violated his oath to protect citizens. Johnson said she wished Oliver’s sentence was much longer, but she respected the jury’s decision and realizes a guilty verdict for an officer is rare in police shootings. Charmaine Edwards said she would have preferred a sentence of 25 to 30 years for the killer of the stepson she raised.  “That was my exact thought: They gave a year for his age,” Edwards, said outside a Dallas County courtroom after the sentence was handed down.  “He can actually see life again after 15 years, and that’s not enough because Jordan can’t see life again.”

 

 

 

Jacksonville Landing Shooting

 

 

 

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In Jacksonville, Florida, authorities say a man opened fire at a restaurant hosting a Madden 19 video game tournament, killing two people and wounding 10 before killing himself.  One person was also injured while trying to escape.  The shooter has been identified as David Katz, a 24-year-old gamer from Baltimore, Maryland.  Katz’s motive in the shooting remains under investigation, police said.

Katz, like many other gamers, was in town for the tournament at GLHF Game Bar at the Jacksonville Landing, a downtown shopping and dining complex.   Witnesses said he had been eliminated from the tournament the day before when two other players beat him.  Dennis Alston, one of the gamers who beat Katz, said that he tried to shake the shooter’s hand after the game but that Katz refused his hand and stared at him blankly.  Alston said that he noticed Katz had returned to the tournament the following day wearing the same clothes.

Katz went by the gaming naming “Bread” and previously won Madden tournaments in 2017.  Authorities say Katz walked past patrons in other parts of the restaurant and then opened fire on his fellow competitive gamers before killing himself.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Eli Clayton, 22, and Taylor Robertson, 28. Both were competitive Madden players, and Robertson had won the Madden Classic.  Authorities said Katz had legally purchased two weapons in Baltimore over the past month and one of the weapons had a laser sight that attached to the gun.

Gunshots and piercing screams echoed through the Twitch live stream of the tournament in real time, leaving millions of helpless online viewers shocked before the live stream was cutoff.   Shortly after 1:30 p.m., 911 calls started pouring in about a shooting and officers were on the scene within two minutes.  About a dozen firefighters with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department were training in the structure just north of the Landing when the gunfire rang out.

They treated the “walking wounded” outside the restaurant, then made their way inside to find flipped tables and broken dishes scattered across the floor.   They made their way through the restaurant and found the three deceased in the gaming room: Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia; Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California; and the shooter, later identified as David Katz, 24, of Baltimore.

Both Elizabeth and Richard Katz are cooperating with investigators and have told authorities that their son had mental health issues.  Katz underwent treatment for psychological and emotional issues during his parents’ divorce and highly contentious custody battle in 2006.  He was once placed on an antipsychotic medicine used to treat schizophrenia. The alleged gunman was also placed on two antidepressants.

 

 

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Michigan’s state health director Nick Lyons is facing trial for involuntary manslaughter over the deaths of two men amid an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in an attempt to save money.  The Flint region’s 2014-2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened another 79 people.  Michigan has admitted 12 people died in the outbreak, but a recent report by PBS “Frontline” has found the death toll from the water crisis in Flint may be higher than Michigan officials have acknowledged.

Judge David Goggins issued a ruling sending Nick Lyon’s criminal case to a full trial, meaning the judge believes there is enough valid evidence for a jury to consider.  The ruling came at the end of a 10-month preliminary hearing that started in September and wrapped up in early July after more than 25 days of testimony.  Lyons is the highest-ranking state official to face charges so far over Flint’s water-poisoning crisis.  He’s also being charged with willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office for the deaths of John Snyder and Robert Skidmore.  The involuntary manslaughter charge is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Lyon’s felony misconduct in office charge is for allegedly obstructing academic researchers from studying the outbreak, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Both men allegedly died from Legionnaires’ disease caused by Flint switching its drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.  They did not ensure that the water was properly treated to prevent corrosion in old plumbing. This caused lead and other metals to leach into the water, exposing residents and risking permanent neurological damage to local children.  The improper water treatment also interfered with disinfectants and caused the release of iron and other bacterial nutrients into the water, which can spur the spread and growth of Legionella bacteria. When those germs are aerosolized and inhaled from sources such as hot showers, humidifiers, and water coolers, they can cause a deadly form of pneumonia called Legionnaire’s disease.

Flint experienced a surge in Legionnaire’s disease after the water switch, with cases totaling around 100 and leading to at least 12 deaths, including Skidmore and Snyder’s. Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention genetically linked the bacteria infecting patients to those found in the city’s water.  Prosecutors argued Lyon, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, waited too long to alert the public to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint during the water crisis. He allegedly knew about the outbreak in early 2015 but waited nearly a full year before alerting the public.  Both men were said to be healthy and active prior to their hospitalizations.   Lyon’s defense attorneys argued he was not negligent in the men’s deaths and that prosecuting a public official who did his best amid a wide-ranging crisis would have a chilling effect on other public employees doing their duties.  They pointed out Skidmore and Snyder “would have received the same medical treatment” even if Lyon had made an announcement sooner.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Governor Rick Snyder praised Lyon’s work during the Flint water crisis and said Lyon would remain on the job as Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director during the trial.  An additional 14 current or former state and local officials have been criminally charged in connection with the water issues.

State officials now say that the city’s water meets federal standards for lead and other contaminants but the water can still pick up toxic ingredients from contaminated pipes. For now, residents need to continue drinking bottled or filtered water until the city’s plumbing is replaced, which the city is working to do by 2020.

 

 

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A Ku Klux Klan leader from Maryland, Richard Preston Jr. was sentenced to four years in prison after he pleaded no contest to a charge of firing a pistol into a crowd of anti-racist protesters during last August’s “Unite the Right” rally.  Charlottesville, Virginia Circuit Court records show Richard Preston was sentenced to eight years, with four of those years suspended.  He also will serve three years of supervised probation. His charge of discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, carried a penalty of between two and 10 years in prison.

Preston, 53 has said he was at the white nationalist rally as a member of a militia — but he is also Imperial Wizard of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Maryland.   Video of the incident shows Preston, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, yelling the n-word before he walked up to an African-American man at close range and fired a shot at the ground right in front of him. Preston then turned around and walked past a line of state troopers, who witnessed the shooting but did not move.  He argued that he acted in self-defense.

Prosecutors said Preston fired a handgun once toward the ground while standing on a sidewalk crowded with rally-goers and counter-protesters after initially pointing the gun at a black man with an improvised flamethrower during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in the Charlottesville’s downtown.  No one was struck.  Preston maintained that he only the shot the gun because he was trying to protect people coming down some stairs where the protestor was wielding a blowtorch.

The protestor, Corey Long, who was 23 at the time of the rally, was convicted in June of disorderly conduct for brandishing a home-made flamethrower.  Long claims he used a light and a can of aerosol hairspray that was thrown at him by another protestor, to protect others since the police were not doing anything.  He was sentenced to nearly one year in jail, but with all but 20 days suspended. Long was also given 100 hours of community service and two years of good-behavior probation.  He is appealing the conviction.

Before Preston’s sentencing, an R&B musician named Daryl Davis stood up for him in court, paid his bail, and made an offer to the judge: he wanted to take Preston to the National African American History Museum in an effort to re-educate him.  Davis has a long history of befriending members of the KKK who, as a result of their contact, go on to leave the organization.

The judge agreed and the two men visited the museum together.  Daryl Davis testified about what happened between the two men in the museum and afterward to the judge before Preston’s sentencing.  “The judge took everything into account. He commended me for my work and Richard for going to the museum but said Richard broke the law and had to be punished,” “But what we did end up mitigating Richard’s sentence.”  Davis told CNN.  During sentencing, Judge Richard Moore said Preston acted out of anger not fear when he fired the gun. Preston was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing.

 

 

 

 

 

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A New York Times report revealed that Italian actress Asia Argento recently quietly paid former co-star Jimmy Bennett $380,000 after he accused her of sexually assaulting him in 2013, when Bennett was 17 and Argento was 37. The age of consent in the state of California is 18.  Argento emerged as a leader in the #MeToo movement after she was one of the first of more than 100 women to accuse disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual harassment.   The Times reports that she paid off Bennett months after she spoke out publicly against Weinstein and that it has seen the legal documents that lay out Bennett’s assault claims and the payments arranged between his lawyers and Argento’s.

Bennett’s lawyers sent a notice of intent to sue Argento to her lawyers in November, claiming that the sexual assault was so traumatic that it affected his mental health and stymied his acting career.  In the documents, Bennett claims that he arrived at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey to meet Argento in her hotel room on May 10, 2013, with a family member. Argento asked to be alone with Bennett and the family member left. Bennett claims Argento gave him alcohol and also showed him notes she had made on hotel stationery. She then proceeded to kiss him and perform oral sex before having intercourse with him.

The documents say that Argento then asked to take a number of photos with him. Photos of Argento and Bennett semi-clothed in bed, as well as an Instagram post of their faces taken on that day, were included in the notice of intent to sue.  Bennett’s lawyers claim that Argento presenting herself as a victim of sexual assault as well as taking a prominent role in the #MeToo movement triggered memories of his own assault, according to the legal documents.

Argento and Bennett worked together on the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, which Argento also wrote and directed. Bennett, a 7-year-old at the time, played Argento’s son in the movie.  The two seemingly kept in touch on Twitter up until August 2012 and Instagram until May 2013, though Bennett’s Twitter account is no longer active.  Argento and Bennett referred to each other on social media as mother and son, a reference to their The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things characters, and he claims she was a mentor in the legal documents.

Bennett, now 22, had roles in the Star Trek reboot, Poseidon, Evan Almighty and Firewall. His lawyers claim that the assault affected him emotionally and was detrimental to his career. Since the incident, Bennett only has a few film and TV credits to his name. Bennett’s attorney, Gordon K. Sattro, issued a statement on Monday, saying, “Jimmy is going to take the next 24 hours, or longer, to prepare his response. We ask that you respect our client’s privacy during this time.”

Argento has denied the assault allegation in a statement saying that Bennett tried to extort her and that her then-boyfriend, the late Anthony Bourdain, offered the payoff to make the situation disappear. “I am deeply shocked and hurt having read the news that is absolutely false,” she said, in part. “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Genoa, Italy, 43 people were killed when a bridge collapsed, sending dozens of vehicles tumbling 150 feet. A 656 foot section of the Morandi Bridge suddenly fell, along with dozens of vehicles in busy traffic.  The cause of the collapse is not yet known, but many residents are calling on the head of the company that operated the bridge to resign.

The Morandi Bridge is a main road in and out of Genoa, linking it to the A10 motorway and the road to France.  Shortly before noon on August 14th, the section collapsed amid extremely heavy rainfall.  The bridge was having work done to shore up its foundations at the time.  Video of the moment the stretch of a bridge collapsed has been released by officials.  It shows large chunks of debris crashing down onto traffic, falling about 150 feet below to the ground. A person is seen scrambling from the rubble seconds after the

The Morandi Bridge was the fifth bridge to collapse in Italy in five years.  The government has set up a commission to examine the causes of the disaster.  The company that operated the bridge has set up a fund for victims’ families.  Giovanni Castelluci, the boss of operating company Autostrade per l’Italia, said millions of euros for victims’ families would be available.  He also said the firm would provide funding to help relocate hundreds of people who had to be moved out of their homes after the bridge collapsed.  He added that reports carried out ahead of the disaster had described the bridge as being in good condition, but a full inquiry was “the first priority”.

Controversy is swirling over the deadly incident, with reports that there had been warnings about the bridge’s structure.  The engineer who designed the bridge warned four decades ago that it would require constant maintenance to remove rust.  Italian news outlets have reported that engineering experts warned in February that corrosion of the metal cables supporting the Genoa highway bridge had reduced the bridge’s strength by 20 per cent.  Italian news outlet, Espresso wrote that “neither the ministry, nor the highway company, ever considered it necessary to limit traffic, divert heavy trucks, reduce the roadway from two to one lane or reduce the speed” of vehicles on the key artery for the northern port city.

The bridge, named for its designer, Riccardo Morandi, is a cable-stayed type, in which sections of roadway are cantilevered from towers like diving boards and supported by stays. This type of design, more common now than it was 50 years ago, is often used when the gap to be spanned is too long for the structure to be supported at both ends, but not so long that a suspension bridge would be a better solution.  The stays are critical elements of this kind of design because without them, the cantilevered sections would have to be so massive as to make the bridge too costly or otherwise impractical.  The stays are constructed of concrete with steel rods, called tendons, inside them, which enables the concrete to handle the pull of the roadway. More modern cable-stayed bridges use steel cables instead.

A fact investigators are sure to analyze is that the Morandi Bridge only had two stays — one on each side — for each cantilevered roadway section.  Most modern bridges are built with far more stays.  The new replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City, for example, has 24 cables for each section, 12 on each side.

 

 

 

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The airline industry is re-examining security protocols after an airport worker at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport stole a plane on Friday night, took off without permission, then flew it for about an hour before crashing the plane into an island on Puget Sound.  Richard Russell, a ground service agent, was the only person on board when he crashed the 76-seat Horizon Air plane.

Russell took off around 7:30 p.m. on August 10th, according to the authorities. He chatted with air traffic controllers who tried to guide him to a safe landing, as jets from the Air National Guards of Washington and Oregon flew alongside him, ready to take action. In recordings of Mr. Russell’s conversation with air traffic controllers, he speaks admiringly of the Olympic Mountains at sunset, complains of lightheadedness and muses about potential prison time if he were to land the plane safely.

At one point, an air traffic controller asked if Mr. Russell felt comfortable flying.  “It’s blast, man,” Mr. Russell replied. “I played video games before so, you know, I know what I’m doing a little bit.”  At times, Mr. Russell was contrite.  “Man, I’m sorry about this. I hope this doesn’t ruin your day,” he said to the controller, adding that he was grateful to be kept away from other aircraft. “I’m glad you’re not, you know, screwing up everyone else’s day on account of me.”  He said he hoped to have a “moment of serenity” in the air but lamented that the sights “went by so fast.”

“I got a lot of people that care about me, and it’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” Mr. Russell could be heard saying. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.”  Videos taken by onlookers during Mr. Russell’s flight showed the plane doing deep dives, broad loops and at least one upside-down roll.  The plane came down in a fiery crash on Ketron Island, about 30 miles from the airport and Russell was killed in the crash.

Russell had worked for Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, for three and a half years and was responsible for handling luggage and cargo and for towing aircraft.  At a news conference the following day, the chief executive of Horizon Air Industries, Gary Beck, said Mr. Russell had cleared all the necessary background checks and was meant to be “on the secure side” of the airport, where the plane was.  Beck said that Richard Russell did not have a pilot’s license “Commercial aircrafts are complex machines,” Mr. Beck added. “I don’t know how he achieved the experience he did.”

The plane was not scheduled for a flight when Mr. Russell commandeered it.  Alaska Airlines officials said it was not clear how Russell had managed to take off in the plane. Debra Eckrote, the chief of the northwest regional office of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that it was conceivable that a ground service agent would be able to start an airplane.   “They don’t necessarily use a key, so there’s switches that they use to start the aircraft,” she said. “So if the person has basic understanding — from what I understand he was support personnel, ground personnel — they probably do have at least a basic understanding on how to start the aircraft.”

At a news conference, Mike Mathews, a family friend, read a statement on behalf of Mr. Russell’s family. “We are stunned and heartbroken,” according to the statement, which described Mr. Russell as a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend.  “He was right in saying that there are so many people who have loved him.”  Tim Orr, who also works at the Seattle-Tacoma airport said he had known Mr. Russell since they were both 12.  He described Russell as the funniest and nicest person in the room.  Mr. Orr added that Russell and his wife were active church members “so he doesn’t really fit the bill of someone who would steal an airplane.”

 

 

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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.