Authorities In 3 States Make Arrests After Threats of Mass Shootings

 

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Authorities in three states say they made arrests that prevented three mass shootings.  In the wake of the latest mass shootings in California and Texas, authorities are on high alert to any potential threats of violence and have been diligently investigating any reports of potential shooters.  The arrests have been made after authorities received tips, prompting investigations and ultimately, the arrests of three men in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio.

In Connecticut, 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol was arrested after authorities said he had expressed interest in committing a mass shooting on Facebook, according to a statement from the FBI and the Norwalk Police Department.  He faces four charges of illegal possession of large capacity magazines and is being held on a $250,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court September 6.  According to the statement, authorities received a tip that Wagshol was trying to buy large capacity rifle magazines from out of state.  As the FBI and the Norwalk Police Department were investigating the tip, they discovered Wagshol was trying to build his own rifle and had allegedly posted on Facebook about his interest in committing a mass shooting, the statement said.

Authorities executed a search warrant at his home and found multiple weapons, including a handgun, a rifle and rifle scope with a laser, numerous rounds of ammunition, body armor, a ballistic helmet and other tactical gear.  Police say some of the weapons were registered to Wagshol’s father but he had access to them.

In Daytona Beach, FL, Tristan Scott Wix, 25, was arrested after his ex-girlfriend alerted authorities that he sent her a series of disturbing texts in which he allegedly threatened to commit a mass shooting, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.   In the messages, Wix said he wanted to open fire on a large crowd of people.  One message allegedly read “A good 100 kills would be nice.”  According to the sheriff’s office, Wix already had a location in mind, “A school is a weak target.. I’d be more likely to open fire on a large crowd of people from over 3 miles away.. I’d wanna break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever,” another message read, according to the sheriff’s office.  Wix wrote that he wanted to die and “have fun doing it,” authorities said.  Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood said they had recovered a .22-caliber hunting rifle and 400 rounds of ammo in Wix’s apartment. Wix had initially told investigators he did not own any firearms but that he was fascinated with mass shootings, the sheriff’s office said.  Wix was being held without bond Sunday at the Volusia County Branch Jail.

In Ohio, 20-year-old James Patrick Reardon was arrested for allegedly threatening to carry out a shooting at a Youngstown Jewish community center.  An Instagram account belonging to Reardon shared a video that showed a man firing a gun.  The post — which was shown to an officer out on an unrelated call — tagged the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown.  It’s unclear whether the man shooting the gun was Reardon or someone else.  A search warrant was executed and authorities found a cache of weapons and ammunition.  Reardon was arrested without incident and booked into the Mahoning County Jail on one count of telecommunications harassment and one count of aggravated menacing.

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Sri Lanka Easter Bombings

 

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The death toll from Easter Sunday’s bomb attacks targeting hotels and churches in Sri Lanka has climbed to 359, as authorities said they defused another bomb in downtown Colombo and arrested more suspects.  Nearly 500 people were injured during the coordinated bombings across the island nation.  Sri Lankan officials say the attacks were a response to last month’s attacks on two mosques by a white nationalist gunman who killed 50 Muslim worshipers in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Sri Lankan officials say a little-known Muslim organization called National Thowheed Jama’ath carried out the series of Easter Sunday suicide bombings with another Sri Lankan group known as the JMI.  Officials also apologized for failing to respond to multiple tip-offs ahead of Sunday’s eight attacks.  A confidential memo which was ignored, circulated among Sri Lankan security agencies 10 days prior to the attack that warned of a possible attack and gave the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the suspects.

The first round of deadly attacks hit busy Easter services at Catholic churches in the heart of Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community in and around the capital Colombo, as well as a Protestant church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.  Bombs also exploded in three luxury hotels in Colombo, with another blast striking a hotel near a zoo south of the capital, and a final blast at a private home believed to be tied to the attackers.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena requested Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka’s police chief, to step down over the failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks but ath first, the police chief refused.  Sirisena blamed Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando, the defense secretary, for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.   Fernando resigned earlier in the week and Jayasundara later resigned.  Police are looking for 140 people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), according to President Maithripala Sirisena.

President Maithripala Sirisena has revealed his short and long-term measures to bring back normalcy to the island nation coming to terms with the Easter bombings.  “Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown person could live anywhere,” he said, pointing out that during the fight against LTTE, similar methods were adopted.  Sirisena acknowledged “a serious lapse” on the part of the country’s defence secretary and top police official, who failed to inform him about an April 4 letter from a “friendly foreign country” warning about a possible attack.

Despite the police having already detained a lot of suspects, they warned that some people believed by authorities to be linked with the attacks were still at large and may possess explosives.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that the father of two of Sunday’s alleged suicide bombers, a leading businessman who is active in politics, has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons in carrying out the attacks.

 

NY Suburb Issues Ban Against Unvaccinated Children Amid Outbreak

 

 

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A New York City suburb has announced a ban against children who aren’t vaccinated against measles from schools, markets and other public spaces, amidst one of the worst U.S. outbreaks in decades of the sometimes-fatal disease.   Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the ban which went into effect at midnight March 27th, will target parents who refuse to give their children the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.  “Effective at the stroke of midnight tonight, March 27th, anyone who is under 18 years of age and is unvaccinated against the measles will be barred from public places until the declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive at least their first shot of MMR.”

The order, which will affect an estimated 6,000 unvaccinated children and their families – was put into effect amid an outbreak, which has seen at least 214 people infected with measles since last October.  The outbreak began when an unvaccinated resident became infected while visiting Israel and returned with the disease.  The outbreak has mostly been confined to an area with particularly low vaccination rates, Rockland County’s Orthodox Jewish community- which has 153 confirmed cases-mostly unvaccinated children under the age of 18.   Measles is a highly contagious virus that is prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The CDC recommends that the two-dose vaccine be given first at 12 to 15 months of age and then between ages 4 and 6.  The outbreak in Rockland County has been the longest outbreak in the United States since before measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Ed Day said the outbreak will not go on indefinitely. “This is a public health crisis, and it is time to sound the alarm, to ensure that everyone takes proper action to protect themselves and their neighbors; for the health and safety of all of us in Rockland,” he said in a news release.  “Public places include synagogues, churches, schools, restaurants, stores and public buses.  Public places are defined as: a place where more than 10 persons are intended to congregate” the news release says.   Children who are current with the vaccine schedule but not fully vaccinated against measles because they are not old enough are exempt from the order.  The order does not apply to people who are older than 18 because “we did not want to prevent anyone from going to work,” but unvaccinated adults are also encouraged to get vaccinated.

Nearly 17,000 vaccinations have been administered in the county during the outbreak.  “As this outbreak has continued, our inspectors have begun to meet resistance from those they are trying to protect. They have been hung up on or told not to call again. They’ve been told ‘we’re not discussing this; do not come back’ when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations. This type of response is unacceptable and irresponsible. It endangers the health and well-being of others and displays a shocking lack of responsibility and concern for others in our community,” Day said.  He also referred to a case where an infected individual who exposed people at a Target store later stopped helping the investigators narrow down when the exposure might have happened. “We’re already seeing that chilling factor of people not cooperating with us, so from our perspective, this gives us more tools to get them to cooperate with our investigators.”

The ban will be enforced the same way any law is enforced, during the investigation into when and where an infected individual was exposed, those who are identified as unvaccinated and people in public places will be referred to the district attorney’s office.  In cases that are referred to the district attorney, Day said the penalty is six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.  “Just to be clear, this is not something we’re looking to do. The emergency declaration, by law, comes with that assigned. It’s the lowest crime there is.  The goal is not to prosecute people. We don’t want to fine people. We want to encourage people to get vaccinated,” he said.

 

Hollywood Actresses and Wealthy CEOs Indicted in College Admissions Scandal

 

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Hollywood actresses and a slew of chief executives are among 50 wealthy people charged in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Those indicted in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.

At a news conference, Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts said “This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud.  There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.” Lelling said “The parents charged in the case are a catalog of wealth and privilege. They include, for example, the CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.”

The ringleader of the scam is William Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network.  Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools.”  Singer, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was also indicted.  Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, and Masera allegedly worked closely with Singer in the scam, according to the indictment.  According to the indictment, Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, California, another employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, and David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver, Canada, were also indicted for allegedly working closely with Singer to facilitate the scam.

Singer would allegedly instruct parents to seek extended time for the children to take entrance exams or obtain medical documentation that their child had a learning disability, according to the indictment. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to one of two testing centers, one in Houston and another in West Hollywood, California, where test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, helped carry out the scam, the indictment alleges.  Riddell, 36, allegedly took ACT and SAT tests for students whose parents had paid bribes to Singer.  Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each student’s test.

Singer also allegedly bribed school coaches to give to his clients’ admissions slots reserved for student athletes in sports including crew and soccer. He went as far as to stage fake photos of his student clients engaging in sports they never played, or to digitally place the faces of his clients onto images found online of athletes.

Others charged in the probe include nine coaches at elite schools, two SAT and ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, a college administrator and 33 parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.  Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of the private investment firm Dragon Global; Bill McGlashan, 55, of Mill Valley, California, a businessman and international private equity investor; Gordon Caplan, a New York attorney; and Gregory Abbott, 68, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a New York food and beverage packaging company, and his wife, Marcia Abbott, 59.

Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not indicted, but according to the court document he and Huffman were caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case, allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam.  Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to USC to have their two daughters falsely designated as crew recruits, though neither daughter ever participated in the sport.

Three Officers Acquitted In 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.”

Parolee Arrested In Deadly California Bowling Alley Shooting

 

 

 

 

 

bowlingalleyshooter.jpgAn arrest has been made in connection with the deadly shooting at a California bowling alley that left three people dead and four others wounded.  Police say Reginald Wallace, 47, of Los Angeles was identified as the suspect within 30 hours of the shooting and was arrested and is being held without bail.  Wallace is on parole after serving a 17-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon which involved a firearm and was released in 2017.  Felons are barred under state law from possessing firearms.

The shooting occurred just before midnight on Friday, January 4th at the Gable House Bowl in Torrance, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles.  Police say two women began fighting, then more people joined in and finally 10 to 15 people, both men and women were brawling.  It was then, police say, that Wallace shot into the crowd with a handgun and is believed to be the sole shooter in the incident.  It is unclear whether Wallace knew anyone in the bowling alley, but he was part of the larger group that was already inside the bowling alley.

The three deceased victims who died at the scene were identified as Michael Radford; 20, Robert Meekins; 28 and his friend Astin Edwards, also 28.  Meekins leaves behind a 5-year-old son.  Police said two injured males were taken to a hospital and two other males sought medical attention on their own.  Torrance Police Chief Eve Irvine said in a statement that there was complete chaos before Wallace started shooting.  “It was complete chaos, people were running all over, there were fights still occurring and when he pulled out the handgun, the minute people started hearing shots, even more chaos erupted.”

Wes Hamad, a 29-year-old Torrance resident, said he was at the bowling alley with his 13-year-old niece and cousin when he saw a “huge fight” break out. Hamad said the brawl, which lasted about five minutes, blocked the entrance and spiraled into complete chaos.  “I grabbed my niece and started running toward the far end of the bowling alley,” he said. “As we were running, we heard 15 shots.”  As he was leaving, Hamad said he saw a woman weeping over a man who had gunshot wounds to his head and neck.

Damone Thomas was in the karaoke section of the bowling alley when people ran in screaming that there was a shooter.  Thomas said his friend flipped a table to shield them as they heard gunshots.  Thomas said he didn’t feel scared because he was “just trying to survive.” It wasn’t until later, Thomas said that he realized how traumatic the situation was.  “Closing my eyes, all I can see is the women against the wall crying, not knowing what to do,” he said.

 

 

 

 

Missing Colorado Mom’s Fiancee Charged

 

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A Colorado man has been charged with murder and solicitation to commit murder in the death of his missing fiancée, Kelsey Berreth.  Patrick Frazee, 32, had a brief court appearance where he learned of the five charges against him.  Frazee is accused of working to find someone to kill Kelsey Berreth between September and November and causing her death on or around Thanksgiving.  They share a daughter together who is now in the custody of her maternal grandparents and child protective services.

The investigation into 29-year-old Kelsey Berreth’s whereabouts has drawn national attention.  Berreth disappeared on Thanksgiving Day and a police investigation was opened Dec. 2 after her mother Cheryl Berreth asked for a welfare check of her daughter.  On the morning of Nov. 22, Berreth was captured on surveillance video entering a Safeway grocery store at 12:05 p.m. with her 1-year-old daughter in a baby carrier. Frazee told authorities he picked up the couple’s daughter, Kaylee, from Berreth that afternoon-making him the last person to see her.

Investigators who went to the woman’s home found some cinnamon rolls in Berreth’s kitchen and both of her cars still in place outside the home. Doss Aviation, the company Berreth works for as a flight instructor, has accounted for all their planes and police have no reason to believe she used someone else’s plane for a flight.

Frazee has told police the couple, who are engaged but have never lived together, met to exchange custody of their daughter.  After that, police said the only signs of Berreth were text messages from her cellphone.  Frazee told police she last texted him Nov. 25, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  Her employer, an aviation company, received a text message from Berreth’s phone the same day, saying the flight instructor planned to take the following week off.

Police later received data indicating Berreth’s phone was near Gooding, Idaho, nearly 800 miles from her home in Woodland Park. Before his arrest, Frazee had yet to speak directly with police about being the last person to see her, only communicating through his lawyer.  Law enforcement officers from several local, state and federal agencies are conducting an exhaustive search of Frazee’s 1 ½ story home and 35 acre cattle ranch in the Crystal Peaks Ranches subdivision near Florissant for possible evidence that could explain Berreth’s disappearance.